Race Report: National Masters Circuit Champs 45-50
On behalf of the riders, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to all those who helped to make yesterday’s event at Hillingdon such a success, especially Bill who went to enormous trouble to organize the event. I was proud to wear the jersey. Whether I did it proud, you can decide…
The problem with marginal gains is that they are just that; marginal. As any mathematician will tell you, a finite sum of infinitesimal increases is still infinitesimal. What one really wants is mahoosive gains. Well, if not watching England lose again to a well-drilled defense counts, I was already making some gains. Not only that, the new secret weapon was brought into force; a fine new white Giro Air Attack helmet, purchased specially for Father’s Day. Of course nobody said that looking like an extra from Tron was a marginal gain, but I digress (I blame peer pressure from the 1st Cats).
Forty riders registered, 30 signed on, three from Team BH-Solidor-Wam Youth (BHSWY), who are currently ranked ninth nationally; an Elite rider, Martin Smith fresh from winning last week’s national masters road race championship, plus two lead-out men for good measure. At least I won’t be alone, some familiar London faces and of course our own Stephen Campbell.
Weather is cool and overcast, strong Northerly wind blowing up the incline, rain threatens. It’s cold. I’m glad of an under-layer and long sleeves (another marginal gain?). From the off, the pace gets going in what will be a 70 minute chess game on wheels. Lap two, Stephen attacks, others go with him, plenty of blockage, plenty of counter attacks.
And attacks. And attacks. There are moments of calm, indeed moments almost stationary up the incline. Nobody gets away for long. BHSWY are mixing it up. having three strong riders means there is always one launching or bridging, and of course we are watching and countering their moves with attacks of our own. The pace is not too bad; between Wednesday E1234 Masters and Tuesday E123. I’m working hard, occasionally on the front. I try and bridge to a breakaway, but we don’t stay long. I even try a few attacks on the wheel of the usual suspects. Laps pass and I realize how much more tactical this race is compared with others. I also notice that with a modest sized group, it is very easy to slip to the rear, local knowledge, however, means that moving up is not as hard as it might be.
Stephen looks very strong throughout the race, but there are many strong riders in the field. Everything is annulled with five laps to go, and the peloton count down the laps. I move up to my comfort zone and we accelerate for the penultimate lap. The pace really rises up the incline into the wind – 1.5 laps to go would make a long sprint! around Brian’s Bends and more places made up. Last lap. I’m about 15th, and we gun it down the straight and into Turn One, again holding position, the sprinters move into position. BHSWY are taking the lead-out seriously on the front. Brian’s Bends for the last time, Bus Stop Bends and the final sprint. Vince Halpern is boxed in and I pass him, I can see Stephen ahead and unlike Wednesday evening, accelerate past a few more riders. I count 14 riders ahead of me over the line. The 11T may have made an appearance. Meanwhile, Stephen is a very creditable eighth place and Martin Smith takes the win and another jersey. 15th! I can hardly believe it. Marginal gains indeed.
For those thinking of racing this week, There is of course the E123 and 3/4 races at Hillingdon tomorrow evening. The Surrey League Vets are racing Wednesday at Dunsfold (too far for me), and the next Surrey League Handicap Race is this Thursday evening at Accommodation Road. And don’t forget the nine-up TT at Silverstone on Friday. Have a good week.
PS: SIS Cola gel with Caffeine at 40 minutes. A final marginal gain. And I needed it.