Sunday’s race involved a trip to Fowlmead Country Park near Deal (about
80 miles away). This felt like quite an adventure as none of
us had any idea what sort of a race to expect. Myself, Tom B
and George met at Clapham Junction at 8am. We took our rented
VW golf and squeezed 3 bikes and 3 boys in. A tight fit, but
a skill me and Tom have been perfecting over the last month or so!
We departed at about 8:15. I promptly took some wrong turns and we ended up in Elephant and Castle…… perhaps I should form time trial team with Mark? Once we made it out of London, we made good time and got to Deal at about 10:15. This gave us plenty of time to park (in the disabled section), put the bikes together, get told to move out of the disabled section, move the car, and then finish changing. We had so much time to spare that we even had time to do a lap of the course as recon (though we had to TT it back to the start line as the course was longer than we realised……)
I really liked the course. It is about 4km long, in a sort of figure of 8 shape. It is pretty flat with a long gentle drag up one side and a long gentle descent on the other. It is perched on a hill which makes it really windy, though there are mature trees and a wood for shelter on one side. The surface was fantastic and nice and wide, great for sprinting. There is a lot of facilities there, mtb tracks, cyclo cross tracks, a load of jumps (BMX?), not to mention showers toilets, food etc. I was really impressed. I would say it is the best equipped circuit I have been to and the SERRL seemed to be well set up and run efficiently (inc timing chips). I will definitely be making the trip at every opportunity!
I set off with Tom B in the 2/3 race, the 4ths were set off a minute or so behind us so you will have to plug George for details on that. There was about 30 or so riders in our race. Tom wanted to work and I planned to sprint. I did a few longish stints on the front at the beginning, getting into a small break which was pulled in, then I sought shelter in the bunch to recover. It was really windy and down the home straight and round the bottom bends the bunch was forming into echelons as everyone tried to find shelter. Tom got up front and started working, reeling in anything that got away. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and did an amazing amount of work. Nothing got away, and other people in the bunch commented to me on how hard he was working. I carried on hiding in the bunch, with Tom working so hard I felt mounting pressure to get a decent place to reward him! The race was 1hr plus 5 but because each lap is quite long the last laps end up lasting 20 mins or so. The attacks came thick and fast in the last 5 and eventually 3 riders got a gap (mainly because Tom B was finally starting to tire I think!). Myself and Mark Ottaway (a 2nd cat sprinter I have run into a number of times) moved up to help shut down this last break, it looked dangerous and had not started to come back. Tom B dug deep and helped us out. With about 1km to go we had almost reeled them in. Tom B made one last big effort and bought everything back together. I was up front (maybe 3rd wheel or so) and as he peeled off I got on the wheels of a pair of VC Deal riders.
Mark Ottaway went long, from maybe 300m to go, in
hindsight, I should have gone with him. He always seems to
beat me! The finish is on a slight incline and I went with a
bunch of riders in the main sprint from maybe 3rd wheel or
so. We all crossed the line pretty close, and about 1 bike
length behind Mark who we were all gaining on. I was not sue
if I was 3rd or 4th at first. Turns out I was 4th, so I was
pleased. Mark rode alongside to chat and commented on the
insane amount of work Tom B put in for me as well! It took me
a while to find Tom B, turned out he had crossed the line and fallen
off winding down….little bit hypoglycaemic I think! We found
George who had finished a bit earlier and turned out he had come in
7th! So top 10 in both races for
TCC. Well worth the trip I would say.
The next race is in two weekends time (21st). Unfortunately I will be away but I really recommend all the 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths to try and get down to this race. It really was a fantastic day out, and a great course. Should help to start racing longer (total race length was about 1hr 25) and practice in sheltering from wind in echelons. Both
useful skills for the road racing later in the season. I certainly have a lot to learn. Somhow everytime an echelon formed I was on the windward end with a whole bunch of smug looking local riders sheltering downwind! It makes a huge difference, hanging on in the crosswind (when you were in the wrong place) was tough when the bunch s trung out, much more challenging in that respect than Hillingdon.