Oh Lord, here we go again.
At the start of the season I earmarked the Dunsfold 4th Cat series as my optimal route to the promised land of 3rd Cat-dom. Well, that series finishes tonight, an early curtailment due to Olympic-related requirements at the venue, and I’m still a long way off the 10 points I need. Less than half way there, in fact, with just four BC points currently in the bag.
Still, that’s two better than after my last, comeback-announcing blog post. The latest pair were bagged from my most recent outing at Dunsfold, where for a fleeting moment I actually thought I was going to win the whole bloody thing before being dashed back to earth in the final, agonising 150 or so metres.
My legs were good on the night and I had the added impetus of my wife and son being present as spectators, which always adds at least 5-10% to my performance levels. I’d even implemented a degree of tactical acumen in the final stages, correctly identifying the attempts by two Charlotteville riders to form a mini sprint train and then latching myself onto the back of it.
This worked perfectly until about 100m past the final corner, when the Charlotteville train totally ran out of steam and I was forced round the pair of them and into clear daylight quite a bit earlier than is ideal on Dunsfold’s interminable finishing straight.
All the same, I’d previously preached the virtues of an early sprint in 4th Cat races so there was no option but to put that theory to the test by sinking as low on the drops as I could and hammering the pedals for all I was worth.
For about 100m nobody came into my field of vision. I was really motoring, with the speedo (which was about an inch from my nose) showing a whisker under 38mph.
I’ve got it! I’ve bloody got it!
Err, no. Just then a small group of riders came past like they were on motorbikes. I could scarcely believe my eyes at the speed they moved away from me. I was still pedalling so hard that my front wheel was lifting off the ground with every other stroke, something that’s never happened to me before. But, as usual, my best efforts weren’t enough.
In the closing few metres another couple of riders bested me, leaving me a disappointed eighth. There’s no doubt that my early sprint cost me in the final stages; equally, using my training wheels (more on why later) with their 12-sprocket top gear was a mistake for a flat finish with a decent tailwind. In fact, this very morning I’ve swapped in an 11-23 cassette… marginal gains, marginal gains…
The rest of my racing comeback post-Hove Park has scarcely been worth reporting. So much so that I have not, as you’ll have noticed, reported it thus far.
But report I must. To briefly summarise, I completed the Lewes Crits series… or at least I kind of completed it, if you count as completion standing freezing cold on the roadside to watch the finish after being unceremoniously dropped on lap two. Vicious side winds and an even more vicious pace set by the massed ranks of the host club undid me. It was a horrible night for racing and completed a miserable Crits series for my team, which scored no points for the first time ever.
My return to the 4ths series at Dunsfold saw me finish unlucky 13th. I totally fouled up my position in the closing stages, getting pinned on the inside and then, ridiculously, forgetting to get down on the drops before opening up my sprint. I chose to put that down to race-rustiness, although there were worrying echoes of some of my mid-season 2011 races in the sheer ineptitude of my tactical thinking.
My next outing resulted in another DNF, this time caused by a puncture in the Dunsfold Vets race on a night when I felt strong and a minor points scoring finish in my age group was a live chance, given the relative size and strength of the field.
The puncture occurred on my rear race wheel, which has been causing me so much bother lately with broken spokes, etc. That’s why I didn’t rush to fix it before the 4ths race, preferring the rock solid reliability of my training wheels. Dunsfold’s a long way to go just to end up walking back to the start/finish area…
So, there you have it. You are fully up to date with all the fun and games. And can probably understand why it’s been a while since I’ve bothered to blog!
As for tonight? I have no idea. I’ve been on holiday and did no training whatsoever while away, which should have taken a big edge off my fitness. However, yesterday I managed to chop 20 seconds off my PB for the Ditchling Beacon climb, coming very close to beating the (for me) magic six minute barrier. So my legs can’t be that soft…
To be honest, I should get well inside the top ten. So many good riders have already graduated from the series that there’s an inevitable diminution in quality by this stage. But 4th Cat racing is not like that. Past history tells me to dream of glory but prepare for disappointment.