Hillingdon Cat 4 Race Report – Saturday 17 May 2014
Joe Bowers and I lined up on the start line for our first race at Hillingdon cycle circuit in roasting sunshine. There was a slight breeze on parts of the course but the conditions were pretty much perfect and, importantly for a cat 4 race, dry. The first few laps seemed a pretty relaxed affair. In fact this continued for the first half of the race, with occasional small attacks off the front that were quickly reeled in. We’d heard that these attacks rarely worked so we sat in the bunch as near the front as possible and conserved our energies. Cambridge University had brought a team of three riders and for a moment it looked like they were trying to blow up the race as they hit the front hard. I decided this was a move that needed covering and locked onto a London Dynamo wheel that dragged me up to the leaders. Just when it seemed we’d formed a select breakaway group the Cambridge boys started looking at each other and eased up, so the bunch soon caught up. The Dynamo rider, perhaps frustrated by the constant changes in tempo, struck out on his own but he didn’t make it far and with an air of inevitability was brought back.
With an hour of riding done the organisers announced the three laps-to-go mark and the whole bunch went berserk. I lost a good few places in the resulting surge as I was boxed in behind a dosing rider. Then on my left I saw the London Dynamo rider coming up the inside and, surprised to see no-one on his wheel, took advantage and moved out. He ended up dragging me from the middle of the bunch right up to fifth wheel! With Cambridge now back on the front the pace was being lifted and it looked like it would end in a tightly-contested bunch sprint.
Then the crash happened.
Just a few inches to my right I saw some riders start to go down after what looked like a touching of wheels. Joe was right near the front so unaffected and I surged down the inside of the bend, still holding the wheel of the London Dynamo rider, with many riders held up behind. With the bunch split by the crash I saw an opportunity and attacked during the confusion. I surged past the Dynamo rider up a slight incline, Joe hot on my heels, and we gained a small gap over a chasing group. As I started fading I called Joe through, he then led me around the final two bends and I launched myself out of his wheel to sprint the final 200m to the finish line. I went pretty early but held on for the win.
The atmosphere afterwards was mixed. There were some disgruntled riders who’d crashed, one of whom refused to talk about it and whose bib shorts were shredded all down the right side. Other riders were friendlier: “You left me out to cook” joked the London Dynamo rider, who was called Jamie. “I decided really early on that yours was the wheel I wanted and it paid off,” I replied. Cambridge were also gracious in defeat, not looking particularly bothered by the result. “Right boys: team time trial back to Cambridge” one of them joked. Oxford uni were in a grump though. At least one of them crashed and their other rider was also involved somehow.
Joe held on for 7th place, pleased to have reached his new maximum heart rate (209?)! I am indebted to him for what turned into a perfect lead-out around the final two corners. This was a reverse of our planned lead-out strategy going into the race but the last minute or so of racing is a complete blur and we were reacting to the situation.
Average speed: 41kmph
Max speed: 55kmph
Avg HR: 158
Max HR: 194
Points remaining to 3rd Cat: 2
Number of Cambridge riders beaten: 3 (time trials avenged?)
Number of sunburnt arms: 2