Having previously entered road races just for a bit of speed training between MTB XC or multi-sport events, my usual approach has been attack, attack, attack, die, get dropped. At least this had been my excuse for not ever having accumulated even a single point on my BCF road licence. This season has been different though with an aim to get the ten points needed to finally move out of 4th cat. The last five weeks have therefore seen the Asics gather dust and the Trek Top Fuel get more use as a clothes horse than as a XC race machine. At the end of April a mean looking Giant Propel Advanced SL3 arrived for me at Bournemouth Cycleworks (see the photos on the shop site- thanks Marc!). This is a seriously good bit of kit about which I will give my thoughts after a few more miles, but it also meant one less thing to blame if I didn’t produce the goods. Not only was I going to have to start entering some road races, I was going to have to start some proper road training…
For those who haven’t raced on the road before (or more particularly 4th cat), on the local scene these races invariably involve lapping a motor circuit or airfield for about 40 mins. The speed varies from 20 mph to 30 mph, often several times per lap for no real reason, until a bell gets rung to let you know that the final lap has started. At this point there is a surge of riders to the front (a good handful of which you won’t have seen all race because they have been saving their legs at the back) and the carnage starts. The speed escalates, riders get twitchy, and bikes and bodies fly everywhere as all etiquette and sense goes out the window in the lunge for the line. Quite often you will have no idea in what a place you finished until results get posted on-line a few days later. Even then, quite often only those who made it into the top ten get placed if they were lucky enough that the commissaire could make out their number in the blur of a 30mph scrum.
That said, if you can avoid the muppets and stay upright, they’re a good laugh and a more interesting way of getting interval-type speed work in. For anyone who hasn’t done one but keen to give it a go, the key requirement is to get out with a local road club and learn how to ride in a pack first. Certainly in the initial stages you will find being competent riding in a bunch will help you cope with the speed a lot better than simply churning out training miles on your own.
Although the rubbish weather this winter/spring has meant more hours clocked on the sofa than the bike, a few panic interval sessions in the back end of April got some speed back into my legs and I cracked straight into a few evening crits and the like through May. Amongst the usual local diet of Thruxton, Ludgershall and Mountbatten, I have also managed to get across for a couple of TLI races with the ‘blue’ group at Moreton. These are held on a circuit of quiet lanes and based on a handicap system. This means people tend to work hard together to stay away from the chasers and/or chase the group in front. Personally I find it makes for much more enjoyable and useful racing than the usual 3/4th crits.
As for progress to date, a slightly mixed bag of results (see below) as I find my road legs but after a 3rd at Thruxton last night I should have enough points in the bag to have a 3rd cat licence winging its way in the post shortly. So that’s one goal achieved and what I should really do now is get back on the trails and tune up the XC skills (stop laughing Marc, I do have some); what I’m actually wondering though is how many points I need to get a 2nd cat licence and can I do it before Mrs B produces our first sprog at the end of July…..
Road Race Results May/June
TLI Moreton Round 1 – 7th
Ludgershall 3/4th cat Round 1 – 9th
Thruxton Summer Series 3/4th cat Round 2 – 10th
Kalas Cup 4th cat Support race – 3rd
Portsmouth CTL Circuits 3/4th cat Round 4 – 14th
TLI Moreton Round 4 – 4th
Thruxton Summer Series 3/4th cat Round 3 – 3rd