(thanks to Peter Carey for the use of the photo!)
Following on from my time trial last weekend, I ended up joining the velo club during the week, and today saw the first road race of the season. As I’d been recommended that I start in Division 3 for my first year, this meant 6 laps of the Coudre circuit (about 26 miles, with 2,000ft of climbing), and there were a couple of other newbies in the group of 11 of us on the start line.
As I’ve only ever taken part in non-competitive sportives before I’m a bit tactically naive when it comes to racing but, having been told to just stick in the group on my first race, my plan was to try and stay in front 4 or 5 (in order to stay clear of any crashes and avoid the tiring rubber band effect) whilst not spending too much time in the wind.
We set off at a steady pace before turning up the Coudre for the first time at a reasonably gentle speed. Nothing much happened for the first two laps as the group stayed together, but second time up the Coudre I noticed a few were blowing so thought I’d up the pace a little third time round as I still felt fairly fresh. This immediately had the effect of stringing everyone out and we were down to a bunch of 4 of us by the fourth lap plus a dropped Division 2 rider when I paced us up the Coudre once again. By this point the others had sussed that I wasn’t just making up the numbers and I found myself spending what felt like an unfair amount of time on the front (I bet it wasn’t!) as others were happy to follow my wheel rather than take up the pace setting.
Our break stayed together for the final two laps, but when we got to the bottom of L’Eree hill for the last time and turned onto the coast road for the final mile and a half to the finish everyone seemed to ease up slightly and look at each other. I’ve been toasted in enough ‘sprints for the line’ in the few sportives I’ve done to know it isn’t my biggest strength, so I wasn’t really sure what my plan should be now. Someone kicked with about a mile from the end and I managed to stay with them until a slight uphill rise on the final corner with half a mile to go when I went for it. I could see that someone went with me from their shadow on the road, and all I could think was “idiot, you’ve gone too early again!”. My legs were screaming from the lactic acid as I pushed myself infinitely harder than I did in last week’s time trial, but I managed to hold them off and crossed the line first.
Pats on the back all round, plus a few quips that it’s poor form to win your first race, and that was that – I’m the leader in the glamorously named Edmond de Rothschild Road Race Point Series Championship Division 3. Whether I still am at the end of the season remains to be seen!