Windy conditions, 88 starters, five from TCC. Graham attacked, a break of 10 eventually got away. TCC led the main pack but we all finished out of the points.

Time to move up for my first Cat3 race after cheering the Cat4’s last week. I was rather relieved to see Graham Crow, Alex Tinsley, James Bradley and Steve O’Brien at the start for what turned out to be 234 not E123 race. Based on my 10 personal milestones of racing#, I’m back at Milestone Two (don’t get dropped), and not feeling good about meeting that one.

Chrissy wishes me Good Luck (well done for making Cat3 as well!), I pin my number on backwards, forgetting that the race is reversed this week, and we meet for the briefing. I’m number 95! there are 88 starters and it looks it on the start. Wind is blowing strongly across the circuit, with occasional gusts down the straight. Anti-clockwise. Phew, some comfort. The nice bike and new (non-aero) wheels and 25c tyres, but I’ll be nowhere for the sprint anyway. A 35 lap countdown. My longest race at Hillingdon.

I finish a gel and we are off. The pace feels high. Faster than Cat4, but I can keep position. Five or six are on the grass immediately. A couple of laps and there is an attack and Graham is off to meet the sole attacker but there won’t be much a of a break. The pace is still fast but with some bunching and I’m holding mid-pack. It will take a lot more from me to get near the front. Attacks seem to come and go, the peloton stretches and people drop off the back. Eventually we are lapping riders, and I’m still not one of them.

Then the selection; a break of about 10 riders. Obviously being far back I can’t see the gritty details, but don’t see TCC up there. Alex is on the front of the chasing bunch and puts the hammer down. This has the equal and opposite effect of sending me backwards and off the pack. I fight to get back on as the group bunch on the circuit and make progress back through the group. Twice. Ten laps on the board and another gel. I’m not going to get dropped! Five to go and others in the group are falling back. Alex is still destroying us chasing the breakaway and just off the front. But I’m still top third.

Final lap and the bell. Faster than Cat4. Faster than Masters. Fast! I’m on James Bradley’s wheel and we are well-positioned. Up the incline and it feels like the sprint is starting already. Hold back. Attack out of Brian’s Bends and wind up the sprint. I’m not passed, amazingly and finish 27th or there about. Top third. That’s milestone Four already. It won’t last.

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Alex (out of shot) making me suffer. Photo by Andy Goulding

Alex led the pack, James, Graham and myself followed in and Steve had to retire with a mechanical. I felt like I’d won. But then I didn’t ride the Club run that morning – just to Windsor and back to buy a present. The 22 mile ride out to Surrey for dinner felt great.

Kind regards,

Daren

#Those 10 milestones in full:

1. Buy a race license and enter a race (THIS is the biggie)
2. Not get dropped (took me a few races)
3. Finish mid pack (needs skill not fitness)
4. Finish top third (Yes!!! I’m a “racer”)
5. Work on the front (actual training required)
6. Contest the sprint (try not to lose position)
7. Bridge to a break (more training)
8. Attack (You have to be able to do something in the race)
9. Contest the points (Cat 3 here I come!)
10. Win! (Hmmm, still working on this one)

 

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