The Tour is finally underway! So whilst numerous TCC are enjoying the delights of Yorkshire, I watched the Grand Depart and made my own depart for Deal in Kent for this second race in a series of three (Giro, Tour, Vuelta). Built on the former spoil heap of Bettshanger colliery, the circuit is a 3.3 km, level, smooth and non technical loop. There is a strong Westerly wind blowing a gale and the course is exposed. The wind is right down the finishing straight.
 
I’ve entered the E123 race of one hour plus three laps and am instantly under no illusions that this is a team sport. Several teams are here in force, Bottechia, PMR@Toachim House and a few others I don’t recognise. All have at least four riders and are clearly organised. I ride the circuit with a sole rider, Mark, from Brighton Excelsior. He gives me a few tips about where the attacks will come and some tactics for trying to counter the teams.
 
A briefing and we are off. Except I’m not; can’t clip in! That never happens. A sprint down the straight and into the first bend and I’m onto the back of the peloton. I move up before the first attack comes. There is a double bend across the headwind, but unlike Hillingdon it is completely level and I corner confidently.  An attack comes, with obvious blocking from several teams. At this level I’m still finding my tactics,and being alone, I grab wheel rather than attack myself. The top of the course sees me in an echelon to avoid the side wind, and then another acceleration along the straight. The group of three get away, and eventually get 50 seconds on the chasing bunch.
 
Attacks come every lap. I chase a few, dragging the bunch. Trying to Hold, position another larger group get away, but this time I attack from about five back (Bridge to an attack milestone), and make it. Of course the rest of the peloton get restless and again accelerate at the top of the course and into the straight. For me it is now yoyo time. Top third, accelerate at the top of the course, bottom third, recover position into the wind Repeat. For about 15 minutes. Gel at 45 minutes. There are a couple of sole strong riders. Mark is riding well with Luke from Brighton Mitre, and a guy from Vicious Velo is working hard, and I am recovering. The lead group are now at a minute.
 
After some hard turns, the peloton settle for a sprint finish and finally three laps are called. Some respite but more accelerations. Two laps to go and Mark attacks, I’m near the front but know I won’t be strong enough to go with him, so settling on the front, I ease up slightly. The attack comes at the top of the course (again) but it looks like he is away. Last lap bell. Pace is still not furious into Bends 1 and 2, then the wind and slowing. Team Bottechia are organising a leadout and I am about 15th wheel. Final bends and the sprinting starts with a tailwind. Dropping sprockets I lose a few places but start to accelerate. 20th place and not far from the points (National B). Mid-pack, but in a field of almost entirely 1’s and 2’s, I’ve very happy. One place higher than my recent E123 race at Hillingdon.
 
Enjoy tomorrow’s Tour stage, and go Team NPFS!
 
Kind regards,
 
Daren
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