My first ever Men’s crit race – And what a race!
Arriving at Nottingham’s Victoria Embankment, the racing would take place around the 1-mile Nottingham Grand Prix circuit. The narrow street circuit was made up of some sharp twists and turns, winding between parked cars, and some short but welcoming straight sections.
Following sign-on, I checked out the circuit, looking for opportunities to break-away, areas to move through the peloton and hazards. A team time trial took place a good hour or so before my first race began, which gave a good idea of what speed to approach the dangerous turns.
Here’s a pic of the straight following the first turn:
With a short opportunity to inspect the circuit by bike, I began my first lap of the course. Arriving back to where I set off, I began warming-up for the first race of the day: a 1-lap time trial. It would be fast, and a little more the case of who would take the greatest risks into the corners.
With a few minutes to go, the race organisers called the Category 3 and 4 racers to the start line. Rolling to the start, it was clear that I was the youngest present. A HMT rider (a semi-professional team) was flying their colours, illustrating the quality of this event. With 35 riders lined up for the first race, the racing looked to be intense.
Race 1 – Time Trial
The first race of the Omnium was a 1-lap time trial of the circuit. 1-mile long, the circuit was short, so the finishing times of all racers would be relatively close. In a bid to begin the Omnium in a pretty good position, I rode hard. I started like a track rider, touching 1,422 watts (23.3w/kg) down to the first turn.
Bumping it up to over 1,000 watts again, I flew down the riverside stretch, reaching speeds of 34mph before sharply braking for a hairpin turn. Out of the saddle, through the chicane, a quick left turn and I was back at the finish line.
Posting a time of 2 minutes and 11 seconds, I was 2 seconds shy of the leader, and slightly faster that the HMT rider. I was pleased with the result. I would begin the second race of the Omnium in 6th position overall.
Race 2 – The Elimination Race
As quick as the riders flying around the circuit, the rainclouds surrounding the course showered upon us. It was the start of some wet and gritty racing, and warming-up! Wet-roller-riding is comedy to viewers, but not so much to the rider 😀
Slipping and sliding on my wet rollers, I looked for cover beneath the trees lining the circuit.
Lining up at the start-line with other riders, this would be my first real men’s race. I chatted about the weather with a couple of guys a few minutes before the racing began.
The trees offered some protection to the rain, but only some. Wet leaves and markings on the road created hazards that had to be approached with caution. The racing began relatively quickly, yet I had no struggle with maintaining my position towards the front of the peloton. I held the wheel of the HMT rider during the first lap, as I thought he would be able to maintain his position well in the bunch. He unfortunately slid and crashed approaching the chicane – I quickly reacted to avoid the rider and his bike, and continued on.
I could hear riders crashing behind me whilst passing through the chicane, increasing my desire to stay upfront. With two riders being eliminated every lap, 35 soon whittled down to 15 or so. From here, a horn sounded and the elimination race affectively turned into a 1-lap scratch race.
The pace picked up during the last lap, and riders were taking risks into the chicane. I stayed upright through the chicane, but somehow caught my handlebars beneath the right leg of another rider!
My handlebars were caught under this guy’s leg. He quickly lifted his leg up, releasing my bars, and we continued on. I had lost a significant amount of places in the incident, and with 250m or so to go, it looked hard to make up any places. I did however, and finished the Elimination Race in 7th position.
Race 3 – The Scratch Race
Physically, I felt in pretty good condition. I knew my level of fitness would be of an advantage compared to quite a few of my competitors, so I was feeling pretty good about the final race of the day. Mentally however, after a few super-close calls, I was nervous about staying upright throughout the 1 hour race.
The race began quickly – I produced over 1,000 watts setting off. The pace continued for a little while, but inevitably died down as fatigue set in for most of the peloton. Fortunately, the circuit had dried up a considerable amount, so the worries of slipping and crashing were effectively put to one side.
Entering the final lap, I tried to maintain my position at the front of the peloton. Approaching the hairpin, a couple of riders took some silly risks, flying into the hairpin in a bid to win. I got a little swarmed entering the hairpin, and probably lost 5 places. With around 300m to go, I sprinted hard out of it, and used the lay-by which no-one else appeared to have used (there was a big puddle at the end of it).
This was a good move.
I reclaimed at least 5 places, most likely 7, and moved up into 3rd position approaching the final chicane and turn. Turning onto the home straight, I turned on the afterburners and gave it my all. Sprinting flat-out, I could see 4th place slowly edging closer to me, threatening my chance of a podium. Throwing my bike at the line, I realised I had taken 3rd – I had won some money, and taken a podium spot in one of the races!
I talked with some of the racers whilst I cooled down around the circuit, and at the back of the stage. Walking onto the stage in joy, I collected my £20. Speaking to the winner of the Overall Road Omnium, it was unclear whether I had finished 3rd or 4th overall, until the commentator read out my name!!
Elated, I walked out onto the stage in awe. Shaking hands with the Mayor of Nottingham, I put on the Red Jersey of 3rd Place and a Winners cap, took my prize of £100 and congratulated 2nd and 1st, as they entered the stage.
The Mayor of Nottingham and I 🙂
Receiving a bottle of champagne whilst the commentator interviewed the other riders, my excitement shot up even more realising I was going to have a champagne podium. Funnily enough, I had never experienced a moment of opening a champagne bottle and spraying it around, so I asked a member of staff to help me loosen it up 😀
Within moments, the corks fired out of the bottles and we began to spray each other and the crowd with some well-earned champagne!!
From left to right: Leigh Veldeman, Chris Bailey, and me 🙂
Definitely one of my best races of my life so far 🙂