Good Friday Racing 2018 – Racing against top UK riders

This year, Easter eggs were replaced with energy gels.

Good Friday Racing, presented by Full Gas Cycling and Lee Valley VeloPark, took place at the Olympic Velodrome in London! With over 800 tickets sold, the spectators were in for some fast, exciting and intense racing.

The riders were in for a lot of suffering and adrenaline. Oh, did I forget to mention the £3,500 Breitling watch up for grabs for the winner of the scratch race?

Below are some of the notable riders I would be racing against:

  • Morvélo Basso RT (x1 rider)
  • Nuun-Sigma Sports-London (x5 riders)
  • Holdsworth Pro Racing (x2 riders)
  • Adam Duggleby (2x Paralympic gold medallist)
  • Jaco van Gass (2x Invictus Games gold medallist)
  • Alistair Rutherford (2014 Commonwealth Games athlete).

If I had to describe the day in three words? Intense, exhilarating and insightful 🙂

The build-up

In the build-up to the racing, rider bios of the racers were published by Full Gas Cycling. Here’s my rider bio, featuring what is probably the best playlist song ever – Danger Zone, by Kenny Loggins 😀

Chris Durham rider profile Good Friday track 2018

Waking up early is not my forte, but there’s nothing a bit of coffee can’t solve! The drive down to London was relatively hassle-free, albeit some traffic diversions.

The GB sprint squad were warming up on their rollers as I dropped my stuff off and other teams were arriving too. With this being my first time racing at Lee Valley VeloPark, I was eager to get on the track to get in some experience and get a feel for the track. Jumping on my beautiful Canyon, I quickly got used to the 250m track, which felt quicker and smoother than the likes of Manchester and Derby velodrome.

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My set-up for the day 🙂

I quickly got to know some of my competitors. Chatting to Craig McLean of Nuun-Sigma Sports-London (one of the five Nuun-Sigma Sports-London guys racing), it became clear that quite a few of these guys were locals; their local track league takes place at this velodrome.

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My choice of weapon.

With our time available to get used to the track over, and the spectator seats filling up, it was time for the sprinters to get up onto the wooden boards and deliver their fastest sprints. Compared to myself, some of the sprinters were built like the Hulk and posted some quick times (9.987 for a flying 200m TT)!

 

Unusually, the racing had been brought forward by around 20 minutes – And I had just began my warm-up. This was a little frustrating, but nothing could be done about it – it was time to get onto the track and do my best.

Endurance Qualifying – 40 Lap Scratch (10km)

This is how Qualifying worked: 

  • Riders who finished in the top-half of each qualifying heat (two heats in total) would be placed into the Elite Field. 
  • Riders who finished in the bottom-half of each qualifying heat would be placed into the Intermediate Field. 

After a few neutral laps, the racing officially began (by the sound of a whistle) and the speed skyrocketed. A group of 6 riders, who were probably the six strongest riders racing, broke-away after a couple of laps. The chasing peloton persisted with the effort to bring back the riders, keeping the pace high, however the break continued to gain on the bunch and lapped. 

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Below: I am doing my turn on the front of the peloton:

 

inpics_1522514497-e1522520836607.jpgWith a few laps to go, the speed increased and kept on doing so. Using the draft of those in front, I made my way up towards the front of the peloton as we approached the final lap. I crossed the line in the top half – I had qualified for the Elite Field!

We completed the 10km Scratch Race in a time of 11:56, equating to an average speed of 50.28km/h (31.25mph).

Below is a short video from the second heat of Qualifying (I was in heat 1):

 

The Elimination Race – Elite Field

This is probably my favourite event.

Also known as “the Devil”, the elimination race involves a rider being eliminated every two laps, until 2 riders remain. Lining up along the bottom of the track, I was ready to race. The whistle blew, and the race was underway. The ‘devil’ was quickly taking riders, as the racing speed stayed high.

Below: I am in a blue and white skinsuit at the bottom of the track, behind Alistair Rutherford (2014 Commonwealth Games athlete), in orange:

 

I found myself racing at the bottom of the track, about mid-pack, to cover the minimum distance and be in draft. However, this is a precarious position and with the nerves getting to me, I performed a ‘washing machine’ manoeuvre (going from the back of the bunch, around the top of the track, to the front).

The organisers were playing the Jaws theme song during the Elimination, which I particularly liked 🙂

 

With more riders being eliminated, the group was dwindling in size. I undertook several riders throughout the race, along the datum line (the black line), which worked well. However, I ultimately found myself at the back and was eliminated, finishing mid-field. I placed ahead of Jaco van Gass. 

The Points Race (12.5km) – Elite Field

With sprints every 10 laps, the Points Race is a formidably tough race – and it proved to be!

Unsurprisingly, the pace shot up from the whistle as riders attacked. My objective was to stay in the peloton, and if I could, sprint for the points. An attack by a group of 6 or so riders, which lasted a while, hoovered up a good chunk of the points available.

 

With the pace still ridiculously high, I decided I would just sit-in and sprint for the best finishing position I could manage. Quite a few riders had dropped out, because of the intensity.inpics_1522507981.jpg

 

 

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Cruising beside a Holdsworth Pro rider.

My plan worked pretty well, with myself finishing 12th – I finished second out of those who had not scored (14 riders didn’t score), in the bunch sprint. I placed ahead of Alistair Rutherford and 4/5 Nuun-Sigma Sports-London riders

The Scratch Race (80 Lap, 20km) – Elite Field

To be honest, I felt ABSOLUTELY SPENT before this race began. I had an SIS caffeine shot and a High5 energy gel prior to the race, and still felt spent :/ It wouldn’t matter though, because after the final race, I would be truly spent.

I went into the final race with a plan.

 I wanted to see how far away I am physically from the best pros in the UK, and so I would attack them, and follow their attacks. I also took long turns, and arguably more turns than anybody else in the Elite Field during the final race.

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Photo credits: @Pedrosd

The pace of the race was just as high as it had been in previous races – and riders were being shelled from the peloton. Keeping to my plan, I attacked when I came to the front, and strung out the peloton, creating small but significant gaps. Following a regroup, Michael Mottram of Morvélo Basso RT counter-attacked my move. I had to respond:

 

I attacked again, this time with Michael Mottram – note the fracturing of the peloton at the end of the video below:

 

inpics_1522520289.jpgInevitably, I had burnt matches. In fact, I had burnt all my matches, and was riding on willpower alone. As the laps ticked by, I was giving it my all to stay in contention. I dug very deep, but just couldn’t quite hold the pace of Mottram and the strongest riders. I had to call it a day with around 18 laps to go.

I was pleased with how that last race went, despite not finishing it – I had stuck by my plan, executed it, and rode my balls off.

I would like to thank Full Gas Cycling and Lee Valley VeloPark for organising and hosting the event, the staff, commissaries, stewards, commentators (a guy who commentates for Eurosport!), and the spectators for helping to create a fantastic day of racing 🙂

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