What a day.
Fast, intense racing was scheduled for Saturday 5th May, at Palmer Park Stadium, Reading – although the title of the race suggests elsewhere!
Some fast legs had turned up to Round 2 of the British Cycling National Hard Track Endurance League:
- Michael Mottram (Morvélo Basso RT, ranked 1st in the country for Elite riders on the date of the event)
- Stephen Bradbury (Morvélo Basso RT)
- Alistair Rutherford (Secret-Training.cc, 2014 Commonwealth Games athlete)
- Ethan Vernon, fresh from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he placed a respectable 4th in the team pursuit.
I had raced Mottram and Rutherford at the Good Friday Meeting earlier on in the year, and they were both pretty quick. Check out how I got on at the Olympic Velodrome here: https://chrisdurham.me/2018/03/31/good-friday-racing-2018-racing-against-top-uk-riders/
As dawn broke, it soon became apparent that we would need to bring sun-cream. Clear skies and warm weather were forecast for Reading; and this time, the forecast was correct!
Following the 3-hour drive down, I unpacked my kit in the track centre and set-up a little picnic (after all, it was an hour before sign-on opened). Coffee and jam-on-toast = win.
Riders were briefed by the commissaries about the races that lay ahead, before being allowed onto the track to warm-up. My first race of the afternoon would be a 10 Lap Scratch.
10 Lap Scratch Race – 6th
The first race of the day, I raced this a little cautiously, gaining insight and understanding about how I physically compared to my competitors. The pace gradually increased throughout the race, and within a few minutes, we were sprinting for the line. I was frustratingly boxed-in going around the 3rd and 4th bends, behind Rutherford, but found a small gap with around 100m to go. I passed Rutherford in the final metres to place 6th.
The Elimination Race – 10th
Probably my favourite event, the elimination race aka “the Devil” is a ‘fun’ track event, albeit a tough one. A rider is eliminated every lap, but to make matters harder, there would be no free/neutral lap – from the gun, one rider would be eliminated in the very first lap!
Making sure I was not the first to be claimed by the Devil, I rode in the top 5 for the first few laps. I stayed in a whittling field, until I misjudged the speed of those behind. I threw my bike in-between others in a bid to stay in the race, but to no avail – I was out, crossing the line in 10th.
Pretty frustrated, I would vent my anger out in the third race of the day: the 20km Scratch Race 😉
20km Scratch Race – 3rd
Technically the first stage of the Bordeaux-Paris event, the 20km Scratch Race was a qualifying round to compete in the final stage: the 30km Derny Race!
With only the top 8 riders going through to compete, tension, adrenaline and speed grew throughout the race. The peloton covered the first 39 of 44 laps at an average speed of 29.2mph (47km/h), in which a few riders launched attacks, but all in vain.
With an inevitable bunch sprint, I positioned myself on the wheel of Mottram in the final few laps. The pace grew and grew as the final lap approached, and with around 3/4 of a lap to go, riders began their sprint. Sprinting around the outside of Mottram, Bradbury and Rutherford, I was travelling faster and passing them. I crossed the line in 3rd – a pleasing result!
30km Derny Race – 6th
I was excited to be racing my first-ever derny race, yet a bit nervous about the pain that would lie ahead!
With 65 laps of torture ahead, I would race the 30km Derny Race on junior gears (52:14 – I currently don’t have any bigger gears) – I think I averaged 1,000,000rpm!! 😀
After a quick brief from my derny rider, Doug Pinkerton, I understood what I had to do:
- Step 1 – Don’t ride into the back of the derny. Position my front wheel behind the derny, but as close as possible to the derny to maximise draft.
- Step 2 – Keep an eye out on other riders to see what they’re up to – I did this for the first 10 minutes or so, before I was thrown into the hurt locker – you get the idea.
- Step 3 – Finish the race.
To increase the speed of the derny, I would shout “Allez” to my driver (French for ‘go’), and to decrease the speed, I would shout “ho”, which apparently means slow…
Setting off like missiles, the pace was very high. My legs were spinning like crazy, and we had a good 55 laps left! Averaging 36.3mph (58.4km/h) for the first 5 miles, I couldn’t sustain such a pace, and called for a slight reduction in pace to 33-34mph.
With everyone pushing to their limits, riders must be careful to not lose the draft of the derny. At high speeds, if the rider loses the draft, the power required to get back into it is so immense that it rarely happens at all. This happened with Mottram and Vernon out on track.
Gurning, I came close to “blowing-up” on several occasions, but held in there until the end. I finished the race 6th, only a lap down on Vernon.
My average race speed was 34mph (55km/h).
I’ll get a bigger gear for next time – hopefully I’ll be able to compete for the win!
A big thank you to the event organisers, commissaries and photographers (particularly Chris Macleod for the fantastic photos), and to my dad for driving me down, taking videos/photos and to my mum for the DELICIOUS food, as always 😉