This week marked the start of the ever popular Eelmore circuit race series by Pedal Heaven, a local favourite and one of which a few of our riders have been attending for a number of years now. Team OCC were four strong across the two races; Simon Jodrell and Ryan Keynes compete in their first E/1/2 race at Eelmore since graduating from the 3rd cat ranks last year whilst David Driver continues to fight for his 3rd cat license in the 3/4 race. The fourth rider to take to the start line was Tim Cheshire in his inaugural race, here’s how they got on:
This was my first real test of an E/1/2 race, and I was nervous to say the least. I was excited to try my new Veltec carbon wheels for the first time and racing hard and fast with Simon. I didn’t feel there was any expectation on myself to finish in the points, but I was determined to finish in a group and enjoy the workout.
The race began more leisurely than what I was expecting which boosted my confidence, but then the attacks began to come from the Pedal Heaven boys. I was told by other racers that if you could hang on during the fast laps, you’ll be rewarded with 2 or 3 slower recovery laps, and that is exactly what happened. A long strung-out train was forming every couple of laps, and I was finding myself at the back working really hard to get back on, both on the back straight and home straight. This was due to my lack of confidence going into the corners.
After 45 minutes of this, I found myself off the back and really starting to struggle to get back onto the fast pace. Eventually, just outside of the final 5 laps, I was gapped on the home straight into the head wind and couldn’t quite get back on.
It was game over. I was happy with how long I was in the group for and looking forward to next week already to try and finish with the main bunch.
So. 2015 and the first race of the season as a cat 2 rider. Eelmoor is my home circuit where my racing teeth were cut and my first victories won.
But. This is different. I'm now racing against opposition that is working towards a UCI Pro Continental licence.
Team orders are apparent from the off and Pedal Heaven clearly had their own agenda, sending riders off the front and at the same time using team mates to control the field. Impressive to witness but also hard for more 'domestic' riders to cope with. It soon became apparent that E12 races are not so fast overall but hard accelerations and recovery are key. So using the same tactics i employed so well in 3/4 races mean nothing here!
Whilst enjoying riding with riders in higher categories the change in the style of racing proved difficult to adjust to. Hard accelerations are one thing and easily dealt with but with recovery opportunities becoming fewer and further apart i soon found myself last man with 4 to go. Many other riders having abandoned before me.
A lap off the back chatting to a Hargroves rider confirmed that chasing at this stage was futile and climbing off was the more sensible option..live to fight another day.
I'll approach round 2 with a different mindset and different goals but no less enthusiasm!
Pedal Heaven Eelmoor Race #1, following some changeable weather during the day, the sun eventually came out and coupled with a stiff breeze, dried the track out to provide pretty decent racing conditions. They only damp area was on the tight corner at the bottom of the back straight which would have to be ridden carefully.
Team OCC were represented by myself and Tim Cheshire in the Cat 3/4 race and Simon Jodrell and Ryan Keynes in the E12 race. Tim was taking part in his first race and whilst he was a little apprehensive, there was no shortage of advice on hand from the many OCC members out in force cheering the guys on.
The Cat 3/4 race was underway, Tim and I were both acclimatising to the pace and finding a foothold in the pack. Despite one or two half-hearted attempts from the pack to form a breakaway or at least force the pace, the first laps were fairly uneventful. Unfortunately for Tim, he suffered not one but two punctures and despite his best efforts to re-join the race, he had to eventually retire. Tim's spirits remained high, this was all good experience and he will return better and stronger for having taken part.
I hadn’t raced since January at the IWC series at Hillingdon so was unsure of form and what to expect from race #1 in terms of pace. The race remained a cagey affair during the middle of the race. I kept tabs on teams with a larger number of rider’s and monitoring tactics to ensure he kept out of trouble and in a sensible position towards the front of the pack.
There was a coming together of the two races which caused the pace to slow down with riders unsure on which side of the track to use, but this was dealt with pretty quickly by the PedalHeaven organisers who deployed the safety car to separate the two races and allow the racing to get back on track.
Into the final few laps and the pace inevitably quickened. Unfortunately the bottom corner claimed a victim with a rider slipping out in an effort to maintain position. I kept the inside line on corners and managed to stay out of trouble. The last lap was fast and I fell off the wheel in front for the final sprint to the finish line. Unfortunately I couldn’t close the gap and finished in the bunch outside of the top 10.
Nil points for the week but a decent return to racing leaving myself, Tim and the wider team optimistic for the rest of the series.
This was my first race, not of the season but my very first race, i'm 43! What am I thinking? I collected my new, out of the wrapper, Odiham Cycling Club jersey and after signing in I was given number 1. Yes, number 1 I was obviously keen to enter, either that or Pedal Heaven thought I was the new go-to rider. I was entered in the category 3/4 race, a tad nervous but hey that’s good for you right? After warming up with a nod to the other OCC racers it was time to start, just myself and David Driver, that said having been on the OCC chain gang i did not harbour any ambitions in seeing him for long. The supporters were full of advice, all appreciated and taken on board. However, there was just one flaw, being race fit.
The flag dropped and off I went, jeeezzzz it was fast, so whilst I can hold a speed my intervals are in the 'could do better department' so with an up and down course with two tights corners it was a race of intervals! Lap one went okay...ish I found myself near the back and so had to contend with the elastic band effect, the home straight was hard into the wind the back straight was the reverse, my Strava statistics show this quite markedly....speed up, heart rate down, speed down, heart rate up!
At the start of lap 3 I thought someone was tugging at my saddle, look around, nope, look down, flat. A quick pit stop some great mechanical skills by 1st Gear Cycles and I was off again. Unfortunately, I was now off the pace so in effect time trialled with the thought of finishing. Then it happened again...puncture number two, I pulled off the track got a hot chocolate and watched the remaining OCC team ride.
A baptism of fire, with a DNF, and the knowledge that I need to interval train but nonetheless an enjoyable evening that will be repeated in the coming weeks as I attempt to finish in the bunch of a category 4 race. I have high expectations