The big day dawned early for me. My re-entry into the cycle road racing scene after 45 years absence was due to start at 9:30am near Basingstoke in Hampshire. It was almost two hours drive from home and I decided I needed to be there about and hour before that so I needed to be on the road by 6:30’ish. Just as well I did allow some spare time as the notorious M25 lived up to its reputation and was closed between junctions 15 & 16, just before Heathrow, even at 7:30am on a Sunday morning !! so I had to take a diversion around the back of Heathrow but arrived at Herriard at about 8:40.
The first job on arrival was to sign on and get my number and then pin it to the back of my shirt. It all came flooding back to me and not much has changed either, you still have to use 4 safety pins.
After that it was time to get into my race clothes. It was my first race appearance in the Team MK kit. At the same time I did a bit of carbohydrate loading with some malt loaf and energy drink. Just enough time then for a bit of a warm up ride which consisted of riding from the race start back round to the finish point and a quick glimpse at the hill to climb preceding it. I have to say that I actually drove up the hill on way there and thought this doesn’t look too much to worry about, but it all looks very different from the seat of a bike, much steeper at the top after a long drag up. I thought from the race profile this was the only hill on the lap but I was soon to be proved wrong on that score.
We all assembled outside the race HQ and a few minutes after 9:30 we set off behind the race commissaires car for a ‘neutralised’ section through the village but as soon as we were out of the village the car moved off ahead and we were underway. I am not sure how many riders started but I am guessing at least 60, it was a fair sized bunch. There were 4 age groups within the one race, D, E, F and G all mixed together in the one race so the age range was from 55 years upwards. I am in the ‘F’ group, 65 – 69 years old. I estimated at least 15 riders in my age group as there were a few people had only entered on the day of the race, not have pre-entered and therefore did not appear in the race programme. In the afternoon there was 5 lap race for the A,B and C groups.
Our event was 4 laps of a 10 mile circuit. It was a very brisk start and pretty soon there was a break in the bunch and it split into two and the front group consisted of about 30 to 40 riders and I managed to stick with these and we were travelling at around 24 mph for the flat part at the start of the race and I kept myself about midway in this group in case there was to be another split and I wouldn’t get caught in the back part.
The race then arrived at a long descent and we really were motoring down there but it was easy enough to hang in the bunch. At the bottom we turned left at South Warnborough and the surprise climb up through the village. It was at this point that it all started to go wrong for me as my foot pulled out of the pedal cleat as It hadn’t been clipped in properly and normally I would have heard it as I pedaled but because of all the tyre noise and other noises I hadn’t heard it and I came to pretty much a standstill while I struggled to get clipped back in again. But by the time I had I could see the bunch disappearing up the hill and round the bend. I knew I was going to struggle to get back on and there were also a few more small climbs on the way. However I had almost made it back on by the time we reached the foot of the climb towards the finish line for the first time but the hard riding took its toll and i watched them slip away again, never to be seen again and lonely ride to follow for me.
I knew there were other riders behind so I guessed eventually someone would catch me and we could share the work into the wind. However nobody did, in fact I caught and passed two other riders. I passed them at different times, the first one I had my sights for a long time and slowly dragged him back on the hillier part of the circuit. The second one I caught was about a lap later, I would say he was in the D group, the youngest group of our set. I caught him just after the finish line at the end of the second lap. We didn’t have much of a discussion but I did discover that he was American and had lived in the Cambridge area for four years. He had decided that at the end of the 3rd lap he would drop out of the race and watch the finish and suggested we had a sprint for the finish line together. I said no way was I giving up and doubted I would have much of a sprint anyway. However, neither did he because I dropped him on the climb up to the finish so no sprint was necessary and I continued on to complete my final lap, alone.
After crossing the line I pedaled slowly back to the HQ, handed in my number and loaded my car with the bike for the return home. I then strolled back to the HQ to see if any results were forthcoming and found to my surprise and delight that I was placed 4th in my group, well worth struggling round that last lap, but I never would have given up anyway. Unfortunately had I placed 3rd I would have got a cash ‘prize’ as there were prizes for the first 3 places but I was happy enough with my returns for the race.
My Garmin data makes for some interesting viewing. Firstly the elevation profile is pretty up and down and secondly you will see the first lap was completed at an average 19mph and I slowly watched my solo average speed drop down to the finishing average of 17.7 mph over the next 3 laps and that is reflected in the individual lap averages. I also like the way the heart rate and speed profiles follow that of the elevation profile.
To roughly describe the circuit it was pretty level from the start at Herriard to the Golden Pot. then it was level until halfway between the Golden Pot and then downhill to South Warnborough. From there it was pretty much up and down until Upton Grey and then climb started from there up to Herriard again. Very easy at first getting progressively steeper from Weston Corbett up to the finish line.
I am hoping at some time there will be some official photos available as I didn’t have any time for snapping.. !!