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Ludgershall Winter Series report

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1 Ludgershall Winter Series report on Wed 04 Feb 2015, 01:30

Taken from my South Downs Way Double blog

So with my training focus on long steady rides I needed an outlet for some short, sharp, hard efforts, to prepare for the Perfs Pedal Road Race (this Sunday 8th February). I thought the best way to do this would be to enter some winter criterium races and hopefully I would be able to pick up some British Cycling points toward keeping my second category licence at the same time.

The venue: Ludgershall

The Ludgershall winter criterium series is hosted by the Army Cycling Union at a Corunna Barracks. The place is bleak! It seems pretty much deserted and the track surface a little worse for wear, however, it’s plenty wide enough, and the corners gentle enough that it’s pretty safe. The track itself is down in a hollow, with the banks covered in brambles and thickets. It’s a large oval in shape with a slight S bend on the back straight. In the middle is thick coppice which means the sides of the track are often covered in leaves and twigs. The wind funnels down the track with, usually a tailwind on the finish / start straight and a headwind on the back straight. On a grey day in January it’s about as far from the glamour of pro-cycling as you can imagine.

Week 1: 6th

Strava ride

The weather was awful. Not too cold, but lots of rain, and lots of grit on the track. As I arrived I came down to watch the 4ths race, which was carnage as riders struggled to hold wheels in the spray. It was going to be a rough return to racing, that was for sure.

I came to these races with the sole intention to being attacking, get a workout, and hopefully pick up some points. Last spring I was involved in a very serious crash, where tragically a rider lost his life in the build up to a bunch sprint (one of the reasons I’m raising money for the air ambulance). Since then I’ve decided never to sit in and wait for a sprint, to get out and take on the race, even if it means failing spectacularly.

So, that’s what I tried, I attacked a few times, got brought back, the race was pretty cagey. I stayed away for about 5 minutes at one point, before being brought back once again. On the bell lap a rider jumped from behind me and I got caught in the wrong gear. I let the wheel go and five riders slipped off the front. The rider behind me was forced to close the gap, and then I went round him in the sprint, but finished 6th. I felt a bit bad after the race; it’s never good to be the one who lets the wheel go in the sprint. Overall I was happy with my race though, I’d definitely stretched the legs and got some racing points, so both aims of the day achieved.

Week 2: 3rd

Strava ride

The weather this week was better, however a lot of salt had been put down and with the damp track it still wasn’t the most pleasant conditions. The aim was the same as previously, race hard and then hopefully hang on for some points.

The start was the same as the previous week, with a few hard attacks including one I made myself. Just I was caught by the pack a Fareham Wheelers and VC rider escaped. I gave chase with four others, however, my group included two VC riders who obviously weren’t too keen on bringing back their own rider, which made organising ourselves quite hard. I ended up doing a lot of the work but to no avail. With a couple of laps remaining the two riders off the front caught us for the lap. The bell rang and it was a sprint for the win between the lap takers, and a sprint for third between those who were lapped. There was some confusion as to who was sprinting when, but I was first to cross the line taking third overall. More points, and a good hard work out.

Week 3: 1st

Strava Ride

This week there was no real team presence and after chasing down and making an attack in opening laps I found myself on the front in the headwind on the back straight. I slowed it right down, not wanting to tow the bunch for no reason. I saw I had a pretty good rider on my wheel, so as we turned on to home straight and took up the tail wind I kicked hard, hoping the acceleration out of the corner would cause someone to drop a wheel and force a split. As I entered the first corner I took a look back and saw only one rider had come with me, George, who was sat on my wheel when I attacked. It was still quite early in the race for two people to stay away, however, we’d already opened a gap, so I encouraged George to work with and continue the move.

After about 5 minutes of taking hard turns we’d got about 45-60 seconds on the bunch and were just out of sight. However, George was starting to struggle to take turns, and eventually sat up. There was still about twenty minutes left to race, plus three laps, I was skeptical I could stay away. I was half tempted to sit up and go back to the bunch with George, however, he’s a good sprinter, and with no teams I thought it was unlikely that once he'd dropped back anyone would want to tow him to the finish. I’d come here to get a good workout, I’d made my move, I’d got a decent gap, and I knew if I could just make it to the last few minutes the pack would start looking at one another and start thinking about saving their legs for the sprint for second, rather than chasing.

I turned myself inside out to hold the gap, and sure enough, as the lap boards went up to signify the imminent end of the race the pace eased behind and I started to see them in front of me as I came gain my lap. By this point, Mark, was shouting at me not to lap them, as then I’d have to go round with them for another lap, so I just sat 50m off the back of the bunch, rolling round and taking in the win.

It felt very special to do it solo, take a lap, and in an E12 race. Granted, the circumstances were perfect for a break, with no dominant team to chase, but still, someone has to take that opportunity, and that day it was me.

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