The first weekend of March saw the opening event in the South West Scotland Cycling Project's race series - a 20km 3 up team time trial around the roads near Kirkpatrick Durham. There was a good turn out of 70 or so riders and despite the cold I think everyone enjoyed themselves! The course itself went out from the village and up towards Corsock before turning back along the River Urr before finally hanging left and a wee kick back up to Kirkpatrick Durham. It was fast and the three man teams were making short work of it. Unfortunately we had only managed to cobble together a two man team so myself and my partner had a bit more work to do! We gave it our all and finished just outside the top 10, so not too bad considering our deficit. This was the first time I'd attempted a TT so I wasn't sure how I was going to fare. In the end it felt good to be racing, knowing the distance was short I could just bury myself in the effort. My legs felt good and I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was a nice warm up for the real season opener the next weekend - the road race!
Unfortunately the day after I developed a rather nasty stomach bug. I spent the following week off the bike and not eating. It wasn't until Thursday that I had my first proper meal of the week! Not the ideal preparation for a race on the Sunday. I really wasn't sure I'd race. But somehow, inevitably, I found myself cycling out to the start on Sunday with no real idea how my form would be or what was going to happen.
The circuit took us out from the village towards Loch Ken, up the side of the Loch then right across the moor towards Corsock before following the River Urr to Bridge of Urr then a nasty little uphill finish.
Route map - same as this but backwards!
I rode the final climb on the way to the start and knew it was too much for me. I wasn't going to finish well on this circuit - but seen as it was my first race, finishing with the bunch and not getting dropped should be my main objective. The race start was neutralised until we got onto the A713 on the side of Loch Ken. Then the pace upped, bit of a desperate sprint at the back! I'd found myself right at the rear of the bunch, there was a way to go and I didn't see the point in fighting to the front straight away. We sped off up the side of the Loch, the bunch twitching nervously.
I may not have raced before but I'm used to riding in groups and following wheels. A lot of people there were not. When we turned off the the A-road to start climbing up to the moor, a junior rider careered into the side of the bunch (right in front of me) and caused a bit of a pile up. Other riders were coming together for no apparent reason. It was chaos! I decided the safest place was nearer the front. And I got a little carried away. Sitting on the front was quite fun and trying to break off the front of the bunch was quite fun too. So I wasted a bit of energy playing at being Jens for a while. The headwind was vicious and energy sapping. My legs hurt a little too much so I dropped back into the main bunch for a while.
Unbeknown to me a rider had broken away right at the start and at that moment was well on course to winning solo. I also didn't know that the bunch had all but halved in size, but that became evident as we turned at Corsock onto the run to the finish. I sat at the back again recovering and trying to decide what to do. The B-road we were now on was tight and twisty with lots of little lumps. There was also a headwind so attacking on it wouldn't really work. I decided to sit tight to the finish and had picked out the wheel I planned on following up the climb. All I had to do was work to the front of the bunch for the turn off to the finish which was a little tight. I didn't want to get caught up in any other crashes! I picked my moment and started to move up the bunch, I kicked a little and suddenly, I was free. I kicked again and one or two bike lengths became three or four.
Bugger it, I'm not going to win so I may as well take a little glory and attack!
I flew off into the final climb with a decent lead on the bunch. But my legs weren't up for fighting up the final climb and I had to sit up. I got swallowed up and finished at the back of the main group - 22nd place. All told I'm not unhappy with that, I was the first Wheeler home and knew what I was doing by flying off the front. I enjoyed the race, I really enjoyed the tactics. There's a lot more thinking involved than in a XC race! I've already signed up for the next one this coming Sunday on a very similar circuit. This time I've been discussing a plan with my club mates. Let's see if it makes a difference! I think it's fair to say I've caught the bug. My goal for the season now is to get a full racing licence and gain enough points to move up to 3rd Cat - we'll see how that fits around the XC racing, I have a suspicion it'll make me a bit quicker!