So this weekend was the Rapha Road Race (ERRL 2/3/4) in Great Chesterford, Essex. I was feeling pretty good going into this, had two pretty big weeks of 20 + hours and then a 10 hour week and a good result at Crystal Palace. That said I hadn't done a RR since the RAS de Cymru, and not one this long since the London Phoenix RR.
Rather uncharacteristically for an ERRL race it was fairly lumpy over the 10 mile lap, with a 1 mile climb at 4% upto the finish. Doesn't sound much, but it had a few ramps at 8% to really kick you in the head. Total distance was to be 70 miles, so 7 laps, and actually 8 times up this climb...
We had 4 miles of neutralised to get onto the circuit which then started on the finishing hill, maybe I didn't warm up enough but the pace up the so called neutralised section of the hill seemed quite hot... After this, nothing much really happened for the first half of lap 1 as riders got used to the course and others in the 60 strong field. We had just climbed what was the 3rd "hill" of the circuit, feeling good and eager to see what was what I opted for the classic 1st lap solo break, I actually managed to get a pretty good gap, and held off the bunch for about a lap, they probably all wondered what was this idiot doing? They'd be right really, but as we came into lap 2 I was joined by 2 other riders and we worked together, although I knew this would never stick when one chap remarked that if I slow down he'll be able to get past. We're in a break mate... All good fun though, and nothing quite like a chasing pack of riders to keep you going. Got to practice my TTing anyway...
The bunch caught us just over the hill into lap 2, I was determined to stick near the front, follow attacks and try and get in another break and make it stick. Over the next few laps there was plenty of attempts, but there wasn't enough people working to make it stick. I think It was probably at the top of the 3rd time up the climb that a break of 7 went, including Feathers Cycles and Richardsons Trek. A strong move which included the right people. Not sure what I was doing, but I missed this. Que plenty of attacks to get across to the break, and whilst we kept them in sight for a lap, we couldn't get across. I was perhaps doing too much work really, a few more solo break, but with nothing sticking and only 3 or 4 riders doing any turns over the next few laps the break had this. With 2 laps to go and the 6th time up the hill I was feeling it now, to be fair I think the rest of the bunch were too thankfully. We descended down off the main climb and are stopped by the comms car, what's happening? A crash? Nope, a group of deer on the road... The break also stopped up the road. They set off. and a minute later we were on our way again. Slightly annoying as 5/6 of us had a gap at the top of the hill, ah well.
Coming into the final lap and up the climb for the 7th time the pace had built up, my legs were in bits and I wasn't quite sure what i'd have for the final time, only 10 miles to go and I needed to concentrate on being in a good position coming into the final climb... Last lap, and after the 3rd hill on the circuit it was a long twisty road, slightly down hill and a slight tailwind. The pace was high now, with riders appears on the front out of nowhere, going to be one of those finishes is it... With 7 still up the road it was likely to be a bunch sprint for 8th, we got onto the bottom of the climb, the final time and essentially a hill top finish (glamorous eh) I was the first rider and at the front, great. I wasn't really sure where the best place to go on the hill was, a mile is quite a long distance to sprint, and the false flat upto the finish would be difficult to judge. With that in mind I tapped it out on the front, not in the red, but bloody close, nobody came past, halfway up the hill and still nobody, I couldn't quite understand it... It flattened a bit and I kicked, still nobody coming past, I must have gone too early? With maybe 100m to go 3 or 4 riders passed me, I managed to drag one back and held on for 12th! Ok, so it wasn't a win (or even top 10 - points to 15th though) but given the amount of work i'd done and the quality of the field I was pretty pleased with that. I was cooked.
A very well organised race by Rapha, loads of spectators, can of coke at the finish and loads of food back at HQ. A quality event. Next weekend is the Manchester 2 day stage race, and Palace on Tuesday, so think i'll have a few easy days on the bike...
Thanks for reading guys.
Thanks to Dave Haywood for the photos: http://www.davehaywardphotos.com