Race Report: Loughborough Support Road Race - Frustrating...
The course comprises of five laps of a fairly exposed and rolling circuit; finishing each lap with an ascent of Harby hill; a long climb that ramps up to a 16 percent gradient at the end. To be honest, it is a very similar circuit to the Milland Hill RR I did a month ago... Tough! Today there was a strong headwind on one side of the box shaped course as well; which further added to the attrition rate (only around 30 of the 80 starters finished).
Firstly, I think I should mention that I haven't been on top form for a while now. I have had to take two weeks off the bike with a throat infection, and have only been back on it in the last five days. Before that, I had to pull out of a circuit race three weeks ago with my first DNF due to sickness (literally). In fact, looking back at my training notes, the last time I felt "good" was the 1st March. Despite this I still thought that I could produce something today... probably was too hopeful in retrospect.
The race started at a decent pace, and I sat towards the front of the peloton. A single man breakaway attempt went off in the first lap; nobody chased, it seemed doomed to fail. The second lap rolled around, and the first ascent of Harby hill that wasn't neutralised spat a fair few riders out the back of the pack. With the single man break still up the road, another two went off the front as well; again nobody followed.
Throughout those first few laps I was active at the front; probably too active, but I was keen to try and pull the breaks back at least, and even tried a few breakaway attempts of my own with a few riders. In retrospect these breakaways were almost always into the headwind, when the pack had slowed down as no one seemed to be working on the front, that was probably a bad idea... none of them worked, and my legs just didn't seem to have the power. Frustration number 1.
That brings me onto my second frustration; nobody was working in the pack! We had one good lap, which I think was lap four of five, when we got within a stones throw of the breakaway (which had now reduced to two), but apart from that there was nobody willing to chase. A select few tried, but it's hard to bring yourself when nobody else is... you just drag the peloton along behind you, tiring yourself out, then watch them come round you at the finish.
As a result, going into the final lap, the breakaway had opened up their gap again. In fact into the final headwind section the peloton's speed was down to 14mph at some points. People would chase little breaks that tried to get away from the main group, but they weren't chasing the real race that was up the road! Perhaps I'm too used to E.1.2. racing now, when almost everyone pulls their weight, but I found it pretty aggravating.
I tried one last ditched breakaway attempt as we approached Harby hill for the final ascent, but being in sight of the peloton the front runners soon caught me. I hung on to finish 11th; an improvement from last year, but not quite the result I was looking for.
What went wrong? Partly it was me, I wasn't strong enough (probably due to the three weeks off) to bridge across to the breakaway or on that final climb. I also probably did too much work on the front in the first few laps; if everyone else is just looking for a free-ride then I probably should have too.
Anyway, sometimes it happens and the break gets lucky because the pack is messing about. I'm looking forward to more E.1.2. races in the summer when people are looking to work, not free-ride in the peloton, hopefully I'll be back on better form by then as well.
11th place gets me a few more points towards my first cat licence, and in retrospect it's probably as good as I could have hoped for with the form I'm in at the moment. It was a welcome break from revision anyway. Bring on the summer.