10th February 2018
Hog Hill Winter Series. Round 6. Approximately 6 degrees with steady light rain, although the surface water on the track and the spray of water from the wheels makes it feel like torrential rain.
Around 30 brave souls line up at the start line, ready to ride the course in reverse to how it is normally ridden, which means turning right instead of left. I had never raced the course this way before but I actually preferred it as it meant doing the main climb to the top of the hill, a very short descent followed by a sweeping right hand uphill bend to the finish. From having watched the 4th cat race earlier in the day I could see that riding the course this way suited a long sprint where if you could pick your own line going into that final corner you stood a good chance of winning.
We set off at a cautious rather than blistering pace, but by the time we reach the foot of the hill for the first time the opening attacks begin. I myself had a little go off the front to see if anyone was interested in joining me, but one rider leads the rest of the bunch back to me. No point wasting energy so I ease up and drop back a few spaces. I get a little to comfortable in the bunch and by the time we hit the hill for the third time a stinging acceleration comes which causes the bunch to splinter dramatically. Less than 10 riders are able to immediately follow, me being one of those caught out further back. I spend the next lap chasing hard to get back to the bunch, mainly due to a lapse in concentration, but I know the pace will ease up and I will be able to join again. Sure enough, as the main hill rears its head again I am back in the slipstream of the bunch. The overall pace for the next few laps eases which sees around another 10 riders make it back into the group. This race is a war of attrition though and almost every lap there is a puncture.
5 laps to go and for the first time in the race I am able to get a good look at the most dangerous riders in contention for the win. There are 5 or 6 riders who are clearly stronger than everyone else in the bunch, including my Crawley Wheelers team mate Damien Law who has been active all race. 3 laps to go and I can tell pretty much everyone is fatiguing quickly, whereas I am feeling relatively fresh compared to earlier in the race. Sensing there may be an opportunity for a long break I put in a hard attack on the main hill, and keep the effort going past the finish line and down the bottom of the track. Although my attack has put people into difficulty, the main 6 riders are able to come back to me which sees the rest of the bunch follow too. A bunch sprint is almost a certainty now.
Tensions are running high into the final lap, with the pace easing to a Sunday club run speed. Everyone is looking around waiting for someone to make a move. The first attack goes at the bottom of the track as the bunch strings out going up the steep hill. It’s at this point I am sure a good result is on the cards, as I am passing people as we crest the main hill, but this is still 300 metres from the finish. I’m currently in 2nd position, but a surge from riders behind me on the downhill section sees me drop back a few places, but I don’t panic because I know I can use these riders as a slingshot out of the final corner to propel myself past them. Round the bend and I am fighting side by side with a Strada Sport rider, I’m gaining on him all the time but not as fast as I would like. 1st and 2nd place had a good jump on everyone else but I take 3rd place by about half a wheel, a result I am very pleased with. Well done to Damo who picked up 5th place as well.
At the beginning of the year I set a target of getting a top 5 placing in a round of the East London Velo series, so by getting this result I have ticked off one of my targets. A priority ‘C’ target, but it shows I am progressing in the way I would like. Thanks again to East London Velo for organising in grime conditions, I will be back next week for the penultimate round in the series.