Sunday, 9 February 2014

My first crit race

By Sara Randle. Aged 35 and a fifth.
Yep, it's true. All these years I've been riding/racing bikes and I've never done a crit race, or a road race for that matter. But somehow I was talked into by a friend, "oh, it's very low key with a huge variety of riders. You'll enjoy it". Famous last words!

Due to the recent weather it was kind of a last minute decision so I wasn't prepared at all (surprise, surprise) and before I knew it I was at Stourport sports club for the last round of the Wooly Mamil Winter Crit Series.

I guess if you're going to do something for the first time at this age you might as well do it in good company and my pre-race companions were World Champion MTB rider Tracy Moseley and series leader Maxine Filby (my 'friend' and driver for the day). T-Mo, her young club mate and I spent much of our warm up comparing how totally out of place we were:
"It'll take me half a lap to clip in with these road shoes" I said, "it took me an hour last night to find them!"
"Are you allowed mudguards?" asked Tracy.
"Are you using MTB pedals T-Mo? Are peaks on helmets acceptable or will I be shunned?"
"If I'd have known, I'd have worn mine, and baggies" she said.
"Crikey, I can't even remember the last time I rode a road bike," I said, "and I've never ridden this bike, it's Paul's."
Fortunately Max took all of this in good spirits and laughed off our completely amateurish and un-serious approach to what we were about to do.

Start line. Off we went, down to the first corner, sharp left, into brickwall-like headwind. Second corner, how dodgy?! Pick a line girls, any line, just stick to it, eh?! Third corner, a 180, sprint surge down the hill, what the hell?! Chase to pack, next corner, sprint surge, oh my god! Fifth corner, sprint. 180 degree turn, lap 1 done. Chase. Corner. Brickwall headwind. Click, clank, crunch... gears gone. And so were the group.

I managed to maintain a steady gap of around 100 metres to the group for some time, passing a number of riders on the way and picking up my own little group. Then I think I got a bit bored and decided I wasn't going to bridge the gap, finally the leaders lapped me andI  sat up. I wondered, if I got lapped enough, would I have to complete the full 30 minutes plus 5 laps? Hmmm...

By now I was around half a lap behind Tracy which meant we passed each other on the opposite sides of the long straight each lap. We started having short conversations and waving. I also started chatting to the other girls. I do that a lot in racing. Finally I got the whistle signalling five laps to go and the quicker I got these over with, the quicker it would all be over.

Off I went again, head down, 5 to go! Still chatting to everybody I came across. The leaders (Max!) lapped me a second time on their finishing straight. My final lap was a very relaxed affair with another rider finishing with an exceedingly gentle 'pootle finish' to the line. All very civilised.

Well, that was a learning experience. I had no idea what it was going to involve and got completely caught out, not least because of gear problems, on a bike I'd never ridden, but because of the speed of racing and the full on, continuous sprint/surge/maximum effort intervals involved.  I averaged 18.6mph for 45 minutes - never done anything like that, ever. Still, it was fun in some ways and I think with a bit of practice I might be able to get the hang of it.

Overall report: must try harder.