It’s been great to get the season started – my first ‘proper’ race season since 2010.
After a solid winter of racing ‘cross and then slowly building up, the training camp in Lanzarote was a welcome break from the cold. After we got back, I continued to train well and before I knew it it was time for my first race – the Ythan APR.
What I hadn’t realised when I entered the race was that this was the weekend the clocks changed, so I found myself getting up at 4.45am to get ready, have breakfast & then drive up to Ellon. The things we do for our sport! It was a really cold day and despite doing a good warm up on the turbo by the time we set off my legs were like blocks of ice. To make matters worse, I’d decide to #MTFU and ride in shorts, albeit with some of Jon McComisky’s magic Soigneur embro on my pins. It took me the best part of a lap to get any feeling in my legs, during which time we’d had to make our first climb of the brutal Raxton hill – not long but a killer 14%. Our group split to pieces on this climb & I found myself in a small group riding through & off into the headwind. We quickly caught a bigger group and this group worked well together before we were caught at Raxton on the last lap by the scratch group. The pace went up as we tried to catch the two groups that were still up the road, but sadly our chase was in vain and we rolled in some 51 seconds behind the winner.
Two weeks later, and after a good few of Gaz’s “Full Gas” sessions, it was time for my next race and my first proper road race since 2009 – the Nick Hardy Memorial race at nearby Monikie. This was now a Cat 3/4 race after the recent changes in race structures and was a full field of 80 riders from all over Scotland. Again, I had a good warm-up on the turbo and made sure I was at the front of the bunch as we rolled out of Monikie. Within a couple of miles the pace in the peloton jumped up as the Deeside guys went to the front. I found myself quickly on the back foot, and once again my cold legs refused to do any hard work or put out decent power and before I knew it I was sliding out the back door. Within 5 miles the bunch had been smashed to pieces – a combination of the pace and the strong cross / head winds that we endured for most of the race. I put my head down and caught a few riders, quickly establishing what was to become the Grupetto! Five of us worked well together, riding in a neat echelon in the sidewinds and taking short turns in the headwinds. We rolled in 20 mins behind the winner with our tails between our legs, but we had worked hard as a small group – my average HR of almost 160 for 2 hours 35 mins of racing was proof of that!
It’s been a hard re-introduction to racing and without a doubt there are some strong Cat 3’s out there that mean many races will split this season. The key is going to be making sure I stay near the front of the bunch and to do that my legs are going to have to respond right from the start and not wait for 10 miles before deciding to work. As always I’m taking the positives and looking forward to the next race in a fortnight’s time. In the meantime it’s time to up the effort levels in training and really push myself beyond the red zone. I started this with last night’s session and after a recovery ride this evening I’m doing the Deeside chaingang in Aberdeen tomorrow night. That should certainly be a hard shift if Sunday is anything to go by!