Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Sandown: Windy one day, windy the next

The only thing the same about racing Sandown is the wind, and so it was last night. Each time I race Sandown, it’s different (apart from the wind), with different riders in the bunch, so it makes it difficult to compare performances each time. The bunch yesterday was large, and we were told in the pre race debrief it was one of the largest D grades entries Sandown has had. I estimated 50 riders, this morning’s report says 55.

The first two laps were cruisy with the standard enforced neutrality. Lap 3 saw the pace pick up as usual, but it was no big deal, and having moved myself up the pointy end in lap two, I was comfortable sitting back 5-6 from the front over the next couple of laps. I decided to ride on the Eurus this time, as I am more confident cornering on them- they run on rails, and I don't worry about hitting the pavement. Sweet! The change of wheel seemed to do the trick and I was able to keep my position fairly well each time through the chicanes before the home straight. Lap 3 into the home straight, I was on the ball and ready for the charge into the headwind, but I was left disappointed and hitting the brakes cos the boys in front just sat there and, if anything, sat up rather than hitting the gas. The anticipated charge finally came up the back straight of lap 4 – I was hanging in there, still up the front, beginning to hurt but confident of making it through. The pace kept up through the chicanes, no problem there (which I was pleased about, bless those funky Eurus), until the final corner into the straight: someone changed up gear and my clutch started slipping. The engine was running but I wasn’t going anywhere but backwards out the rear of the bunch. I kept the pressure on myself up the home straight but was off the back and with no real hope of getting back on in that headwind. Bugger! I was hoping to last at least another lap with the bunch. Perhaps the charge up the back straight knocked the top off my battery and left me without enough zap when the crunch came.

I decided then my mission was to work on not getting lapped, instead of sitting up and waiting .. and waiting.. and waiting.. for the bunch to come through, as I did last time. So I kept my pace up, legs hurting, the engine burning oil at a great rate. Another 2 laps saw me through to the 45 minute mark, and a decision to retire at that point with the call of 2 laps to go. Up the back straight of that final lap, B grade came screaming past, closely followed by C grade as we hit the start of the chicanes. To my horror, D grade was right on the tail of C grade and caught me in the final corner. All 3 bunches were almost together, in a giant congo line of racing. Either I had been going much slower than I thought (30kph down the front straight, high 30s up the back straight, don’t think so!!) or D grade was particularly speedier than 2 weeks ago. I was relieved reading Mal’s report this morning that he noted D grade’s pace was up on normal. I didn’t feel so bad!

After a couple of weeks of some heavy training, and reviewing the power readout on my last ergo effort this morning over breakfast, I think accumulate fatigue is settling in, which is to be expected. I don't feel as confident in my newly gained strength as I did week before last, also thanks to the couple of health hiccups last week, which were timely reminders of my age and capacity for training and working full time. I am not overly concerned though. With a freshen up and ongoing work, it will come together when I need it. And I don't necessarily need it at a club crit. Yesterday I rode technically well, was pleased with my positioning, even elbowing out a couple of old guys for wheels. I cornered more confidently (faster) and kept up with the guys as they accelerated across the back of the course. Last night there were quite a few new riders who probably are at a level above D grade, and losing them will make a difference to the racing.

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