Monday, 31 March 2008

Sunday Scratch Race

The scratch race was a combined event, with the WMAS4+ competing for medals, and the five WMAS3 competing for a different set of medals. Unfortunately Julie Coller had to make an unplanned early return home to help with her new grandchild, which left us with four contenders. I figured I was at least up for bronze, but didn’t want to repeat my (lack of) efforts in the previous day’s sprint derby – no wasting opportunities this time, particularly with strong crit rider Kerrie Howard to contend with, and the big turbo diesel of Meg Marsh. I would have to be quick and smart, and take them by surprise. My first plan was to keep them in front of me as much as possible so I could keep an eye on them. Knowing neither were experienced scratch riders (as were the rest of the field for that matter. Even though I was literally racing only 3 others, I was also racing another 3 who could easily influence my race and radically change the dymanics), I also figured the race would be fairly steady and conservative. I was right on that count.

I had a lucky break in that the officials weren’t quite ready for us and asked us to roll around. Lined up on the fence, Meg and Kerrie were 2 in front of me. Rolling around, I positioned myself better so that I could be immediately behind both of them when rolling off the fence for the real thing. Item 1 of the plan accomplished.

As I assumed, the first 15 laps of 20 were uneventful, and we all settled into a dull rhythm and routine, which was what I wanted. The next couple of laps I was anticipating a move from Kerrie particularly, or from the WMAS4+ behind me. None came and into lap 3, corner 2 I saw an opportunity, and praying my legs could cope with it and back my brain up, pulled out of my spot as 3rd wheel from behind Kerrie, and went for it. The bike felt fantastic, the pista tubs thrumming on the boards. I got some height on the banking to help my acceleration, cleared Kerrie and Meg, and realising they weren’t coming with me, broke free of the bunch. I checked as I came into the sprinter’s lane, and saw no one coming across, realised it was going to work at least for a lap, and shifted into 5th gear. Lap 3 done and dusted, leading by a fair stretch. Lap 2 and still I was alone out the front and feeling strong. Looking behind, the girls were stretched out and all over the place. Bell lap and I hear “go around her Meg” so I look and Meg is on my wheel. Brilliant! Just the tow I need to finish off the race! And she has come alone. I shift up to let her through on corner 2 and yell to her to go. Instead of going, she swings up at me, looking for all intents like a massive hook to the spectators. I realise I have given her a bit of a scare, and myself one as she hooks me, and I instinctively move up avoid a collision and in doing so, wash off some speed. Meg takes off and I lose the opportunity for her wheel. Down the back straight it’s the 2 of us, a few metres apart instead of a team working for gold and silver. Coming into corner 3, Kerrie passes me and I see my silver medal ride off. Through the bend and into corner 4, Ellen passes me as I begin to fade and I am heading for 4th overall. In the home straight, someone is coming up on me. No way am I losing my bronze medal and dig in for a final stretch and a bit of a bike sling, just making it over the line before realising it’s Shirley and my bronze was not in contention. It would have been a photo otherwise, and I am not really sure who hit the line first between Shirley and myself, but I like to think it was me.

I was disappointed with losing what was a perfect set up, but fully stoked with my ride overall, and my attacking move. I rode intelligently (apart from the interaction with Meg – that’s racing and I wasn’t upset about it) and rode strongly. I did everything right for once and worked hard for the bronze, rather than rolling around to get it, which I could have easily done. To hear people yelling their support at me, as I took 2 laps way out the front on my own was a real buzz (and a bit of a surprise), as were the many congratulations from all quarters afterwards. I think it well and truly made up for the sprint derby! A bit of redemption for the soul.

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