By Josh Aiken
The first road race of the season is always one of mixed emotions excitement, confidence all mixed in with a small amount of dread.
Arriving at the HQ it was clear that the weather was going to make this race pretty miserable, however, the show must go on.
The usual pre-race ritual… talking about how your going out the back in a somewhat jovial way, talking race tactics, the conversation of who is going well, and of course, not forgetting the all important competition oil that must be applied liberally to the legs, because even if your getting dropped at least your legs look good.
Then for the race briefing, which is just basically warnings about potholes and the bad road surface; something you just expect with racing in the UK I suppose. This followed by the usual words about safety, which essentially equate to, “don’t be a bloody chopper…”
As we roll out of the neutralised zone, it is very clear to me from my previous experience that the place to be at the start of Crest Road Race is at the front, as it always goes off like a bomb on the first climb. A bit of jostling and flirting with the dreaded ‘white line of disqualification’, I found myself in a good position for the first climb and that’s where it all kicks off.
Two boys from Team Strada went straight off the front, (I was thinking this is too early and didn’t follow), however, my teammate Liam saw the danger and went on the front to put out a very high pace up the hill, managing to close the gap to within 5 seconds. They were eventually caught towards the end of the 1st lap, before it then went up the hill yet again.
This is where Liam and I made a tactical error by sitting too far back in the bunch on the hill, I caught sight of a split in the group and immediately put some power down to try and bridge across, (nearly setting a ‘one minute power’ personal best in the process). As we reached the top of the hill Liam put in an effort down the hill to try and close the gap, which was now about 10 seconds. Realising that the gap could not be closed with just two of us, we sat back to wait for another small group, which had some strong riders in. It’s worth noting at this point I was swearing to myself, feeling that I had let that go.
I quickly snapped out of this negative mood and started riding through and off with my chase group companions. Despite some good power being put out we struggled to make a big impact on the breakaway group with the gap continuing to go up despite some good efforts.
The race had now already lost over half the field due to the high pace; this is the point where it really did just become a race of attrition. The weather was reminiscent of the 2001 Paris Roubaix, aka rain and lots of it. With the temperatures hovering around 5 degrees, it was far from warm. By the third lap I couldn’t feel my hands and was struggling to drink or feed.
With every lap our group got smaller and smaller with both the cold and the pace taking no prisoners.
On the penultimate lap we started to pick up riders from the breakaway group who clearly had nothing left and sat in to wait for the finish.
With one lap remaining I new that it was looking like a sprint finish so kept my powder dry (as dry as it could be with the weather) and as we came to the final climb the pace was low with a few people trying to break away but quickly closed down.
I managed to get 6th place, a decent start to the season with lots of congratulations from the PPRT team and friends which I really appreciate.
For me, races like this are what racing is all about… suffering. The person who can suffer the most both physically and mentally always does well. However, much bigger achievements lie ahead for both me and our team – this is only the beginning.
Bring on the next race… #Wearecoming #smallbutpowerful #PPRT #headstrong
Big thank you to James, Mark and Andy for the support it really made the difference!
Also on a side note I have heard that some people from the race went to hospital with hypothermia, I hope you get well soon. But I have to say it….shorts in March? Really?