First race of the season, mainly familiar faces from the criterium season, a couple from last years road race season and a few new faces. 17 starters in all in what started out as a nice sunny day, but by race start it was a constant drizzle. In the grand scheme of things, I want to get promoted to C grade in 6 races, which means finishing top 3 every week, or getting a few wins.
I had originally planned to be nice to the new people and not do any attacking or aggressive riding until the last couple of laps. Except nobody wanted to start at the front so I did, and as I want to be on the front for the first time up Gull Road. 3km of gently twisting single lane road we a rather rough surface, I kept the pace high, and continue it up Gull road. It was not until halfway down Rapids Road, so 5km from the start I got relieved of pace making duty, the speed settled down and after a little time mid pack, settled down as ticket collector.
Next circuit, the pace was pretty ordinary, some 5kph slower up Gull. So I decided to make things interesting next lap, took the lead on Karnup Road, put in a small dig as we turned into Hall Road, it was quickly countered by a number of riders and I was sitting in about 6th place as the relatively smooth and wide Hall Road turned into Gull. So I put on a blistering counter attacked, heard a few jaws drop and heart sinks as nobody could match it. Put in a decent gap and then promptly sat up after 1km, I could not solo 2.5 laps against the riders in this group. But things where going to plan that I just made up on the fly.
Settled down the back for the next two thirds of a lap, then onto Gull again and straight to the front for a hard, but not that hard tempo. Needed to made it harder, as when the bunch decided enough was enough and came past me, before the turn into Rapids Road. I was at the back, when one of the new guys decided to take a swig from his water bottle as we turned into Rapids Road, went right off his line and almost put me in the gravel. Then somebody on the front put the hammer down. I swung in behind the new guy and let him do the work, but still burnt a match or two getting back on.
Bell lap, onto Hall setting decent tempo on front, a couple of A graders go flying by as we hit Gull, check to see if anymore are following and no more A graders and I have a small gap, the bunch just let me slip away not expecting anything to happen. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together and I pick up the pace. About a minute later, a wheel comes past, I think I have been caught, look over and it is another A grader in hot pursuit of the other two. Then the curse of Nick strikes, the A grader on a straight road appears to lose his front wheel and hits the deck some 20m in front of me. Brake heavily, veer left, hit the gravel, avoid the downed rider, who is moving off the road, cursing. I hop back on the road, put my head down and keep riding. A minute later I am caught by Matt another D grade rider. I check over my shoulder and see a bunch bearing down on us. I sit up, then I realise it is A grade. Let them go past and get told “go back to your group” I am thinking WTF, the crash was a racing incident. They go past, I waited until they are a good 10m ahead before I start pedalling. But by then it is all over and a further kilometre down the road we are caught by the bunch as we turn into Rapids Road.
The rain was now blinding me, I was having great difficultly in seeing, as I am trying to recover and work on tactics for a sprint. Turn onto Karnup road for the last time, at least I can see a little, the pace is up, but not hard. I slowly make my way to the head of the bunch. A grab a wheel of a rider making a charge for the front, hang on, accelerate past him on what I thought was the last kink on the road, only to realise it is the second last kink on the road. And having spent so much energy in the race so far, I am unable to drive from that far out and settle for a constant pace and try to survive as half the bunch pass me and I finished 9th.
I might be the strongest rider in D grade but not always the smartest.
At the end of the race the A grade rider who yelled “go back to your group” was complaining to the Commissaire about a two D grade riders taking advantage of A grade. He grumbled when I challenged him, seeing we where off the front of D grade well before the accident, which is when the two bunches met, and did not do anything when A grade caught and passed us. Actually without A grade interference my plan might of worked. Well there is always the next race.