Let’s go road racing

PDCC Road Race
Serpentine
26 April 2014
C grade

After the criterium season, there was a realignment of the PDCC grading. With the better half of B grade promoted to A, the better half of C promoted to B, and the better half of D promoted to C. From my understanding, there was a number of reasons for the changes, including evening up the grades. Even up the numbers racing in each grade, during the crit season you were getting 20 riders in B and D grade and some weeks struggling to get 5 riders in A & C. Also to reduce the gap between D and E grade, when rider who were dominating E grade, would struggle to hold on in D grade for a few laps.

So I had no choice, I was racing C grade. I was going to anyway, but I was expecting to be one of the weaker riders in C. Instead I was told by one of the people involved in the grading I was considered the mid point of the new C grade.

Another point of interest was my first ever race was on the same course almost two years to the day. It was going to be interesting to see how far I have come in that time.

The Serpentine course is an 8.8km triangle, off the start finish straight, up Gull Road for x km in a north westerly direction. I always felt this was the roughest Road I ever raced on, it appears the local council have carried out maintenance over summer, it was remarkable free of potholes. You then turned onto Rapids Road, which runs souths and you are exposed to the winds and it is always a crosswind on Rapids Road either a Easterly or Westerly. You the turn due east onto Karnup Road for the Xkm to the finish and today into the wind.

My original plan was to watch and wait. If nobody took the lead up Gull Road, take the lead, do some work and on the second last lap try to sneak off the front on Gull Road. And if that failed on the last lap attack up Gull Road. That plan did not account for the headwind down Karnup Road or the fact that everybody else launched attacks up Gull Road. First lap as soon as we turned into Gull Road the pace picked up, a couple of attacks were launched, but the bunch stayed together, the pace along Rapids Road and Karnup was fast but as soon as we turned into Gull Road for the second time, a rider attacked and was off the front. Pretty soon there was a rider chasing.

As usual I was sitting at the back as ticket collector. Not wanting to miss out, I started moving up. As soon as Eddie jumped, I went with him. We quickly caught the tiring lone chaser. Before we got the chance to get organised, the bunch caught the three of us and a counter attack was launched with another solo rider in pursuit of the lone leader. Nobody gave chase, so after catching my breath for 30 seconds I was off in pursuit. Halfway down Rapids Road, there were two leaders and I was halfway across. By the end of Rapids Road, I had not made an impression on the gap. Not wanting to use all my energy chasing into the headwind on Karnup Road. I slowed and waited for the bunch.

Next lap and half the pair up front were reeled in. The bunch now consisted of 15 of original 17 starters. The next laps, the pace was down a little on the first two laps, but it was faster than I was use to in D grade. I was happy, I was sticking with the attacks up Gull Road and was never at the back turning onto Rapids Road. A couple of times I was tempted to go to the front on Rapids Road to try and drop the stragglers. But oncoming traffic made the move risky and by the time, it was clear, the stragglers were back in the fold.

Approaching the bell, I moved to the front wanting to be close to the action up Gull Road. The acceleration had me off the front and the bunch did not react, I had a 5 second gap on the finish line and I was not pushing hard. That changed as I turned in Gull Road. I put in an effort and so did the bunch. I was caught within a kilometre, and for once I settled into a top 5 position, the pace was one. Then Glen slipped off the front. I had ridden with Glen on the Thursday morning gentlemen’s ride and had a healthy respect/fear of his ability. I quickly made my way onto his wheel.

I misjudged were we where on the course, expecting the corner sooner and I did not take a turn. Glen eased back and the pack caught us. As we swung onto Rapids Road, the bunch was strung out and a few were struggling. I was again tempted to go to the front and drive, but an oncoming car and screaming legs convinced me otherwise.

Onto Karnup Road, the pace was up, riders were being spat out the back. I knew the sprint would be late into the wind. Still I adopted my usual tactic of go early, get a break and make riders accelerate twice once to catch me and once to pass me. I pushed the front derailleur to the outside, only to have it drop on the small ring. A rather panicked 10 seconds to get back into the big ring. I then launched my sprint earlier than anybody else. I got my break and was doing well, with about 90 metres to go I was tiring, but I still had a lead. 60 metres to go, tiring quickly, another rider was along side me. With 30 metres to go, I was spent and three riders were passed me. Crossed the line in 9th.

Overall happy with my performance, I raced my first Peel C grade road race, finished with the bunch and was active during the race. I made a few mistakes, some from not being positioned at the front of the race, some from not remembering the course and a couple front not willing to take risks. Though my biggest mistake was opening up the sprint early, I really needed to wait another 50 metres. Still we live and learn.

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