After suffering from a mild cold and congestion on the lungs for the last couple of weeks. My intention was to hide in the pack for at least the first three of the five lap race before deciding, if I had recovered enough to be my normal aggressive attacking self.
That plan went out the window, when Mark attacked from the start and the chase was on and it was frantic. I hit 50kph bridging a small gap. There was only a handful of riders chasing, and a couple seemed to be struggling. So I dragged myself to the front and started taking turns.
My heart rate is not a consistent indicator of my performance. Particularly when I am ill and have not ridden for a week. I was hitting at 180 during short turns, which was not surprising. Even if was only the third time it had been it that high, 175 is usually my peak during a hard sprint. Lets just say I was working hard.
I was not the only one suffering, the riders round me seem to riding on their limit by how hard they were breathing. My breathing was not that bad, but I needed to use my asthma inhaler as there was a fire on the course. Then after a lap and half and a longer turn from me, I rolled to the back of a much smaller bunch for a breather. Needed to kick to grab the last wheel and to quote Jason Isobel “that is all she wrote”, it felt like my lungs were burning from the inside. I watch the bunch disappear into the distance.
End of that lap, I was out, so I could my other job, race photographer and let the race director know that Mark should be in B grade next week. Not because what happened to me, that was my fault of racing with the flu and riding hard on the front. It was that after one lap, more than a third of the bunch were off the back, a third were hanging on for dear life and a less than a third were capable of chasing a rider who could easily race B grade. (Mark does race B with Masters).
It is the riders off the back after a lap or less that concern me. Racing needs more riders, I do not want to see riders discouraged by being out of the race after a single lap. Some might drop down to D grade next week, and knowing a couple of riders who were dropped, capable of absolutely destroying that grade.
The remains of the bunch caught Mark after three laps, but not at a cost, another one of the chasing riders did not finish the race and another was well off the back. It looked like Mark was going to take the sprint when a rider on a three day licence who appeared to of been hanging on for dear life, unleashed a tremendous burst of speed to take the win.
When I first started racing, I expected attacking from the start, as that is what “pros” do and did it a few times. A more experience rider pointed out how discouraging it was to the riders who get dropped early. I found that out the hard way when I go promoted a grade. My tactics evolved with time and experience, I never attack or go to the front without a reason. I rarely attack inside the first three quarters of the race. When I do it is usually to stretch a big bunch out hoping to reduce the numbers or revenge for another rider attacking. Though after today I will probably attack a lot less early in the race.
I am now willing to take the challenge and race B grade once my fitness returns and I am riding like I was at the beginning of the season. I will hopefully, be one of those riders hanging on for dear life in B grade. Instead of playing it safe by being one of those riders at the sharp end of C grade every week.