Saturday April 10th brought the toughest road race of the season so far with the Surrey League Cat 2/3 60 miler on the Bletchingley course.
Dom and I signed on in the HQ at the Village Hall along with around 70 other eager competitors and readied ourselves for the 1330 start. I had ridden out from Oxted so was already warmed up when I got there and had ridden the Lynskey to work and back the previous day to iron out any mechanical issues. It was lucky I did because the inner tube around the valve stem had failed. Rather on my commute than in a race!!
I was feeling reasonably fresh and my main aim was to finish this race in the bunch and not get dropped. We had a pre-race briefing by the Chief Commissaire who described the roads as pretty atrocious with potholes galore particularly up the hill on Outwood Lane up to the junction with the A25.
It was pretty warm and sunny so I rode in full summer gear with only a light vest. I had two 750ml bottles on the bike and reckoned I would ideally have a little more than that but could not carry any more.
The race started from outside the HQ for a neutralised ride up the hill across the M23 bridge out of Bletchingley. I happened to be positioned quite near the back in this large bunch and had to work early on down the descent on Coopers Hill Road not to get immediately gapped. I worked my way to the top 20 or so riders in the bunch and tried to maintain a position there for the remainder of the race where accelerations would be less severe.
The race was punctuated with many attacks leading to surges in the pace of the bunch with Norwood Paragon and Addiscombe making sure they all got shut down pretty rapidly.
Many riders used the oncoming lane to overtake and had to push into the bunch when we met oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic was generally very courteous to us and pushed over / slowed down to allow us safe passage past it.
A few guys went down on lap 3 on the left turn at the southernmost point of the circuit. They were on the outside of the bunch and most likely overcooked it on the dirty road surface. Luckily I was on the inside of the bunch so was well out of danger.
On lap 4 I spend a short time on the front as I was frustrated with the low speed of the bunch. Once on the front I found it hard to get off it again and it wasn’t until Scotts Hill that I was able to get back on the wheel of someone else.
I made an attack on lap 5 but this was quickly chased down by Norwood Paragon and I decided to sit tight until the end of the race in the bunch to conserve my energy.
The sprint for the line at the end of lap 6 was a very strung out affair with many riders blowing up on the long steep incline. I suffered myself in this sprint and crossed the line in 23rd position.
Of the 70 strong field, about 20 did not finish, 20 got lapped and the remaining 30 crossed the line. I was happy to be in that top 30!
Data for the race confirmed I had been pretty comfortable for the most part, but I do need to work on my 1 or 2 minute power to help me sprint effectively at the end of these races.
Photo courtesy of Surrey League.