Crit On The Campus 2016
This is my third trip to Stirling Univerity Campus. The first one 2014 to see what a Crit race was, gauging if I was fit enough and how fast I had to become. The second 2015 was me thinking I was healthy and fast enough. Turns out I wasn’t! I got pulled out before the five sprint laps finishing in 39th place. 2016 will I do better? We shall see.
Today’s course is going to be fast if my failing memory serves me correctly. Not overly technical and possibly only one or two tight corners. The first of these will be the mass start, sprinting to the top of the hill taking the left-hander. Due to the volume of riders think this could be a problem on the first lap or if I am in the bunch. The other corner is last bend taking you onto the start/finish line. A tight left after the fast sweeping S-bend, the weather conditions will play their part as the rain is coming down in a fine mist making the course a little slippy in places.
After a few laps of the warm-up course we are called to the start line.
Roll up to the start, always end up at the back or mid pack. Set the Garmin on to record, one ear listing to the Commissars briefing, the other listing into some bits of advice being passed from races who have just competed in the first Cat 4 race. Bikes get a quick check over, few Ass Savers are removed, and we are ready to race!
A quick blast of the whistle and we are off! Get moving only to find my foot doesn’t want to clip in. AAAAaarrrhh! Just get on with taking a few places as others struggle with cleats and pedals not wanting to mate together. Hit the corner, all is good no crashes and no fighting. Picking up speed past the pits and finally get my foot connected to the pedal, so time to move.
As you can see from the map, this course is kind of split in two. The backend of the course has a few speed bumps to contend with, once those are taken care of the fast section of the race is on the side taking you past the ponds and round towards the finishing area.
I deal with the speed bumps (keep all my fillings too). The bumps just interrupt with your rhythm on the bike I find so glad to get past them. Next up is a quick left setting you up for the sweeping downhill left. Hit the breaks scrub some speed and follow the riders in front. I love this section, it means you can get the speed up and get that beautiful sound from your rims. I do the totally wrong thing, pop out from drafting the rider in front. Trying to push on and catch the riders in front. I say wrong thing as I should actually have saved my energy for later and stayed tucked in out the wind letting the guy on the front do the work. That’s not me, though, need to become a smarter racer.
A quick blast through the S-bend and hold the speed into the last corner. Take the bend with no dramas, now onto an uphill sprint to cross the line for lap number 1. It turns out only 14 more to go!
The main bunch of guys are heading out of view, my only hope is that the little group that I am in starts working together and can pick some other folk up as the laps tick by. This seems to be what happens, and we are doing alright. I miss the gap on the back end of the course on about lap 6-7, and I am off the group. In hindsight, I should have buried myself and got back on, for two minutes of hard effort it would have saved me 8-9 more laps of riding solo and struggling. Just don’t have the fitness as not been riding much this year.
Once I got dropped, things get hard. I had one goal for this race. Finish it! Head down and keep legs turning. I have a glance behind, and it’s clear, will I make the sprint laps before I get lapped? Half of me wants to, so I don’t have to go on. The inner racer deep down inside wants to keep fighting to the end.
Lap board goes out the next time I go past the line. 5 to go! I make it before the bunch get me, they eventually pick me off with 3 laps to go. Let them roll through and don’t jump on the end of the pack. Still not sure if hanging on to the bunch when they go past is the correct etiquette?
With two laps to go the bunch is still in sight, there is a tangle of riders, and two guys go down. On the last lap, I see that the guy who crashed is in a bad way. Some cuts to the face, I am sure there will be more cuts on the limbs too. (turns out 27 stitches 22 of them to the face, broken nose and suspect broken cheek bone) Speedy recovery mate.
Final swoop around the S-bends and round last corner to sprint for the line.
All in all, I had a pretty much uneventful race. That sounds boring, but it was anything but! In the Crit, you are always looking for more speed. With the extra space of me riding half the race all alone, you can really get to grips with the course. Not scrubbing so much speed on the corners, finding the little groove of the course. Even on some corners not even touching your breaks as you know how fast you can take it. In one way you are racing yourself lap by lap.
After a long, long wait, the results are finally uploaded. With my stubbornness, I manage to finish 31st. Not the best placing but I achieved my goal and finished the race.(last year was 39th)
A Massive effort by Stirling Bike Club for putting on a great day of racing. From the young kids at 8:30 am all the way through to the big boys at 2:10 pm. A very long day for club members and volunteers marshalling the course.
A huge thanks to all involved, see you at Crit Under The Castle.