Race Report: James Atherton RR - 'Hollow Pins In A Gale'

The first race of the season is always a tough one: a rude awakening as to how your winter of training has fared, and an indication of what still needs to be done. It's even more of a baptism of fire when spring conditions rear their head in full magnitude, with gale force winds and driving rain. That's what today's James Atherton Road Race near Winchester was all about for me.

I've made a conscious decision this year to focus more on road races, and less on short circuit races. The longer stuff works better for me, and it makes travelling to events from the Isle of Wight more worthwhile. For that reason, I haven't done the usual winter series of circuit races this year, and today's 100km road race was my first competitive event of the year.

Conditions held true to the forecast, and this morning's wake-up alarm brought with it the sound of wind and rain battering the windows. You know it's windy when the Fast Cat is cancelled! Luckily my 8am (it felt like 7am) car ferry was on time though, and I got to the venue near Winchester in good time.

The race panned out much as I had expected. As the only Team Wiggle rider racing, my strategy was very much to follow the wheels and hopefully get in a chance break.

The pace was pretty high, and the wind and driving rain only made for more challenging riding. Weirdly, I actually really enjoy racing in the rain and wind - "no such thing as bad conditions..." and all that!

I could sit quite comfortably in the main group, and my positioning was OK. Where I struggled though (as I had expected I would), was with sudden power pushes; my high-end kick still needs a fair bit of work before the season begins proper, and high-end power only really comes with racing.

A break went very early on. With just two riders in it though, it seemed unlikely that it would stick for the whole race, in the tough conditions and on the rolling course. Instead of chasing flat out, the peloton continued to set a good pace in the hard weather conditions; a pace that created a pretty high attrition rate (of the 60 starters, only around 25 finished).

Despite chasing quite well for 5 of the 8 laps of the circuit, the peloton didn't reel back in that initial break. Very impressive work from the pair of riders. When the heavily depleted peloton came round for the final sprint for the remaining places, I have to admit, I was hanging pretty badly. That lack of high-end also meant my sprint was pretty abysmal. In the end, I didn't even manage to muster up enough of a kick to really sprint, I finished in the main bunch (around 17th I think).

It was a tough race to start the season with. However, given the high attrition rate, I was happy to have finished in a respectable position. Time to get training on those high-end power intervals; I'm looking forward to getting the season into full swing now.

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Product of the day: GripGrab Neoprene Gloves and Race Aqua Overshoes - they made today's conditions far more manageable. (Click the link for my review of both).

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