Race Report: Redhill E.1.2. Road Race

Yesterday I travelled to Leigh in Surrey to do the Redhill E.1.2 road race. I knew it was going to be tough. It was.

I was the only Wightlink-LCM Systems rider in the race, lining up against big teams such as Felt-Colbournes, Pedal Heaven and Orbea Twenty3c. Looking at the start list I was a little bit nervous; this was set to be a quick race, and with temperatures close to 27°C it was going to be pretty damn hot too. Adding to my nerves was the fact that for the last week I really haven't been feeling on top form; The South Downs Way Challenge last weekend seemed to take it out of me; partly because of the long day, but also the sheer amount of time in the saddle. Leading up to the South Downs Way ride I had also been focussing my attention on endurance rides, not high intensity, and in the last week I have largely been doing recovery rides rather than hard sessions. The result was that I both felt tired, and knew that I didn't have great top-end power at all; proven by a rather mediocre 10 mile TT by my standards on Wednesday night.

So I suspected it was going to be hard, I suspected I wasn't on top form, and I suspected that I was going to lack power... all those things turned out to be pretty true.

The race started at a moderate pace, far better for me than the rapid criterium races that I have done the last couple of weeks up in Winchester. I began to settle down into the rhythm of the race, and it seemed that I would be able to sit fairly comfortably in the bunch at least.

About 25 minutes into the race a small break of five riders or so went off the front; I was just about OK sat in the middle of the bunch at this stage, and I didn't think I was going to be able to deal with being in a breakaway for the remaining three hours, so I sat in and watched them go.

The bunch seemed to be working well together for a while after that; still pushing hard and keeping the pace high. It looked like we might pull the break back. Then something clicked, all of a sudden the teams seemed to realise that each of them had someone in that breakaway, and everyone started to slow up.

This relaxation of the pace continued for some time, and there were only a few select riders, including myself, who were putting in turns on the front of the bunch. Every now and again a rider or two would go clear; most of the time we pulled them back, however as people began to tire after mile 60 or so, attempts were staying away a bit better. I tried a few attempts with other riders myself, but none of them were successful. Unfortunately I missed a big group of five or six that went off the front as individuals and pairs, and then formed up further up the road. After this lot had gone the pack really began to slow, very few of the teams had an incentive to pull their own riders back.

I did quite a lot on the front, in a desperate attempt to bring it back together. I even tried breaking off the front to try and get across to the breakaway; however my lack of top-end power meant that I didn't have the initial burst of speed needed to get the necessary distance away from the pack and out of sight, to avoid being hunted down. I tried and failed on numerous occasions. All that ended up happening was I was sitting at threshold on the front of the pack for prolonged periods of time. One factor that also didn't help me was that the entire course could be completed in the big ring, with no real hills, this probably didn't play to my favour as I can normally use an incline to get a gap.

By mile 80 it was clear that I was going to end up in the "bunch sprint", or at least what was left of the bunch.  Trying to do a sprint with a lack of top-end power is never productive, and this time was no exception. I tried going early as we went into the final downhill, but that failed. It all came back together and riders flew past me on the final straight. I think in the end I must have finished mid-twenties out of the 79 starters; about tenth across the line, behind the fifteen or so escapees that were up the road at the finish.

To be honest I was glad to finish at all, given how I felt going into the race. I knew it was going to be a tough one, and it was; I knew I was lacking the top-end power, and that was evident. At least I know that I can hold my own in a field containing plenty of Elites, and on a course close to 90 miles in length. It bodes well for the Surrey League 2/3's road races that I have coming later in the year. Time to get out there and work on the top end for the next week or so.


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