So it’s been a few weeks since I last raced due to work and family commitments, but looking for something new and different, I pre-entered the race a few weeks ago. However I was in two minds whether or not to race last week as picked up a bit of a cold and was a bit run down and not feeling particularly great. Was still undecided on Friday but legs felt OK when I did a tune up session on the turbo so thought I would make the call on Saturday morning.
Woke up on Saturday feeling OK and better than all week, so off I went for an early race start of 9:30am. Weather looked good and thankfully no rain but still very wet on track. For those not familiar with Milton Keynes Bowl – it’s around 1km long, oval (kidney shaped) and not very technical or particularly taxing (made a change from Hog Hill!) – with a slight drag up the back of the circuit to the finish line. Hmm OK could make for an interesting race then!!
Race briefing and looked to be around 50 riders lined up for the start so sizable field, a lot of raised hands for first time racers and also for first timers at the MK Bowl. Good thing I secured my place right at the front, but also made a mental note to ensure I stayed right at the front of the race and well out of trouble. Fully expecting a fast start, I was somewhat surprised and bemused, when the race commissaire announced that there would be two neutral laps behind his car before the racing commenced. So off we went for our two lap procession, two laps later and a couple of toots on his horn we could finally race!
Settled into second place and waited to see how things unravelled…pace was OK, nothing crazy but no major attacks for a couple of laps. There were however some spectacular fails with a few riders getting too excited, overcooking the corners (yes I know!) and then crashing off the track into the mud and one chap into a lamp post!! (looked worse than it was and turns out he was ok) So third lap in I decided to test my legs up the back of the track on the slight drag to the finish. Surprised by how good I felt and also how quickly I opened up a gap I decided to push on to see if I could tempt anyone to join me….nope no one keen so after one lap I eased up and slotted back in for quick recovery. A few attacks then ensued but nothing meaningful stuck and after a couple of laps recovery, I then had a few more goes myself opening up a sizable gap each time, trying to encourage riders to join me in breaking away but no one was biting – I guess I was being optimistic being a cat 4 race and also with no team mates for support was always going to find that tactic difficult!
So nothing major then for remaining laps until the 5 laps to go bell. The usual jostling for position but I was firmly in the top five, holding station well and feeling strong for the sprint finish….up we came round the back of the track and I started winding myself up and ensuring I had options for wheels to follow without getting boxed when WACK felt someone go into my back wheel at pace! Trying not to lose control, felt myself sliding out but somehow managed to stay upright and still keep my pace up but then heard the sickening sound of the rider behind me going down and going down hard with crack of carbon and metal and then worse still other riders getting taken out as well. This all happened in a split second so all I could do was keep my focus and try build up my sprint again. Put the hammer down and overtook a couple of riders now ahead of me when it dawned on me I was in 3rd place but had lost too much momentum to catch the remaining two riders ahead of me so crossed the line in third place!!! My first thought was that I was lucky not to be taken out, but also that hopefully the riders in the crash were OK as it sounded nasty (two riders suffered broken collar bones :(), but then also elation that I had finally gotten a decent result and my points to move up to Cat 3!!!
So after a 25 year absence, my comeback to racing is back on track…. and the moral of my story is that if a burnt out 39 year old suffering with continued lack of sleep thanks to a two year old toddler, a nine year old son and a heavily pregnant wife can make it to cat 3, then anyone can 🙂
Seriously though it is a lot of fun and very addictive so anyone who is thinking about giving racing a go, just go for it! I now look forward to more competitive races and hopefully with a lot more TCC team mates involved 🙂