Tuesday, 14 January 2014

WCMCC Kewdale Criterium - A Grade :: 12th January, 2014

Back to racing with my first Criterium for the new year and the weather Gods have welcomed me back with 43 degree heat on course at Kewdale. How pleasant! I'd just completed a huge week of training finishing with some support in Kings Park for our winged comrade, Craig Pennell, who is coming along great guns with a very impressive session on Saturday morning. Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty good on the way to Kewdale and during my warm up with AP. Pat was also on hand for the morning's race and we covered a basic plan in the little time we had to talk before we got started.

As we were watching B grade go through their paces, we were also keeping an eye on the temperature on course which was rapidly approaching 40 degrees. It was obvious that the heat would play a big part in the race with those having a better tolerance for it likely to do a little better. I was confident I could complete the race, which by the time we greeted the commissaire, most had agreed that reducing the duration to 40 minutes plus two laps would be ideal. Roll call was very quick and we were released on course almost immediately (with Singo heading the wrong way and having to U-turn pretty quickly) and before we knew it, a couple of KHT team riders, including Doug Stewart, hit the hammers and broke away before we had reached the first corner.

Given the heat and the strongish, hot head wind we would be riding into up the back straight of the course, the consensus was to let the two of them go for as long as they wanted to be on their own without letting them get too far away from the main field. There was no urgency among anyone to try and bridge over and bolster the numbers in the break and after a couple of laps, the two leaders began to fade and were eventually brought back to within reach.

This triggered a flurry of counter attacks including a big one involving Doug Stewart once again with AP hot on his coat tails and followed only by a few others (Jon Gregg, Ian Gregory and Ian Lyne) that thought that the break attempt had any merit. My legs were feeling a little bit of the sting from the counter attacks, I didn't go with them and I kick myself for it once again. The strength of these riders should have been a clear indicator that the break would stay away this time but there was no activity coming from any of the Eddy Hollands team members (including Eddy himself) or anyone else so we watched the 5 riders head off up the road.

I assume that the inactivity from the EHBS team was a bit of a mistake as they began to rally some riders to the front as the gap to the 5 leaders widened and the anticipated launch from Chris Glasby came soon after with myself and one other rider (Keith Winch?) hot on his heals after the call came from Pat warning of his attack. Glasby's attack lasted for what seemed an age as he tried to shake off his followers but we all managed to hang on to his lead and Chris, Keith and myself were joined by Matt Tognini, Chris Brown, Richard Kelly and Magnus Rudisele to form a small bunch of 7 that would keep the remainder of the field at bay whilst in pursuit of the 5 leaders.

This situation certainly favoured EHBS with three team members being a part of our group of seven so I was certainly anticipating the three of them attempting to work over the rest of us. My inexperience in this situation probably didn't help either and I ended up doing a lot of chasing which also resulted in me doing too much work on the front, but the legs were holding up and the body was resisting the heat well enough.

Inevitably, however, Chris Glasby and his team mates would continue to wear down the rest of the small group with repeated attacks that eventually hit the target and Chris was able to get a gap on the rest of us. This was soon followed by an attack from Chris Brown who seemed to have fresher legs than the rest of us and he managed to join Glasby up the road. A last ditch effort from me to try and go with Chris Brown was foiled by legs that just weren't going to be a part of it, no matter how much I told them to shut up (didn't sound as good as Jens though).

Soon after this, the remaining 5 riders of our group would learn the fate of the rest of the field as we noticed the majority of the A grade field on the side of the road after being lapped by the 5 leaders who we had given up hope of catching some time ago. Leaving just 12 riders from the original 23 starters, it would only be a matter of time before we were caught by the leaders but given we were about one lap away from receiving the "two to go" notice and one paying place left to fill, it would be unlikely that we would be pulled off course. The "two to go" notice came early but it was not for us as AP and Doug came by us still pushing hard to keep Jon Gregg and Ian Gregory at bay. Unfortunately this was not going to be the case and as the bell sounded for the leaders, they were back to a group of four to fight for line honours. By this time, The two EHBS riders from our group had put an unbridgeable gap on us so the last paying place would be filed by one of these two (Chris Glasby in the end with Chris Brown coming in 7th).

The fight for line honours, however, would go to Doug Stewart being the most capable sprinter of the 4 lead riders with Jon Gregg managing to claim second over AP and Ian Gregory some 3 seconds back. A very courageous Ian Lyne would claim 5th place. As for the last 5 on course, I somehow found myself on the front as we came onto Valentine St for the last time and I was keen to monitor the riders behind me to watch for a jump to claim bragging rights among our small group. As we approached the corner onto Hazelhust St, Matt Tognini jumped from the last wheel and I caught his move before he got half way up the line and I was able to latch onto his wheel as we rode down Hazelhurst St toward the last corner where I was in second wheel but as soon as I got out of the saddle for a final assault on the line, I was back in it just as quickly with failing legs and I was more than happy to watch the rest of them go at each other.

While I had taken every opportunity to maintain my fluids, I think the heat had taken it's toll (possibly combined with the hard week of training) and by the time I dismounted, the legs had almost completely given up the ghost and had no choice but to sit and recover before heading over to the nearest tap to drown myself in cool(ish) water. For a 40 minute race, I have never seen so much destruction of a field due to the conditions. I don't think there would have been anyone who was surprised though and most were probably already prepared for it. I was happy to have been able to hang on to finish but still have work to do on identifying and going with the right break.

Next Sunday already looks to be warming up for another hot one but I'm keen to continue with the hard training building up to race day to better prepare me for going with strong attacks. Sooner or later, I'll get onto one of them and give myself the chance to snatch a podium finish. Good thing I'm still enjoying it so much.

Thanks for reading and see you out there.

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