Sunday, 13 May 2012

Junior Mens National Championships 2012

They say that there is a first for everything and this weekend had no shortage of firsts. I visited Wales for the first time, stayed in a budget hotel, paid for a budget hotel, did my first National Calendar, did my first Nationals, raced up a 3rd cat climb, raced more than 65 mile, finished 2 full bottles in a race, experienced a feed zone, broke the 600watt barrier on Strava for 5 minutes, got dropped in my first Nationals and finished my first Nationals.
As you can see, I had a jam-packed weekend.
Saturday was a rare sunny day, the rays of light and the warmth they carried dragged me out of bed and onto cafe racing. Not a lot of people had turned up, surprisingly, but Ian Wilkinson made a rare appearance. On the actual stint it all stayed together where with 2 mile to go I attacked over a short hill, caught the remnants of the flier and ploughed on. One chipper got onto my wheel so I let him do the last km, but with 100m to go Wilko stormed past to a victory on the inconspicuous, back water, club man cafe race. Why I've mentioned this I dont know, probably to fill space.

We drove down with the car (what else?) sagging under the weight of bike, wheels, toolboxes and lunchboxes, recon'ed the last 5 mile of the course, which conveniently happened to be on our route, and made our way to our lodgings. Upon opening the door to our 'family' room, I discovered a very inviting double bed, and two, not-so-inviting, singles. Clearly, me, having paid for all this and doing the biggest race of his life thus far, would acquire the luxurious double. Sadly, not so, as the driver decided he deserved the bed on the simple reason that he drove there. Upon the following discussion and reasoning that I needed the best night sleep possible, my brother slyly slid into the better of the two singles. That left me with the Flintstones bed with a mattress of rock and a sheet that was so thin it could slide down the cleavage of Katie Price. Needless to say, I hardly slept.

The next day, I jumped out of bed and straight into a nice hot shower, I needed to get some warmth back into my body. We got ready, checked out and left for HQ.
The car pack was bustling with activity as various team cars maneuvered into the smallest of spaces closest to the HQ, mechanic dads pumped tyres and team mates pinned numbers on each others jerseys. I handed in my spare wheels to neutral service (also a first!), had my gears checked (the aging commisaire complemented my steel stallion and mentioned that it was the only metal bike in the race) and warmed up.

The remnants of the peleton coming over the top of the Brecon Beacons
The race rolled out to a small Welsh town where the mayor flagged us off. The pack was then neutralized for 2 mile and an attack went almost straight away. The first 20mile of the course were rolling A-roads in glorious, warm sunshine. One 4th cat climb tested the legs before we hit the top of the Brecon Beacons. The 9-mile climb to 1500ft was a killer, with the race splintering to many a piece. Coming over the top were too distinct groups, one of 10-15 and 30 or so seconds back, my group,  remnants of the pack, which must have numbered 30 max. An amazing 5 mile, 45mph descent let us shake some of the lactic out of our legs and claw back some time from the breaks. Also a first in this race was a time-bike, with its horn beeping and awe-inspiring and all knowing black board that told us the times between the various groups in the race.
The next segment was flat and I contributed my labour at the front of the group, often putting in a pull to keep the times coming down. Unfortunately, this was to be my undoing. I had been eating and drinking well, and had been staying behind wheels and not putting in unnecessary efforts prior to the flat section. The efforts at the front (and the weight of my bike..) had fatigued me and when I had just finished an energy sapping effort we turned off onto the B-roads and the fourth categorized climb of the day. My legs were saturated in lactic and could not cope, so heart-brakingly I hopelessly slid back wards and outwards and was never to see the hot end off the race again.
A bit of bare-chested action
The next 15mile were ridden alone and with tears nearly in my eyes I hit the last hill. A trio of riders that had been dropped before joined me and we toiled up the last 3miles with an average of 10%. I eventually rolled over 47th, 19 minutes down on the winner.

So there we have it, my first National Calendar, at the deep-end with the National Championships. Whilst I finished I was disappointed with my result as I was aiming for a top 20. My next NC is the Tommy Simpson on the 17th of June. My next race is the Yorkshire Divs in a weeks time.

Slightly off note, my insurance claim is slowly making progress. Whilst I doubt I'll have a lightweight carbon before Tommy Simpson, I'm hopeful that I'll have a new racehorse before the Tour of Wales at the back end of August.

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