One of the perks of working in the Civil Service (for non-UK people, think employee of the state) is that they have a sports club for members. They run a lot of days for various experiences, like my recent venture onto the velodrome. One of those is also a National Championships run on the cycle circuit at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.
Civil Service Champs – Time Trial
After a couple of recce laps of the track, the first event was a 3 lap time trial. An excuse to blast round as fast as possible. Each lap was close enough to 1 mile long, so a simple 3 mile prologue…should suit me. The previous night I’d debated putting all the time trial kit together but decided against it as I didn’t think people would be taking things that seriously. I was wrong, some people had skinsuits, proper TT bikes with disc wheels.
I ended up treating the ride like a Roadman’s TT, resting my arms on the handlebars in a similar position to when I have the special bars attached. I ended up finishing the 3 laps in 7 minutes, 9 seconds which put me 4th overall. The quickest time was 6 minutes, 36 seconds – a whole other level ahead of what I can do.
Civil Service Champs – Points Race
The Points Race was next on the day. This was a 10 lap race, with sprints after every second lap. The top 3 finishers in each sprint would get 3/2/1 points. My goal here was to get at least 1 point as it was probably the race I was least fussed about. We set off and cruised around for most of the first 2 laps, but with a couple of hundred metres to go, suddenly the pace exploded. I followed someone’s wheel and had just enough sprint pace to come round them and claim the 3rd spot for 1 point. Objective achieved already!
As we relaxed waiting for the next sprint, I picked a wheel to follow. Only when it came to action time I went too quickly, tried to pass someone but the track ran out on the inside. I ended up a distant 4th place. Similarly, on the next sprint I ended up leaving myself too much work to do after going in the last corner tight on the inside. Another distant 4th. After this point I eased up, but the race was on and most of the guys rode away. I made no effort to chase, saving myself for later in the day. I ended up riding the remaining 4 laps at a gentle pace with two others.
My 1 point got me 6th place.
Civil Service Champs – Sprint Knockout
The next event was run similar to the track sprints that Chris Hoy used to do. We would coast around most of the track, then fire things up at the 200m marker and see who could sprint the fastest to the line. I fancied my chances a little bit with this one. First up I had to go up against a rider from Swindon cycling club. Him being noticeably older, I was probably a favourite but when it came down to it I only won by half a wheel. Neither of us were sure afterwards who had actually won, but my bike throw on the line apparently made the difference.
Next up, I had to try and beat the eventual winner. I went into the last corner ahead, but my tighter line meant I didn’t put the power down until I’d pretty much already been passed. It wasn’t close. I ended up in the Plate competition and had a quick run of victories. Seemingly never having to wait much between rides, on one occasion finishing and then going straight out for another match. 3 victories were completed meaning that I’d made the Plate final.
Up against another relative youngster, I carried on with my trick of letting someone else lead round the final corner to then blast past. Unfortunately here, he eased off in the corner which I wasn’t expecting and ended up 2 bike lengths ahead. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t close the gap enough and finished just on his wheel. I didn’t realise until the end, but I could’ve won a glass tankard for coming first, pfft.
Civil Service Champs – Road Race
The road race was to be a neutralised first 20 minutes, 15 minutes of racing and 5 laps extra at the end. With a 1st Cat rider (who’d won everything so far), the guy who’d outsprinted me and a team of 3 from the same club, my plan was do no work whatsoever and just follow the wheels. During the neutralised part, we were being encouraged to take turns and do a chaingang, I neglected to join in because there was no need to tire myself out! Round and round we went waiting for the minutes to tick down.
We got the bell for the race proper and the race quickened straight away. The club with 3 began to attack one at a time, as one was pulled back, another one attacked. I let 3 of the other riders do the work to bring them back and simply hung on the wheels. We were far enough from the finish that I didn’t expect any breakaways to succeed and it made sense to let the stronger guys make the effort.
Eventually however, one move went which was covered by the two strongest guys and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make that gap. We ended up with three of us, doomed to finish no higher than 5th. We went round for about 5 minutes before the time was up and we had the counter for the last 5 laps. We found ourselves lapped by the eventual winner as we’d eased off completely, but still lapped the three slowest.
With the laps ticking down, our pace went up again. Apparently the bell went for the final lap but I didn’t hear it. As we rounded the final corner and the guys in front quickened up, I sat on the last wheel and didn’t sprint. Turns out I should have been sprinting as I ended up pretty much just coasting over the line in 7th, raring to go for another lap. Bah!