The finale of the race came around faster than it has seemed to in the past. I was ready, feeling fresh and looking for opportunities to move up. As the pace shot up on the final handful of laps, we dropped more and more riders from the bunch.
That bloke who’d been riding shoulder-to-shoulder with me all evening suddenly evaporated. My fitness and ability to hold a wheel was finally starting to benefit me. The front of the field whooshed away on the last half-lap, giving me no chance to regain contact.
I picked my way through the scattered remnants of the bunch and ‘sprinted’ for the line. Just because you aren’t going to win, doesn’t mean the experience of opening up a sprint at the end of a race isn’t going to benefit you in the future. I came away buzzing, with a renewed enthusiasm and confidence.
Zero faff, maximum fun
There’s a lot to be said too, for having experience of being at a race, not just the riding. Knowing how to attach a transponder to your front fork is something you only acquire by doing it a few times. If you are a dab hand at pinning on race numbers, it’ll alleviate stress in the immediate moments before the start – no frantic fiddling with safety pins for me this time out!
Likewise, knowing what you do and don’t need in your pockets on the way to sign-on means you need only visit your locker once. Instead of darting back to put your phone in or to retrieve your license from the bottom of a rucksack.
It’s all seemingly obvious and innocuous stuff, but being calm at the start of a race is a massive boost. You can’t lose a category 4 crit by failing to clip into your pedal at the start – which I’ve done several times in races – but it does set your heart racing unnecessarily.
And the guy with the beer gut? Pretty sure he top-tenned it.