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3rd week here and 3rd race. This was a race I was actually predicted to win by my team, and I had confidence going into it. it was a category 3 race which is a lower level compared to the category 1,2,3 races I’ve been doing previously. Also bearing in mind the last category 3 race I did, I won, since it was the 2 day Tour de Flers. Before the race, I knew the course was rolling terrain, there was no real flat bit, just up or down. I also knew the course was 4.4km long, and I would do 21 laps of it.

What I didn’t know was that there were over 160 people in the race, and I thought it would’ve been a much quieter race than that. Also the weather forecast was very unpredictable so I made sure to prepare for the worst, which turned out to be the right decision. Since it was my first circuit race this season, I was keeping an open mind to the chance that anything could happen, especially with such a big field. It was only 20km away from where I am staying, so I cycled over there which gave me a solid warm up. Once I arrived, quickly got my number pinned on, rode a lap of the course to check if there’s anything to look out for in particular, but really the main factor I noticed was the wind- very open and windy, which was sure to play a part in the race. Once I was ready, I got over to the start line, but as it was such a big field, it was paramount for me to be at the front for the start, so I sneakily rode up to the front of the group, and slotted myself in first row. Bit cheeky but I knew if I was behind 160 riders on a circuit like this, I may as well forget about it and ride home, because the circuit was inevitably going to stretch the race out from the very start.

I knew, as always, there was going to be a breakaway, and I wanted to be in it, as I thought it would be an ideal race for the breakaway to win. Early on I spend some energy getting in some moves, but none of them stuck. Unfortunately for me, as soon as I was caught by the bunch, another move went away, and I saw them go away, but thought it wouldn’t last since the race was so hectic and they would get caught just like myself, however I was wrong. That move had 6 riders, and quickly established a gap. I was just recovering and refuelling in the peloton because I was preparing to go up the road in a chase group, in pursuit of the breakaway ahead. Eventually I manage to fuel up, which is a good lesson from last week, and I launched myself up the road, and got a small group of riders to join me. I didn’t know too much about the gap to the breakaway ahead but once I was in my little group of 5, I was getting regular time checks by my team on the side of the road which was great. they had just over 1 minute most of the time, and no matter how much we worked in the group, it wasn’t coming down enough. after about 12 laps or so we get the gap down to 40 seconds, then lap after lap it began to decrease more- it even got down to 25 seconds! But then the gap jumped up again. You may think how ‘hard can it be to close a 25 second gap?’ and you’re not wrong, in principal it’s not difficult, but when you’ve spent the best part of an hour cycling just under your limit, unfortunately there’s no magic potion to delete the lactic acid in your legs, and feel as fresh as a daisy. We were consistently working hard to try and reach this breakaway ahead, but as soon as we weren’t working smoothly and didn’t maintain a consistently high pace, hopes were smashed. I was turning myself inside out trying to reach the riders ahead, but I just didn’t feel right, and when you’re reaching your limit, any imperfection really stands out. I had a feeling I wasn’t filled with my normal energy that day, as the day before I had a sniffle and sore throat, with a bit of a headache. I was hoping it had gone away by race day and tried pretending I was fine, but it showed in the race that I wasn’t.

Since my hopes of a win were scattered, and I was feeling sub-par, I was just racing very tactically towards the end, and I was also fatiguing more than I should’ve been, which was a great shame as our group began to split up, and one rider attacked and ended up getting 2nd. I knew I should’ve chased him, but it just didn’t happen, and sometimes you just don’t always make the right call. The last few laps I was with 1 rider from my original group, since 2 were behind us, and 1 was ahead. Coming up to the final lap, we’re joined by 2 more riders, 1 of which was a team mate, which is always good. Our little group of 4 turned into 3, since we were still keeping a high pace, and leading into the final straight, I was just accepting my fate, it wasn’t a win, but 8th. With hindsight, it was still a very solid performance. I had actually worked harder than the last 2 races I had done, and 8th is still a respectable finish, especially after riding a more aggressive race, forming the chase group and being more active. This just made me so much more keen on getting my first win under my belt, and I could feel it’s getting closer. I’m finding my form more, and I’m getting more competent in the races, with my positioning, and confidence. It’s only a matter of time now.

Writing this a couple of days after the race, and I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, so just focusing on recovery and rest more. No race this weekend, as my team are hosting a National Junior race, so I have the opportunity to see a race from another point of view, as well as being able to help out the race where possible!

Onto the next one! Feeling optimistic and looking forward to a bit of time for quality training, and recovery.

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