Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Newbridge GP - 9/3/2014

The Newbridge GP was the first race of the year for me so I entered this race rather nervous (which showed with some pretty terrible jokes on the drive out!) but excited to be starting my season after my first attempt at some purposeful off-season training.

I have some pretty big goals for myself this season so I decided to use this race to see where I was in terms of form and to be aggressive. Being the sole representative of DUCC in the A4 peloton, I felt it was extremely important to show everyone how exceptionally sexy our new kit is which resulted in further aggressive riding!

So when we rolled out at 12:36 for a few neutralised kilometres I used this time to warm up the legs and get used to being in a large peloton again. The course was a relatively hilly 3 lap circuit, with two significant rises on each lap. The first being short and sweet and the second being more dragged out with little ramps throughout. Nothing eventful happen until the first climb, around 7km into the race, except for a dicey corner were someone decided it would be fun to rub shoulders with me on the turn, thankfully nothing came of it except the other guy got an earful from one of the riders behind for not following his line. On the first climb I decided to sit in the peloton and see how I was feeling. A few riders made some accelerations but nothing serious or with intent.

On the second climb I decided to go for an attack. Now anyone who knows me knows I’m quite a large fellow at 6’3” and 86kg, so I’m no mountain goat. But what I do have is power, so I stayed seated on my bike and went for it.

Attacking on the first climb.
I momentarily dropped the peloton but in no time at all they were on my wheel and we all regrouped at the top of the climb. I continued to drive the peloton for around 5km to see what I could do and was happy with my effort. After the effort I was reabsorbed into the peloton and stayed there until the 2nd lap were I once again powered up the second climb. I continued to drive the peloton after the climb for 5km because nobody would help me or come around to take their turn on the front. One guy, from team BikeWorx, who was helpful, made the joke saying: “What’s the point of making these efforts? All these guys are just gonna jump us at the end anyway!”. He was absolutely right, but someone has to do some work on the front, why not me? Given the blustery conditions it was even more thoughtless to ride on the front.

Driving the pace
By the first climb of the 3rd lap, I was feeling the efforts I had been putting in. So I gulped down my last gel and the dregs of my bidon to keep me going to the finale. I nearly lost contact on the climb, my bulk hindering me. But I put the head down and endured the suffering. As Tim KrabbĂ© said: “Climbing is a rhythm, a trance; you have to rock your organs’ protests back to sleep”. And they were protesting!  I made contact after the climb and clawed my way back to the front of the peloton for the final climb, thinking there’s no way I could hold on. But somehow I did, my pride keeping me going, only being slightly swamped by the peloton.

With the final drive to the line, now a few kilometres away, and no breakaway gone, everyone knew it would be a sprint or a last bid for solo glory. So things were frantic with only around 25 riders left of the peloton after the final climb. I was at the rear of the small group with 2km to go. I knew I needed to be up at the front for a chance. I went up the right of the peloton, pushing my luck crossing over some solid white lines but in the heat of the moment, I didn’t care!

I had made it to the front and was really driving hard. And then I saw the glorious and hallowed “Finish 1km” spayed onto the road. I thought to myself that I could hold onto the front for 1km and win, rather foolishly. I got swamped with 500 meters to go but kept driving to the line, placing somewhere in the top 15.

Finishing in the main bunch

Overall, I was very content with my performance and received some nice comments on my efforts from other riders. I didn’t place but I proved to myself that I was strong and have decent form, and with a few more races under the belt, something will come. Maybe on a flatter circuit which doesn’t require me to haul my ass up so many climbs. I did get my hopes up when the commisaires called me over to the finish line truck, I thought maybe I had somehow won something, but alas, it was for another rider who had similar looking kit! Everyone around had a good laugh anyway though.

A special thank you must be said to Patrick Smith for the lift out and to John Kavanagh for the delicious flapjacks he supplied at the end of the race. He claims to have baked them himself…

Mark Donnelly-Orr

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