I am always keen to get my season kicked off early prior to the National series by racing a regional round or two. The events are well organised, the courses are often challenging and the competition is always tough at the pointy end of the race! They also provide a great opportunity to test out my equipment and fitness before the big show. This year though there seemed to be a lull in races local to me so I made the trip east to the Thetford Winter series and a good choice it was.
As the race was some distance away from me I decided I would head up the day before and make a weekend of it, stay over for night and bag that extra sleep and preparation time in the morning. It was still an early 6:45am get up though as practice kicked off at 8:30. I arrived at the venue about 8:00am, the sun was already out and I could tell it was going to be a dry race. I’d never ridden around the Thetford area before but I had heard it was flat and often dry regardless of rain fall so with the dry spell leading into the race I was expecting the course to be bone dry.
This was certainly the case; the course was very loamy with large patches of sand, each offering their own little challenge of balancing speed and grip. The course was long too, and it took me 28 minutes to complete my practice lap at a length of 6 miles. It was indeed flat as people had pre-warned me with only 76ft elevation difference per lap so it wasn’t a course favoured to the climbers or the technical descenders. In fact the course wasn’t technical at all which didn’t play to my strengths - however it would still provide a challenge and good gauge of my form post winter.
With practice done and no work being required to the Santa Cruz due to dry weather it was time to relax, get some food and watch the start of the other races. There was some real carnage at the start of these
races with a big pile up on the start loop so
I hope everyone involved is OK.
During this break I got a bit of a surprise. The event was sponsored by Bosch Gardens UK who were offering a spot prize… which I won! The prize was amazing, a Bosch Fontus Portable Pressure Washer so a big thank you to them. Check the details out here!
With my luck being cashed in already it was time to get focused, warm up and get ready to race. Having not raced any of this series before I wasn’t gridded and to make it worse they put every gridded rider from every class in front so I was buried deep in the pack. This wasn’t only going to make it much tougher to get to the front but also a lot more risky. Once the gun went I was able to make quite a few places up on the start loop, putting in some big efforts and taking some risky overtaking opportunities in the corners. As we entered the first single track sections I’d gone from 30th is on the grid to around the top 10, however I could see the leaders pulling away at the front through the trees so I couldn’t settle into a rhythm just yet.
Over the first lap I managed to make way into 3rd. I’d burnt quite a few matches making up all those places but it had allowed me access to a clear course so I could ride my lines and settle into a groove for the second lap. The second lap was a solid one, allowing me to catch up to the 2nd place man around half way round. I took a breather on the start/finish straight, grabbed a bottle and let him past so I could sit on his wheel as we started the third lap down the long opening drag. Just before we entered the single track section I put in sprint to lead and pulled away through the technical section and increased it over the course of the lap. From here, despite giving it everything, I never saw the 1st place man so had to settle for second come the end of lap four and the race.
I was pretty pleased with this result given where I started from and it’s a good indicator that I am where I need to be heading into the season and that the training is paying off. I was also really stoked to land a podium result on my first outing for my new partners and aboard my new race machine!
The bike and equipment performed faultlessly. I really benefited from the VPP linkage and full suspension setup down the fire road sections allowing me stay seated and get the power down whilst the Halo Wheels/Schwalbe Tyre combo kept the rolling resistance to a minimum but the grip levels high.
So, with the first race in the bag and a few weeks till the first national of the season it’s off to Spain for that final piece of training before the real season begins.
Till next time… just keep riding!