Thoughts from David Veitch:
As my racing licence had autorenewed again this year, I thought I better make some use of it after only doing 1 race last year. Before the LVCC event, I had done 3 other road races with lacklustre results. Doing mainly time trials and club runs, I was still uncomfortable with the close proximity of the bunch on faster sections and corners. As a result, I often sat on the front which was great while my legs lasted but less so for the finish! I also have been suffering from cramps at the end when things get punchy, meaning I just roll to an undignified stop in agony rather than gloriously sprinting over the line. In summary, I didn’t have great expectations for the day.
On this attempt, I decided to be firm with myself and do absolutely nothing for the first half of the race – harder for me than it sounds. For whatever reason, I seemed to manage it better than usual. It was nearly quite blissful, zooming around at 25mph with a few short efforts on the rises and lightly spinning the cranks on the flat. My cunning plan was to give it a dig on the uphill crosswind turning on the second half of the 3rd 15 mile lap – approx. 35 miles in with 25 to go. Alas some others had the same idea so about 4 of us charged off together.
We opened up an initial gap but the main group was keen to get back in touch so after a couple of minutes they appeared on the twisty section chasing hard. When it became apparent they were going to catch, we sat up but I didn’t ease off completely. As we came to the top of the downhill section, I was sitting on the front so I tucked down and leaned a bit harder on the pedals to up the speed. Looking back, a gap of a few bike lengths had opened. Didn’t think too much of it as I freewheeled on at 30mph+. Few more pedal strokes and looked back again and the gap was growing on out. So it continued down the gradient until there was maybe a gap of 5 seconds (sounds small but quite big when going fast!). I sort of dangled there for a moment, not knowing what to do as no-one seemed interested in coming across. Then I thought why not give it a go solo. I knew I was pretty fast on the flat with my head down and they seemed to be faffing a bit. So off I went! Still on the gentle downhill, I got into TT mode, tucking everything possible in and subtly pushed a big gear. And so it continued for the next hour…
I didn’t really know what would happen. I was soon into a twistier rolling section where I quickly lost sight of the group. The next I knew the motorcycle outrider came past and said I had a gap of 50 seconds! I couldn’t really believe it, had they crashed or something? Did I mishear him? Could he count? Anyway, I eased up a bit as I knew there was a long way to go, but he kept coming back with the gap being maintained or sneaking up. I thought great but they must be messing around, saving themselves for a charge on the last lap. Also, there was a long headwind drag to come where I knew I would lose time to a big group.
By this point I’d just come past the start finish to start the last 15 miles. I went to kick on over the top but my left leg completely cramped up. This had been the blight of all my previous road races. I instantly thought I’m going to have to quit, what’s the point now? My gap will be gone and legs shot. I desperately stood up on the pedals and freewheeled for about 30s as I tried to stretch everything out. Sitting back down, I tentatively started to pedal again. Hmm, seems to be okayish, bit twingy but things are going round and I’m going forward. Alas going to have to keep going! Settling down again, I waited for the bad news from the outrider.
Sure enough the gap was down to about 40 seconds – could be worse! However, it was now into the long headwind section and then the uphill crosswind where I had originally attacked. Looking back at Strava shows I managed to hold the gap pretty consistent along here and then when I got back on the rolling downhill, I opened it up again to nearly 1 minute. Phew, only a few miles left.
By the end I was gasping quite literally: only had a single 600ml bottle for the whole race and it was hitting 28/29°C by the end of the 2.5 hours. I also had only eaten 2 gels and nothing after the first half. The finish line couldn’t come quick enough! Alas the advertised race length of 60 miles came and went on my computer screen and I was still nowhere near; my mental countdown to the end in tenth-of-a-mile intervals was a mockery. Where on earth was it? Alas 2.46 miles, or another 6.5 minutes of misery, down the road I would discover.
In the end, I gritted my teeth and pushed up the final 2 minute incline to the finish. This felt like an eternity, but once the line was in sight, and more importantly no-one behind was, I eased over the line to win. With the surge and sprint at the end for everyone else, the gap to the next rider ended up around 40 seconds.
Immediate relief! A result for the first time this year, and where better?!
Thank you again to the club and all the clubmates who were involved in putting on the day and shouted encouragement from every corner. This really made all the difference and kept me focussed in trying not to disappoint.