Wessex League Rd 4 - Basingstoke
Once again, I opened the curtains on Saturday morning to a wet road. Could tomorrow be the first wet race of the season? Well, in current fashion this wasn't to be and Sunday morning started with a bright blue sky which would last for the remainder of the day. Could it really happen - fourth cross races over the space of a month with no mud to report...
After various little issues over the past 3 weeks, namely with bike set-up and finding some form, Sunday looked to be a reasonable day. The weather was good and only 24 hours before I'd been playing with the cleat position on my shoes, again. 3mm forward this time to better find the ball of my foot. The course has always suited me, short sharp climbs, flat power sections and various little twists and turns to keep the mind busy.
The first two practice laps confirmed the new cleat position was much better. Hard to put into words, or at least very few words, but pick up out of corners felt great. Flat pedalling felt much better and feeling like all the power was going down felt better - overall, it felt better....
Now down to racing. Having moved between Vets and Seniors earlier in the season I'm a couple of points behind where I should be had I raced all three as a senior. The net affect is my ranked grid position isn't where it should be. What's even harder is when the commissaire doesn't see your name on the start sheet and provides a 'complimentary' gridding, somewhere closer to the front than the fifth row I was forced to start. Yes, fifth row equates to something like 45th slot on the grid. And having witnessed the earlier races going from a mighty wide to a very narrow turn, this was going to be fun, if somewhat frustrating.
The start was as expected with progress being a little slow over the first few corners. Trying to pick up places where possible I could see a group of riders containing some pretty handy guys. They were operating as an eight-piece and as the first lap finished they were a little over 20 seconds up on me. Lap after lap they eeked out another couple of seconds as I tried everything to close up to them. One fall or slip from any of them would give me a handle, just enough to clip on to, but this never came. As I say, some handy guys in the group.
Highlight of the day has to have been my running of the planks. Surely no one approached, dismounted, or more crucially sprinted the planks quicker than I did. Two steps is all I needed between hurdles and then back on with the elegance of a gazel. I knew I was quick here as I could take valuable yards out of people, but never quite enough to catch those boys in front.
The laps ticked down, all ten of them, and by the end I came in 22nd. Again, as a number not quite what I wanted, but having looked over the lap times later that night, happy to have been matching times up to around 11th place - if only I could get one of my legendary starts I could circulate off the front of these guys and pull places I know I can achieve. Not only that, the Wessex League has definately grown for the better. The level of rider having improved including the numbers. If you want a hard ride, this is where you'll find it.