Four of us from North Cheshire Clarion rode the National Clarion Race Championships at Darley Moor motorcycle race circuit. For Phil and I this was our first taste of racing, whilst Nick and Matt have both raced at Tameside Criterions. The Clarions were well-represented – I counted Stockport, Nottingham, Saddleworth, Calder, West Lothian and Crewe amongst others, and there were plenty who looked like they meant business!
I rode round the triangular track to warmup. The start line led quickly to a 60 degree left-hander and then a slight up hill straight drag for about half a mile with a tailwind. A manufactured hairpin awaited turning into a headwind, followed by a chicane and then down to the next corner, turning into a sidewind, slightly uphill, a chicane and back across the line for another lap.
It’s fair to say I was very nervous about the race, particularly the pace and the cornering. 75 minutes followed by 5 laps is quite a long time at fullgas. Half an hour warmup gave me a lot more confidence on the corners, even catching my pedal on the hairpin as I went round it too low.
The time came to gather at the start line with the 35 other starters. A bit of a briefing and the over 50’s were set off first. The rest of the field then set off on a rolling start round the first bend and then off up the tailwind straight. By the end of the straight we’d hit 30mph before slowing to roll round the hairpin and then power out into the headwind. It was tough going and I quickly learned to tuck in behind somebody and stay there down the straight. I kept a close eye on Matt, who with his added experience, was my reference point of what to do. Nottingham had the most riders and made the pace at the front, alternating between strong attacks which upped the pace and then slowing the pace. It’s very sapping constantly slowing then accelerating hard, and after 10 minutes I thought I would be struggling. At this point Phil had already been dropped and I think Nick may have been too. However, I hung in and I must have got used to it as it got easier and I felt pretty comfortable.
After about an hour I was struggling a bit with cramp but still sitting in the pack and moving through it as and when I wanted. The course was wide, as were the corners, so it wasn’t as daunting as I expected. However, the cramp was painful, my back was aching and it’s actually a bit tedious going round and round constantly!
At the 75 minutes board I made a massive mistake. As we crossed the line and approached the corner and I accelerated early and moved quickly up the peloton. For most of the other laps the peloton accelerated out of the bend and up the tailwind straight. This time they didn’t and I went flying past and found myself on the front! The peloton shields you considerably, and whilst I’d been riding at 170-175bpm, my heart rate rapidly jumped to 185-192bpm. I slowed but nobody came through, and at the end of the headwind straight I was shattered. The pack then went past and I couldn’t hold on to the end of it – I was shelled out of the back. It’s impossible to get back on by your self and I fell further behind.
I’m pleased to say I didn’t get lapped though, and came in in 21st place, with Matt in 19th. Nick and Phil gave it everything too – kudos to them all.
Massive learning curve and hard work – which will all help towards my goals next year. Kate took some great photos too so it was a really fun day.
Ride stats : 38.2 miles in 1hr 34m at 24.2mph average. Average HR 176bpm, 1686kcals used.