Saturday 18th April. Andrew Martin and myself are racing in a LVRC road race, the Virgin Active being held on the undulating Botolph Claydon course. The weather as promised has dawned dry and sunny, but still bloody freezing and the one thing I've forgotten is my gloves.
We arrive at race HQ and step out of the car into howling wind, but at least the HQ is on a high point so perhaps elsewhere it wont be so bad?
For those that don't know the LVRC stands for league of veteran racing cyclists. It's purely about the racing and to qualify you just need to be over forty. Then the races are split into five year age bands, the usual format being 40 to 50 years old's (A & B) 50 to 60 years old's (C & D) racing together, myself being a D rider. Now before you think 'hang on this looks easier than BC racing.....think again. Unlike BC racing there are no points categories. So you might just end up racing shoulder to shoulder with a recently retired pro racer, or a cat 1 BC rider, or in my case ex pro and Commonwealth games medalist Bob Downs.
So the race.
On paper this looks tougher than my last road race, but I feel better prepared both mentally and physically for this one. Plus I'm just about to find out what racing on £2500 plus wheels is like. We line up outside and watch the the A and B's set off, and wait a moment before we are released. We're off and already I feel much happier than before. I find myself a nice little spot in the bunch that enables me to warm up with the race. All is going well until we turn to attack Pitchcott Hill into a horrendous head wind. I stay out of trouble for the bulk of the climb, but can't hang on when the leaders make a break near the top. And to make matters worst I'm on the front in the wind pulling the 'rest of us'.
We go over the top and turn to Winslow. It's here that I find out why some wheels cost thousands. The benefit is tangible. A small bunch of us TT the lap. I now feel strong and ready to chase down the small group up ahead, this is how I should have felt before the start. With bling wheels assisting we climb up to Boltoph Claydon for the final lap, and catch the group that was up ahead. It's clear the winning break is well ahead, so this is just for honours or training. In the group I recover and whilst on the Winslow straight again I consider a break, I nose out and feel happy but I bottle it and stay with the group. I'll regret that.
As we turn off the Winslow road we come across another age group race. The rules though unwritten say you mustn't influence another race, and as we ain't gonna win anyway we ease off so they can contest places.
I roll in immediately behind.
Though dropped I was very happy, it's early season and I'm 3/4 stone overweight. All good training.