Kinross CC Ochils Road Race - 7th September 2014
The next step on my search for points took Graeme and I to Kinross for the Ochils Road Race. Having wrapped up his 3rd category licence earlier in the season Graeme had offered to try and help me to a top ten finish. We knew that 7 laps of this hilly 6 mile circuit suited us and given the relatively slow pace of last year's event our Plan A was to try and nip off the front on the penultimate climb. Hopefully we would take a few strong riders with us and avoid having to fight it out on the flat finish.
I had been suffering with the cold all week and didn't feel 100% on the morning of the race. I tried to put it down to pre-race nerves but I was well aware that I might struggle. A quick pedal around the start venue revealed that Plan A was out of the window. A fairly stiff breeze would be in our faces as we rode up the main drag each lap, there was no way Graeme and I could stay ahead of the bunch. We quickly settled on Plan B: stay near the front and hope that the pace up the climb would be high enough to whittle down the numbers in the front group.
We managed to line up just behind the lead car and I forced myself to join in with the nervous sprint, brake, sprint, brake routine that happens in almost every neutral section. I normally just try and ride steadily only to find myself at the back of the bunch by the time the flag drops. The first couple of laps were reasonably fast up the hill and very fast on the flat. As we crossed the line for the second time I got a shock when I looked behind to discover that half of the field had disappeared.
In the middle of the race Graeme and I had a chat and both felt that the pace up the climb was quite comfortable but that neither of us was feeling great on the long fast straight section. Graeme said later that he had a difficult period around the 4th lap and came close to slipping off the back on this section.
As we climbed the hill for the 6th time I was very glad that I had taken it so steady in the opening laps. My cold was suddenly catching up on me and my legs were starting to fall off. I was hoping that the pace would get pushed high enough to dislodge a few more riders but at the same time nervous that I could become one of those riders. The final part of the climb was only 3% for half a mile but taken for the 6th time at an average speed of over 26mph my legs really started to protest. For the first time I wasn't sure if I would still be there at the finish.
As we headed towards the climb for the final time I was at the front of the bunch when someone attacked and I jumped onto his wheel thinking it would be a good time to go. I quickly realised that I was in trouble, I was running on empty. As we reached to the top of the steep initial section of the climb I had slipped to the back of the group. A small gap had started to open but fortunately Graeme was only a couple of riders ahead and I gave him a shout. He dropped back and filled in the gap. I think I would have been OK but it was reassuring to know that he would ride at a steady tempo. He started to move us up through the field and I had a chance to recover on the easier section of the climb.
Now I just had to make it over the last half mile kick to the top. I managed to move towards the front of the group to give myself a bit of breathing room. I was more or less the last rider over the crest but Graeme was right ahead of me again and soon we were hurtling towards 50mph down the descent. We were at the back of the group but our hastily communicated plan was to bank on the fact that it was a tough finish and not go too early. Following Graeme made the run into the finish much easier, I didn't have to worry about him suddenly attacking or slowing so I could relax slightly.
We were getting closer and closer to the finish but there was still a wall of riders ahead of us. Graeme was looking for a way through but there was nowhere to go. Just as I was resigning myself to rolling in at the back of the group he shouted, a gap had opened and I dived through it. There was less than 200m to go. I jumped out of the saddle and suddenly my legs felt great but the finish was coming up so fast, I passed one, two, three, four riders and was over the line.
So we had pulled off Plan B. I finished 9th, 2 more points of the 3 I need in the bag. A great result given how I felt in the last few laps. I don't think I would have made the top ten without Graeme's help, both physically up the last climb and mentally. Knowing that someone else is prepared to ride for you makes you just that bit more determined to dig in when it gets really tough. It was great fun to race as part of a team.
Thanks to Kinross CC for another fantastic event. See you again for the Lochore Meadows cross race in November.