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How much fun can you have on two wheels?

Stratford CC racing

After enjoying many social hours on our Sunday rides and the eyeballs out effort Thursday TTs, I have been exploring the range of cycling race craft on our Tuesday bash nights. From learning to smoothly rotate in a group, sometimes getting dropped as the pace raises, battling through freak hail and storms and to finally feeling strong enough to contest the “win” from the dash into Lower Quinton. All of this seemed like good training for an actual bike race so, yesterday, I bit the bullet and put my toes on the start line of a closed circuit crit race. An actual British cycling race against some serious looking 4th category riders. EEK!

As this was an exploration into racing, I haven’t added a racing licence onto my British Cycling membership, yet. This was OK, as you can still sign up to some races and pay for a day licence.

Banbury Star cycling club are running a midweek crit series for July, consisting of 4 races around the 1km Shenington open air go-kart circuit. The numbers are limited so the pack size is manageable around the exciting course.

This turned out to be an excellent choice for a first race as the organisation and riders were all super friendly. Prior to the race, a warm up around the circuit was massive fun learning and leaning the corners to explore the grip levels. The track is super flat, wide and smooth with brightly marked kerbs, a far cry from the potholes around Long Marston.

Once my 40 minute race had lined up and started, I was happily in the lead bunch, trying hard not to end up on the front, but this seemed to be everyone’s tactic too! So the games continued for a few laps until I found myself falling further behind around the corners. Eventually the elastic snapped and I was dropped, doomed to spend the next 20 minutes trying to perfect my lines around the bends, control my breathing and just claw back to the group which was so tantalisingly close. As the circuit is open air you can see straight across to all the other riders, but, seeing and catching is very different it turns out. I watched as the winning rider stretched out a lead from the group and, with about 5 laps to go, the 2nd place rider broke away too.

Eventually, I was caught by another strong rider and we thankfully shared the work to the finish, half a lap at a time, stuck in-between the lead and chasing groups. She went on to win her race and I was settled on a top 10 finish.
Crossing the line and I realised I had been smiling all the way, loving the exhilaration of pushing my abilities and my bike as far as I could on a sweet, traffic free circuit. Better than actually go-karting.

It took 20 minutes for my legs to stop shaking and another 20 before I signed up to the next one!

I would encourage all our clubmates to join me and give racing a go and I can especially recommend this Tuesday night series. There were another 2 clubmates, George and Matt, there last night and space for many more.
Sex, age and bike choice are not barriers, as the 2nd place rider was a junior happily lapping on a 15 year old Specialized on 23mm tyres

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