All roads lead to Dunsfold…

….even ones in Redhill.

That’s the most positive way to look at the cold and fairly miserable hour I spent huffing and puffing my way around the soggy South Nutfield Surrey League Handicap.  The event was only ever intended to be a means to an end, a race-pace training session to shake as much of the post-Majorca lethargy from my legs as possible in the run-up to the first of this season’s 4th Cat series at Dunsfold Park.

Smiling in defeat… well, I’ve had enough practice by now. (photo: Mark Tearle)

The other positive: at least I finished this time, unlike my post-Majorca outing to the Goodwood Gallops in 2011.

That said, it was a pity my legs were quite so lifeless, given that the lead group – of which I was briefly a member – took advantage of some powerful pace-making and a shortened race distance to stay away, providing a rare points bounty to the 4th Cats in it.

In fact, the term lifeless is a fairly generous one.  Fossilised might be closer to the mark.  Or even atrophied?  Hopefully not.  Over the past five years I’ve grown quite well attuned to the various signals my body sends me while riding a bike.  And on this occasion, such was the paucity of power available to me from my very first pedal stroke, I came pretty close to pulling the plug before the off.  I hadn’t felt as clunky since my jour sans in Majorca last year.  This was really not good news…

The hilly South Nutfield course was ill-suited to such physical shortcomings, featuring two long upward drags in its six-plus miles, not to mention a couple of tight corners and a group of workmen stationed in the middle of the road clearing a flood just for added excitement.

Sure enough, as we neared the end of lap one the vicious pace up the final climb to the finish did for me and I was distanced, never to recover.  Already rasping for breath, I eased up, thinking that if I could recover slightly by the time the second group arrived I could latch on and all would not be lost.

This worked… for about half a lap, before they too shed me on an incline as my leg muscles simply refused to co-operate in any meaningful fashion, despite much mental pleading on my part.

Staying with the elite group as it sped past on lap three was simply not an option, so I spent the rest of the lap time-trialling as fast (and with as high a cadence) as I could just to make the most of the journey.  I was going to bail out at the end of the lap, but was saved the ignominy of a DNF by the failing light, which meant all the stragglers were given the chequered flag to prevent them having to do the fourth and final lap solo under dangerously dark skies.

So that’s 28th and 34th places in my two races so far this year.  A casual observer, inexperienced in the ways of bike racing, might look at those bare statistics and conclude that your author is little more than a ridiculous old fool who should pack in this silliness before he heaps yet more opprobrium on himself and his family.  Perish the thought…

In fact, this is just the moment things are about to get interesting.  Well, as interesting as a few dozen 4th cats plodding around an airfield can be.  I’m talking of course about Dunsfold.  This, as regular readers will know, is the basket into which I’ve thrown pretty much all my bike racing eggs this season.  Pan flat, reasonably safe, not usually over-subscribed and generally more friendly than most events, these races were pretty good fun last year.  Much more importantly, with Goodwood out of the picture in 2012 the Dunsfold series offers by far my best chance of totting up the 10 points I need to secure 3rd Cat status.

Various commitments mean I won’t be doing all the Dunsfold races, but I’m in for the first two, after which I’ll be able to take stock before the Lewes Crits join in to make it a Thursday/Friday one-two punch throughout June.

As a well-known TV chef once remarked to the Carrow Road faithful: Let’s be ‘aving you!

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2 Responses to All roads lead to Dunsfold…

  1. dbpottery says:

    Hi, Thanks for the great posts. Can I just ask you a quick question? I’ve been keen on trying racing for a while, and took the plunge about a month ago. It was a TLi race with, I’ve subsequently learned, some very fast 1st cat and ex – elite riders. Of course I got dropped within the first 10 miles. however, I did enjoy the experience whilst I was hanging on (wierd, I know!). I just wondered whether I’d be better focussing on 4th cat races to start with? I’ve joined BC and have a race licence, as well as TLI and LVRC (I’m 44). The only thing putting me off 4th cat races is all the crashes that people talk about. Any advice is welcome. Thanks for the blog, keep it up.

  2. Hello – thanks for the comments! I’m no expert, as should be blatantly clear(!), but I’d say you need to sort your objectives first and then plan what you do based on that. I want to race with my 3rd Cat team-mates in ‘proper’ Surrey League road races so I need to get my 3rd Cat license, hence all the huffing and puffing in 4th Cat closed circuit races. Others find everything they want in things like LVRC so don’t need to bother getting BC points. All bike racing is dangerous, it scares the shit out of me at times but I keep coming back so something must be working!! A brief reply for a big subject but I hope it’s a small help…

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