C Grade, West Head, MWCC, 9 June 2013
Placing: rolled in with the peloton. The course is up a 3 km 5% hill, to West Head Rd, 22 km out and back undulating, for two full laps, before a final turn and 1 km back to the finish.
So in spite of everything, I remain of the view that a break can win at West Head. Over the years I've tried several different ways to break the C grade bunch up at West Head. Including going away up the climb from Akuna. Going a bit better recently in the past (lighter and faster), I had resolved to try again yesterday. I'd resolved to sit in until I was ready to go. Despite the course, there are only a few places to make a break stick, but I had one or two points in mind where I was going to try. Things do not always work out as planned, however.
The MWCC riders were in a separate bunch, the race was entirely made up of other clubs. Also, they had started the women's A Grade race 2 minutes ahead of us, so they could join in our bunch when we caught them, but they would be racing amongst themselves. OK.
So what really happened was this. We started with 30 - the race started steady up the climb from Akuna. Not fast. I'm about 5th wheel. About 1 km into the race, a guy in SUVelo kit comes round (Nick, his name is). I roll onto his wheel, and we are going at a good pace. After a couple of hundred metres I look around, it's just the two of us. Despite some misgivings, I do some work, he is going stronger, but we keep at it, and it starts to get hard. We turn onto West Head Rd, over that bump, then past the line for the first time, and into the race proper. And we caught Women's A Grade. In 13 minutes we had made up those two minutes. Would they work with us, were they even allowed to? Well, they did. Nick was going very well up hills. I tended to take over on downhills and flat sections, making sure we kept the speed up, we were charging around and the first lap was very fast. But four of the women stayed with us for the duration, and there were substantial portions where there were 4 or 5 of us rolling through. And by the second lap, the women were climbing stronger than me, and almost as strongly as Nick.
At the first turn at the northern end we had a big lead, I guessed almost a minute. But I almost got dropped the first time up the wall, I was really suffering. At the southern end it was more, my estimate was a minute 20. And again, I had to give it everything to stay with them coming up from the turn away from the Akuna Bay Rd.
As is normal in these situations, we slowed down a bit on the second lap. Not really noticeably, probably just a sense that despite being under severe strain I wasn't quite about to get dropped. Last time out to the northern end, I thought we still had a minute. The bunch was big though, 30 riders. A bunch of 30, really going for it, can track down a much smaller bunch. Coming back, by this time me and Nick are doing nearly all the work. The women have tested each other out, they are in their own race, and I think they know they aren't easily going to drop one another. The race is, can Nick and I hold off the main bunch? As a result we are doing most of the work by now. Generally, Nick going uphill, and me flat and downhills.
We hit the 2 km drag back past the finish line and Nick skips away, I can't go with him, I am cramping. I can keep a decent pace, but no way I can chase him down. The women are sitting on me. Past the finish area (3 km to go) I am still on the front. I didn't look back once during this past of the race. But to no avail. At the bottom of the bump just before the Akuna Rd, I can hear them. They get me halfway up the hill, I'm cramping and spent, my race is over. But going down the turnaround, Nick still has about 10 seconds. I don't see the finish, but he held them off by about 10 metres. One of the women was fourth across the line. I roll in with the bunch.
Looking at strava comparisons with some of the guys in the bunch, Nick and I took 40 seconds out of the bunch up the first hill, another 20 seconds heading north to the first turnaround, we pretty much held them heading south, took another 10 seconds out of them heading north again, and yes, they caught the whole lot up on the way back. The first lap was a strava PR by 40 seconds, and I have done this race many times since they started turning down at the Akuna Bay Rd. My second lap was 1'20" slower than the first. The bunch was still pretty much together when they caught up, more than 20 riders still in it. They probably dropped ones and twos but there was no signficant split.
Strava link is here http://app.strava.com/activities/59119680
. I spent basically the whole race close to the edge, and hit the red zone (above 180 bpm) on 22 separate occasions. I've raced on the edge like that in short criteriums on flat courses, but doing that in hilly terrain out at West Head is a new experience. It's tough to work hard out the front all day and come away with nothing, but the guy I broke with won the race, and deserved to.