Its my first race as a newly minted cat3. I'm mixing it with a big field of handy looking guys as we line up at the Blackhawks Farms motorsport racetrack course startline for Spring Super Crit.
Off the line, its a giant lunge down the straight, wind behind us. Its tight and 5 wide through the first easy curve, with riders attacking and the field veering left and right as the wind gusts. I'm toward the back and for some reason favoring hanging left - probably instinct from growing up in the UK. All the corners can be rode through flat out and 4 wide, there should be no braking, but braking there is as a big pack reacts to the evil wind whipping across the circuit. The racing is close, but everyone is comfortable with that, except for some smaller riders getting pushed around a bit.
Whats different here than the 4s?, well its faster, and any inattention or slacking off is repaid with several positions lost in a heartbeat (and there's maybe 180 of them a minute at this pace), its just a lot more racey.
But I'm holding position and able to keep mid-pack, plus I have the advantage of size and heft (maybe 10lbs too much - ahem long winter) to keep my space on the track. 4 go off the front, but I'm nowhere near it to do anything. Play it Again Andres makes an effort to counter, but no-ones helping and I'm boxed in. The four pull out 1/4 of a lap. The next few laps are all much the same. The break is held at 1/4, while I try and work up the field. I can make places up the finish straight with the wind behind us, but I notice I'm running out of gears, I can't get into my 11 at the back. Damn it.
2 to go and things hot up. The cornering gets sketchier as tired riders barge for position. At one point I'm up on the race track curb and that's still not enough space and I'm over the grass on the apex. There's always someone trying to come round you but also riders fading and falling back, so the concentration required is just immense.
Last lap and its faster than ever but the lead group is well organized and still away, the pace has thinned out the field a little, and its safer. I'm midfield and happy to still be there as we dive through the apex and onto the finish straight. There's still gas in the tank so I spin up to speed hard taking a few riders but I still cant get top gear and cross the line totally out of gears running maybe 140rpm and probably looking pretty silly.
A decent start to the threes. I know I can handle the pace, but also that this is a new level where places at the front are hard work and held with significant effort, tough racing and serious concentration. To do anything here I'll have to race smarter.
Oh and be fitter, fix the bike, drop the winter lard and all that other stuff.