On Sunday 3rd June 2018 it was my second year of racing in the TOC Gran Fondo which is the UK’s sole qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. Any amateur rider can take part and qualify to represent their country if they finish in the top 25% of their Masters Age Group.
Owing to the fact that this was the only race in which to qualify, it was going to be competitive. In addition to this, the organisers of the ToC had made some changes making it more difficult for those in the Race pens.
In the weeks leading up to the race I completed some longer rides with a small group of five people and this gave me the necessary chance to practice drafting (staying close to the wheel in front) and the ability to ride for longer periods at a relative intensity. I also entered several Crit races which were good fun.
Having rested well during the week and keeping on top of my hydration and diet, I was ready and excited about race day. Whilst we were in our Pens we were told by the organisers that we couldn’t draft off any one else, other than the riders who were in our starting pen. If we were caught doing so it would be immediate disqualification. This was a bit of a curve ball. This meant I HAD to stay in the group I started with the whole way round. Once the race began I remained in the middle of the pack and close to the wheel in front. There was quite a bit of jostling about, but I held my line and gradually the group (approximately 30)settled down. It was a hot day and after 40 miles realised I would have to ration my hydration so as not to run out of liquid before the end and my plan was to eat every 30minutes to stay on top of my nutrition. This is vital if you want to stay strong and alert.
During the second half of the race I made my way towards the front of the group and took several turns on the front. Although it was harder, it made a refreshing change, being able to see the clear road in front and dictate the pace. I also enjoyed being a relevant part of the team.
After 60 miles I was beginning to tire and I could feel the lactic acid in my legs especially when I accelerated out of the corners. I was feeling positive, although the last 10 miles were tough. Unfortunately, I misjudged the second to last incline and I lost the main group which was disappointing. After putting in an unsuccessful effort to try and catch them, i decided to wait for some more team mates to pass me. At this point I joined them we rode the last section of the race together. As we approached the finish line I managed to pip the girl in front of me over the line.
I was so pleased with how the race went. I have reflected on the good aspects and the areas which need attention. Overall I achieved my objective which was to race as hard and as smart as I could and to come in the top 25%.