Arrived at the new Circuit wearing Middleton Cycling club colours that Phil West recognised and said 'hi' at 18.10 and registered for the 3/4 cat race after paying £8. Parking was strange as there was parking in the grounds but some peeps wearing SKY high vis vests were telling us to park at some cricket ground and pay a quid. We parked at a disused pub across the road which was still a fair walk. Pantani arrived not long after for support and we proceeded to have a few laps round the circuit. Pantani got kicked off after one lap as he forgot his helmet. Was funny!. After the laps the youngsters raced and then the youths but for some reason was running really late. Pete and I warmed up around the car park until we were called and I proceeded to do about 10 circuits until we were brought in to the start line. I missed the pep talk and apparently the E/1/2 were racing with us cat3/4 and all doing 45mins +5laps. The corners looked really bad and tight that I thought there would be a lot of crashes but I think all the riders were very discliplined and courteous and probably had a lot more experience too.
The Elites's etc set off and the seconds later we did. It was a bit mish mashed and I got stuck behind a girl who couldn't clip first time. I saw a group pull away in the distance thinking it was the 3/4 cat ( lol it was the E/1/2) so I tried to bridge the gap hoping I would get some help but I was all alone for about 5 laps whilst I knackered myself up. Just before I pulled away I went on to the grass verge on a straight and thought I would be the first rider off but I skillfully kept up :P. Jess Varnish's mum was shouting for her to stay on my wheel whilst I led this unknown group (to me) for another lap or so, before I had packed in and had to sit back and draft a couple of laps. Some guys from Manchester Wheelers cycling club took the lead for a while and I was struggling with the tight bends, some hairpins and the sprints out of them. My racing line was terrible, all over the place and didn't follow the train or any pattern, just weaving in and out due to boredom I think. The Manchester Wheeler guys slowed down and I thought someone would take it on but didn't so I forced my way to the front, slowly and without any racing etiquette. I went ahead only to find my self alone again. Why hadn't they followed me, I had picked up the pace again to try and catch the group ahead but no one was following. I don't get this racing malarky and so I eased and got caught up again but our train kept on overtaking little groups. Eventually the 'elites' containing riders from Raleigh, Corley cycles, Wheel guru, Waites and a couple of other names overtook when I was at the front and I suddenly saw 'my group' come behind me at the back of this train. I really had to sprint to get to the back of it but elites soon went off again and dropped the hangers on.
I had lost all sense of time and what was going on around me but we started overtaking lots of riders and some were dropping out. I decided to sit at the back to see what on earth was going on but nothing was clear. I was on the hoods which turned out to be a big mistake as I found thats what was hampering me on the corners. I went in the drops and found I could keep up much easily without having to stand as I could lean in more and put the power down earlier. If only I had learnt this sooner. Again I'd sit at the back and when the pace dropped I took my place at the front only for the other riders to drift back so I thought I aint riding alone and pulled back again. The elites came to lap us again with about 10mins to go and I managed to latch on the back and I saw everyone else apart from me drop back sooooo quickly. By now the wind had died considerably and I was flying, got my second wind. I could hear my name being shouted from the start line ( was it for me?) and from the other end where Pantani and my wife was. I stayed with the elites for about 4 laps, at the back but people kept dropping off and I was left to hit the drops and sprint 'Downing' style to latch onto the back again. I bet it looked really cool. I was taking the corners brilliantly still not having to stand to keep up. People were dropping out like flies. Still with the fast group I heard that lapped people were to come off. There was hardly anyone on the track now apart from some stragglers? or so I thought, half way round and myself with the fast lot. I thought it was only the 'Elite' group that was left so I voluntarily pulled out not knowing what was going on as I thought I should have come off ages ago.
Everyone was stood watching the last five laps in the pits but I went to registration to collect my liscence by handing in my number so I could go as I thought that was it for me. The lady said why did you come off, I said because I thought I had to. Did someone tell me? No I replied. Then walked off. I went to Pantani and my Wife at the other end of the track who shouted at me why did I come off, same reply from me. There were 3 'stragglers' who seemed to be competing for the 3/4 win and Pantani and Wifey said they hadn't lapped me and I was miles in front of them. I wasn't sure. I thought there was a 3/4 cat guy in the group I was in too. What I do know is that I could have carried on a lot longer if needed and seemed to be getting stronger.
A total lack of experience, naivety , handling skills, tactical knowledge, awareness and anything else required during a cycling race apart from raw power destroyed my chances of achieving anything but I left gagging for more. The race was unbelievably tactical and I had to sit back for 10 mins to get my breath back after my wasted attempted bridge. I didn't know what was going on behind me either. Deffo do this again but hopefully without the E/1/2 confusing the shit outta me.