On Sunday 10th June it was the Youth National Championships, held at Hog Hill circuit, in Redbridge. As the name indicates, there was a hill, and every lap of the course we would go up it, for a total of 1.5 hours, around 30 ascents of the climb, which peaked at 20% in places. It would thin the starting pack of over 120 riders out for sure.
Due to Laura racing earlier in the day, I was there about 6 hours before my race was going to start, which gave me plenty of time, so I inspected the course, especially the climb, as there was no opportunity to do a recon before the race. After that all that I was able to do was stand around, chat with friends and watch the racing, whilst hiding from short rain downfalls.
The volume of riders made the eventual sign on a lengthy process, and it being close to race time it was essential to be near the front of the queue. Once changed and with numbers pinned, there was time for a decent warm up, a chat with my coach, and then it was time to go racing.
The gridding system was annoying, with a lottery style draw, with my number being drawn out right at the back, making life hard from the start, but nevertheless I got going, and moved up on the climb, as even on the first lap riders fell away.
As the race wore on, the front pack narrowed down, and whilst it wasn’t like a steady family ride on holiday, it wasn’t unmanageable. The length of the race killed off riders, and with the warm temperatures it was essential to stay hydrated.
Towards the end only the strongest riders were left, and there can’t have been more than 40 of us, a massive decrease from the 120 starters. The race was crash free until this point, so people just couldn’t handle the speed.
In the final laps I lost concentration a bit, and ended up near the back of the pack, not the place to be going into the latter phases of the race. There was a small break up the road, which were being wound in by the minute.
The final lap came, which surprised me a bit as I didn’t think we had been racing for that long, and in the run up to the final climb i knew where I wanted to be, on the outside, as the inside was even steeper, and would just sap speed like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately the was a crash on the side of the climb i chose, and ended up going into the back of it, losing all speed, having to slam the brakes on, but still going into it. It meant having to get out of the carnage, and then try and get going, eventually coming across the line in 37th. Not a bad result, but it could have been improved so much without a crash and through having more confidence.
A good day out nonetheless, and it was pleasing to see that my endurance was there, even if the confidence wasn’t totally there. I knew I stood in good state for the rest of the season, and for the following year as a Junior with the long stage races.