My First race of the season and therefore my first race as a junior rider took place nearby to Grantham at Barkston Heath RAF flight school; the track is narrow and has relatively tight corners but very fast long straights.
After warming up on the rollers beneath the shelter of our car boot, I set out for a quick re-run of the course before lining up to start. As I approached the start, it became apparent just how tough the race was going to be the majority of the competitors were riding for domestic teams – it was a 2nd 3rd and 4th Cat race (and as an experienced rider I had been judged a 3rd Cat rider so couldn’t enter the 4th Cat only race) with the strongest riders. I set off strong, but suddenly had to stall due to another rider stopping in front of me, I quickly dodged the rider and managed to ride myself back into the bunch. Along the slightly uphill first straight I could feel the headwind straight in my face; on the home straight I glanced down at my speedometer, 33 Mph! As we approached our second lap we were still at about 27 mph, ‘they must slow down at some point’ I thought to myself, Yeah Right! After another lap the speed was further increasing due to constant attacks off the front of the group, I went wide on a corner and found myself slipping out the back of the group and despite my efforts in the headwind I just couldn’t bridge back across. I soon teamed up with a guy from St Ives who admittedly was stronger than me, we tried to hold our positions.
With about 15 minutes left to ride the whole race changed, hail, and lots of it! A lot of riders around me slowed so I took it upon myself to be the muppet who attacked! I put a big effort in and started to pull away from the group I was with, dodging the odd body crashed out on the floor I started to realise how painful the hail actually was, it was like being shot at with a paintball gun whilst riding on a field of frozen peas, a bloody good circus act! The commissaries decided that the conditions we’re too bad and called five laps to go. I was really on the rivets, struggling to keep upright on the corners whilst being bombarded by huge hail stones. With a lap to go I caught the rider closest ahead of me and worked to the line. I’d finished without being pulled out and with a massive smile on my face. Unfortunately only the top ten results have been published but we think I was within the top twenty five.
It had been a really brilliant day, the only downside being the dozens of hailstone bruises that are still covering my arms and legs.