Four of us headed up for the 2nd race in the Rockingham handicap series. For Tim it was his first race of the season, while for Wayne and Adrian (the bomber one), it was their first race, ever.
The handicap race format means the weaker riders get a head start over the stronger riders. In theory the stronger groups should catch the slower ones for a bunch sprint at the end.
In this case, the groups were organised by licence category, so Tim, Wayne and Adrian as 4th cats were in the first group off. I started 2 minutes behind in with the 3rd cats, and 2 minutes after us were the 2nd cats (quite a few of them too). Better, well, drier weather made for a larger field than the first race, with, I think, about 40 riders on the start line.
With a four minute gap between the 4ths and 2nds, the former came close to catching the latter as they rolled over the start line. However, despite a determined effort, the 4ths soon learned why 2nds are 2nds.
In the 3rds group we worked reasonably well and, after last weeks disappointment, I made sure I was active at the front. However, as we closed in on the 4ths our group started to get fractious and an attack went off the front. Two riders broke away and I sat at the front trying to chase them down, but riding at 30mph, I only had them pegged. Two more riders attacked and as we cornered onto one of the ramps gaps opened. I was behind a Rockingham Wheelers rider and the space between us and the other riders suddenly grew. We soon controlled it, but the speed made it difficult to bridge back. Fortunately for us the 2nds were not far behind. As they came past we jumped on their wheels for a hard fast tow back to our group.
Within a couple of laps of being dropped, and 40 minutes in, the groups were together.
Wayne, Adrian and Tim were all still in the bunch and going well. But, with attacks coming off the front, the pace remained high and soon started to take its toll. Adrian drifted further to the back and, as we sprinted out of one of the corners, he was dropped.
Approaching the final lap Wayne was looking strong and holding a good position. Tim was further back (too much running I suspect!). Rounding the final corner, the sprint immediately opened up. A gap soon opened between the main bunch and a select group contesting the win. That select group included Wayne! He came in just ahead of a Rutland Velo rider to finish 3rd; a fantastic result for his first race. I came in 15th with Tim not far behind. A very good evening for St Neots CC.
For Adrian, it was still a good result for his first race. The circuit races at Rockingham can be very fast and this one was no exception, plus at least one of the 2nd cats was fresh from racing the Lincoln GP. Still, I don't think Wayne will be a 4th cat for long.
Richard Ostler (http://velorichard.wordpress.com/)