Crits in the Park #2 – Cat 3 Race Report

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      Chris Hewitt

      <div dir=”ltr”>Having read the race reports back in March from Noah, Tim, Jack and Chris B from the first round of the “Crits in the Park” series I decided it was about time I ended my four year break from racing and start flying the colours of the Oxted Blues. So it was that at midday today I found myself driving along the M25 towards the Cyclopark at Gravesend to enter the 3rd Cat race.

      This was my first visit to the Cyclopark (I have previously been to Hillingdon and Redbridge/Hog Hill) and I must admit that I was very impressed with the place. The facilities are very good and cater for all types of cycling and cyclists. There are several mountain bike trails, and couple of BMX tracks and of course the ‘road’ circuit which I would be racing on. The circuit itself is around 1.8 miles long, quite technical with a combination of sweeping and tight bends (including a downhill hairpin 200 metres after the start) and is undulating with quite a long drag up the start/finish straight.

      Being a bit rusty on the racing front I was not surprised to find that I was quite nervous before the start. My plan was quite simple, avoid any trouble and try to finish with the pack. A little annoyingly, due to the race before finishing a little late, we didn’t actually get a chance to do a warm up lap of the circuit, hence I would have to learn the circuit during the race, not ideal! Because of that, I made the decision to start towards the back for the first few laps, learn the lines through the corners then try and move forward after that.

      So, the race started with me in the final 10 riders and all was going well. We hit the first hairpin 200 metres into the first lap and I was happy to see that I picked my line through it well which gave me a bit more confidence. THEN, exiting the corner, the rider two in front of me touched wheels a went down hard, bring down another rider who was just in front and to the right of me! A few expletives were yelled as braked hard and swerved violently to avoid the crash, taking to the grass at the side in the process. Luckily I kept it upright and rejoined the track, but to my dismay  saw the pack, strung out, about 30 metres up the road from me and about 5 others who had been temporarily held up by the crash. I hadn’t planned to have to frantical chase after 200 metres but that was what I now found myself doing. I managed to reduce the gap and was almost rejoining the group by the end of the lap; however, it was at that point we hit the slog up the start finish straight and another attack in the group saw the group accelerate and string out. It was at that point I knew I wasn’t going to get back on so rather than bail, I thought it was a good opportunity to get a bit of tough training in and I spent the rest of the next 40 minutes with my head down, trying to pick off other stragglers. At one point a group of 4 of us got together and were riding well together; however, at 5 laps to go, we were pulled off the circuit to make sure we didn’t get in the way of the sprint for the finish.

      So, all in all, a bit of an anti-climax today but at least I now know the circuit and I will be heading back again. As I was leaving, Tim Whitehead was riding the 4th Cat race an was looking comfy in a lead group of 30 or so rides. I will let him tell you how the rest of the race went!

      Hope to see a few of you out tomorrow!


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