I couldn't tell you where I finished. Maybe I was about 15th, certainly I didn't get any points, because when the time came to sprint the legs said that sprinting wasn't really something they were up for. But still, it went very well. Better than I ever could have predicted before I started all this.
Spin back to the summer and my first and second Cat 4 races at Odd Down circuit and I was out the back on my own in short order after a small number of laps. In my head it's about half a dozen, although looking back at the actual data suggests it might even have been less than that. Maybe as few as four. I wasn't really able to compete because I was too heavy, at 104kg, and not quick enough. So I made a plan, to lose some weight and get fitter, to the point where I could at least compete at the lowest level of the sport. Small steps, and that.
In my head that work was going to come to fruition some time next summer. I'd never really managed to lose weight and keep it off, and I was guessing it'd be a long battle and a good while before I'd be fast enough to mix it in the Cat 4s. But first race back, and 11kg lighter, I was quick enough to stay near the front of the race – even on the front of the race, on occasion – and finish in the bunch. Out of nearly 40 on the start line maybe 25 were there at the end to contest it. So I've gone from sprinting for last to comfortable mid table, inasmuch as a race is ever comfortable. It's much more than I hoped for.
I've got Dave Smith to thank for this, mostly. Getting a proper training and nutrition plan is undoubtedly the best money I've ever spent on anything to do with cycling, in terms of the return on investment. For the same kind of cash you might expect to throw at a set of training wheels, I've knocked a minute and a half off my time up Bathwick Hill, and I can get my money's worth at the circuit. You do have to factor in the extra cost of buying a bunch of new clothes, though. There should be some kind of note about that in the small print.
To not get dropped was my first, lowly, goal, and so now there's a big tick next to that. I'm aware that there's still a lot of headroom for the position I'm occupying in the racing food chain. The next goal is to score a point, then some points, and then the goal after that is to make it to Cat 3. I'll be asking Dave for help with those goals too.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.