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Second place means a new category and a chance to set some new goals

It all went right this time.

A full field for the 4s at Odd Down yesterday and I snuck in as first reserve, number 41 in a field of 40. I wouldn't say that my preparation was perfect: I woke up at 4am that morning outside Frankfurt with a bit of a hangover and an early flight to catch, and I didn't get home until after 11. The legs didn't feel that special on my quick (read: inadequate) warm up. But anyway, up we lined and off we rolled for our forty minutes and three laps.

Wind's a big factor at Odd Down. It's always windy and hiding from it for as long as possible is crucial for saving your legs. Unusually it was from the south rather than the west, which is a bit kinder: it means that the sprint out of both hairpins is with a tailwind, and the only long section into the wind is the bottom straight before the hairpin, which is at the bottom of the hill so you're carrying plenty of speed.

You get to know a circuit after a while. I read the wind better yesterday and decided on three things. Firstly, a couple of extra seconds of effort after the top hairpin, over and above just sprinting to stay on, was worth quite a few places as you carried some extra speed on the downhill straight. That's nearly always the case at Odd Down but it seemed especially so yesterday, probably because of the wind direction. If you know you can make up places there there's less need to hurt yourself on the uphill straight back up to the top.

Secondly, finding a wheel at the bottom turn to the hairpin was crucial because you really didn't want to be bearing the brunt of that headwind, ever. My wheel of choice was a nice chap from Gloucester City CC (good to see those boys out in force yesterday) on a Giant Propel. Partly because he was tall, and a good wind shield – I know people follow me for the same reason, so I'm okay with that – and partly because his bike made a lovely sound. Which took my mind off other things, like the fact that my heart was trying to burst out of my chest.

Thirdly, the place to be on the home straight was on the right, as the other riders blocked the wind and you could more or less coast a couple of places. This worked pretty well until two riders had a coming together there and went down, which required a bit of cyclocross on my part to avoid. The plus side of that was that after the stack everyone voted themselves a bit of a rest: the pace dropped by about ten seconds a lap and I had a chance to recover before the 3 laps went up on the board.

Up until then I'd been keeping myself pretty well hidden, aiming for somewhere between 10th and 20th position. There's the risk of missing a break if you're back there but it never really looked like a day when one would stick. At three laps my plan was to move up to top five and try and stay there and take my chances in the sprint, rather than try some kind of daft death-or-glory dive off the front like last time. A couple of riders tried to steal a march on the last three laps but they never got very far, and come the bell the race was still more or less together and I was where I wanted to be.

I don't really remember who I was following on the run down to the bottom hairpin. But I do remember thinking as I came round that last slow turn: someone will come past me on the inside along the bottom straight, and they're the wheel I need to follow. And they did, and I did, and turning for home I was third man on the road. So there was nothing left but to open it up and see if the legs would last until the line. It's a fairly long sprint from the bottom corner and I've never managed to go full gas all the way. But this time the legs did as they were told and I managed to overhaul the chap in second place about five metres from the line. Congratulations to Jack Thompson of Performance Cycles for the win. I wasn't going to catch him.

Eight points, then. Taking me to 14 which is two more than the 12 I needed to move up to Cat 3. So up I go, and there ain't no going back. Given that this was my season's goal, I get 10 months off now. Either that or make some new goals, I guess.

Big thanks are due to Dave Smith in all of this. It's less than six months since I asked him to sort me out and in that time I've gone from sprinting for last to sprinting for first, and I'm 12kg lighter and a whole lot fitter. If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle bage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy. By miles.

Thanks to Huw Fairclough for permission to use the image

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.

30 comments

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Martin Thomas [385 posts] 4 years ago
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Inspirational stuff Dave, well done!

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thebongolian [49 posts] 4 years ago
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Chapeau

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notfastenough [3734 posts] 4 years ago
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Fantastic! You going to try mixing it with the third cats then?

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jcobb [1 post] 4 years ago
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by the way, Jack is a 1st year junior  3

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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jcobb wrote:

by the way, Jack is a 1st year junior  3

yeah, he looks the real deal though.

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Quince [380 posts] 4 years ago
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Does this mean your racing schedule will be much different? Do you have any glittery 3rd cat races twinkling away in the back of your mind? They get a bit more interesting, don't they? 3rd Cat and beyond?

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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Quince wrote:

Does this mean your racing schedule will be much different? Do you have any glittery 3rd cat races twinkling away in the back of your mind? They get a bit more interesting, don't they? 3rd Cat and beyond?

there's lots of 3/4 racing over the summer at castle combe, odd down and elsewhere round here. so i expect i'll try to do some of them. i'd love to try a road race but i think that's a longer term project as i expect i'd get a serious kicking if i tried one now.

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Dave Smith [47 posts] 4 years ago
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Well done Dave, you put a lot of work into it over the last few months. I suppose the pressure is on me now to move up a category!

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millskid [45 posts] 4 years ago
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well done! I hope you continue to race and blog about it.

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pj [147 posts] 4 years ago
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Good work big fella. Will get the cowbell out and come heckle soon. Be warned.

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charlierevell [38 posts] 4 years ago
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Great effort Dave.... you just had Chris on the line for 2nd I think. Both of you have moved up to 3rd now so can be some continued rivalry!
Was a tough race on Saturday, the 2/3's had some weird winds, as you mentioned, not the normal direction!

Strangely powers were running about 5% higher than normal cant work out if thats due to the way the race played out or the wind. It was a frustrating race!

As for taking on a road race... its not as tough as you think, more people end up bunching in groups than leaving you solo.
One of the early season ones would be great before everyone starts to really battle it out!

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AnalogueAndy [30 posts] 4 years ago
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↑ This is why I Commissaire  1

it's been great watching you (and lots of the others) enjoying using the circuit for what it is meant for. (Apart from the scrapes on the tarmac but that's racing).

(Don't give all the secrets away though!)

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AnalogueAndy [30 posts] 4 years ago
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↑ This is why I Commissaire  1

it's been great watching you (and lots of the others) enjoying using the circuit for what it is meant for. (Apart from the scrapes on the tarmac but that's racing).

(Don't give all the secrets away though!)

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abudhabiChris [691 posts] 4 years ago
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Awesome - congrats and well done.  41

It wasn't as hard as you thought was it?

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alotronic [635 posts] 4 years ago
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Good one Dave, just that SR to go this year then?!

Nice to see someone on the, err, Thor Hushovd end of the racing weight scale doing something right - power to weight is the key I guess. Note to self, lose 12kg!

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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alotronic wrote:

Good one Dave, just that SR to go this year then?!

Nice to see someone on the, err, Thor Hushovd end of the racing weight scale doing something right - power to weight is the key I guess. Note to self, lose 12kg!

my yardstick is always magnus backstedt. if he can finish the tour de france at 90kg plus, what's my excuse?

SR starts next week with a gentle 200km  1

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Cyclist [295 posts] 4 years ago
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' If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle cage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy.'
^^^^  41

Unless you are already where you want to be... Give me lite and Gucci things  16

Congrats mate.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 4 years ago
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' If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle cage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy.'
^^^^  41

Unless you are already where you want to be... Give me lite and Gucci things  16

Congrats mate.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 4 years ago
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' If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle cage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy.'
^^^^  41

Unless you are already where you want to be... Give me lite and Gucci things  16

Congrats mate.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 4 years ago
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' If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle cage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy.'
^^^^  41

Unless you are already where you want to be... Give me lite and Gucci things  16

Congrats mate.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 4 years ago
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' If you want to spend money on making your riding faster, forget that carbon bottle cage: a proper training plan is the best upgrade you can buy.'
^^^^  41

Unless you are already where you want to be... Give me lite and Gucci things  16

Congrats mate.

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backflipbedlem [1201 posts] 4 years ago
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Wahey Dave! Well done dude!!!!
 41

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backflipbedlem [1201 posts] 4 years ago
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Wahey Dave! Well done dude!!!!
 41

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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abudhabiChris wrote:

It wasn't as hard as you thought was it?

in the end, i guess not: i mean, the two races i picked up points in didn't feel like the fastest, for sure. but i'm not sure how much of that was down to the fact that my fitness was picking up and how much was down to them actually not being quick.

certainly the pace at ludgershall a few weeks back was affected by the conditions, it was a bit sketchy. and when the crash happened on the home straight on saturday the pace went out of the race. that much is obvious from the lap times on strava, like i said they went up about 10 seconds a lap.

on the other hand the last three laps were pretty quick and the final lap was the fastest lap of odd down i've managed. and looking at the pics of the finish it's not like we were battling with the whole race for the line, we'd opened up a decent gap for the first three places and it was very strung out. so i must be doing something right.

the first cat 3 race will no doubt be an eye-opener  1

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Quince [380 posts] 4 years ago
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Well enjoy the time until then, with your eyes blissfully closed.

I've got my first race in a few weeks, which is the first thing I've ever had to properly train for. Training with the local club seems to have resulted in some bizarre improvements, but I've yet to test them in a real race; I've got no idea of the standard I'll be racing against. That'll be a real eye-opener.

This blog was one of the motivators for me to take out a licence, so I thank you for that, and I'm glad it's going well. I look forward to your adventures in Cat 3.

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James Warrener [1086 posts] 4 years ago
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Well done pal  1

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tom_w [239 posts] 4 years ago
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Very well done indeed, very inspiring

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charlierevell [38 posts] 4 years ago
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Provisional results are just out and say you won... they never have been that good at counting up there!  7

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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no sign of the winner on there at all  39

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dave atkinson [6529 posts] 4 years ago
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Looks like i'm now confirmed as second. and also as Cat 3  1