(Photo by Lucy @ Imperial RT who organises the Winter Series)
See that rain? I’ve not ridden in anything quite so torrential in ages. Or so cold.
On the plus side my white Mavic Razors are not as muddy as they were and look almost white. It’s not that I’m too lazy to clean them at home, it’s just I’ve not found a way of doing it without making the sort of mess that gets small children sent to bed without their supper.
The conditions presented an attire question: Wear a rain jacket, gilet or no waterproof? In the end I went with none of the above and stuck with a baselayer and midweight jersey.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m the sort of rider who heats up a lot and sweats it out so when racing in winter I need to find a balance so I don’t end up soggy and cold. But mainly the issue is ending up cold.
The baselayer is one of the best I have found anywhere. It’s by Falke and has been good enough to keep me feeling comfortable down to -20 in at Kicking Horse. I think it’s their Athletic Warm long sleeve.
Men, ask your most trusted female friends and they’ll probably roll their eyes in despair that you’ve only just discovered Falke. I got mine in TK Maxx (Hammersmith and High Street Kensington) ridiculously cheap. Good fortune as I’ve found them harder to track down elsewhere.
I’ve never felt damp or overheated in the baselayer and the fit is such that I barely notice it. Not feeling the garment when you’re wearing it is always a hallmark of good quality gear for me.
Back to the race.
On the right day I quite like racing in the rain. I can handle my bike pretty well by my reckoning and so cornering in the wet doesn’t terrify me. Plus there’s a bit more respite when it’s wet.
The key tip for riding well in the wet is tyre pressure. I ran my Vittoria Open Pav´e; s at between 85 and 95 PSI which sounds low but gives a very smooth and predictable ride, the latter being key in the wet. The Open Pav´e; just looks right on a bike in the wet which is equally important.
I’ve been riding my Ridley Crossbow all winter and I’ve been using it for everything. It copes pretty well with racing as it does cyclocross and commuting. I like that in a winter bike. Biggest gear is 46/12 and at no point at Hillingdon did I feel undergeared for the level.
I spent most of the race trying to sit in the middle of the bunch and I think I did so better than my previous race. Still need to concentrate on not drifting backwards too easily.
There were a few digs but nothing that ever looked like sticking, so it was more a case of staying out of trouble and avoiding the splits that occur in the wet when riders aren’t confident through corners.
I stayed up near the front when it started to get a bit lively in the final few laps. Still a few places too far back to be useful and wasted too much energy trying to move up for the sprint.
When it came I was about 15 back but already on my limit so sat up down the back straight. There’s no point in burying yourself when you’re badly positioned and in no danger of getting a point.
For a different perspective on the race try James Curry or The Cycling Lawyer, Martin Porter, both of whom I race with fairly regularly at the moment and who were in the bunch as well.