A classic first race experience

Armed with the accumulated advice from various clunmates I tootled down to the Lea Valley Cycle Circuit, better known as “Eastway”, this morning to take my first crack at criterium racing. I took me an hour or so to get there, which is about as long as the racing lasts – one hour and five laps is the standard duration.

Which is well over twice as long as I lasted. My computer says I lasted 26 minutes and a touch over 15km before I had to pull off the circuit, sit down and vomit. It felt much longer and certainly more painful. By that point I had been lapped once and was lying way off the back, possibly in last place.

I’m pretty narked that I didn’t manage to get round and at least finish but when I pulled off I was beyond my safe point and drifing all over the track through inability to concentrate. If you hunt about the internet you’ll find this isn’t an uncommon experience for first time racers – DNF is marked down early in many club riders racing career and nothing to be particularly ashamed of.

Where did it go wrong? Apart from not being quick enough there’s several areas where I didn’t make it any easier for myself:

  • Far too timid and polite. This resulted in me drifting far too quickly through the pack and dangling on the back before the first lap was out. British reticence has no place in this sort of race.
  • Not sitting tight enough to wheels. This meant I ended up sitting in wind I didn’t need to be taking. Admittedly, it was a bit blowy today but if had been tighter there would have been less.
  • Over-fuelling. Necking an energy gel about 10 minutes before the off and then trying to drink PSP 22 possibly contributed to the vomiting incident when I pulled off. Water would have probably done me fine.
  • Not knowing the course. This meant I was nervous into the corners and wasn’t able to concentrate on when to brake and when to accelerate.
  • Not enough rest. My legs and body felt heavy and hot as I rode across town which suggests i need to not ride so hard all week.

What can I do to improve next week? In general I need to follow advice that makes sense and which any new racer should pay heed to here:


As a pretty good rider himself Guy knows what he’s talking about and his advice is readily followed by my more successful London Dynamo clubmates.

As it is I’m in a world of hurt and my lungs are grumbling malcontentedly about the pain I put them through this morning. My legs are also not making happy noises. Plenty of rest and recovery this week for me then I reckon. Hopefully next week I might actually get all the way round the race.

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