The Bobby Crilly Memorial road race was the second of my double header weekend. It would be the first road race that, on paper at least, would really suit me. A lumpy 3 laps followed by a mountain top finish on the mountain that overlooks Belfast. I had never been up that mountain but always wanted to every time I was in the area.
The race distance was only 80 kilometres with about 1000 meters of climb overall – much of which comes in the last 10 kilometres with the final 2 kilometres averaging 9%.
Mel and I were both taking part in the race and she was set to start 4 minutes ahead of my group (Senior A/Elite). As our group got underway we immediately settled into an efficient pace line – of the 20 or so in our group, 14-15 were giving good pulls at the front, so it was a little after completing our first lap that we caught the 'B' group. The pace became a lot more choppy now as there was a huge headwind the whole way around the course with people not wishing to work on the front. About 6-8 of us stayed around the front of the bigger group and drove us on to catch Mel in her group.
Three quarters way around the last lap we caught the lead of the race – it was on a long descent that turned onto 2 minute climb at about 4%. I felt a little sorry for the folks we just caught – our group rode straight through the group and once hitting the climb accelerated hard (For the first minute of the climb I averaged 600W).
A little after this a few people went off the front – there was still a long way to go into a lot of wind and I was cautious about spending too much energy in a small group so I sat in what was now the main bunch. The kilometres ticked by and a few more went up the road. I felt that the group was going too slow up the draggy climb to the main climb so bridged a 30 second gap up to 3 riders. After 4 minutes I caught them just before a 2 km descent, they allowed me to sit in as they worked well together to the base of the main climb. Once we turned onto the climb up the final mountain the wind miraculously stopped and I went into hillclimb mode. I no longer cared about drafting etc.. just getting up the hill quickly. With about 3.5km to go in the climb I spotted the race leader well ahead. I looked at where he was, and then the time I was when I passed that position and judged his lead to be around a minute and 10 seconds. Between him and me there were still 4-5 riders. I put my head down and rode as hard as I could to the top eventually passing everyone but the winner, Conor Murphy – he pipped me by 17 seconds (if only there was another few hundred meters to climb... or I bridged earlier... or...)
The race was very well run on a challenging course and Mel and I both really enjoyed the event. I really wish there were more road races like this. Finishing on the top of a big hill makes the race very 'honest'.
A report and results can be found here as well as pictures here.