An old boss of mine used to insist on establishing ‘minimum and maximum objectives’ before any customer meetings. It’s a good practice and I decided to apply it to my race weekend at Anglesey.
I can now exclusively reveal my secret objectives in increasing order of aspirationalityness.
- Have fun
- Prove I am fit to ride
- Regain pace and stamina gradually
- Ensure good body position
- Prove I am fit to race
- Don’t fall off
- Get drunk
- Get a sun tan
- Earn my first point of the season
To get to Anglesey you have to go from England, through Wales and out the other side, but stop just before you get wet. Only a little-known and truly god-forsaken rocky outcrop known as Ireland sits between Anglesey and America. It really is that bloody remote. But it has always proved to be worth the long trundle north-west and this weekend was no exception. A beautiful circuit perched atop the cliffs, bathed in sunshine and roasty-toasty hot as you like it. Apart from when it was raining.
Friday practice was a fine, dry day and whilst I was not apprehensive about riding after my crash two months ago, I was concerned about my actual fitness to ride the big bike. I have only just started physio and am still in a fair bit of discomfort – plus my collar bone has not yet started to knit so is held together with screws and a plate. Session one was properly painful and within a couple of laps I was fatigued. Buoyed on by Danny, I did session two and things got slightly easier. As the day went on, I felt more comfortable and concentrated not on going fast but rather ensuring my body position was correct (4). In all honesty I wasn’t convinced I had full race distance capability but at least I knew I was ok to ride (2), that was a relief and I resolved to do what I could on race days (3).
Conditions – dry
Grid position – 16th
Finished – 22nd, 21st in class
Points – 0
I qualified 15th for the first race, primarily due to a reassuring tyre choice on a patchy track. Worth noting I was put on grid position 16 because someone who didn’t qualify was given a position ahead of me on the grid – something I’d like an explanation for at a later date. This was a hard race – I was going backwards, in a lot of pain and was pretty much praying for it to stop. Red flag out at 2/3 race distance, result declared after 9 laps and I was bloody relieved, regardless of a lowly 22nd place. First time in a long time I was hoping for a race to end. Positives? I worked out why my starts are terrible and now have something to work on.
Conditions – dry
Grid position – 24th
Finished – 16, 15th in class
Points – 1
Race 2 was a fair bit later than race 1 and I had a chance to recover. With nothing to lose starting at 24th, I got into a great battle with Paul Joyce and started having fun (1). I reckon it might have been the hardest race I can remember, with sheer fatigue being the biggest issue. I managed to beat Paul to the line but was properly exhausted – however I was delighted to have made it through 13 laps of Anglesey, a demanding circuit which proved that I was fit to race (5) and as a bonus, I landed my first point of the season (9)!
Conditions – Wet
Grid position – 19th
Finished – 15th, 13th in class
Points – 3
Proper moist, this was, after downpours all night and continued rain into the morning. It was my first ride in the wet since my spill and my main aim was to not do anything stupid. I took it easy for a couple of laps, sitting behind a couple of bikes I know are not at my pace. I decided to pass when I was comfortable, but of course I had settled into their pace and couldn’t get past easily. I brought it home safe and bagged some points but it was an uninspiring ride – I was keen to get out again and actually push on in the wet. As it turned out, by race 4 the track had dried.
Conditions – Dry
Grid position – 17th
Finished – 13th, 13th in class
Points – 3
This was my opportunity to bring it all together. The sun was out, the track was dry, new rear slick and good front, I was feeling fresh and I had built myself up steadily all weekend. My start was less bad than usual as I now recognise what I do wrong, reassuring that I am improving that aspect. I made up a few places on the first lap and went about pulling back some more. Riding hard was much easier than it had been all weekend, I was physically tired but also focused and driven. I pulled in a few more riders and didn’t hesitate with the passes which felt good. My last pass was one I was particularly proud of, round the outside on a downhill left hander two corners before the line. As I completed it I actually thought to myself ‘shame Danny couldn’t have seen that’ – I found out later he was watching from across the track!
I brought it home in 13th and Danny was trackside, standing on a wall pumping his fist in the air. Not often you get that reaction for a 13th place, but I think everyone could see that I was riding well, showing aggression and was fit to maintain my pace for 15 laps. I couldn’t have asked for more and knowing that people are watching and willing me on makes all the difference in the world – Heidi, Steph, Travis, Danny, even the O’Connor brothers were watching my last race. I drove the four hours home with a grin across my sun-kissed mug (8) despite listening to Northern Ireland get beaten at the Euros.
Interestingly (IMO), I did my best time (1.13.9 – a second off my PB) on the last lap of the last race on the last day. So whilst I would have said lack of fitness was my biggest issue, once again I demonstrate that my speed always improves through time. I need to be able to go faster straight out of the gate…
In summary I took away seven points and proved I can ride race distance at a reasonable pace. Starts are improving with a new awareness of why they have been poor. My riding style has improved which has made a notable difference to how safe I feel getting power on earlier and braking later and deeper – work to do here but the foundations are in place. And I didn’t crash (6). Definitely a good result all round.
The observant amongst you will have noted that Races 1-4 delivered on most of my aspirational objectives with the exception of one – getting drunk, (7). I am glad to tell you that this was addressed on Saturday evening when the Cumbrian’s arrived en masse loaded with Prosecco and home made vodka. Hilarity and raucous behaviour ensued and this rider retired to bed suitable inebriated cuddling a pack of Liquorice Allsorts (7).