Guildford Town Centre Races always pulls in a big crowd, numerous sponsors, and plenty of prizes including primes and aggressive rider award. The course itself is a tight circuit around the cobbled high street that was used for the sprint finish in the 2012 Tour of Britain, won by Mark Cavendish. Each lap starts with a descent down the very broken road of North Street, a right angle corner into a climb up an alley way, before another right angle corner onto the cobbled high street and a climb back to the start.
The Guildford Town Centre Race attracts some of the best riders from the region including UCI team Pedal Heaven and women’s elite team Ford EcoBoost. In previous years, talent like Joanna Rowsell and Jon Dibben have ridden here.
I was to ride the women’s race. I wasn’t expecting much as I don’t train for these sorts of races. In fact my training has been pretty limited recently. My training volume and intensity was reduced in May/June while I was doing my finals, followed by three weeks of illness and exhaustion. Thankfully, I’ve been feeling better this week and was looking forward to some fun on the bike.
The evening started with the U8 race as the Guildford Town Centre Races caters for all ages (see top picture). They were to complete three laps of the circuit which looked to be challenging for such small legs! Some of these kids are really impressive though.
Then disaster struck in the junior race when three girls slid out on the final corner. Two ambulances were called out and the girls were isolated in neck braces and kept still on the course. The temperature was dropping and they must have been getting cold and they were kept there for 1h30. This held up the following senior races by almost two hours. The sun was going down, it was getting dark and chilly, and the seniors were getting stiff, cold and hungry on the start line, uncertain of when or even if their races would start. I regretted not bringing extra layers with me but did squeeze in a very quick second warm up once our race was confirmed to start in 15 minutes. The cost of choosing to warm up again was arriving last to the start line and starting at the back.
The first lap had a sprint prize so the pace was insane from the gun. I was averaging 191 bpm from lap 2 and peaked at my max of 196 mid race. The corners and the cobbles quickly split the riders up. I got a poor start from the back but was able to slowly pick riders off up the climbs and by taking the inside line of the corners. I was feeling sick and my lungs were burning. I glanced down to see how long we’d been riding. 2 minutes 50 seconds!!!! Oh dear. This was really really going to hurt. But if you’re hurting, others are hurting too. After 5 minutes I was already passing riders that had blown up. I started to blow myself 5 minutes before the end. In fact, my windpipe is still burning while I type this.
Thank you to Charlotteville Cycling Club, the many volunteers and the GTCR sponsors for putting on another first class event! And thank you to SSLL for continuing to support my racing, especially while I took a break from regular racing to finish my degree.