Paul Moore takes his first win at Cyclopark
Since taking up road racing at the end of 2012 I’d never placed higher than third in a race, with all of my results coming as a result of getting into breaks, writes Paul Moore. The sort of rider I am – a bit on the heavy side and more of a diesel without much of a kick – means I have to be pretty damn lucky in order to place highly. So, for that reason, I’d always thought winning a race would take something of a miracle, and with fatherhood on the horizon, my chances of a win were becoming even slimmer…
So going into today’s 3rd cat race I saw no reason for things to be any different – maybe a top five placing, if lucky. I did a quick bit of research on the morning of the race, noting the numbers of three riders to keep an eye on, before making my way down to Kent on the train. The previous race before ours overran slightly and so we were only given one warm-up lap, a bit less than I would’ve liked. I was therefore thankful that our race started out fairly calm for the first couple of laps!
After that a couple of riders started getting frisky and putting in digs. By the 4th lap I was feeling well warmed up, so I decided to have a go myself. A few riders followed me and we had a small gap. After a stint on the front I tried to encourage those behind to come through to stretch the gap out even further, but they weren’t having it. The bunch caught up and as one of those behind came past he said “too early for me”. In saying that, he reminded me to be patient and race a bit more with my head. I do have a tendency to go a little too early sometimes and then pay for it in the later stages of races.
On subsequent laps there were more attacks, one by myself, none of which stuck. Around the halfway-mark two riders made a move which looked promising, one of whom I’d made a note of to watch. Unintentionally I’d ended up on the front just as they went, but rather than chase I decided to let them gain a bit of a lead, in the hope that others would eventually come past me and then maybe I’d be able to bridge over. What I’d hoped for was not happening though, much to my frustration! Everyone seemed content just sitting and waiting, meanwhile the gap grew. This went on for almost a lap, and so eventually I lifted the pace a slightly, just enough keep them within touching distance. I waved for others to come through and then eventually someone sprung from the bunch. Everyone was well rested though after a lap at almost club-run pace, and so the bunch chased, caught the rider attempting to bridge, followed by the two out front not long after.
I realised then that my only hope getting away would be to counter-attack late at a moment when others were feeling tired (assuming I had anything left!). I was thinking to try something with maybe 2 or 3 laps to go, but a good opportunity came sooner. With 5 to go there was an attack that was shut down almost immediately. I ended up on the front again at the end of that lap, going up the finishing straight and I was kicking myself at first, but it worked out well as it turns out. Three of the stronger riders who’d been trying to get away all race went at that moment. I tried to stay calm, allowing others to chase, just doing enough to close gaps but trying not to burn any matches. We crested the hill after the hairpin still riding fairly hard, but then the bunch suddenly eased up as they caught up with three attackers. I sensed at this moment the three at the front and those chasing behind might be feeling a little fatigued after their sprint efforts up the hill and out of the corner, so I went for it! Someone near the front shouted to alert the others to give chase, but there was hesitation and no-one seemed willing. I kept pushing without looking back and as I reached the left-hand hairpin I finally gave a glance back and saw the gap was BIG. Seeing this spurred me on. I settled into riding at threshold and kept telling myself only “15 minutes of pain, less than one Richmond Park lap!”
I still wasn’t convinced I could actually win at that point. I thought others would probably bridge over and I’d eventually get beaten in a sprint. But the gap kept growing over the next lap and a half. I suppose most were thinking a lone rider wouldn’t last and at the same time they were probably watching each other, saving themselves for a bunch sprint. On the second to last lap, I noticed a couple of riders attempting to bridge and the bunch chasing them hard behind. The gap was definitely coming down now. I tried to stay calm and keep the watts steady and high. With each switchback I could see the bunch getting closer to the two riders and therefore closer to me!
Finally the bell lap came and I was starting to tire. I was still sure that I would get caught, but kept it going anyway. It wasn’t until I reached the penultimate corner that I realised I might actually be in with a chance of winning. This gave me a sudden burst of energy up the final drag. I gave one final glance back, just to make sure, before crossing the line giving it a single handed fist pump (never did learn to ride no-hands!), still in disbelief that I’d actually won my first race. My lucky day!