Race Report: Minet Crit with Owen Blandy
Saturday 4th August was the date for the 3rd Minet Crit and my first Minet Crit. I missed the first two having been injured and unavailable. And the weather gods continued to bless us with sunshine all day long!
The race is held at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, which is a fast-flowing circuit with a small rise and long finishing straight (that’s almost always a headwind!! As it was today!). It's a course with a lot of heritage and has been used for years hosting everything from a winter roadie series to duathlons and TTs.
The format was much like many other Fixed Gear Crits, being a qualification race followed by the main race.
Only this year, the qualifying race was only 5 laps, so roughly a 12-minute effort. Everyone who finished the qualifying would go through to the main race, so there was actually not a massive incentive to qualify well.
But I get caught up in the moment and always love to push myself so I watched a few attacks go before I moved up to 5th wheel. On the last lap, I then went over the top of a few people and finished 3rd with a half sprint effort.
This gave me a good grid position for the final and a chance at the PRIME!
After a few hours of socializing, sunbathing, and spectating the B race and the Women's final, I began my warm up process. This was heavily rehearsed and structured - I did figure of 8's in the pit area for about 10mins... ;)
Ten seconds to go and I’m keeping myself focused on the grid. It's all too easy to get wound up and then energised, and then totally mess-up your clipping-in. Which is critical in any Fixed Gear Crit.
I got a good start and accelerated forward with Euan from Nvyark. A good 10 second effort took me to the front with a few others before the attacks started. I watched one go and remained calm in the group, not really thinking about the PRIME. But the group reacted and we brought the rider back. Another few attacks went by weaker riders, so I reacted and kicked on and joined the party.
I was a good 15-20 bike lengths back from the now solo attacker. So I just got myself low and started to get into a tempo rhythm. Before long we were already on the back downhill straight, so I kept the power down and caught him on the headwind finishing straight. I sat on his wheel for a few meters before attacking again and taking PRIME pretty comfortably in the end.
Now, there are two options for me: Continue on, and try and gain some time on the peloton or sit up and wait for the group. The race was only 30 mins, so pushing on could've been a good option, as I have a fairly decent threshold and can hold good watts for 30-45 mins. But I decided against it and sat up waiting for the group, inevitably counter attacks started straight away. Two riders managed to get a decent 10-second gap.
I managed to stay with the top 5 and encourage others to chase for a few laps before then returning to the front with my team mate Edgars. We worked together with short turns to bring the break of 2 riders back and eventually got them on the finish straight after around 6 of the 15 laps.
For the next 5-6 laps, no break materialized and the peloton was riding at a good pace, but nothing out of my comfort zone. I yo-yo’d up and down the peloton somewhat, resting and trying to bring team mates up with me. It was a good quality race with some decent riding and good communication between riders.
Fixed Gear Crits are often seen as more dangerous than roadie ones. I can understand the reasons for this, but I believe it is slightly exaggerated as the races tend to flow better with no-one slamming on the brakes or trying to cut each other up. Track bikes like going in straight lines so the cornering is smoother for the whole peloton.
Break and Counter Attack
Back to the race though and a solo rider had attacked with 4 to go, I watched him dangle and get a slight lead of 5-10 seconds before deciding to join him. I bridged across fairly easily with a strong attack through the technical front half of the course. As I bridged across I made him stay on the front for a few more seconds so I could get some "Micro-Rest".
I often use this mentality in races by banking tiny amounts of rest either on a rider's wheel or by easing off around a corner. I'm not sure if the physiological response is beneficial or if it's simply a trick of the mind, but it feels positive to me!
We were working well together and managed to stay away for about 2 laps with a 10-15 second gap before my breakaway partner broke the news I didn't want to hear!! He was fading and couldn't pull a turn. So, I goaded him into doing one last effort for me on the final corner before trying to go solo. However, our lead had narrowed somewhat and by now it was down to 5 seconds. I sat up and melted back into the group for the last lap.
By now, the pace was really high and riders were edging forwards to get some sort of positioning for the sprint.
I was sceptical over the safety of a bunch sprint with only 3 main teams and many inexperienced riders. So, before I had weighed it up in my mind - I had attacked again as hard as I could. I didn't expect anyone to chase solo as the group were massing for the sprint. I didn't look back and just hammered down through the technical corners and back straight. Round the last corner and into the headwind sprint.
I was burying myself with any energy I had left. I granted myself a slight glance behind me through my legs and saw the pack baying for glory.
I managed to get a half decent sprint going and was clinging on. I began to see the grid markings on the tarmac, I was dreaming of the win. People were screaming and ringing bells, I could see the chequered flag poised - And then 1 rider flew past, and another and just on the line, 1 more!
I couldn't even manage a bike throw I was so empty - But 4th place and a PRIME was a good return for all the effort.
That being said, when I race I like to have fun, I rarely sit in the bunch waiting for something to happen. I'm not a pro-cyclist and will never be, so why be conservative? Riding bikes should be fun, it's not all about racing, but this is something I particularly enjoy so I race hard and gamble with my efforts.
Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't - but at least you can finish the race knowing you gave it a go and emptied the tank!
Thanks to Kevin and his team at @WhiteCityTrack for working so hard and ensuring the race went smoothly.
· Quirk Cycles ELF Crit frame - 54'
· Halo Carbaura Wheels
· InfoCrank Track Power Meter - 165mm
· Gear Ratio 48/14
· Fizik Saddle and Finishing kit
· Cole Coatings Paint job
· Vittoria Corsa Gumwall Tyres - 25mm
· Nutrition was Maurten 320 Drink Mix and 2 Pulsin Beond Berry Bar
· Biehler Custum Speedsuit
· Bell Zephyr Custom Helmet
· Giro Empire SLX (Speedplay)
· 100% Speedtrap Glasses
Photos by @JeviRepponen and @frankie_snells_photography