On Saturday 22nd January my Dad and I undertook the seven-and-a-half-hour (in total) journey to the National Velodrome of Wales in Newport to race the first round of the Icebreakers Series. I was slightly nervous, as this was my first proper race in a ‘national U16’ field this year. Riders had travelled from the far corners of the UK to race. So, no big deal, right? There were 48 entrants for the Youth A Boys, so they placed us in two heats of 24 riders each. The top twelve from each heat qualified for the final race, a second 40-lap points, which would help decide the overall.
Having got there and got organised. I completed my warmup, then it was time to race the first event, the 40-lap Scratch. Nervous energy flowed through my body. The whistle went. We were off. A big attack formed itself a couple of laps in, with Fin Tarling and Hudson Hendry disappearing off the front. We did see them again, unfortunately it was when they joined back on the group after taking a lap. This put the race’s energy out of kilter slightly. No longer were the sprinters licking their lips at the thought of the win coming in the final few laps. The race was as good as sealed at that point. A few riders, including myself, made various efforts off the front to try and undo their deficit, but to no avail. I rolled across the finish line 8th overall.
Next race, the 40-lap points. Five points available to the leader every ten laps. A good way to take the lead, unless of course the guy leading the overall wins all four sprints. To all the riders, except one’s disappointment, that happened. On the brighter side, I picked up a few of the lesser points and took second in the final sprint to take second in the race’s overall, which moved me up in the rankings.
The third and final heats race was the Elimination. I manged to place myself in the first half of the bunch, performing a tactic known as Ducking and Diving (just watch Elia Viviani race an elimination to see how this tactic is played out). As the volume of riders in the bunch lessened, I took to performing a different tactic: Sniping. This is where a rider picks off the back riders each lap, sometimes boxing them in before rolling them, sometimes just using sprint speed to get past. I was able to carry on doing this up until the last four, where I got my timing wrong and left it too late. This meant I qualified fifth in my heat, therefore, qualifying for the final.
The final race of the day; the 40-lap points. Unlike the first points, there were sprints every eight laps. At this point in the day, my body was absolutely knackered, this meant I spent the first 38 laps hanging on to the back of the group, following the wheels and hoping a big attack didn’t split the race up. Fortunately the big attack went with about five laps to go, and only involved two riders: Fin and Ethan Storti. With two laps to go I surfaced at the front and gave everything I had left, opening a small gap and rolling in, in third, with Ethan taking the final ten points. This placed me sixth in the points race, with Fin taking the overall win.
To conclude, it was a great day out (or should I say in), with some amazing rides from some quick guys. Not bad for an early season race.
I would like to thank my Dad for taking me, and Newport Velodrome and Welsh Cycling for hosting the event.