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My First Ever Race by Paul Baillie

Salt Ayre Winter Warrior series 7th March (10th out of 26) 1 point!

I know the course pretty well as I've done quite a few TT's there over the last couple of years. It's a pan flat 0.8m loop with 2 long straights.

I'd planned on arriving an hour or so before the 2.30 start to get my bike set up and give me enough time to get a proper warm up in but the traffic was bad so I only got enough time to do about 4 laps warm up. I ended up right at the back of the bunch as we were all waiting to set off and my nerves were really starting to bite, especially as I'd felt sluggish warming up and hadn't really felt great all week.

Anyway the race was 40 mins plus 3 laps so I had 3 goals - 1. Stay with the bunch for as long as possible 2. Try not to get lapped 3. Try to keep going even if I got dropped or lapped!

I've not lost as much weight as I wanted and at 93kg I was clearly the chubbiest rider there and a day before my 35th Birthday I was starting to wonder what the hell I was doing!

As we set off, the pace was ok until the first half lap was over then quickly upped to about 25mph which I was ok with but being at the back was difficult with the big changes in speed for the corners so I decided to try and move up towards the front which I found a lot easier than I thought I would. Once up near the front I found it difficult to find a wheel to follow and often found myself riding about 4 or 5 off the front but into the wind. As the race wore on I was more confident in holding my own space and started to feel better as I realised I was ok with the pace.

Then it went a bit crazy for 3 or 4 laps when a couple of guys jumped off the front and everyone decided to chase them. Then another couple went off so everyone decided to chase hard again. I was feeling the surges in my lungs and my HR was very high. I knew I couldn't handle another 20 mins at this rate. Thankfully the pace slowed slightly once people realised a break wasn't going to get away but soon after this there was actually a split but I found myself at the back of the lead group of about 7. I had put in a decent effort to hang on and was in no position to pull on the front and everyone else thought the same thing so it all came back together as the 3 to go board went up.

As we came round with the 2 to go board I felt strong and started to move up to the front before kicking and seeing if I could get away. It was a token effort really and I shouldn't have done it but hey-ho I was excited!

I let the bunch swallow me up after about 10 seconds of glory and as a result I mis-judged my speed going round a corner and ended up on the grass and nearly on the floor! I managed to keep on 2 wheels and re-joined towards the back. I thought my chances of a decent finish had gone but the pace slowed again a little as we took the flag. I found myself being able to slip up the outside quite easily as we headed down the home straight and round the last bend. There was a group of 4 or 5 off the front as the sprint opened up and I managed to pass a couple of others on my way to line for 10th place.

Overall I am very pleased with the result but I know I could have been in better positions for most of the race and should not have attacked when I did.

I'll be there again on Saturday, trying to learn from my mistakes!

Link to the ride is here

https://www.strava.com/activities/264346004

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