This Saturday saw Sotonia riders head to Bath for a first taste of 2016 road racing – club racer, James Peckham reports on the early season action:

“It seemed strange to be rocking up to a race in mid January, particularly on such a cold winters day, but this was the 4th round of the Odd Down Winter series. There were 4th cat and women’s races earlier in the afternoon, with the final race of the day a 2/3 crit. The course is a purpose built technical circuit on the top of Odd Down, while cold it was unusually calm. Talking to other riders the wind usually plays its part in making the race hard. There was a good field of about 35 with some strong 2nd cats and a large local contingent of Bath and Bristol riders. Sotonia was represented by Andy Mackay, Ben Scott-Munden and myself. Other local riders of note were Jamie Franklin (Venta), James Champken (St Raphael) and Jed Weber (Andover).

The race started hard, Bath Uni riders making themselves prominent near the front. After 10/15 mins things slowed down slightly as we assessed the damage, a lot of riders already pinged off the back of the group. After about 20 minutes I realised one of the dropped riders was actually the leader, he had 20 secs on us half way round. I found out later that Liam Bromiley (Bath Uni) had done this and won in the previous two races! I stayed alert during the race keeping position and watching riders I thought were dangerous (clearly didn’t do this well enough!). Andy and Ben were comfortable in the group, with Andy moving to the front a couple of times to keep the hurt on. A fast course with no natural obstacles meant the race was quick with a 26mph average, but it felt quite comfortable to keep with the group. With 4 to go things picked up again and I put in a few digs to move up and follow surges. With a big effort on the penultimate lap I was quite well positioned in the top ten. Round the last two corners I was on the outside which as the longer way round wasn’t ideal and in the final corner I was caught behind a slowing rider causing me to check my sprint. Opening up again I was too far back for top 5, but got up to speed and held 7th place in the bunch. This was 8th overall. Andy finished 12th, just behind and Ben finished with the group after a quite literally eyeballs out effort.

I’m pleased with how the race went, considering I was racing with 2nd cats and after a heavy block of training. Glad the winter training looks like its working! I’ve got a light week ahead of me before a return to Odd Down next weekend, then looking ahead to Perfs Pedal race and some sporting TTs at the end of February. I’d recommend getting to Odd Down to get early season racing in, it’s a good circuit with proper changing facilities, showers and a café!”