On the 2nd Wednesday of my stay (3rd October), the first round of the Nerang Twilight Criterium series was being held - perfect timing. It was due to kick-off at 5pm, so I was very keen to head out and try some Gold Coast racing.
Arriving about 4:30pm, I did a quick spin around the circuit to see wheat I was in for. The circuit is at the same location as the Nerang Velodrome, with the criterium circuit being a long loop around the outskirts of the 'cycling centre'.
The Nerang Velodrome, you can see part of the criterium circuit around the outside and behind the stand...
First impression - hilly!! There is a genuine, real hill on the criterium circuit - what was I going to be in for during this race?!
The circuit reminded me a little of Lakeside motor-racing circuit, a regular venue for criteriums used by the HPRW club near Caboolture, in terms of its hilliness. I knew this was going to test my legs, especially after a week or so of mainly easy riding whilst on holidays...
Off to registration which was a very smoothly run affair. After a chat with one of the commissaires, I was (thankfully!) put in C-Grade for the race. I paid my $10, pinned my number on, and rolled around the velodrome for a few laps to warm my legs up.
Around 20 or so riders lined up in C-Grade. The commissaire announced it would be 40 minutes + 3 laps, and sent us on our way. D-Grade (30min+3) and a combined A/B Grade (50min+3) were also racing on the circuit at the same time.
First time up the hill, and my legs were already hurting! I've talked before about my lack of hill-climbing ability, and so this circuit certainly was NOT playing to my strengths... I decided that I would just work as hard as I could, and see how long I could last for, setting myself the goal of at least making it to the halfway mark (20min) before getting dropped.
To my surprise, I was stronger than I expected! I ended up lasting the whole race, only drifting off the back when the race exploded up the hill on the final lap. My legs handled it really well - I wasn't a front-runner on the hills, but I was able to stay in touch and not dangle off the back...
My performance was a genuine surprise to me, my first real test on a hilly circuit in a long time and I was able to handle it! Further proof that my training and form are both heading in the right direction, and another big confidence and motivational boost.
Stats for the race (if I remember correctly) were 45min of racing, covering 26-ish km at an average speed of 35.5km/hr.
If yo get the chance to race at this circuit - do it. It is a genuinely 'honest' circuit that gives you a great test of your legs. The organisation was terrific as well, running very smoothly.
So what's next?
I'm off to Canberra for the next week, meaning a week off the bike. Then I've got the Northshore Open Criterium (Brisbane) and the Be Better Psychology Open Criterium (Toowoomba) on consecutive Sundays - it'll be interesting to see how I go in much faster Open fields with my current form...