My strategy when it comes to commuting on my Brompton is to get to and from work safely.
There are some bonuses to using a bike, such as being more cost effective than using public transport and that it improves my fitness. The fun aspects are the Silly Commuting Racing (and Strava when I remember to use my smart phone) but with LVRC races looming I have started giving thought to race tactics.
Tuesday evening, I paused at the t-junction checked it was safe to turn left and then sprinted out of the saddle to get up to speed. I could see another cycle commuter about 100 feet up the road and set about reeling him in. There was quite a headwind and it felt like pedalling through treacle, so it was a relief to catch up with the other rider and sit on his wheel for a bit. He looked familiar and we've swapped scalps previously; I recognized his jersey, his backpack and lights but he was on a new road bike - ooh, I know what you got for Christmas.
I think he noticed that his legs were lit up by my front light and he glanced over his shoulder, spotted me (the troublesome Brompton rider with front mounted bag and wearing my usual nutcase helmet, chino trousers, regular shoes and a bright hi-viz Altura jacket) so he flicked it down a few sprockets to make it fun for me. I was glued on as I was keen to get a bit of assistance with the headwind. I did consider moving around him to do my share on the front but each time I put my nose into the wind he upped the pace determined not to lose his scalp.
I have to add that he was a decent cyclist and gave me the regular hand signal warnings for pot holes and dangerous drain covers. I also applaud him for seeing the light and for no longer being an RLJ (as he previously used to jump red traffic lights in our other SCRs).
As we climbed up to Tower Hill I imagined that I could find myself in a similar situation in a forthcoming LVRC road race, hitting a climb into a headwind with another rider to beat to the finish line. What tactic would I deploy?
I waited for my opponent to do a right shoulder check before he moved across the lane on the climb. I stayed to his left and my tactic was to dive up the inside, gain some distance to not give him shelter and then race for the lights. It worked. I put my head down and upped the cadence on my 2-speed Brompton, putting a couple of bike lengths between us and kept the intensity going. The lights stayed green and we both sprinted across the junction. The race to the lights may have been won but I still wanted to stay ahead and now my legs were screaming at me and my heart rate was bouncing off the rev limiter. I wasn't sure whether I was going to wet myself or be sick first.
There was no way I thought I was going to keep the scalp but I dug deep and continued pedaling as hard as I could. I moved to the left of the cycling lane to provide adequate passing room as I was sure it was going to happen imminently. I freewheeled down the hill to try to recover so that maybe I could make another attack over Southwark bridge but a quick shoulder check revealed that I wasn't the only one suffering and I had maintained a reasonable lead. The scalping was going to stick today - the first fun SCR of 2013.