If you think this is over then you’re wrong

It’s like I’ve fallen out of bed from a long and vivid dream
Finally I’m free of all the weight I’ve been carrying…

Oh yes.

After a – frankly quite ridiculous – total of 38 races spread over two full seasons I have finally achieved the bare minimum of what I set out to do at the beginning of last year.

I am a 3rd Cat road racer.

Not for me the instant gratification of a first-time-out victory; nor a speedy progression to the next level after just a handful of outings.  No, it’s been a bloody grind to be honest.

But that’s bike racing for you.  It’s not about fun and laughter, it’s about searching within yourself for the strength to be better than the other guys – whether that’s through natural talent, a more dedicated approach to training or just the nous and bravery to put yourself in a position to succeed (what it certainly isn’t about is cheating, but I’m not going to go there just now…).

Don’t get me wrong, I adore cycling; it has come to define me as a person and I’ve had countless wonderful chats and giggles while out training with team-mates, as well as quiet moments of bliss while riding on my own.  But as anybody who has followed this blog for some time will know, the racing bit is just… well… different to all that.

And so, when the moment of realisation came that I’d finally made it, the emotions were different too.

But more on that later.  First, the race itself.  Lining up at the start I had a rare feeling that it might be my day.  There were about half a dozen fewer starters than the week before, with even the usual Cyclopark powerhouses Dulwich Paragon only about three-strong, presumably because they’re finally running out of 4th Cats.

Once we got underway, though, I just didn’t really feel on my game.  I was never in any danger of getting shelled out, but something seemed to be missing and I quickly dropped back from a leading position to one towards the rear.  The folly of this was quickly shown up by a crash on the apex of the down-and-up hairpin, where a touch of wheels brought a couple of riders down and had me braking to a virtual standstill – hardly ideal at the bottom of the short climb out of the corner.  I got going again and chased back on, but was gasping for breath afterwards, a condition that took several laps to ease.

The race was a lot less lively than the week before, though, perhaps because we were going the other way around where the climbs are longer but shallower.  I was thanking my lucky stars that nobody went for a breakaway during the latter stages, making the job of clinging on that much easier.  I even had the presence of mind to consume my get-out-of-jail gel, although squeezing several blobs of very sticky and very sweet goo into an already dry mouth did as little for my breathing as it did for my taste buds…

I clung somewhat forlornly to the back of the bunch as the bell sounded for the last lap, sticking in there more in hope than expectation.  The final blow seemed to come when we passed the leading bunch of the women’s race on the tight final corner before the long drag up to the finish line.  I managed to get detached in the process and as the track straightened up I found myself about 10 metres behind the second-last rider.

Ah fucking fuck…

Then a weird thing happened: the bunch ahead slowed almost to a standstill, as if nobody wanted to be lead-out man up the final drag.  With little more than a few turns of the pedals I reached the back of them.

This is bizarre, we’re all just looking around and the finish line is only up there…

Clearly that thought had occurred to one of the other riders, a young chap who suddenly hared off on his own up the right hand edge of the track.

Shit, follow him!

Without even checking what gear I was in, and ignoring my aching legs, I seized the drops, stuck my fat arse in the air and had a go.

What happened next I still can’t adequately explain, not least because it all happened in a blur of fatigue.  It was as though the bulk of the other competitors had suddenly ridden into a large puddle of molasses while I sprouted wings.  I jumped from back to front in less time than it took you to read this sentence.

Oh my God, I’ve done it!

The moment of ‘victory’… (Photo from finish line video courtesy of Neil Stone)

With about 50 metres to go I could see that I was travelling much more quickly than all but a handful of riders, basically guaranteeing a place better than the 8th I needed.  So without even thinking about the possibility of actually winning the bloody race I just sat up and cruised the rest of the way to the line, pumping a fist and bellowing other celebratory pleasantries.

Maybe I lost a place or two at the finish – I very much doubt I could have won having started so far behind – but at the end of the day I don’t really care.  I’d rather have had the feeling I did on crossing the line – a feeling that would have been lost if I’d still been sprinting hell for leather, eyes down for a full house.

I was bloody pleased, I can tell you.  Bloody pleased.  I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave Cyclopark (now officially my favourite cycling venue…) for fear that the spell would be broken.  When I finally dragged myself away my emotions while driving back to my family ranged from a guttural roar to a river of tears.  Mind you, I imagine the M25 has that effect on a lot of people.

So, what now?  As the Radiohead-inspired headline states, my racing story is not over.  Maybe this blog is, though.  I don’t know yet.  For one thing, there may yet be a race or two to fit in before the season finally closes.  I just received my newly-minted 3rd Cat license in the post and it would be a shame not to use it…


Any folks tuning in this winter to catch up with my team-mate Rich Mitchelson’s cyclo-cross endeavours should take note of their new home, no less than ace cycling portal Road.cc – you can pick up on the first episode of the 2012/13 season here. I’ll be keeping the old stories from Rich’s debut season on my blog: to access them, click on the appropriate link under “categories” in the right-hand panel.

Posted in My road racing | 12 Comments

Mind games

One of the most enthralling aspects of watching the new Sky TV documentary about British Cycling (second only to playing ‘spot the Majorca roads I’ve ridden on’) is listening to the team’s resident psychologist, Steve Peters.

The training details in the programme I can’t really relate to – pro riders are of course in the sort of shape the likes of me could never even dream about: born physiologically superior and prepared to the nth degree.  But when Peters talks about racing cyclists’ mental frailties… now, that got me listening.

My wife, too, who dug me in the ribs at every mention of giving up, seeing the dark side of everything and generally losing the race before it has even started.  The ‘inner chimp’, Steve Peters famously calls it.  To me it’s always been ‘the other me’ a constant, nagging companion in my brain who questions everything I do, drags away any crumbs of positivity that I muster and generally acts like another c-word that doesn’t end in ‘himp’.

It’s really annoying, because either side of bike races I fairly burst with determination – visualising the route to that elusive victory or plotting how to put things right next time out.  It’s as soon as I’m on the start line that things begin to unravel… Ugh, why are there so many (insert name of team) here today… it’s too cold… he looks bloody strong… so does he… oh God, here comes another kicking… etc etc.

So it proved on my return visit to Cyclopark – breaking a pledge as I’d vowed never to race there again after my bruising debut a year ago.

A lot has changed in that year.  For starters the venue is no longer just a track surrounded by a muddy building site.  It now has a proper car park and a very nice clubhouse with actual toilets and running water, rather than a Portakabin with a bowser that nobody knew how to turn on.

At the start. I lined up ready for a quick getaway, not wanting to be at the back of the pace line on a twisty course (pic: Handsling Racing)

The track itself also seems to have mysteriously flattened – and straightened – out.  After the simply horrible race I did last year I had subsequently developed a picture in my mind of gargantuan slopes, each rise on the circuit equivalent to two Ditchling Beacons back-to-back.  I can distinctly remember being forced to change to the inner ring to tackle one of them in the final laps before I bailed out altogether.  I also distinctly remember about three or four more hairpins or other similarly nasty twisty bits.  At least I thought I did.

After two months of little or no training, due to work pressures, I should probably have expected a similarly brutal story this time around.  However, it just didn’t happen – in fact I turned out to be one of the more comfortable climbers in the field!  No doubt the absence of 3rd Cats (last year was a 3/4 race) played a big part, but it was still highly gratifying to be maintaining a decent position as the undulations whittled the bunch down to just over half its former size.  Perhaps old Cyclopark’s not so bad after all…

Seemingly content with the natural attrition rate, nobody was keen to make a serious stab at a breakaway, the massed ranks of Dulwich Paragon and Crawley Wheelers keeping in close attention at the front.  In fact, apart from the very erratic riding of one guy from the West Kent club the race was ticking along quite nicely, especially when West Kent blew up (probably due to having ridden about 10 miles longer thanks to all the weaving) and slipped behind at about three-quarters distance, much to the relief of everyone else.

It was then that I made my first big error, spurning the chance to take a gel while the pace was still relatively sedate.  Whether or not it would have made a difference nutritionally, it allowed my inner chimp to grasp at something negative and start working away.

Rather like my troubled attempts at slumber the night before, when a totally irrational fear that I’d left the garage unlocked had me tossing and turning, and the awful nervousness before the race that had literally turned my insides out, thoughts about my lack of suitability for this whole racing endeavour wormed their way into my consciousness and had me fretting when I should have been plotting.

It didn’t help that my previous race, at Hillingdon, had seen me run out of puff in the final couple of laps, something that had played on my mind ever since.  Sure enough, when the pace clipped up a few notches with two laps to go I started to struggle, certainly physically but also in the mind.

By then the ‘bunch’ had reduced to about sixteen of us, with a chap from the Brighton Mitre yo-yoing off the back and no one else in sight.  I was still there as we started the last lap, albeit towards the back of the little group.  Needing eighth or better to get my 3rd Cat license and knowing I’d been going well up the climb that would be the last before the line it was nicely set up for a barnstorming finish, just like I’d visualised in the days leading up to the race.

Except that when the time came to really lay it on the line – I mean really lay it on the line – I was found wanting.  I didn’t go to 100%.  I listened to my inner chimp and gave in to my (admittedly very real) fatigue.  The leaders slipped away and about 10 of them contested the final sprint, with a few other last lap laggards rolling over the line just before I arrived in sixteenth place (although I’m convinced it was a place or two better than that and a couple of lapped riders were in fact counted wrongly).

So anyway, here’s the post-race positivity.  It was a massive improvement on my last visit to Cyclopark.  I was fairly competitive despite a severely compromised training regimen.  I’ll be better for having that race in my legs.  And several of the top ten are no longer 4th Cats.

Well, there you go.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  All I have to do is turn up to next week’s Surrey League return fixture and victory is assured…

Posted in My road racing | 2 Comments

Did ya miss me?

Well, you’re going to have to go on missing me for a little while yet.  For the past six weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with work to the exclusion of just about everything else and, since my work is writing, I’ve naturally had precious little bandwidth for ‘leisure’ scribbles such as this blog.

My quest for 3rd Cat-dom has similarly stalled, with just one crash-ruined race at Hillingdon since I last posted.

I’ve barely trained lately, but I am going to have a dig at the pair of upcoming Surrey League 4ths only races, even though they’re at the dreaded Cyclopark. Beggars can’t be choosers, eh?

Normal blogging service will hopefully be resumed after the first of these, which takes place this coming Sunday…

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Can I play with madness?

On and on we go.

Point by agonising point, near miss by near miss, underachievement by underachievement, my slow – but inexorable – journey towards the ‘summit’ of the British Cycling 3rd Category continues.

That I should already have reached my destination and traded my cleats for pipe and slippers this season is beyond doubt, a case in point being my latest spurning of a truly gilt-edged chance to clinch the deal.

I can look upon it reasonably rationally now, almost two weeks later… a far cry from my reaction immediately after the race, when a pal from the Dunsfold series, Matthew, ambled up to see how I’d fared only to find me in a blind fury, beating myself about the head with my open palms while roaring obscenities sufficient to make a navvy blush.

Albert Einstein defined madness as continuing to do the same thing, hoping for a different outcome.  I disagree; true madness is the point you’re driven to when you know the outcome should have been different but you still commit the same old blunders to cock it up.

Racing at Eelmore was fast, furious and, ultimately, frustrating (pic: Colin Addison)

To further elucidate, the only tactical certainty about the Eelmore circuit near Aldershot is the need to be among the first handful of riders approaching the final hairpin before the home straight.  I knew this; I’d watched the videos on YouTube, thought about it non-stop beforehand, as well as talking about it at length with my clubmate Shane as we drove to the circuit.

So how the Hell did I find myself totally boxed in at the back of the small bunch as we sped downhill towards the final bend on the last lap?  Why wasn’t my thinking and tactical acumen up to the job?  After all, it’s not as though I’m some callow beginner, I’ve competed more than 30 times now.

The answer is that at the business end of a race I simply can’t get my brain to process all the data quickly enough to make up for the fact that I clearly have no natural mental aptitude for this sport, nor the bravery to put my neck on the line for a result.

Even in the moment of realisation that I’d cocked it up there was probably a small chance of redemption, if I’d immediately slowed, switched out into open space and just gunned it in the last few metres before the corner, taking my chances of a spill if I couldn’t make the turn at such a speed.

However, I dismissed this as the lesser option compared with just sitting where I was and hoping for the best in the sprint – a sprint I would of course be starting a country mile behind the first riders through the corner, given the reverse concertina effect tight turns have on racing bunches.

Sure enough, the leaders were almost out of sight by the time I’d straightened up and despite my strongest-ever sprint – properly out of the saddle and on the drops for the first time in race conditions – I could only make up half a dozen or so places and finished eighth… again.

Two more points, when four would have seen me home and dry.  Four that, with all due respect, I should have scored relatively comfortably, given my present form and the relative lack of opposition (only about 17 riders took the start and several of those looked like real beginners)

But anyway, the milk is spilt, no use crying further, stick the points in the bank and move on.

I kept in shape with a leg-sapping but ultimately fruitless sojourn at the Surrey League handicap in Kitsmead Lane last week, but now all eyes are on the return of the handicap series to Wivelsfield this Thursday, for what is my own and my team’s ‘home’ race.

If you’ve been with me since last season you’ll recall that Wivelsfield was the venue for my racing breakthrough, when, after some notable hammerings I finally put in a competitive performance, missing the points by just one place.

As a result, I’m targeting this year’s handicap fixture to finally secure those pesky points, perhaps a little unwisely given the calibre of riders who’ll no doubt be in it, but buoyed by the knowledge that a couple of team mates have pledged their support on the night.

Everything, including the ever-loyal family support club, is going to be in place.  Surely nothing can go wrong this time…

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What doesn’t kill you…

As the dust settles on the Greatest Weekend Ever for British CyclingTM it seems almost churlish to document my own meagre efforts; but though it occurred a world away from the sunny Champs Elysées I too can look back on a breakthrough of sorts.

Not in the Thursday evening Surrey League handicap race, of which more later.  And certainly not in the Saturday Cyclopark event I’d planned to race in either, as that fixture was unceremoniously canned by the Surrey League due to a lack of pre-entries.

Instead – and fittingly, given its role in fostering my competitive comeback – it was a wet and muddy Hove Park that provided the backdrop to probably the most satisfying performance of my racing career to date.

Thanks to the missus for shooting the video that let me make this short film of the race.

Though things worked out in the end, to begin with the omens were not good.  A rainstorm of biblical proportions hit us as we approached Brighton, leaving the roads awash and raising serious concerns in my mind as to whether the whole thing might be called off.  However, the organisers and riders are made of tougher stuff than that, so as soon as the rain eased we scrambled to get ourselves signed in and our bikes ready for action.

Despite the weather there was a field of almost 20 for the 4ths race.  As is customary, this fourth and final race of the series reverted to an anti-clockwise orientation.  This meant the tougher climb would come into play, as it did for both my races at Hove Park in 2011 (read about them here and here).

The hill, which follows a sharp, low-speed left hand turn, was my nemesis 12 months ago, steadily draining me of breath until I’d fallen off the back of the bunch to be lapped on multiple occasions by the leaders.  But that was then… would it be different now?  It was going to be an interesting comparison: in fact, with no Goodwood meetings in 2012 and even Dunsfold having changed its finish line location this year, the race provided a first genuine opportunity to directly measure my fitness and racing smarts against my inaugural season.

I placed myself on the front row for the start, happy to lead off in the knowledge that hanging at the rear is a potentially disastrous position in these races.  As the early laps unfolded I stayed in the first two or three, egged on by the encouragement of the missus and lad, who I’d badgered to come along in the hope that their presence would have its usual positive impact on my performance.

In typical Hove Park style, the bunch shed weaker riders at a steady rate, leaving no more than about 10 of us in contention for the money places.  But by half distance I too had started to flag, the hill taking its toll as I dragged my 83kg up and over it time after time.  At one point a curtain of pure fatigue lowered itself over my eyes and brain and I completely bungled my turn into the hill, starting my climb from the less than ideal position of the damp grass verge and probably giving the guy behind me a minor heart attack.

It was the prelude to worse tidings… I started to slide off the back.

For fuck’s sake come on, don’t you dare let them down!

In stark and happy contrast to earlier in the season, the voice in my head this time was ‘refuse to lose’ rather than ‘refuse to try’.  With my loved ones watching expectantly I had to claw my way back into the lead bunch, if it killed me.  A lap or so of all-out effort did the trick and I latched back on, mouth agape, puffing and wheezing like an old Mississippi paddle steamer and praying that the pace wouldn’t pick up again before I’d at least recovered to a level of exhaustion that wasn’t life-threatening…

Thankfully, it didn’t.  In fact, things seemed to ease up a fair bit, so much so that two riders we lapped were able to cling on to the back of us for the remainder of the race.  I started to get into a rhythm, timing my efforts on each lap to avoid going too deeply into the red and utilising my new-found bravery on descents to crouch low and leave the brakes well alone, allowing me to hold my position while basically freewheeling on the main downhill stretch.

Gasping for air as I crossed the finish line…

What I didn’t do, which in hindsight I should have done, was bully my way up my little group as the lap counter started to tick off the closing circuits.  Part of it was down to a lack of stomach for the physical arts of crit racing; part of it was a feeling that the last time up the hill would afford opportunities to gain places if I saved a bit of energy.  And of course most of it was because I was absolutely buggered and in a world of pain.

Sure enough, on that final charge I passed maybe two other riders up the hill but was too far back to gain any further places, finishing in eighth place.

The aftermath…

Even after a warm down lap I was still utterly shattered, as can be seen in the little movie shot by my wife on the night.  My average heart rate for the race was 162bpm and that included the warm down lap and at least the first three minutes of lying prone on the grass gasping for breath, before I remembered to press the ‘stop’ button on my HRM.

Eighth.  Two BC points.  Doesn’t sound a lot, but – believe me – on that course it’s a helluva thing… from multiple lappings to contesting the sprint: not a bad payoff for a year of hard work.



Every cyclist who has raced on the open road knows the shout that goes up when a car is approaching on a narrow lane.

I heard it, sure enough.  We were smashing our way down one of the twisty descents of the Newdigate handicap course, with me on the outside of the bunch and towards the rear, since we’d just been caught by the ‘scratch group’ of top riders.

No problem I thought, since I was near the white line but not across it.  However, it wasn’t a car.  It was a bloody great tractor that suddenly hoved into view – a tractor whose driver was using all of his road and a fair bit of ours, pressing on with no concession at all to the pack of bike racers now streaming past him.

There wasn’t even time to think, let alone brake.

A year ago I’d have been straight into him at just under 30mph, the results of which don’t really bear thinking about.  I’m a better rider now, thank Heavens; schooled in the art of using my body position to aid my descending and with reactions sharpened by hours of racing within jittery packs of 4th Cats.

Instinctively, I threw my weight to my left and angled my body away from the tractor as sharply as I could, managing to just squeeze past.  One of the riders behind me at the time came up after the race and told me he was 100% sure I was a goner and that even with the evasive action I missed the tractor by millimetres.

Bike racing… what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

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I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand…

I was just outside Cowfold, as my homeward journey snaked its way along the A272, when I could resist no longer.

A single tear of pure frustration idled its way slowly down my cheek.

It wasn’t alright on the night.

The final Dunsfold 4ths race of the 2012 season scarcely needs extensive reporting from Yours Truly.  Thirty-four men rode their bikes around a windswept airfield for a reasonably lively but ultimately fairly nondescript hour and a quarter, after which thirteen proved to have more sprinting speed than I could conjure from my lay-off rusty limbs.

All the Ditchling Beacon PB-busting in the world means absolutely jack shit when I’m three miles an hour slower in a sprint (with a similar tailwind) than two weeks before, having already struggled with the scarcely explosive pace changes of a typical 4th Cat race… pace changes I’d suck up easily as a rule.

There’s a certain feeling I get when I try to accelerate and the old legs are not working; a kind of nagging muscular pain that’s not like the normal pain of cycle racing effort, coupled with a failure to deliver even the relatively piffling power I can usually call upon.  I remember it well during the South Nutfield handicap straight after Majorca and Friday’s race, while not quite as acute, was similar.

The winner… and this was about as close as I got to him all night… (pic: Glyn Durrant)

In a way, the race proved to have the worst possible outcome, and I mean this with no disrespect whatsoever to the worthy winner, Colin Stevens from the VC Meudon club.  For you see, his victory provides sufficient grounds for hope to keep me devoted to this stupid quest for success, long after most sane individuals would have abandoned it as a waste of time and effort.

Why?  For starters, while our paths hadn’t crossed this year until Friday evening, in the eight times we raced together in 2011 I actually enjoyed a five-to-three winning record over Mr Stevens.  Also, it’s not as if he’s some up-and-coming junior open to vast year-on-year improvement – according to British Cycling’s race report he’s five years older than me!

I didn’t spot that it was him on Friday night; had I done so I would of course have gone up to him and asked what has made the difference to turn a (relative) plodder into a race winner.  As he has amply proven, it can be done.  Now it’s up to me to find the magic missing ingredient, maybe also get some luck with my sprint positioning (it won’t be achieved through skill or bravery, that’s for sure) and have my best legs on an occasion when the rest of the field is below strength, something I feel I’ve yet to truly enjoy.

Hope springs eternal.  Hope that will no doubt have received a further pasting by the conclusion of my upcoming ‘three-races-in-three-days’ bonanza.  This hectic schedule starts with a Surrey League handicap event on Thursday, which I intend to use as pressure-free leg stretcher to try to get some race form back.  Then it’s over to Hove Park for the last of the Mitre crit series for 2012, followed by a Saturday trip to Cyclopark for a 4ths only Surrey League encounter that will be only my second weekend race of the season.

Cyclopark was a mud-strewn, unfinished building site without even running water when I was last there in November.  The tight course with its sharp hill suited me about as well as a bow tie on a chimpanzee and after a miserable DNF I swore I’d never go back.  But needs must.  The Olympic-related curtailment of Dunsfold and my perennial 4th Cat status mean there will be precious few opportunities to race locally during the rest of August and September, so I have to grab what action I can.

In any case, 2011 performance is not necessarily a good guide to this year’s likely outcome.  Just ask Colin Stevens…

Posted in My road racing

The sands of time…

Oh Lord, here we go again.

At the start of the season I earmarked the Dunsfold 4th Cat series as my optimal route to the promised land of 3rd Cat-dom.  Well, that series finishes tonight, an early curtailment due to Olympic-related requirements at the venue, and I’m still a long way off the 10 points I need.  Less than half way there, in fact, with just four BC points currently in the bag.

Still, that’s two better than after my last, comeback-announcing blog post.  The latest pair were bagged from my most recent outing at Dunsfold, where for a fleeting moment I actually thought I was going to win the whole bloody thing before being dashed back to earth in the final, agonising 150 or so metres.

Back in action at Dunsfold (pic: Glyn Durrant)

My legs were good on the night and I had the added impetus of my wife and son being present as spectators, which always adds at least 5-10% to my performance levels.  I’d even implemented a degree of tactical acumen in the final stages, correctly identifying the attempts by two Charlotteville riders to form a mini sprint train and then latching myself onto the back of it.

This worked perfectly until about 100m past the final corner, when the Charlotteville train totally ran out of steam and I was forced round the pair of them and into clear daylight quite a bit earlier than is ideal on Dunsfold’s interminable finishing straight.

All the same, I’d previously preached the virtues of an early sprint in 4th Cat races so there was no option but to put that theory to the test by sinking as low on the drops as I could and hammering the pedals for all I was worth.

For about 100m nobody came into my field of vision.  I was really motoring, with the speedo (which was about an inch from my nose) showing a whisker under 38mph.

I’ve got it!  I’ve bloody got it!

Err, no.  Just then a small group of riders came past like they were on motorbikes.  I could scarcely believe my eyes at the speed they moved away from me.  I was still pedalling so hard that my front wheel was lifting off the ground with every other stroke, something that’s never happened to me before.  But, as usual, my best efforts weren’t enough.

In the closing few metres another couple of riders bested me, leaving me a disappointed eighth.  There’s no doubt that my early sprint cost me in the final stages; equally, using my training wheels (more on why later) with their 12-sprocket top gear was a mistake for a flat finish with a decent tailwind.  In fact, this very morning I’ve swapped in an 11-23 cassette… marginal gains, marginal gains…

The rest of my racing comeback post-Hove Park has scarcely been worth reporting.  So much so that I have not, as you’ll have noticed, reported it thus far.

But report I must.  To briefly summarise, I completed the Lewes Crits series… or at least I kind of completed it, if you count as completion standing freezing cold on the roadside to watch the finish after being unceremoniously dropped on lap two.  Vicious side winds and an even more vicious pace set by the massed ranks of the host club undid me.  It was a horrible night for racing and completed a miserable Crits series for my team, which scored no points for the first time ever.

My return to the 4ths series at Dunsfold saw me finish unlucky 13th.  I totally fouled up my position in the closing stages, getting pinned on the inside and then, ridiculously, forgetting to get down on the drops before opening up my sprint.  I chose to put that down to race-rustiness, although there were worrying echoes of some of my mid-season 2011 races in the sheer ineptitude of my tactical thinking.

Moments later the bloody tyre went down… (pic: Glyn Durrant)

My next outing resulted in another DNF, this time caused by a puncture in the Dunsfold Vets race on a night when I felt strong and a minor points scoring finish in my age group was a live chance, given the relative size and strength of the field.

The puncture occurred on my rear race wheel, which has been causing me so much bother lately with broken spokes, etc.  That’s why I didn’t rush to fix it before the 4ths race, preferring the rock solid reliability of my training wheels.  Dunsfold’s a long way to go just to end up walking back to the start/finish area…

So, there you have it.  You are fully up to date with all the fun and games.  And can probably understand why it’s been a while since I’ve bothered to blog!

As for tonight?  I have no idea.  I’ve been on holiday and did no training whatsoever while away, which should have taken a big edge off my fitness.  However, yesterday I managed to chop 20 seconds off my PB for the Ditchling Beacon climb, coming very close to beating the (for me) magic six minute barrier.  So my legs can’t be that soft…

To be honest, I should get well inside the top ten.  So many good riders have already graduated from the series that there’s an inevitable diminution in quality by this stage.  But 4th Cat racing is not like that.  Past history tells me to dream of glory but prepare for disappointment.

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