“My ship’s a sail
Can you hear its tender frame
Screaming from beneath the waves
Screaming from beneath the waves…”
Ian McCulloch likes a ciggie or ten and I doubt he’s had much time in between penning classics like Ocean Rain to dabble in a bit of bike racing. All that said, I reckon if you’d plonked the chain-smoking scouser on an old postman’s bike – wearing his trademark donkey jacket – he’d still have performed more creditably than yours truly at the Surrey League Goodwood Gallops last Tuesday.
Such was my self-disgust I wasn’t even intending to write a report on my participation in the event, but since this is supposed to be a cycle racing blog it seemed a bit churlish to restrict my readers to a diet of aimless meanderings about leg shaving, Majorcan brush fires and other trivia that orbit around the actual purpose of it all, which is to race.
To race. If only.
My personal Goodwood Gallop lasted about two-and-a-half laps, the time it took the fast riders to catch up with the relatively small gaggle of 4th Cats and lady racers who had been given a head start on them. Even those precious laps of parity were effectively wasted as I managed to position myself so as to be riding into the wind for almost every pedal stroke, unable to find a wheel to sit on as though my front wheel had some sort of reverse magnetic polarity to everyone else’s rears.
Goodwood is not a place to ride into the wind unless you absolutely have to, as I discovered during my little solo breakaway attempt a few weeks back. This is even more the case when you’re already feeling a bit tired, stressed out and not really with it. The Majorca effect had taken hold; only I wasn’t just stuck to the road, I was Superglued to it.
When the big boys came through at good speed I panicked a bit and gave them far too much room, leaving myself dangerously exposed. I was already towards the rear of the 4th Cat bunch and before I knew it a gap had opened up with a handful of us on the wrong side of it. Several riders had to sprint to jump across, which of course I should have done too. Instead, for some reason I opted to try to time trial my way to the back of the now motoring bunch, which had already gained a good 20 metres on me in the blink of an eye. In my muddled brain I thought the pace would drop now that the riders had all come together with the complete mixed bag of abilities present.
Big mistake. A peloton of 70+ riders with some very strong 2nd Cats pulling it along versus one tired, stupid beginner with more frontal area than Blackpool to force through the swirling wind is the sort of mismatch that would cause even a heavyweight boxing promoter to turn up his nose.
My choice of picture in my last, brief post – and song lyric this time around – are both very apposite, because my situation was hugely reminiscent of a man overboard watching the liner sail serenely away without him, despite his increasingly agonised cries for help and frantic thrashing about in the water.
I gave it a good go, mind. Topped 34 mph at one point, according to my computer, which isn’t bad for a solo rider on a flat course I suppose. But my overall pace was never, ever going to be enough and soon the bunch had snaked out of sight. I soldiered on with the company of another dropped rider for a bit, but once I was lapped I pulled off and rested my now aching legs while rather sullenly watching the final lap and finish.
And that was that. On the night itself I felt almost suicidal but two days on I can at least put my embarrassing ‘performance’ into some perspective and start to look ahead to the next 4th Cat only race at Goodwood on May 8, where there is thankfully much less likelihood of the sort of rapid pace changes which caught me out so badly during the Gallops.
I must do better, it’s as simple as that.