Chicken run

“Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as you wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,
It’s later than you think…”

As we get older, one of the many changes we tend to undergo is losing some of the reckless impetuosity of youth.  That’s why motor insurance gets progressively cheaper; why white water rafting in Patagonia makes a ton of sense during a gap year but less so when you reach middle age; and of course why people vote Tory.

It’s also – as I’m becoming increasingly aware – why 4th Cat bike racing tends to favour the young.  Or stupid.  Or both.

I have been both young and very stupid in my lifetime.  I once came within about two seconds of blowing up myself plus most of Caister village while trying to defrost the nozzle of a petrol pump using a blowtorch.  If my co-worker at the filling station hadn’t spotted me in the nick of time there’d be nothing to read about here today, that’s for sure…

Help! Help!

While I still do daft things with great frequency, these days they tend to be pretty harmless.  In fact I’d say I’ve become something of a scaredy-cat since becoming a father and taking responsibility as sole breadwinner for the family.  I always get the wife to steady any ladder I climb.  I am (as previously admitted) a lily-livered descender on a bike.  And I can’t see me making a parachute jump any time soon.

Anyway, I suppose the purpose of all this waffle is to put into some kind of context my feelings after my latest outing in the Surrey League 4ths event at Goodwood.  First things first, I did at least finish the race, which is a significant upgrade on last time out.

That aside, the experience has created more questions than it has answered, some of which I’m not sure I necessarily want to know the answers to (though I have my suspicions).

Everything stemmed from the last lap of the race.  Until that point it had been contested at what can charitably be described as a steady pace.  Unbelievably steady at times, so much so that I almost needed to change down into my 39-tooth inner ring in order to maintain a decent cadence.  That’s no criticism of the other riders – after all, I never spent a moment on the front dictating the pace so I have no room to complain – but it had three dangerous side-effects:

1) No breaks could get away, because the moment anyone went off the front they were chased down within metres, only for the pace to drop right back as soon as they were caught;

2) The field stuck together in a tight bunch, with just a handful of riders dropping back or out;

3) Everyone was fresh as a daisy and champing at the bit as we entered the final lap.

I’m convinced there was a 4) also, namely that quite a few riders used the lull to pass around a crack pipe.  It would certainly explain some of what happened next.

At first it was just the usual harum-scarum 4th Cat stuff I’ve come to know and love: plenty of swerving about and shouting; the odd slamming on of a brake.  Indeed on the first straight (Goodwood is shaped like a rough square with three straight sides and one curvy side) I felt bold enough to move up the pack on the wheel of my team-mate Rich and we’d slotted in within the first ten riders by the time we reached the curvy section at the back end of the circuit.

Then somebody in a plain jersey (always the ones to watch out for, I was told afterwards) surged through a gap between myself and another rider that was just about there, spooking me a bit and instigating a little power wobble that had the old heart pumping before I’d even got to the business end of the lap.  Unfortunately it also served to drop me back into the midfield melting pot, although that could also have been my lack of outright pace…

By the approach to the final corner I was riding smoothly up the outside but already there were voices in my head counselling against doing anything risky, so I stuck to the outside of the bend assuming, correctly as it turned out, that problems would occur if everyone tried to take the tightest racing line through the tricky double apex.

And they did.  It was like the Wacky Races…guys taking nasty-looking spills, the sound of wheels locking up and the stench of smoking carbon braking areas, a chap in front of me forced onto the grass for a bit of inadvertent cyclo-cross.  Total mayhem.

I sat up and coasted home.  Call it yellow fever of the spine if you like, but in the words of Jeff Goldblum in Into The Night, “I’m too old for this shit”.

Where do I go from here?  Time trialling I think…

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2 Responses to Chicken run

  1. Rob Fuller says:

    Track racing is the answer. You’d be very welcome to join us at the Sussex Cycle Racing League at Preston Park, Brighton every Wednesday evening. Not only does riding the track significantly improve your sprinting and bike handling for those inevitable 4th Cat wacky races but we also have the best tea and cakes in Sussex!

  2. Zachariah says:

    Kepp at it – I’ve just discovered (at the tender age of 36) that it is in fact possible to take a 90+ degree corner at over 20 mph, leaning over like a motorbiker. With a cyclist either side of you doing the same. It’s bloody scary though! No crashes at my latest adventure, plenty of wobbles though.

    Or, you can train so amazingly hard that you’re strong enough to go out in front and do it all on your own. That’s pretty safe.

    But then, I’m one of the plain-jersey guys…

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