“Oh! I don’t like to be beside the seaside
I don’t like to be beside the sea
I don’t like to grind along the prom, prom, prom
With my heartbeat going tiddly om pompompompompom…”
Another day, another disappointment. There’s not much use in over-analysing it here, the answer comes down to three simple words: Not. Good. Enough.
Unfortunately it’s now abundantly clear that cycle racing can join the long list of sports (football, snooker, cricket, squash, tennis, skateboarding) in which I’ve mined a shallow seam of mediocrity before reverting inexorably to clunking ineptitude.
If there was ever a race where it was imperative not to be dropped from the shelter of the peloton it was yesterday’s seafront crit in Eastbourne, which took place in what can only be described as a gale force wind. And not just any old gale force wind. A gale fore block headwind in the teeth of the circuit’s major climb, no less.
But dropped I was, after about three laps. I fought my way back on; well aware through bitter experience of the penalty for not doing so at this early stage of the race. Then they dropped me again within another lap, when I simply didn’t have the power to drag myself up the hill as quickly as the bunch, which was gunning for the first ‘king of the mountains’ prime.
And so a sight that is becoming depressingly familiar opened up before me: a peloton shrinking into the distance. A lonely slog to the finish my booby prize once again.
In fairness I actually managed to catch and pass a few stragglers as they were spat from the pack, one chap from Norwood Paragon clearly being so disheartened by the sight of this wheezing fool going past he almost immediately abandoned…
I was also getting fantastic support from the wife, lad and in-laws, who had stationed themselves on the lower slopes of the climb for the duration of the race and cheered me through every grinding lap. At one point I almost rewarded them by throwing up on the road in front of them, but I just managed to keep my stomach in check and the nausea passed after I eased my already snail-like pace for a lap.
The lapping duly occurred about three-quarters through the race, though at least this time – unlike Hove Park – it was a singular experience. Progress of sorts, I suppose. It would have been better still if I’d managed to hook onto the back and gain some respite from the gusts that on one occasion had me almost at a standstill going downhill. No such luck, however. They passed me on the climb and I was already so far into the red by this point (only just able to turn 39/25, my lowest gear) that it was hopeless.
The finishing sprint took place just after I got my final lap underway, so by the time I reached the line the commissaires had stopped noting numbers, meaning my participation in the race will not be recorded for posterity. Scant reward for 45 minutes of ball-busting effort, but that’s bike racing. If you want to get your name on the results sheet, pedal faster.
I even managed to leave my race license in Eastbourne, a moment of forgetfulness that may turn out to have great symbolism in the days to come…