Small war… not many dead

And there it was, just off to my right.  The Longcross Test Track, where my bike racing odyssey began on a soaking wet Saturday morning back in February.  Less than four short months ago…

On this flaming June evening my ultimate destination lay elsewhere, however.  A dusty lay-by on Kitsmead Lane was the HQ of the latest Surrey League evening handicap race, my new best friend in the cycling world.

After the relative luxury of Wivelsfield this was proper grass roots cycle sport; lots of grown men in fluorescent clothing suddenly turning up to a quiet lane seemingly in the middle of nowhere and furtively sizing each other up, like a cross between a beauty contest and an illegal rave.

The event’s proximity to Greater London meant a very much larger turn-out than Wivelsfield, about 45 riders with a decent mix of 4ths, 3rds and 2nds in contrast to the 3rds-dominated field the week before (I was in fact the only 4th Cat at Wivelsfield, which added a little bit of lustre to my performance).

Y'see I do go on the front sometimes... (pic courtesy Darren Hague)

Not surprisingly I found myself in the first of four groups to be sent off, all 4ths as far as I know but with a wide variety of fitness levels.  Indeed our early efforts at pace setting were sufficient to shell out three or four of our bunch within the first couple of laps.  Thankfully not me, though.  I’ve already had more than my share of that sinking feeling so far this season so I made sure I bashed out a good tempo to keep right in the mix…

Even though the pace was way hotter than at Wivelsfield we still got caught by the second group on the road, staying together to form a larger bunch in order to keep the two ‘best’ groups at bay.  Despite there being nobody better than 3rd Cat among us we had a good proportion of powerhouses willing to take up the charge – quite a few tri boys judging by the kit; they’re always good for some bonus wattage.

For my part I was feeling pretty leggy by this point, with a nagging sense that I’d left my best work in the hills of the North Downs, scene of a 90-mile sportive style ride I’d taken part in on Bank Holiday Monday.  Thus I took up station towards the back, waiting it out until the closing stages.

Then I did something a bit stupid…I suddenly re-joined the through ‘n’ off line on the first straight of the final lap.  Why I didn’t hold back I don’t know; maybe I thought it would take longer to shuffle me to the front than it actually did, which was about five seconds.

Once on the front I had exciting visions of the Brighton Mitre chap who’d ridden away from the bunch on the closing lap for an impressive solo win at Wivelsfield.  I even got sufficiently carried away to put the hammer down for a bit.  But my legs were already protesting furiously and we still had more than two miles of straight roads to go, hardly the ideal circumstances for breakaway heroism.  So I eased off again and slunk to the back feeling a little foolish.

That effort was about it in terms of genuine excitement, too.  The final sprint took place with me in close attendance by not actually contesting.  You can see it in the video below… it’s a bit grainy but I’m the second of the three laggards crossing the line just after the sprinters.  I consoled myself by thinking that if this was the Tour de France I’d probably have been given the same time as the winner…

On the face of it 18th place is hardly going to cause streets to be named after me in my home village.  I was happy enough, though.  The average race pace was a zippy 25.1mph against just 22mph at Wivelsfield.  And we never got caught by the two other groups on the road.  Which is nice.

Next week I race slightly closer to home, at Newdigate, a 9-mile course a few miles south west of Reigate.  I’m loving these handicaps to bits and really can’t wait to get back out there again.  I think I’ll try to keep the pre-race miles sensible this time around though…

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One Response to Small war… not many dead

  1. Great post again, sounds like an awsome ride. I would have done the same re the 2 mile flat break away! on the basis ‘don’t go never know’
    I guess that why we are not wearing the rainbow or national jersey (Just yet)

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