“What the f**k are you doing here?”
Not much has raised a smile during what has been a grim week, but I must confess that I did chuckle at the quote above, from a hapless burglar who realised that London Mayor Boris Johnson had joined in with the Police raid of his flat.
Those exact words came to mind again last night as I contested the closing moments of the Surrey League 4th Cat scramble at Dunsfold Park. Only this time the emphasis was placed squarely on the word ‘here’, as I took stock of the extraordinarily crap sprint positioning that had cost me any hope of some much needed British Cycling points.
I was entirely the author of my own downfall, having managed to swing out far too wide as we entered the home straight, thus detaching myself completely from the rest of the pack. In doing so I left myself no option but to try and sprint solo into a vicious headwind.
Even the great Cipollini would have struggled with that prospect. I had no chance.
The race itself had been typical 4th Cat fare, not helped by the aforementioned headwind, which made successful breakaways the preserve of stronger men than we had among us on the night. Seeing that breaks had exploded the field the week before I set out with the specific intention of staying towards the front but, sure enough, within a couple of laps I was stationed at the back.
That said, I was watching the front for signs of successful breakaway potential (easy to do since there were only about 25 of us) and when one of the London Dynamo boys had a go I decided to follow, since their riders always seem to be strong. I tucked in behind a guy from Redhill CC who’d also leapt from the pack and we looked set fair for a bit of a dig when suddenly – and without warning – the Redhill rider decided to start doing stunts, flying up in the air, cartwheeling, then smashing back to Earth very spectacularly.
I just managed to avoid the flailing limbs and bike, then put the hammer down in case the fireworks had caused the bunch to slow up, allowing the break’s survivors to get properly away. Sadly they hadn’t and we were quickly caught.
I found out afterwards that the Redhill guy had touched wheels with the head man of the break while looking behind, a moment of crass amateurishness that drew many headshakes among the more seasoned competitors. In any case, spatial awareness was clearly not this bloke’s strongest suit, judging by the fact that he’d managed to park his VW Golf a Rizla paper away from my back bumper despite the car park having acres of room…
I won’t allow all that silliness to gloss over my own shortcomings, however. It’s a plain fact that for the third race in succession I finished just behind the sprint action instead of being part of it. That’s a definite pattern however you look at it, so now my task is to work out why it’s happening. After sleeping on it I’ve narrowed it down to three factors:
1) I’m not fast enough
2) I’ve yet to develop sufficient racing nous to position myself properly for sprint finishes
3) I’m too scared to get in amongst ’em when the chips are down
All three probably play their part in fairly equal measure, but the most worrying is #3 since that’s not something that I can easily change. What I need to do is get a lot bloody fitter so I might be able to make a break stick, as well as trying to find some more 4th Cat level team mates so we have greater strength in numbers. It’s notable that clubs such as VC Meudon and London Dynamo always seem to have plenty of riders at these sort of events and they tend to work together too – last night, for example, the Meudon proved very adept at policing breaks and although they didn’t come up with the eventual winner they had loads of guys hoovering up top ten points from the sprint.
Anyway, it’s time for a little break from racing as I get ready to sample the delights of the south of France, as well as making a return appointment with Mont Ventoux. If I find anything interesting to write about on my travels I’ll put some new posts up, otherwise I’ll see you on the next start line!