This cycle racing lark…honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about… nothing to it folks.
Ha! Not really. I’m still a one-speed trundler, I still can’t hold my position in the bunch to save my life, and my ‘sprint’ is more like an attempt to time trial quickly than it is a burst of raw speed. But when it comes to the fag end of the 4th Cat season, long after all the faster guys have migrated to the 3rd Cats, it’s good enough to finally be competitive.
5th place in the last Goodwood event of the season. Hard to believe I know, but here’s the evidence, courtesy of British Cycling (click on it to make it bigger/sharper):
The race itself was as nondescript an affair as you’ll ever see. So bad I’m surprised the commissaire didn’t fall asleep at the wheel of his following car. The furthest any attackers got away was about 200 metres and if it hadn’t been for some Brighton Mitres doing their best to liven things up we might all have nodded off before the end. The pace was so slow even my bike computer refused to work, presumably as a protest.
That suited me down to the ground, though. For various (mostly work) reasons I’d hardly sat on a bike since my last race at Dunsfold, plus I’d been at the beer and pies more than would be ideal for optimal race performance.
The cold and windy conditions did nothing for the liveliness of the racing, to be sure. The weather closed in with every snail-like lap we completed and as we heard the bell the rain started to fall, becoming pretty heavy by the time we wound our way up the back straight. Although my positioning had been variable throughout, the chronic lack of pace meant I’d still managed to work my way to about 8th or 9th spot as the whole peloton slowed right up and spread itself across the track with nobody wanting to take it up.
At one point I thought we were going to have to start doing track stands, until one rider (interestingly the eventual winner I believe) sped off and everyone tried to follow. I was poorly positioned on the opposite side of the track behind a three-man train that was more freight haulage than Inter-City, instantly losing a ton of ground and finding myself back among the rearwards third of the bunch.
As we hit the final corner with the rain streaming down I can’t think I was alone in feeling a bit fearful about the potential for carnage. Amazingly, though, nobody fell off. I took the bend very (probably too) cautiously, losing what little momentum I had, then got down low on the drops and pedalled as hard as I could from a seated position to try to rebuild some speed. To my great surprise, this act alone enabled me to go shooting past a heck of a lot of riders and as we passed the pits area to shouts of encouragement from the ‘crowd’ I was moving up much more rapidly than I could possibly have imagined a few moments earlier.
Once again, though, I failed to locate that switch in my brain that will make me get out of the saddle and just go hell for leather in the final 100-150 metres. Regular readers will know that bigging myself up is not my natural pastime, but such was the paucity of this particular contest I really think I could have come very close to winning if I’d worked the corner better and done anything like a proper sprint. As it was, I crossed the line no more than three bike-lengths behind the victor…
Hey ho, that’s nit-picking really. At the end of the day I’m absolutely bloody delighted to have finished where I did and it’s given me some real hope, which will carry me through the cold, damp grind of winter training. If you’d said to me after the Eastbourne Crit that I would get a top five finish in any race this year I’d have recommended you for the funny farm. To be honest, I’m still quite astounded that I even signed up for another race after that humiliation…
So that’s it. My inaugural racing season ends on a high, and in front of my wife and son, too. I was grinning like a loon when I returned to the pits to soak up the plaudits, my day improving still further when our team DS Mark Markowski won the 3rd Cat race in almost monsoon-like conditions, with fellow Bayeux boy Ian Jones a handy 4th after working like a dog to help their breakaway stay away until the finish. Cue much back-slapping and merriment, some of which I managed to capture on video. That’ll hopefully help with the impending sponsor negotiations.
Bike racing. It’s just brilliant. End of.