I guess that screws my chances of a Hollywood adaptation.
That is, unless the Dream Factory has suddenly eschewed happy endings in favour of crushing disappointments. Seems unlikely.
You’ll have gathered that I didn’t win the Omega Points Chaser Circuits 4th Cat scramble. I didn’t get the requisite 6th place or better to join the exalted ranks of the 3rd Cats either. In fact, once I realised that the points I needed had taken the form of wiggling backsides disappearing up the home straight, I pretty much stopped pedalling, crossing the line, head bowed, a well-beaten 11th.
In other words, I went backwards. In every sense. Cycling’s a mean mistress and she certainly gave me one in the eye with the proverbial blunt stick yesterday.
I should have known really. This sport doesn’t do fairy tales; it’s just too hard, too painful, too full of grim-faced strongmen who, no matter how fit you try to get, are always fitter… and faster. What fairy tales there are tend to unravel in a storm of doping controversy anyway, so at least I could content myself that nobody in their right mind would suspect me of that…
The sense of anti-climax was overwhelming. After climbing off the bike I slumped onto the spectator benches beside the track and stared blankly into the middle distance; too tired, too sore, to make sense of what had just happened. As I drove home from the Mountbatten Centre I realised my shoulders had sagged so much I had to readjust my rear-view mirror.
All that build-up; all that self-promotion. All those bold claims. What was I thinking? Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Selah.
Still, I learned quite a few things during my fool’s errand to Portsmouth. The first is that, perversely, given its name, such an event is precisely not the place to stake a final claim for British Cycling points after a long, hard season. For various reasons I’d missed a few opportunities to go to races that, upon inspection of the BC results pages, would very probably have yielded the requisite points. Some had barely scraped together 10 riders…
On Sunday, however, I encountered a comparatively sizeable field of desperate men – one had travelled from Yeovil for God’s sake – which meant for brutal, rough-house racing on the compact Mountbatten velodrome.
How nobody came off during the race is beyond me; I had more than one elbow banging moment plus several other heart-stoppers and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. That I stayed in the mixer throughout is at least one sign of progress – ten races ago I’d have dropped to the relative safety of the back but I was having none of it this time. I fought for my ground and, for once, couldn’t be faulted for my positioning, especially given the harum-scarum nature of the race that saw riders shuffled around like a Blackjack deck in Vegas.
It was all surges and stops, too, just the way an old diesel like me hates it. The breaks, and there were plenty of them, tended to be savage and often attempted by more than one member of the well-represented teams in the race – i.e. dangerous. I managed to drag myself up to all of them, but none stayed away, sadly. Maybe I burned too much energy doing that, but these were not one man suicide missions typical of 4th Cat racing and I didn’t feel I could take the chance, as there would have been precious little horsepower left in the main field if one had got away.
Another thing I learned, perhaps belatedly, is that there’s a big difference between being a bad loser and having a winning mentality. I tried hard, don’t get me wrong. But, despite being reasonably well positioned as we approached the final bend at blistering speed I just didn’t have what it takes to lay everything on the line in order to contest what looked like a very hot sprint for this level of racing.
To be fair, my legs had pretty much turned to jelly by that point anyway. So too had my brain. Top sportspeople often say that in the crucial moments time seems to slow down and they can think lucidly even when there are a thousand different inputs crowding into their minds. For a cack-handed sportsperson like me it seems to work in reverse, with my thought processes speeded up into a scrambled mess in the way a cassette does if you press play and fast-forward together.
Maddeningly, the winner and two other points finishers weren’t even racing on full BC licenses, meaning that seventeen of those precious points which everyone else in the field so desperately wanted went to waste. I saw more than a few sad faces afterwards, including a couple of characters I recognised from Dunsfold and Goodwood. Both finished well behind me, which led me to think that we really had picked a wrong ’un as our final bid for glory.
Ugh, the thought of this being my parting shot for the season, the ‘performance’ that will be my reference point for the long, cold slog of winter training that now lies ahead. It fills me with fury and self-loathing.
Oh well, suck it up, son, that’s sport for you. If you want a guaranteed happy ending, go to the movies…