Second Season Syndrome

“Well… yes, and here we go again.”
Hunter S Thompson

Yes indeed.  The days are short, the mercury is barely stirring, but the new bike racing season has, to all intents and purposes, already begun.

I’ve not actually raced, of course.  Unless you count trying to keep up on training rides with our 2nd Cat Shane, or huffing and puffing my way through the odd Preston Park chaingang tear-up.  However, my mind has steadily been refocusing on the job at hand after a period of comparative laxity, an upward trend of commitment best gauged by the ever-increasing amount of time I’m spending on the ‘Road’ section of the British Cycling website, poring over the 2012 racing calendar.

After a first season that could charitably be described as a learning experience, I’ve decided that I need to really kick on and reach a level of mediocrity appropriate to my God-given talents.  And of course to all my newly acquired racing smarts: while I’ve not exactly reached the grizzled veteran stage, after contesting 17 races I can no longer present myself as a wide-eyed ingénue gaily trotting out into the world like the cycling equivalent of Little Red Riding Hood.

It’s time to get serious and I don’t just know it, I’m acting on it.  The first evidence of this is that I now have a coach.

(pauses to allow the laughter to subside)

That’s right, a coach.  Well, more of a preparatore than a coach.  I’m bringing a young chap named Alex Welburn on board to provide me with some training plans for the coming months.  Not, I hasten to add, the sort of ‘training plans’ for which Fränk Schleck reputedly paid Dr Fuentes €7,000… Alex’s training plans are both more honest and, thankfully, a lot more reasonably priced.

The new training regime is set to start in the New Year and I can’t wait to see what difference it makes, compared with the somewhat piecemeal and haphazard approach I’ve hitherto adopted.

I’m also planning a few further modifications to the race bike.  Having already shortened and lowered its stem, I’m going to swap my current 46cm bars for a more svelte 42cm set, in a bid to eradicate the last vestiges of ‘sprint wobble’ that has been an issue ever since I began sprinting at the end of races, rather than rolling home somewhere near the back.

This will be a precursor to a full bike change at some point next season, though more on that another time.

On the downside, the opportunities to race – or more accurately to race on the flat, wide open spaces of Goodwood Motor Circuit – are looking very scant in the early part of the season.  For what appears to be financial reasons, the Surrey League has cut back on its staple Sunday ‘all categories’ fixtures, as well as shifting the remainder from Goodwood to Cyclopark in Kent.  This is a move which distresses me greatly, since that tight, twisty, undulating crit course is wholly unsuited to my physiology, judging by my pitiful recent performance there.

It’s a real blow to my early season hopes and means I’ll be doing hardly any proper racing until the Surrey League’s evening handicaps and Dunsfold Park series start up in late April and late May respectively.

I’m even getting seriously cold feet about racing at Hillingdon in January, after reading about the carnage there last weekend.  I love a bike race, but I think the ardour would weaken quite considerably if I ended up with 40-odd stitches in my face, like one poor unfortunate in the 4ths race.  I’m ugly enough as it is…

So I think I’m going to have to get creative if I want to find sufficient (and relatively safe) racing early doors – hence the time spent browsing the BC calendar pages.  Thus far I have seen precious little that works from a sporting perspective and which is also a sensible distance to drive to.  The fixture list is far from complete, though, so time is on my side.

If only I’d got those final pesky points… I could now be contemplating getting thrashed week-in, week-out by the 3rd Cats who have the pick of the South East’s bulging road racing portfolio.  Ho hum.

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