Here we go again. After more false starts than a 100 metre runner with Tourette’s, my racing season is finally set to get underway with a low-key 4th Cat chipper this Sunday at Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Centre velodrome.
Did I say low-key? Certainly doesn’t feel like it to me right now. I have a knot of anxiety in my stomach the size of a medicine ball, a terrible trembling in the hands and sleep patterns that would shame a coke-fiend.
Yes folks, I am both Thinking About It Too Much and at the same time Taking It Too Seriously. I can’t help it; I can’t stop this recurring image of me crossing the line first invading my waking thoughts. Call it preseason reverie if you will, I’m hoping this is not an affliction of which I am the only sufferer within the amateur bike racing community.
If nothing else, I suppose it provides quite a bang for my race entry buck… several days of dreaming about winning before the cold reality of failure intervenes. It’s the same theory that dictates a good proportion of the value of a holiday trip being in the anticipation; value which, if you time your booking well, can last several months.
So, let’s investigate the reasons why Sunday’s race might pan out rather more successfully than any of those I contested in 2011, before turning to the rather more compelling reasons why it won’t.
Why I might do well:
I’m fitter (probably) – after the best part of two months trying (with varying degrees of success) to follow the training plans given to me by my coach, Alex, I feel I’m in better shape than this time last year. There have been missed sessions, to be sure, but overall the volume and intensity of my recent training has been an order of magnitude higher than preseason 2011.
I can sprint a bit now – my number one ambition for the close season was to develop a proper sprinting technique… no more of this sitting down and spinning furiously nonsense. After taking part in the Hillingdon Sprintfest and several sessions at Preston Park, this box has been ticked. However, I have yet to deploy my sprint in a true racing scenario with plenty of miles in my legs, so the jury is well and truly out until I come through that acid test.
The wife and son are going to be there – I don’t want to have to explain once again to my lad why Daddy was at the back when the race finished…
Why I might not:
I’m still not good enough – 44 years old, too slow and too heavy… these are not easy problems to solve without a time machine and/or access to the sort of training time pro cyclists are able to devote to the sport.
There will be flyers in the field – it’s early season, so the pack will be stuffed with fit young whippets itching to move up through the categories. The sort who are already good enough to do well at 3rd Cat level, so have the easy beating of fat old fools like me. I saw it happen throughout the early season last year and there’s no reason to suspect it will be any different this time around. As last year, my time may come when all the good guys have gone.
Yellow fever of the spine – the Mountbatten velodrome makes for elbow to elbow racing as well as very tight bunch finishes, certainly in the 4th Cats from what I’ve seen. I’d better find some bravery pills if I’m going to get myself right in the mixer, as I will have to do if I want any chance of success.
At the end of the day, whatever happens the news will be chip papers almost immediately afterwards. It will be ecstasy or depression for an hour or two, then it’ll quickly be time to get back in the office to resume my day job while I start thinking about the next race. That’s what we do, us bike racers.