After being badgered by 5 of my team mates during our training camp in Mallorca to race, I managed to get an entry on the line to the Bill Jinks Memorial Road Races 2/3 (thank you skivers!).
As I walked into the headquarters with my cohort Justin, I came across Tim and Phil who'd competed in the morning race. Phil proceeds to regale me about a crash earlier on which Tim unfortunately got stuck behind. Greasy corner... a puncture perhaps? When who else should walk past, bike on shoulder and bandaged bloody knee (and elbow, wrists etc!) Oliver Hudson! He's one of those guys who you always bump into at races and shoot the breeze with. Phil, continuing his story in his Scottish lilt, "Ah, mate, you went down like a sack o' sh*te!" This really didn't do much for my nerves!
Last year I barely raced at all, it was a year fraught with depression and other personal issues going on that severely held me back. The Black Dog was pinning me down! After a long time of sorting my head out, reminding myself I was stronger than the BD and I would stay stronger as long as I didn't feed it.
I had a really great winter of training, got my weight down to nearly as low as it's ever been and legs stronger than they've felt in a long time!
So I got a ride in the race! Been a while since I've been here with the race numbers, pins in hand, focused. Head starts to compute what's gonna go down. My now adrenaline saturated brain is reflected by my giddily gurning countenance, remembering how much fun road racing can be! Numbers on, bidon filled, helmet and shoes done up, bike bestraddled: yes lads, here we go!
Following the lead car out from the HQ, the sound and proximity of wheels, gears and grunts dispelled all nerves about my rusty road racing! Just before the race started in earnest, Justin finds me in the melee. He's been suffering from quite a bad cold recently... I didn't see him again!
There were a few attacks coming from the bunch, the first two I shut down, partly from just testing myself and partly from thinking with my cock. Went after the third one and suffered heavily as a result. A bit of internal monologue (basically had a word with myself!) dude, the hell do you think you are doing?! You've no team mates, there's 80k left and you're chasing down attacks solo, even if you broke away with a few others you won't be able to stay away that long! ...Fair enough! I found somewhere comfortable to hide in the bunch and just made moves to gain places so as to make life easier on myself.
I didn't see the winning move go off until after it was long gone. Nobody seemed that fussed about chasing it down either! Anyone? No? *sigh! I felt really strong on the hills, eating up ground on the pack on every single one.
One lap to go. Right then, eyes down look in, brief bit of concentration and right where I wanted to be, 7th wheel down. If I can hold this spot till the end I could be in with a shout... Possibly. Last 3k, last lull in the bunch before squeaky bum time, still right near the front. Then like an inferno at a fireworks factory with no health and safety officer it kicked off big time! Got swamped massively in the last corner with 1k to go, everyone going full gas made it incredibly hard to jump up the peloton. Thankfully the final hill gave me a chance to make up a few places and rolled in a paltry 28th/80.
Fings wot I av learnt:
Surf the surge at the finale.
Don't cover early attacks when you've no support.
Take a chance on the group trying to break away!
I still felt strong at the end and like I could have gone for another 5 laps of the 10k circuit... Which begs the question why didn't I go harder instead? I guess I'm trying to find my feet still and gain confidence in my abilities and limits.
Feels so good to be racing once again.
Thanks to Justin who gave me a lift and patiently awaited my return from the race!