*Warning – This post is long & may take up a lot of your valuable day at work.*
On Thursday evening I decided to have a go at my first ever ‘road’ race, ok, strictly speaking it wasn’t a road race, but everyone rode in a bunch, on a number of snazzy road bikes, so for arguments sake I will call it a road race.
The location was Castle Combe, the length of the race was cut slightly short due to the intense rain from the off & was 24 miles in total, which I completed in almost exactly 1 hour.
Now I’ve never raced on a geared bike before, or at these speeds, let alone in torrential rain, so I knew from the start it was going to be no walk in the park.
The first couple of laps got underway, I got used to the course, and my (borrowed) Giant TCR, and all was good, I kept up with the pack & was impressed by some of the quality of riding going on, there were riders that kept their place in the bunch, as well as those moving about the pack, pushing to the front, dropping back & generally taking control of the situation. I have the utmost respect for those that know what to do in a closed circuit situation, I was totally clueless. I especially enjoyed watching Christian bossing all over the shop like the Sheriff Of Bossingham.
Christian’s obvious experience at this bike racing game gave me a boost & made me feel a little invincible, and I stupidly followed him on a break he made, the 2 of us riding at the front of the pack for a good lap or so, resulting in my legs giving up & dropping me to the back of the race. I really should have learnt this lesson from my experience at my only other circuit outing, The Hunt.
After falling to the back of the pack I felt my legs slowly fading, and the race slowly moving away from me, this devastated me mentally & at the point where I was 100 yards behind the bunch I had already decided that this blog post would be titled ‘My first & last road race’. From here I would ride a solid 2 laps a good distance behind the race, with just one other rider, and this is where I expected my race to end, DFL.
I love riding bikes, but at lows like this i feel like giving it all up. Now I am certainly not built like a TT powerhouse, and nor do I have the physique of a hillclimber, but something I have bags of is determination. If there’s something to be achieved from a situation then I’ll do my damned hardest to make it happen, and when it comes to racing bikes this is all I have to fall back on when it all goes to pot. Heck, I even rode 13 miles in torrential rain just to get to this race as I was determined to give it a go. This was a good warm up to say the least!
Being at the back of a race is probably one of the worst feelings I’ve had on a bike, but I knew if I pedalled harder than I had all night there would be a chance of catching up with the pack, and some how, after a good 2 laps of being way back I had managed to catch up with the pack! This was the point where I knew all I had to do was stay with the pack, protect myself from the wind & I would finish this race with a better than DFL position.
The bell for the final lap came as a great relief if I’m honest, but at the same time I knew it was the time that the power had to go down & the last lap was understandably faster than the rest of the race. Coming in to the last corner I wasn’t in too bad a position, and I knew I had to do one of two things – make a break for it & potentially get over taken at the last moment; or tag on to someone’s wheel & make a last minute dash for the finish line. I had no experience of either of these, so I guess I tried a bit of both, picking a time to squeeze through the bunch & turning the power up to 11 for the final straight, chasing the 2 riders between me & the finish line. The feeling of being third wheel at the end of my first race was insane, I was on a high for the first time all night, I knew it couldn’t last though & I was overtaken by a handful of more experienced racers. It turns out I crossed the line in 11th place, just out of the points but a good performance if I do say so myself.
Remarkable & unbelievable in my eyes, seeing how much my legs had given up on me much earlier in the race. I was just happy to have not finished last, and to have placed this high was incredible, I couldn’t have done this without the inspiration of my team mates Christian & Mark, they were all that kept me going through that race. Big shouts to them & the rest of the riders for attending such a disgusting race in probably the worst conditions I have ever ridden a bike in. I finished off my first race with a soggy 19 mile ride home, taking my evening total up to a cool 55 miles.
A few things I will take away from this race:
-Clear lenses in your glasses are advised in dull, wet condition, black iridium was a stupid idea.
-2 bottles & 2 gels was way too much to carry, I managed half a gel & about 3 mouthfuls from my bottle.
-Chasing your team mate’s wheel for 2 laps is fun but will leave you chasing the race for 2 laps, solo.
-A change of clothes after a wet race is advisable.
-Getting out of the saddle at times will probably make you go faster, probably.
-Changing gear every now & again helps, riding fixed this long makes me forget this.
-A a mild case of hypothermia.