So that was the email sent to Rich Anderson. It all made sense in my head, it was obvious. The reply was quicker than I anticipated, but positive. It looked like we were go. Meeting booked.
4 years earlier…..
The bike has always been there, a faithful friend for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a vehicle rather than a racing machine. So how, pray, did I get involved with a racing team? It all started on a Bunch Rides event, a ‘Squadra Fondo’. Teams of 4 or 5 were to ride as a squad, out to Lincoln, and on this particular event, regroup after a bite and have a ‘gentleman’s’ race home. We had a good squad which was in with a shout and sure enough, although the ride back was quick, we worked well as a team. Our strongest rider had our support and got away with a Beeston CC rider, both able to hold the group with the lead they had. I’d done my bit earlier, but still the legs felt OK. I looked around in the main pack that was left and fancied my chances. ‘Don’t get excited now.’ I thought, ‘It’s a way to go yet.’ Normally my head makes promises my legs can’t keep, ’Do the long pull on the front, then the win’. It never works for the pros, but that never normally stops me. Thankfully a chap on a TT bike was doing an excellent job of pulling us along, so I sat in. The sprint for the line was between 3 of us in the end, and I came in 2nd, equating to 4th on the road. The buzz was amazing and. back at the pub the bragging rights were huge. 1st place for the team, and 1st and 4th on the road. I’ll never forget that hand on my shoulder, ‘You should pin a number on then and do it properly.’ It was the end of the season, but maybe I should look at it for the start of the next.
A notification popped up in my news feed, Beeston RC were looking at recreating a road race team. They had sponsors on board, but no bike industry involvement. This was a chance not to be missed. After a phone call to Richard we arranged to meet with the other sponsors and the plan laid out for us. A 3 year goal, 6 sponsored riders to race at Cat 2 level and, in addition, 4 sponsored development riders with the aim to get to them to race team level by the second year. This just felt right, helping grass roots riders in their early years, onto a step on the ladder to racing. Beeston RC had had so many great names passing through it’s club since it’s start in 1945 I could imagine being part of finding the next Mark Cavendish, or Bradley Wiggins. One for the scrapbook there. We agreed our sponsorship levels and signed in for the 3 years.
Riding with the development lads was great, I was learning just as much as they were. Piecing bikes together, evening chaingangs,learning how to ride as a team; they had plenty to get their heads round as did I. That cold winter’s night when we all made the climb near Kimberley together holding a good 20+mph and we all looked at each other. It felt so easy, but we were so fast. The group bond had started, the penny dropped, ‘Ride as a team, work for each other, don’t break each other’.
The race season started and I had my club jersey with my surname emblazoned down the side. I felt like a pro but I suspect I looked like every other 4th cat chopper. Like a WW II Fighter pilot waiting to go to battle for the first time I had no idea what to expect, but ever hopeful we’d see everyone on the other side. My main focus for the season was the East Midlands Development League, a series of evening road races at Lime Kiln with 6 races through the summer. Work and family life dictated that would be all I would be able to do this year. The first race went OK, I held on and saw the finish more or less in the main bunch. There was not much sleep had that night though, buzzy legs and adrenaline saw to that. A late chat with a good friend down under, sharing stories like old times, was the result. Our family summer holiday meant 2 races would be missed and when. the next Tuesday came round, and I was itching to get in the thick of things again. I’d not ridden much with being away, but felt rested. Getting a little held up in traffic meant no real time for a warm up, I guess that’s what embrocation oil is for then. It was the same gig as last time, but with a prime lap at the halfway point. From the gun it was hard racing with the 2 weeks off and no warm up taking their toll and, on the Prime Lap 5, the elastic stretched, stretched a little more and then, snapped. That was it, out the back. Quite a few had already pulled up and a quick check on the computer confirmed my thoughts that this was quick. I was never going to get back on. There was no shame in pulling up right? D N F? Nope, that wasn’t going next to my name. Anything could happen at the front, a crash would bring it all back together. This was going to be one hard training ride and besides I’d paid fifteen quid to do this, I was going to get my money’s worth!! There wasn’t a crash, it didn’t come back to me. I had done all I could though; max heart of the year, 5 solo laps, vomit but I hadn’t quit.
That pretty much put paid to the season and with the nights drawing in the evening series finished. We’d put BRC on the map though. An amazing first year for the squad with a win at the cat 3/4 Cyclelive crit in Nottingham, and a top 3 in the East Midlands Road Race League. The young development lads had attracted a few new faces also. What a great year.
Season 2, halfway to nowhere.
Spring hit quicker than ever. More racing, but the evening league night had changed and with work I couldn’t get to them. In fairness the crash rate was so high I didn’t mind too much. The idea of a broken bike, or a busted collarbone didn’t appeal. I found racing was tough and for the first time I thought, maybe it wasn’t me after all. Getting bikes prepped and helping the team I could do. The second year for Beeston RC saw more racers and some new faces helping with training. The setup was different. I missed the evening training rides, but the turbo sessions for the lads worked better. Our support continued for BRC, but my personal involvement was less. I missed the scene and before I knew what had happened the Cyclocross season was upon us. My mountain biking days, and love for grim conditions meant that I had to have a go. The result….. loved it. Racing again. I rolled out of winter ready for season 3.
It was however short lived. The Notts Uni GP, a horrific day in terms of weather, and that left hander, a crash waiting to happen. LeisureLakes had helped the previous year, on a great day, mainly because sunshine always makes things seem better. This year heavy rain, gales, and a hilly course meant my head had gone before the start. Bad positioning, dreadful weather and, on lap 6, a puncture led to game over. The crash rate was rising seemingly on every race and never quite comfortable with it ultimately my racing shoes, little worn, were hung up. I’d do cross but that was it.
I sensed some tension in the Beeston RC camp. Some races had been cancelled. The team had grown, maybe too quickly, but there were some strong riders on the squad and this included some of the development riders. A few of them were turning out on the shop rides, showing their colours, and seemingly good bike riders. A return of evening training rides, and these young lads looked like the start of what we had 3 years ago. The 3 years of sponsorship was up, but there was no call to see if we wanted ‘in’ for some more. The end of the season came, 2nd in the East Midlands Road Race League. A good sound result, and a strong development squad. What was going on?
After a chat with Ed about the 2016 season, it looked like the race team side of Beeston RC would be no more. The club, being affiliated, meant you could race if you wanted to, but there would be no team as such. Did Rich still want to be involved with racing, only one way to find out.
So that was the email sent to Rich. Wanna run a race team? Take the racing arm of what Beeston had and put it under a Leisure Lakes umbrella. A small tight knit bunch of riders, to race as a squad. We’d have our own team. The bike stuff the shop can do can do, but we’d need help with the logistic side of things. I’d never hosted a race and I’m, not sure I’d really know where to start. In my head Rich and myself would make a good team, both fuelled with bike passion and both able to bring something of value to the table. The team would need to be able to bring something of value to racing. A meeting arranged, we sat down and ironed out the details and just saw this was going to work, and before long we had our team of 4 racers whilst BRC still had Go Ride, and the Development Squad. Going forward as the seasons rolled on, the Leisure Lakes Race Team would act as a goal for the lads that wanted to further their racing career. When Beeston had got them as far as they could, there would be a place at our table for them. Perfect. A race team, supporting racing, and the local young talent to help give them the best possible chance. A strong team ethos, that makes things happen in races, not just to sit in and wait for a sprint finish. Ultimately a race team that will race in a professional manner and gets an invite to a national series.
Yes Season 4 looks to be a good one. Exciting times ahead. Will it lay my demons to rest? That last road race I rode so badly. Those race shoes that got hung up. Well they’ve been polished, I guess I’ll see you on the road.