First Race Darley Moor in March, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be… Well actually there probably is but it’s become quite a long-standing tradition now to open the season at the Ashfield Road Club circuit races that seem to have been held in the first few weeks of March since time began. For those who don’t know it, Darley Moor is a motor-racing circuit on the outskirts of Ashbourne and as the name suggests it is flat, exposed and always cold. I love it there. There’s something special about the first race of the year, it’s that crossroads where doubts, hopes, expectations and reality all collide. We’ve spent the last few months holed up in turbos in garages or shivering out on the road battling the weather and road conditions all for this. Have we been doing the right things? Will we survive or be off the pace? Even better will we have a chance to fight for a win? No matter how many times we go through this process the doubts, nerves and uncertainties will always be there, gnawing at the edges of the mind until the whistle blows and we start, immediately thereby banishing all conscious thought to be replaced only by the survival instinct. The first race is always a great social occasion too: the chance to catch up again with riders from further afield that we have raced against all last year – and years before – but whom we haven’t seen over the last few months. The banter starts immediately as if we’d only seen each other last week, old jokes re-surface and familiar jibes exchanged. All cyclists will be familiar with the standard cyclists’ exchange “alright mate, you been doing much?” “no not really, I’m going like a bag of spanners” usually when both have been smashing the training miles; this time we riff on that exchange “alright mate, had a good winter?” “ah I don’t know, not really, we’ll see by the end of the first lap eh?!” nothing is given away. The air is filled with the sounds of turbo trainers and rollers whirring as riders complete their warm-ups. The smell of embrocation is carried on the wind instigating Proustian reminiscences in the former riders spectating and supporting others. There is a final flurry of sleet as we line up on the grid. Ah Darley Moor, it doesn’t get better than this… As for the actual race itself, I quite enjoyed it. I kept myself up at the pointy end most of the time, tried to get away a couple of times but to no avail, the elastic never quite snapped, and was in there in the bunch sprint winding it up when two riders crashed in front of me and I had to take evasive action with a little impromptu cyclo-cross in order to stay upright; game over. So no glory to write about – this time – but an important corner has been turned: we are now in the racing season. No excuses now, it’s all about balancing training and racing and seeking to peak for the important races knowing that the winter has gone ok and there’s no need to panic and play catch-up. The races will start to come thick and fast soon and we’ll all be looking to repay the faith that the management and sponsors have shown in us. A bientot.
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