Wow. This is a difficult blog to write as I cannot quite comprehend what happened today. The executive summary is that I managed to win a round of the East Midlands Road Race League, but how I got there is another matter.
I turned up at the Dringbys Road Race, organised by Melton Olympic, with absolutely no expectations. I had had some bad form and illness at the beginning of July and just as I was getting over the antibiotics I went to Canada for a couple of weeks for one of my best friends’ wedding. Whilst I had a fantastic time in Canada, partying, drinking and generally doing all the things a cyclist shouldn’t do in the middle of a season, and even managed to pick up a throat infection requiring more antibiotics, it was hardly the ideal preparation for a race.
The above being said I thought if I turned up I could put a decent shift in for the team and hopefully preserve Elliot’s leading position in the league. So I was apprehensive and trying to chill before the race with a bit of Camus when I was rudely disturbed by Jono and the ‘shanter’ began…
The camaraderie in this team is fantastic. It starts with the management team of Andy, Richard and Adrian and percolates through to the riders. It was for this reason that I made the effort to turn up, despite my concerns about my form and fitness, and it was for this reason that we were successful today (and throughout the season to date).
I’m not one for providing blow-by-blow accounts of races, but briefly: it was nuts for the first couple of miles when Jono decided to attack as soon as the flag was dropped and strung out the unsuspecting bunch, after a general regrouping a rider was off the front, two jumped from the bunch, I thought I would try to pull them back for Elliot but he sat up allowing me to try and bridge on my own which I somehow managed, the three of us were then joined by a fourth and eventually we caught the lone leader. The pattern was then set for the race; the 5 of us embarked on a 40 odd mile chain gang on a rolling course very exposed to the strong, blustery wind.
Eventually the original leader cracked just before the bell lap and the 4 of us were left to try and stay ahead of the rapidly closing pack. This is where I almost feel embarrassed… Whilst I had been pulling my turns in the break I was definitely struggling on that last lap, feeling the lack of training in the preceding month, and I had to start skipping some turns. This was clearly angering a couple of my companions but I explained that I would give what I could when I could.
The last km to the finish was rising uphill with a strong cross wind off the left. One rider attacked early and I was able to stay in the wheels as he was pulled back, bided my time, then sprinted in sight of the line: I kept expecting to be passed but never was and I crossed the line with one arm in the air in complete disbelief!
As I learnt afterwards though, whilst it feels like an individual effort in a breakaway it never is: my team mates Jono, Elliot and Joe had been doing invaluable work marking any attempts to bridge across to my group and generally trying to disrupt any attempt at a concerted chase. Without the support of my friends and team mates I wouldn’t have won, simple.
A final thank you then: as mentioned above, the esprit de corps in our group is fantastic and the riders and staff deserve all of the communal success. I also thank the sponsors without whom we wouldn’t have such fantastic kit, so big thanks to Leisure Lakes Bikes, Cannondale, Muc Off, Specialized UK, Science in Sport and Oakley. Please do check out all of the offerings from these guys or call into the Nottingham Leisure Lakes store, I can personally vouch for all of them and the excellence of their products.
Two more rounds of the league to go, let’s hope for more Leisure Lakes success!