“I move onward, the only direction
Can’t be scared to fail in the search of perfection”
- On to the Next One, Jay-Z (The Blueprint III)
19 March 2017: this date had been imprinted on my mind for some time, the first big test of the year, the primary object of the pre-season training, it was the first round of the East Midlands Road Race League organised by Derby Mercury RC. Not only was this the first round of the league in which Leisure lakes Bikes had enjoyed so much success to date but it was also a notoriously difficult circuit: it has a testing long stepped climb which is at its steepest at the bottom on a narrow road in a small village, a couple of fast nerve-wracking descents, a further climb on the back side of the circuit and a grippy rolling road connecting it all.
So it was a nervous build-up to the race with last week’s circuit race revealing little about my form and the blustery, cold conditions only added to the tension. The mood was of course lifted as soon as I met up with my teammates at the race headquarters: there’s nothing like being told you’re useless and morbidly obese to perk you up before a tough race!
We rolled out at the start and immediately the race began in earnest, there was no easing into this one, the speed was high both up and downhill, the bunch barrelling down and up descents and climbs alike. As ever, the first time up the climb was particularly savage through a combination of fresh legs and riders unfamiliar with the course perhaps not knowing what was in store and how much climbing was left.
Leisure Lakes Bikes were present at the head of affairs throughout this and Geoff did really well to time his efforts and jump at the right time to get into the break of the day. On the second lap I was active on Wirksworth Road almost forcing a break in the cross winds but unfortunately through a lack of co-operation and conjoined effort in this small group we were subsumed into the bunch just before the climb. This climb was nevertheless tackled successfully and I was sitting second wheel in the bunch coming out of Weston Underwood when disaster struck.
One minute I am riding along comfortably ready to cover or instigate the next move the next it was like a gun going off, a loud bang and simultaneous loss of control. It turned out that a fellow rider had in fact ridden into my rear wheel and the impact broke both a spoke in the wheel but also crucially the rim itself; one of those frustrating racing incidents over which I had no control. Regardless, the cycling gods had spoken and my race was over.
I think anyone who has ever ridden at all seriously is aware what a cruel sport cycling is. I think it was Sean Kelly’s legendary DS, Jean De Gribaldy, who said that one does not “play” at cycling. He meant that as a sport it requires – and rewards – total discipline and commitment. Even for weekend warriors like us competing at a very modest level one has to commit fully and put in hours of training, be disciplined with our diets, and up on “normal” social commitments at times to turn up race at all competitively. So when all of that commitment and sacrifice appears to be in vain and results in a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) because of a silly unnecessary accident it can be tempting to throw the toys out of the pram and give it all up declaring it can’t be worth it.
But instead we keep coming back because we cyclists and we don’t know any better. Hence my opening quotation from Jay-Z, it’s all about moving onto the next race.
Despite my personal trials and tribulations we can still call the race a successful one for the team with Geoff proving his class to hold on for 3rd place on the day which is a great start for him and also sets up the team for another successful season in the league. On to the next one indeed.