Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good your legs are. Three races, three mechanicals, and what seemed like positive momentum has fizzled out. This won’t be a long update, because frankly there’s not much worth saying.
Milland Hill is an “infamous” course in the Surrey League, with an annual race hosted by CC Basingstoke. The morning sees a 3rd Cat only race, with a 2/3 race in the afternoon. The main feature of the course is the hill, which drags up for about a mile, slowly steepening before kicking up to 20%+ for about 200-300 metres. Over the top there is a short straight section over the finish line on a slight downhill, before a hairpin corner. Sprint out of the corner, and the course drags up again for about 2 miles. By the end of that 2 miles, if you’re still in touch, you’re likely dying a thousand deaths.
Last year I was dropped on the 2 mile drag, and before the race I was determined to make it to the finish in the bunch. After my form of the previous few weeks, I was feeling confident coming in to this one, and rode forward all race, getting off the front for a while and generally staying in and around 3rd-10th wheel. On the last lap I had good position and was feeling good to compete for a top 10, when with half a lap to go disaster struck: I dropped my chain. The shock was all the greater, as it was a real nothing bit of road. Fortunately I was on a flat section, and the chain was thrown over the outside of the chainring, so I managed to catch it and get back on to the bunch. What I really needed to do at this point was keep pushing and get back to the front, but I was thrown by the “mechanical disaster”, and sat at the back recovering. By the time I had my head together, we were on to the final hill. I worked my way through the bunch, just as the leaders kicked away for the steep part. I jumped hard, and managed to get on to the back of the leaders, but half way up the steep section the effort told and I ground to a halt. Unfortunately, the effort I had to use to get through the bunch and jump on to the leaders was just too much for me to be able to stay with them. “Woulda, shoulda, coulda…”
One controversial side note, the race had two away from early on, who were eventually caught in the last mile. A massive contribution to the being caught was the efforts of a rider from London Dynamo who, having punctured and rejoined a lap down, buried himself to try and bring them back. To my mind that’s cheating, but the Commissaire didn’t feel it was worth acting on. I feel sorry for the two who were caught – in my opinion they should have been credited with the win.
This 2/3 race was run on the course used by the early season Perfs Pedal race, a tough course near Portsmouth encompassing Portsdown Hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lessons of the week before, and dropped my chain no less than 5 times. I subsequently worked out that it was happening when I shifted into my biggest gear (53/12) and I’ve fixed it. Even more unfortunately, I dropped it at the start of the second ascent of the hill, dropped to the back of the bunch, which subsequently split. With 17 up the road and the remainder racing in typical negative 3rd Cat style, the points were gone and we never got within a minute of catching them. The finish line was a drag uphill after a sharp left corner, and I was undergeared. However, I sat down, shifted up a couple of gears and managed to take 6th for 23 overall.
There were quite a few out of region riders in the race, which made it tougher than your average ERRL event, but I was up the front and feeling ok. Oh, and I sorted my front derailleur out, so wasn’t expecting any more chain related issues. 3 laps to go, as my legs started to fire, the race started to get selective. Over the final hill and the bunch split – four in a lead group, I was in a group of six about 5 seconds behind, and the bunch behind us. I sat in on the six and as we caught the four to make a useful group I went to the front and drove on, hoping to drop some hangers-on and create a useful break. Unfortunately, my teammate Dave had missed the break, panicked, and buried himself to bring us back. He subsequently almost went out of the back. When I saw we were caught I sat up, and slipped in to forth wheel. Unfortunately, the guy in front of me had a “lapse of concentration” and put us both in the gutter – he got away with it, I punctured.
Unfortunately, this was one of my season targets, and following on from the prior two races it took me about a week before I could deal with my anger about this race. The fact that my friend and teammate Will finished 5th in a ERRL race run the same day, from a break of seven that he initiated, actually just made me feel worse.
Onwards and upwards…
Before I began this, I was resisting writing anything, wondering what interest there is in racing wrecked by forces “beyond my control”. However, as with everything in life, it’s not what happens but how you react to it that counts, and that is perhaps worth ruminating on. The lessons and experiences learnt, and the disappointments that came with them, will hopefully help me in the future. The main point was dealing with unexpected events in the race: at Milland Hill, I should have tried to get straight back towards the front, hence saving enough in my legs to compete at the end, at the Fareham Wheelers, I should have avoided the standard negative 3rd Cat racing to try a more focused attack / bridge to the leading group. As for Fleche Welwyn, well, it was the first time I’ve punctured in a race so I’m hoping the next time will just be easier to deal with.
And in other news…
Ok, it’s a cycling blog, but it’s relevant – my daughter was born 10 days ago! All is fine, and she’s a real cutie. Here endeth the season… (tbc)