Won a race once. AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT

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  • 11:51:29 pm on January 22, 2018 | 0 | # |

    I was watching James Bond, on the telly the other day. Engrossed in the plot I’d seen many, many times before as Blofeld tried to do world changing things, I got more and more emotionally attached to the henchmen in his volcano lair. (Best lair ever, by the way).
    It was fairly near the end of the film, the plans for world domination were pretty much done with and an entire army of ninja goodies were sliding down ropes, firing guns and generally being heroic all over the place. Despite the obvious futility, the daftly dressed henchmen were still fighting to the death. Most of them were probably employed under the pretence of the job being fairly easy – in charge of just pushing one button every 30 minutes and that was that, so the pittance of a wage didn’t seem too bad. I bet the idea of martyrism was hidden pretty deep within whatever contract they signed. I bet that contract even had a “hire purchase” of the daft outifit they were all wearing. All in, they had a pretty raw deal really.

    Meanwhile, Blofeld himself was busy pissing off to freedom on his personal monorail (bet the henchmen would have had to pay to use that…). No thankyou. No mucking in. Not even a backwards glance suggestive of the slightest glimmer of guilt. Gone in his personal carriage. Git.

    I crossed the line at the end of Sunday’s NWCCA finale and didn’t even drop down through the gears. Hard right straight after the finish line, back across the main field to the pits, where several semi frozen members of Horwich CC were busy tidying, cleaning, and packing up under a barrage of hail and sleet like they had been all afternoon. Despite having all raced themselves (with the exception of Angela, who’d spent all day elbow deep in buckets of cold water as the snow came down, getting bikes washed in between laps), they’d pulled on what little clothing they had in their cars and bravely stepped back out into weather they couldn’t hope to keep out.
    Somewhere, months ago, they’d been sold the idea of all mucking in at the races. Support whoever’s racing. “It’ll be a laugh”, they were probably told, “bring your own kit though”.
    “You’ll probably just be holding one bike out every 30 minutes, it’s fairly easy”.
    Under the constant sleety bombardment they’d fought on to keep everything in the pits going, ensuring I’d have a bike ready to go if I wanted one. As a win became more and more obviously hopeless they’d carried on bravely.

    I got back to the pits picked up a bike that wasn’t utterly crudded up, leaving the filthy one to be cleaned – despite the futility of it – pulled on a jacket that no-one else was allowed to wear and pissed off to freedom and my own personal, warm, carriage. No thankyou. No mucking in. Not even a backwards glance suggestive of the slightest glimmer of guilt. Blofeld had his shuriken-injured hand, I had numb limbs from the weather. He had his monorail in his volcano lair, I had my campervan. He had no idea if any of his henchmen survived the assault. I’m presuming half of Horwich CC are frozen solid, shin deep in the Beacon Country Park slop.

    In a feeble attempt to raise myself above the level of Bond Villain, I would like to issue (possibly posthumous…) heartfelt thanks and respect to everyone that stood out there in that awful, awful weather on Sunday. I have no idea how anyone could race in those conditions, then go back out to stand around in them for another hour to look after someone else. Hugely impressive stuff, for which I’ll always be grateful.

    PS If you ever need a reference to get a job as a henchman in a volcano lair, just ask. And for god sake read the small print. ;-)

     
  • 06:06:44 pm on January 15, 2018 | 0 | # |

    I actually did a “proper” warm up.
    Admittedly I’d finished the proper warm up half an hour before the gridding for the race took place, so was cold again by the time we were started, but I did do one.

    I even sprinted as hard as I could at the start, and kept trying to sprint harder. Almost holding my own for once.

    But f-k me, by 1 minute into that race the leaders were, how can I put it, “comfortably” ahead?

    I compounded issues somewhat by letting my front wheel wash out over the top of a rut while still in the first lap, side-by-side melee, clattering arm first into one of the solid wooden stakes holding the course netting up and getting myself in a knot, but I don’t think the top half of the field really needed me to give them an extra advantage. They seemed to be wafting away quite easily as it was.

    Put me in all sorts of trouble though. From somewhere in the late 20s (which might not sound very good, but for me to keep up off the start with a National Championships level field is actually something worth looking impressed at), to about 50th in a few short seconds. Bugger.

    (Not that I was the only one having problems, of course, nearly 20 people DNFed, which goes to show how frantic and fast it was).

    Anyway. With the fear of being pulled out of the race early lurking in my mind I got back on and started to work my way back through the field. Of course, everyone there was fast, so there were no “making up 30 places in half a lap” heroics. Each place was a proper battle. thankfully the course was BRILLIANT to race on. seriously. Every battle for a place was a pleasure.

    hetton1

    As at the National Trophy in Bradford a couple of weeks back, just as I really started to get into it I was pulled under the 80% rule. I’d got it into my head that I would finish – I’d been on the course for 50mins (which was supposed to be the race length), but no. As I headed for the start/finish line a commissaire waving his arms directed me off the course. Gutted.

    Doubly gutted, in fact, as I’d just got past 3 people, who spotted that we were being pulled and sprinted when I didn’t, retaking their positions.

    Triply gutted, no less, as if I’d realised what was happening and kept ahead of them I’d have finished in the points. At the National Championships. (Ok so the winner gets 200 points, and I missed out of just 2, but still…)

    Ho hum.

    Good job it was bloody brilliant to be a part of :)

    Good job the people I was racing against seemed genuinely worried when I caught them, due all the encouragement I was getting from the North West posse at the side of the course :) Awesome work everyone!

     
  • 11:28:03 am on January 4, 2018 | 0 | # |

    I do like the course at Maccclesfield. It’s “proper” cyclocross to me. Fast, wide (so you can race side by side for the most part), plenty of off cambers, tight corners, short uphill slogs and some big ring fast sections. Brilliant stuff. I hate going there though, as something always seems to go wrong. Last year I slipped a pedal off the start, stuffing the big chainring into the back of my leg in the process (the scar’s still there!) and this year was no better.

    Off the start a non-descript effort saw me not loose too many places, which was good enough for me. I was still in the ‘front end’ as it were and, as we crossed the finish line for the 1st time I started to settle into the race. A gentle shift up one gear at the back for the muddy uphill corner and…

    CRACK

    A god awful sounding noise and suddenly I can’t pedal. At all. I try to back pedal a bit, thinking something’s got stuck in the rear mech/cassette/I’ve got chain suck. Nothing. The pedals are utterly jammed.
    The race flows quickly past me as I leap off and start wrestling with a slightly-too-short chain that’s somehow ended up in the big chainring/big cog at the back combo and ended up locked solid. The mech, though still attached thankfully, looks hideously stretched and I’m fearful everything might explode if I just use brute force to get things going again. A minute or two stood st the side of the course, right next to the commentator who gleefully narrates my predicament to the spectators, sees me manage to wrestle the chain off the big ring by bending it in as gentle a way as I can muster. I clamber back aboard with the phrase “Well, he looks like he’s got it going again. The only positive for him is that he’s got 50 minutes to try and get back in the race” ringing in my ears.
    Bugger.

    DSC_6259.jpg
    Of course it’s an Ellen pic

    With any hopes of a decent finish gone I use the first lap to work out what my plan of attack is going to me. Drop out and save wear and tear on the bikes? Bimble round at the back?

    Nah.

    I can’t do “well” but I can give myself a bloody good workout on a great course. So I do. I start chasing down everyone in front. Start working my way back through the field. Make sure I’m pushing myself all the way. Testing myself on the off camber corners. Pushing on , on sections where other people seem to be trying to recover. Occasionally crashing, but making a note of where I crashed and making sure I nail that bit the next time around.

    12th in the end. Can’t be “happy” with the result, but content enough that I kept going and got a decent ride in.

    National Champs next. Really hope I can put in a decent performance…or at least not get pulled before the end!

     
  • 11:14:06 am on December 18, 2017 | Comments Off | # |

    (That’s an Adam Ant reference. Ask your dad if you’re too young to remember him).

    Yesterday was all about the war paint. Just like Adam Ant (asked your dad yet?) and his white stripe, everyone racing yesterday got a good covering of Knowsley’s finest mud. It was a modder for the youth races, a supermodder for the Vet 50s, an uber-supermodder for the Vet 40s and something as yet unclassified for us Seniors & Juniors.
    Off the start line your wheel rims disappearedinto the mulch and only reappeared for the brief tarmac section at the back of the course.

    Brilliant. :)

    DSC_4037.jpg
    It’s an Ellen pic

    The course, although not massively technical in itself, was great in the slippy, slidey, wheel sucky mud. Hard work all the way round, apart from the little road section, which was blissfully fast in comparison. I loved it. Slow going meant the riders in front where frustratingly close and yet minutes ahead at the same time and everyone behind you seemed to be right on your tail all the time.

    3rd in the end. 3rd being both the place I finished in the race AND the wash that finally got my race kit clean that evening in the washing machine :-o

     
  • 11:18:51 pm on December 11, 2017 | Comments Off | # |

    A revisit to Peel Park for a “the break in the NW league is too long” National Trophy race last weekend didn’t last all that long.
    Well, the day did. From supporting the vets at 10am right through to the elite mid afternoon race was quite a long day to be stood around in sub zero temperatures, made bearable by the sheer good attitudes and hospitality offered by everyone else from the North West. Everyone helps everyone else – even more so that normal – at thee big races. All in it together and all that. Brilliant. Not having a pass to get in the pits during the vets race mean I was reduced to hanging around in the jet wash area looking after clothes (by stuffing them in my coat as extra layers of insulation to keep warm…clever me :) ) and helping wash bikes. (It was mostly about using other peoples clothes to keep warm though).

    A few pre race practise laps reminded me just how slippy the Bradford course is. Weirdly slippy. To the point where I started to convince myself it must have been built on the ruins of a industrial grease mine or something. Seriously, it makes no sense.
    Anyway, lined up in the middle of the pack at the start I got away half decently, managing to avoid a few over-excited crashes and making up a good few places round the top field. Feeling good. Past the pits, ready to keep working my way through the field and all of a sudden WHUMP!
    I’m flat on my back, after somehow hooking my bars round one of the very immovable wooden stakes holding the course fencing up. I’ve been flung off the bike, coming down hard on the back of my head. Hard enough to rip all of the webbing holding the helmet straps in place right out, leaving them flapping around my ears. Owch.

    It seems to take an eternity to get the bike unwrapped and get going again, bits of helmet flapping about so obviously I half expected one of the commisaires to end my race then and there. They didn’t though, so I started working my way back up from pretty much dead last.

    It took a lap or two to get back into it, but just as I started to get the lines and ruts ridden properly, as I crossed the finish line for about the 4th time I was ushered off the course under the “80% rule”.

    I’d ended up so far back from the leaders (who were still a good 5 minutes back from lapping me at this point) my race was ended after just over 30 minutes. Pretty annoying when you’re speeding up and in no danger of getting in the way of the front end of the race for at least another lap (I can see the point of the rule on a narrow of congested course, where you could end up ruining a last lap sprint or something). Oh well. At least no bikes got broken this time!

    24959130_1657695897587044_4356151474659897365_o
    Photo courtesy of http://www.richardhowesphotography.com

    Looking for positives, the course was, as always, a “proper” cx course – fast, wide, technical because of the cambers and mud and perfect for close racing (though the commisaires pulled so many people out under the 80% rule it was almost empty after about 40 minutes….). Everyone in the pits did me proud, with clean bikes every lap, despite their looking after several riders at the same time (cheers everyone!) AND the campervan didn’t get stuck in the muddy field, even though the big ruffty-tuffty 4×4 pick up parked next to us did :)

    Next up – Stadt Moers. Probably not as greasy.

     
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