Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

January 26, 2020

Angels with dirty faces

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 9:29 pm

“Ahh. I’ve gone the wrong way. That must be it. Why is no-one shouting at me about it?”
I think to myself as the final off-the-start-line flourish of the season gets underway.
It’s so quiet. So empty. There’s no flashes of colourful kit exploding around me, no rasping of heavy breath encompassing me (I always thought it was my own I could hear!), just a silent expanse of green flowing faster and faster underneath my rocking shoulders and thrashing legs.
I roll my eyes upwards in my down turned head. The coursetape is still in my peripheral vision on both sides. I’ve not sprinted off in a random direction like a mis-pointed firework, I’ve got…a good start!
I’m still in a delighted bubble as the comet-like Nick Whitley fires past me on the right hand side through the first corner. By the second corner I’m in third as Ian Taylor glides past. I’m surprised those in the timing tent are still upright and not fainted in shock as we pass.

I’m also delighted that I’m not having to out brake people into the first few tighter turns, because I’ve not got any.

OK, slight exaggeration. I’ve got one. The front one. I’ve no idea what’s happened to the rear. I’m sure it was fine when I put the bike together the evening before the race, but rolling down to the start I’d pulled the lever to be met with nothing in return. Not “poor quality” braking. Not “a progressive slowing rather than an anchor”. Literally no effect. No noise, no slowing, nothing.
I’d ridden around for as long as I could with the lever pulled hard, hoping that I could build up some heat to burn off whatever contaminant had stolen all the friction, to no avail. For the duration of the race, the left lever was to be nothing more than a comfort blanket to hang on to.
I decided to look at it in as positive a light as I could – the off camber sections of the course (of which there were MANY!) were grippy enough if you didn’t hassle your tyres by trying to brake and hang on at the same time. I’m terrible for touching the brakes mid corner (and thus hassling said tyres), so, today, problem solved…at the back end anyway. I can haul on the lever as much as I like, at all the wrong times, without unshipping myself. Hurrah, right?!

I can hear the thundering, the mechanical clacking, the gasping, scuffling thrashing of the rest of the race just behind me as we head towards the pits for the first time, but that’s where it’s staying. “Just ride smooth” I remind myself as we drop into the lower field of a million corners “surge when the course opens up and trust the grip in the bends”. No places are lost as we all drop down through the first few hundred thousand turns and slight gaps begin to open as we retake the height we’ve lost.
I try to keep an eye on Ian and Nick, who flow round the bends so smoothly. I try to emulate the lines, weight balance and speed as much as possible. This Mario-Cart of a race track should be my Nemesis, with nowhere to lay down any power for extended periods, just a constantly weaving line of berm/off camber/up/down/left/right/grippy/greasy bends, but for some reason I’m loving it. Less flailing, more composure, even trying to keep my feet clipped in and balance the bike round the turns on the slippery surfaces.

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Wish I’d wiped my nose! Snotty face! Pic by Ellen

I’m able to get past Nick on the one straight bit (OK, exaggeration again, there are at least three straight bits…). I keep trying to match Ian, as we tick off another lap. The gaps between us aren’t shooting up and when the course allows, glances forward and backward show we’re still all close enough for the flecks of mud on chins, the corner-of-mouth spittle, to be visible.
By the third lap, Ian’s smoothness has moved him further ahead, my clumsy but fun thrashing in the straights has gifted me a bit more space to Nick. I have to mentally slap myself a little when I start to give up the chase – Ian is no further ahead of me than I am to Nick and I’m worrying about getting caught. I take some of the worry and try to mash it into more positivity. Ian is only one mistake ahead (unlikely, based on how he usually rides, but you never know) and he’ll be as aware of where I am as I am of him. I’m riding well enough for once to not be making my usual mistakes, so Nick’s got to speed up to get back on terms. The race stays on until the chequered flag (A cliche, but I’m mid race, so you’ll have to forgive that one).

By the time we finish, the gaps forward and backward are around 25 seconds either way. I have brought myself to a stalling halt on one corner with a poor line choice, but unleashing what feels like a million watts with the one foot attached to it’s pedal somehow stops me throwing all my advantage away. Obviously you always want to be first across the line, but on this particular course, with it’s endless turns, I’m in no mood to be disappointed with second.

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Off camber skills being appraised mid race by Adam…

Mud and sweat plastered grins begin to fill the area just past the finish as I catch my breath. Everyone seems to have enjoyed it today. It seems like a fitting end to a season that’s mixed an eternity and the blink of an eye. From the dust of Blakemere in September to the mud of…well, everywhere else after that really, every face I can see has done themselves proud. It’s probably a slight oxygen debt that makes me think that we’ve transcended a mere collection of bicycle races and become part of a far higher ‘scene’. Actually no, it’s definitely a slight oxygen debt. But it’s been good, all of it. I’ve loved it. I can’t wait to get it all underway again.
As I’m fighting the badly pinned on number off my arm, James Dalton nudges me. “This’ll be yours next season” he smiles, pointing at the race number he’s dropping into the tub we’re all taking turns returning them to.
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