I have arrived at the new Harlington circuit feeling like I've shaken off the bad cold I've had. i take a walk up to the circuit and I'm delighted with what I see, well clipped grassy off camber banks, a long hill... longest I've seen in a cross race actually and two Somme like run sections. I walk back down to registration feeling pretty good.
However looking at the sign on sheet I see what is the biggest field of the year so far. darn. Number in hand I go to get ready. I huddle behind the car quickly putting on my kit, I don woolen gloves and rain jacket and apply warming oil to my legs to fend off the freezing wind before making my way back for a practice lap or two. On my way to the circuit I meet Neil and Alan from my old club the LBRCC, they've just completed the novices race. I'm in a hurry and all I can say is 'Hi' and 'it looks grippy' All I hear in reply is hmmmm.
I dip under the tape and set off. Feels okay, a little windy perhaps, but my tyre pressure feels spot on. Around what is the trickiest bend on the circuit and onto a long stretch of off camber zig zags, awkward but okay. Along a fast flat and into some very 'mountain bikey' ups and downs. Out of those and into a series of muddy drops followed by muddy climbs that call for a running dismount. Another drop into a waterlogged field. I can't help think of the 'fast Shows' 'bottom field' then a final dash to the long climb before hitting the finishing area. Phew, not easy going.
In trying to force out my cold I did a max heart rate session on the turbos the day before and my legs feel dreadful. Double darn.
|We just all LOL'd|
Nothing left now but to race. I get gridded which gets a round of applause after being left at the back the previous week. We get held up at the start waiting for the electronic timing system to sort itself out. We're freezing and soon the race faces disappear, and we start to fool about to keep warm. the Commissaire gets some stick and Chris slopes off to join the Juniors race. We talk about the start, is it a gentlemen's start? are we having drinks pre or post race before Christmas? All to soon we're given the thumbs up, then we get the ten seconds to go, lips have gone dry and chests are heavy with pent up energy.
The whistle goes.
It's fast and single file right away. I hit the first and trickiest bend in fourth and come out fourth. There's chaos behind me at the corner with riders on their feet. If I was a good rider I'd have a great lead, but I'm not and all too soon better riders are on me. My legs are heavy and a group of seven are pulling away on lap one, but I'm still ahead of a few of my peers. I haven't got the legs to go hard, and by the second lap Tony is on me. I have to race a canny race from now on.
|Run Oldgit run|
During a race isn't the time to think about ifs and buts, am I still carrying a cold, am I loosing fitness, are the others getting stronger? they've certainly turned the tables on me these last two races.All I can do is the best I can, which I know isn't the best I can do. Get every corner right. Get into the drops on every straight. Run like hell on every run section. Doing my best stabilizes my position roughly halfway through the race, though with vets now on the course I have no idea where I lay.
I see a bunch of fellow V50 riders behind me, and I vow to stay ahead of them. Over the last lap the pressure of holding them off causes me to flap and I put in my most messiest lap of all. My Mojo has gone and I rely on brute force to keep ahead. I trail in to finish towing ten metres of barrier tape behind me.
I think I've done a lot better than the final results will eventually show. New riders caused me to get a little confused. Peers like Tony who beat me last week were just ahead. Chris I last saw in trouble sat on the track side, and multiple series winner Steve has just come in ten minutes later carrying his bike. Pete has won his first race fresh from breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung at the 3 Peaks, staggering.
The results later show I was 15th, the worst finish ever. I now have three weeks to sort myself out, sort of make or break time. Looking back I was far too cautious, too worried about staying upright when less P.S.I and more risks would have paid dividends. Three weeks time we'll know when we are back in London.