Monday, December 16, 2013

Steve: Bradfod Trophy and Forestry

Peel Park, Bradford. Sound’s like any other venue. It’s not. It’s a combination of factors. Firstly, Bradford is the epicentre of Yorkshire, the county where they conceived the sadomasochistic Three Peaks Cyclocross. A race where competitors compare vibration white finger syndrome post race and spectators choose their vantage points proportionate to the likelihood of riders doing endos. Secondly it’s a classic course…..if you went to see The Clash in concert, you’d choose The Hammersith Odeon over the NEC…..With Bradford, you know what you’re going to get. Mud, off camber, crashes, partisan spectators (cycling’s a religion in Yorkshire), apocalyptic pits and a great course.

One lap on soft mixed setup of FMB/Rhino’s more or less confirmed what was in store. A classic post overnight rain race where pit crews were undoubtedly going to be busy, if not frantic. Two more laps and the Addict weighed roughly 25lbs. There was little to be gained by riding more and more practice laps, other than to see how the conditions were developing. Now was the time for keeping warm.

As I went to sign on, a perfectly timed distraction meant that I committed the schoolboy error of not signing on, an appalling mistake for a qualified commissaire, and I was lucky to have sufficient time between the UCI com’s verbal spanking and my name being read out for gridding to rectify the situation.

Gridded four rows back next to Paul Lehan, I guessed the uphill tarmac start might see me struggle, and it came as a surprise to hardly loose any places at the start. As we rounded the first proper corner, the realisation that 1.4bar might be alright for warming up chatting with my pals. However, committed riding, with even more committed tyre folding mid bend was going to end in tears or worse still a 'I've-always-used-your-products-and-I'm-a-fan-of-British-engineering-and-by-the-way-are-those-rims-still-available-as-spares?' letter to our friends in Lancashire sooner or later. Second time through the pits, I grunted a breathless “BACKSTOOSOFTNEXTTIME” as I went through in a small group. I saw Dave immediately spring into action sourcing a track pump for my spare bike.

As I came through the pits next time, I knew I’d had a good half lap as the elastic had broken as I’d dropped my group, I elected to delay swapping just for the time being as I consolidated my gap by really trying to get the power on fast coming out of the slower turns and stay off the brakes. I'd got a good gap as Steve Bottomley came through, I didn’t need much persuading to latch onto him, feeling as proud as punch to mix it in good company.

Through the pits and onto the spare bike with more pressure, it felt fast with a nice clean front tyre gripping like glue at first. I still had a gap, on a cluster of three perhaps ten, twelve seconds. I wanted more and saw regaining Steve as my ticket. As we came down ‘the’ descent I kept my brakes off to carry as much speed as possible and not compromise steering by silly braking.

After the crash…..people asked me where it happened. I could tell from their glazed over expression that they couldn’t even remember the slight kink it all went horribly wrong for me. I suppose there’s a simple logic. The less the bend, the faster one’s going when it goes wrong. A simple one to remember, the biggest crashes happen on the least memorable bends…..

As my front wheel slid ever so slightly, going really quite fast, I thought I’d just ride through the tape. When I hit the marker post the slide turned into a catastrophic, veering loss of control and towards a silver birch......I headed towards doom at what felt like a hundred miles an hour, probably about twenty. Fast enough.  As the 9” wide trunk headed straight for my front wheel, I knew it was going to hurt/cost lots of money….or perhaps end all my pain. Forever. My mouth made that involuntary noise a split second before I hit.

I stopped very suddenly. Much more effective than disc brakes and not subject to recalls.

I knew it had been a good one because two guys had not adopted the usual Yorkshire protocol of uncontrollable laughing and had gazelled the course to see to me. My shoulder and collarbone took the hit. I couldn’t straighten my middle three fingers on my left hand and I had a dead leg. I could taste blood in my mouth.

I had a bike race to ride, so back on the bike and away and see what happens as four went past. If I’d done my collarbone I’d soon work it out, I’d rather make the decision to abandon on the move than watch the race go by in pain only to decide to keep going. The next lap was agony.

Slowly the pain subsided and I found my composure returned as I got mopped up by a group of two. At the bell, I was comparatively happy and my thoughts turned to getting those last two places. No fancy plans or tactics this week, just a simple case of making sure I was technically tidy on the horrible off camber section with right handed remount before the last grassy bank, to carry as much speed as I could and dismount decisively for the run.

My plan worked perfectly as I came out the bank first and buried myself for the last 200m to the line.

I finished 26th. Physically wrecked and bloodied. At the time of writing, I am walking with a limp, I cannot lift my left arm above shoulder height and looking at the excellent bruise on my collarbone, I’ve come very close to a premature season end and liquidised Christmas lunch. Nothing that forty mins on the rollers wont fix….
Probably my best race of the year on an ace course.

More crucially the bike’s OK.


No comments:

Post a Comment