Monday, December 2, 2013

Steve: Nat trophy Milton Keynes

Steve: Nat Trophy, Milton Keynes Bowl.

Yesterday’s post race analysis was as follows “Going to bed post midnight and being on the road at 5am isn’t conducive to performing well.”

No shit Sherlock…..

Laying across the back seat of a Veedub with a pillow and wrapped in a childs duvet, drifting in and out of sleep as Heather drove me down the M1 was hardly a great preparation for the race. When we arrived, a mix of travel nausea, dodgy guts meant that my course recce was at best unenthusiastic. Things got interesting on my second warm up lap as I hit a bump hard. My initial thoughts were that my left arm had suddenly got longer, until I realised that my left hand lever had slid about an inch around the bar and yanked the front mech cable piano wire tight. Time for hurried mechanicals! It's my own fault - as a tight Yorkshireman, I ride with loose levers to mitigate the risk of breaking things when I go down.

Gridded on the third row, half stripped off….”Gentlemen, you’ve got three minutes to go” said the chief commissaire, a statement that was both ambiguous yet very welcome. The only detail appropriate is that the panic only set in when I realised that my race numbers were pinned through my skinsuit into my base layer and I had about four grands worth of bike laying on it’s side on the middle of the grid and I was about thirty metres away in a one square metre plastic building with a minute to go. After gazelling the barriers, I made it back, just. Not great for mental focus.....good for adrenaline.

Bang, we were off. Now here’s where I screwed up somewhat. It make a tremendous difference if a cross rider knows where the course goes after the start instead of going on a bling voyage of discovery into the unknown. Somehow, I’d completely and utterly misunderstood the situation. So imagine how unnerving it was at around 30MPH on nobbly tyres with about 20psi in them when the race swung hard right off the tarmac onto the grass and went uphill. Big ring at the front and little sprocket at the back was not good after coming perilously close to a big crash going uphill. It literally felt like fifty guys came past me at the time.

So down to business, hold the line and do my usual wait for some of those in front to go bang half way round the first lap thing. It sort of worked, but not so dramatically as usual…perhaps everyone’s getting fitter, perhaps I’m not, or perhaps it was just the course. 

On hitting the same bump that caused problems in warm up, but going twice as fast, the bike let out an almighty and sickening bang. Lord knows what it was (I’ve not found the crack yet) yet I got away with it. At mid race point, things were well established with me sat in a group of five, two Cotswold Veldrijen and two Derwentside guys. A crash behind and one guy who was on a mission made that the three of us at the bell. One Cotswold, one Derwentside, and me. The Cotswold guy was yo-yoing off the back. 

Now credit, where credit’s due. The Derwentside guy, John, clawed his way back up to me after I gapped him by about twenty metres and half a lap to go in and amongst dodging lapped riders. He immediately attacked and returned the favour. I had nothing to respond with. It was then that lady luck smiled at me, as his front wheel washed out and he hit the deck. Just as I rode past him he was back on his bike pedaling at 130rpm whilst the penny dropped that he'd unshipped his chain.

I did what any sportsman should do. Said and meant “bad luck” and came up out the seat and drilled it to put as much gap between us as possible. I genuinely felt sorry for John, he out rode me and deserved that place, but as long as no one gets hurt or smashes a bike to bits, racing’s racing and staying on is all part of cyclocross. It was my turn at Abergavenny.

A ‘brisk’ last half lap brought me into the 250m long tarmac finishing straight with my back tub squirming through the last right turn about thirty metres behind a pair of riders. A sprint with one hundred percent commitment so very nearly caught them unawares but stealing two places wasn’t to be. Close but no cigar....Couldn’t be an opportunist twice in one race….     

Past the line, I had a nice chat with John and conceded moral defeat….it’s kind of funny, but the guys who race at national level seem to be pretty objective when things go wrong. I guess it’s simple….take lots of setbacks and you get used to coping with them. At Durham, I chatted with one of the 'best of the best' who'd been rammed from behind, back wheel had dropped out and then his pedal fell out. Calm, cool and objective......he probably went home and took pot shots at passers by with an air rifle to relax!

At the time, I was convinced that I’d failed to score points and had placed well outside the top thirty. I finished 25th about 4mins down on the winner, half a lap or so down and achieved a few more points. I was definitely off colour for the race and made an elementary mistake over the start layout but I'm really happy with how it's going and enjoying the competition immensely.

My team mate, Ted suffered a broken chain and consequently DNF’d….no drama, just a hint of pragmatic grumpiness whilst we enjoyed a post race brew and cooked breakfast with our friends as we washed the bikes.  

I don’t do cycling frustration, I’m not into storming around the house muttering about not being quite where I want to be. I am, however increasingly coming to the conclusion that I am at the point where I should address some of that basic Maslow’s stuff. That is sleep, food and more sleep....oh yeah and start sussing out the starts better.

Travelodge’s next year…..

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