Saturday was rather hot over in Epsom, and apart from a quick visit to the town (to replace my camera), I spent most of it chilling out.
Finally Steve Airey rung me to say he could pick me up in roughly an hour from Tattenham Corner station.
Treble check to make sure I’d packed everything, yeah yeah (funnily enough I forgot my phone charger!) a quick shower, and a walk to the station. I even remembered to pick up some Haribo, water and Coke Zero on the way. I think it was eventually 17.00ish that they arrived – and then an easy journey down to Pontypool, hardly any traffic and with Le providing the entertainment.
We met with the 3 lads – Harry, Lawrence, Ashley and Mike Morgan by the hotel, and quickly went for something to eat. The Harvester was pretty slow to seat 7 of us at a 6 person table… and the lads were fighting for elbow room a bit!
Had a right laugh, with Sport Grub giving us the odd weird look from their table by the door.
And I agree with Lawrence – haven’t seen turnip on a menu ever I don’t think!
Quiet night with an agreed meet at 07.30 for breakfast.
We left about 09.20 the next morning, Steve, Le and myself in one car with the lads bags and a few wheels on the roof.
Mike, the 3 lads, the rest of the wheels and frames. A short drive to Abergavenny and we parked up in the Rugby Club car park, where the majority of the teams were already there.
Wheels down, tyres pumped up, chairs, turbos and wheel blocks out, trestle table set up with nutrition being organised by Le. Mike organising the lads, ‘Not long left to sign on,’ ‘Not long to warm up.’
How to make your race number #MoreAreo by @bikerlawrence
I took some pics around them, careful not to get in their way, but having a right laugh with Steve when Lawrence broke the zip on his Santini jersey, getting it stuck done up. The bent zip finally being kept in place by a safety clip.
A quick warm up (thank god I took the opportunity to go to the loo!) and Steve asked if I’d like to go with them – or do the feed zone with Mike.
I opted to be in the race convoy – as I’ve not had the chance before. Le was quickly in the back, ready to hop out with wheels or pass out nutrition.
Lined up in the convoy, Lawrence checked in briefly at the car before the race started.
Then that sound you never want to hear. Klur klunk crack. One of the One Procycling Team had a derailleur snap and go straight into his wheel. Luckily it hadn’t happened later in the race!
A quick hello to Milan, Raleighs head mechanic
And the call came through the radio that the race was off. Quickly out through the town centre and onto the road towards Raglan.
One of the first calls over the radio was for Raleigh
And shortly after the race was on.
It was flat out from the word go. Roughly averaging 40mph according to race radio who asked the lead cars to move up a bit quicker. We were soon past feed station 1 and the race was truly on. You don’t see a lot of the race – we were T10 so a few cars back from the peleton. But you get to see riders grimly making their way back up through the cars – either tailgating their own team car or jumping car to car as the race slows or corners.
You get to see the crashes, luckily the three lads avoided the big one at a roundabout.
He did eventually get back into the race without being time cut. See @Fixedwheelnut instagram feed for the picture I got of him on the last few laps of the finishing circuit.
Pedal Heaven also had one who went down very very hard – although they tweeted me to say he had made it back into the race!
Soon we had finished the two big circuits – Harry had pulled out along the way – and we were onto the short choppy crit style finishing circuit. 10 circuits in all. Suddenly there was a lot of riders getting shelled out the back in ones or twos. Although some did a remarkable job staying in the race until the last two circuits.
And sadly we came upon Lawrence, who was absolutely fine but having mechanical issues. Checked if he was ok and we sped back after the main pack with just Ashley left in the race. On the next circuit Lawrence was stood with Mike in the feedzone – so we knew he was ok.
Had a hell of a laugh with Polypipe in the team car in front – they had a monkey in the back
Then I spotted a number I recognised @Chapperz31
But equally as soon it was the bell lap and the race was all over. Back into the car park where again – the loo beckoned.
A quickish repack, the lads got changed, and we left!
Thanks to the whole Catford Équipe Banks team. Mike, Le, Lawrence, Ashley, Harry and especially Steve for letting me tag along with them. At least I know how the roof rack works now!