Apparently I now have a race licence. You know I’ve always pooh poohed the idea of me racing a bicycle. Although obviously I’ve already raced twice. The wistful attitude about that has gone. Replaced by a want to have a go attitude. The kind of attitude I used to have when competing as a teenager.
It’s ironic that I have the kind of friends that encourage me to have a go now, the ones that decide to come with me on a weekend and offer their help. Toria – I literally can’t thank you enough. Or Caroline who’s given me some decent coaching and a fresh look at how I approach my rides.
This morning dawned lovely and cold. Fully iced up car and me worrying about taking two bikes to only my third race.
We were at MK early enough. Still semi frozen in places, but thawing in the little bit on sunshine. A slow scramble getting everything out of the car, organising what I thought we need and T going OTT with what we took.
Riding around. Chatting with Dave Spragg about the course, he put my mind a bit more at rest after saying about riding the long off camber slickly muddy downhill.
I finally get to catch up with Alison Kinloch and Chris Macleod. Both who are equally good at talking to make a tricky course sound easier.
I manage to ride 3/4 of a lap after warming up on the road behind the Bowl. It’s obviously only going to get muddier. The icy patches are thawing and there’s still races before mine.
I ride a bit aimlessly, pits, grass, car. Aware of not being fit enough and wishing I had a turbo/rollers to warm up on. But that requires being fitter…. its a circle I will hopefully one day get the better of. I’m only a novice. I can’t stress how much I don’t know yet. This isn’t a world I was bought up to know. Information is gleaned from social media, watching cx – or discreetly DMing people. Or having a bloody great coach.
Lining up on the start is bloody freezing
My feet are numb and I just want to go go go. Jump. Stretch. That anxious chat with some of the friendlier girls.
I’m fine once everyone is gridded. I get a great start (for a novice) and soon it’s into that repetitive question. Pedal/run? On/off? Try harder. Sucking air in like I’ve never learnt to breathe. Then the long off camber bank. I pause at the top of it, and gingerly make my way down – doing as Chris says (he’s stood at the bottom, shouting up at me) unclip right foot, weight on the left and it works! The jubilation of getting my balance right is short lived as my inexperience shows and I come off to one side. Grabbing it and get going. Onto the road. Somehow up the steps. Feet out like ducks to get max grip. I feel out on a limb. But no one is around me. I know there’s women somewhere behind me. I ‘race’ up the road and onto the grass. It’s a tricky section for me. Off, run. Laugh. Fuck it. It’s all fun. Still no idea where everyone else is. Skidding into tape. Miraculous saves that no one but me sees. Up, sloppy deep mud. Frozen section. Eventually back on, but I’m nearly walking. Off again and a mirage. The other side of the pits. I can actually change my bike. Which I do. It’s so claggy. A painfully slow remount and a wobble. Miles of muddy open grassy muddy frozen stuff. The struggle to run/walk up the next bank. Back on. Off, brakes are only just working. Jog. Back on. Loop. Loop. A few cheers. And I’m on the road….
I got crippling stomach ache on my second lap. Nearly enough for me to retire. But I carry on. Not confidant enough to ride the hill the second time. I ran(ish), then on. Then fall off. Back upright. ‘Nice save love. Good to see you get up and carry on.’
Those words were enough to keep me going. Up the steps – ‘come on Elz!’ – I’m back on. Suddenly I feel ok and I go again. Managing to very nearly faceplant over the bars uphill, unclipping both feet at the same time and landing on my hands and knees. Don’t ask. No idea. Made the three male vets laugh that were coming up behind me. Then one of them is off. Back on the bike. Try to ride. Kinesis has better mud clearance. Off. Run/jog/walk delete as appropriate.
I’ve heard the bell somewhere.
Somehow I get to the finish.
And I’ve survived.
I’ll do it all again next week if I can. Pit my inexperience against riders fitter, faster and stronger than me.
I can’t really tell you why I love it or why I do it. But I can clarify I have the best group of friends/helpers/coaches that I could ask for. The solid support of them – from Barry Hyde (Kingston Wheelers)
attempting to fix my Colnago when he should’ve been warming up, to Toria in the pits, to the lovely Yorkshire lot on twitter.
Thanks guys. It means the world.