After last weekend's Chelmer Road Race, four of our six man team returned to Eastern Road Race League action for the CCA Primavera. Rupert and Young Tom are here and feeling good. Ben's been ill all week. He's not sure how he'll go on. I still owe him a lead out. At this rate I'll be delivering it sometime around September.
The theme for this season has been dread but I wasn't actually dreading this race. The course looked rolling and pretty quiet on the traffic front, and the weather forecast suggested arms out for the first time this season. What I was dreading was spending the night before the race at my parent's house in Nottingham. They're perfectly reasonable people but the thought of looking through 900 wedding photos, ONE AT A TIME, with my mum, the night before a big race is not really something to look forward to.
I've got a routine when it comes to race day. That routine involves getting all bathroom requirements done before I leave. Race HQs are normally church or village halls with one cubicle at best and I don't like queues, especially ones for awful places. That's why you don't see me at Disney World. Today I'm in the queue. I'm also wearing new socks and I've accidentally pinned one of my race numbers upside down. Am I trying to entice some bad luck?
There's mixed messages before the race. Some riders say the hill that is part of CCL's race plan is indeed a significant hill. Other riders are saying it's nothing and that the circuit is pretty much flat. I'm ready to improvise our race plan on the road.
The first thing we do is go up the hill. It is a hill. Not only that but there's a whole fast rolling section of the course that threatens to leave the race in pieces on the first lap.
Second time over the hill and the race is all together, a ceasefire has been called it seems. One rider is out on his own but he's got no chance. Rupert is riding tempo on the front of the bunch. I move up to see how he's getting on and sense a chance to escape. A little increase it power and I'm riding away from the bunch. Anyone else coming with me? Nope. Ok then, time to kick on on my own.
I increase the effort and eventually bridge to the solo rider. He's pleased to see me. A rider from Finchley RT then makes it across. I'm pleased to see him.
This group is working well together and I sense we've got a chance. Other riders have obviously sensed the same and some strong riders come over and swell the group. Despite riding hard and having committed riders from the best represented teams, somehow the group seems to have brought us back. Rupert and a few other riders are quick to tell me that Young Tom, attacked and dragged the bunch back to us. Theres's Hinault-Lemond situation unfolding on the roads of Cambridgeshire. A Wiggins-Froome style polemic on the A603.
I find Young Tom in the bunch and he apologises. He'd not been paying attention and didn't know I was up the road. He's still going to be punished. I tell him that he has to be in the next break, even if that means starting it himself. He's still knackered from the effort of chasing my group down. This'll learn him.
Off he goes on his suicide mission. I can't wait to see him at the finish and hear what a lesson he's learned. If he even makes it to the finish.
30 minutes later and he's still away. Rupert has been sitting on the front, slowing the bunch and giving Young Tom every chance of staying away. I've been shutting down any of the attacks coming out of the bunch.
Eventually it gets to the stage where Young Tom is rapidly heading back to the bunch, no matter what we do to help him out. Then a rider goes solo and I'm unable to get near him to mark the move. He bridges to Tom and sweeps him up. Suddenly the pair are getting away again. With this additional riders help, the duo catch the race leader and becomes a group of three. Team orders switch back to bossing the bunch and chasing down the attacks again.
Last lap and we've given Young Tom every chance of finishing in the top three. Now we need to work out how the bunch is going to race for the final top 10 placings. Ben seems to be over his illness and joins Rupert and me around the front to keep things in order.
I'm in 2nd place in the bunch when the rider in third touches wheels with the rider in first. Down he goes. He catches my back wheel but I stay up. There's no telling what the carnage is behind. The survivors immediately push on and I'm definitely down two teammates.
Over the hill and I attack the bunch. This was the plan. To be first over the top and put everyone else in difficulty, then to maintain our position on the descent and be first into the final sharp left hander. Unfortunately I'm doing it on my own and not with three teammates as we planned.
I'm down low on the top tube on the descent. Think Peter Sagan but afraid where he is comfortable.
I've hurt the group behind and forced several riders to get dropped. The remnants catch up to me. There are maybe ten of us now. Ten into seven doesn't go. Three of us are going to miss out on the points.
My sprinting legs feel dulled so I need to keep this group small, and stay near the front of it. Through the winding section and I'm in second wheel. I can't draft as the rider in front is determined to hit every hole in the road that he can find.
There are two short rises to finish the race. I maintain position on the first but a rider from Velo Schils attacks. I'm not closing that gap. Then one of the Cambridge CC riders goes. I follow him.
Onto the sprint and I sweep up Velo Schils and Cambridge CC but get passed by four riders. I'm 8th. It'll take a while for the organisers to decide this but I'm definitely 8th.
I catch Young Tom and find out that he was 3rd from the break. He looks terrible. He's still apologising. My 8th place means I'm not too bothered anymore, and we'll definitely learn from this. It's only Young Tom's 2nd road race. We've just placed two riders in the top ten. We're in the points for the third race in a row.
Back to HQ and Rupert has a bloody knee.