I told a lie last week. In terms of lies it wasn’t nearly as deceiving as the stuff they want you to believe about the moon landings, but that probably started out as a small fib too.
I told someone that if your legs get ripped off they just grow back stronger. In my defence I was probably thinking about a Crab’s claw or whatever the things that Starfish have are called. Current medical thinking is that if your legs are ripped off then they stay that way. I had my legs ripped off at the Barnsley Road Race a week ago and this weekend’s race confirmed that they are yet to return.
This weekend I was back down in Essex for the Eagle Road Race. The race starts out in Ugley and I know for a fact that you are now singing that Daphne and Celeste song. I am too. Luckily no one is throwing bottles of piss at me. I’m not sure what’s happening to you.
I’ve earmarked this race as one that I could possibly win. The finish is at the top of a mile long rise which is absolutely the sort of thing I like. Eagle Road Club also has their own wooden club house, which is even more the sort of thing I like. If it was in a tree then I’d probably fake an excuse not to race and make myself a fun bow and arrow.
We’ve got 4 riders in this race and I’m not one of them. I’m third reserve. I’m on the podium already and we haven’t even started. Race day comes and I’m already confirmed as a starter but that is the best that my pre-race planning gets. I travel to London the day before the race, leaving home at 4am to get to my day’s work. I then travel back after my day’s work. Time spent on a train? Around four and a half hours. Add in 45km of riding and you’ve got the kind of pre-race preparation that would make Dave Brailsford need a really long cry.
It doesn’t stop there, though. I’ve got to get back to Essex for this race but my wife is ill and needs me to go to Tesco. Bike racing is important to me but bog roll is important to both of us and so Tesco wins. It’s a three-and-a-bit hour drive to the race so I break the journey up with a stop at my Mum and Dad’s in Nottingham.
I’ve nailed about 8 hours sleep this entire weekend when I get up at 4 once again. Can you fall asleep whilst pedaling? Will coffee be served during the race?
At the club house and our team has swelled. We’ve got 5 starting, plus Watto’s a reserve. He’s definitely got himself a place but he tells me emphatically that he’s not in condition to race. 2 minutes later he’s signed on. If this was Vincenzo Nibali we’d be asking some serious questions about how he spent those 2 minutes. I can confirm that in this case, Watto was getting some bikes out of a van.
Liz also signs up on the line. She’s been kicking ass in the Women’s races this year and she’ll stick with the bunch for 4 laps in this race. That gets a chapeau right there.
Every race from this HQ has a ridiculously long roll out to whichever course you’re racing on. Ideal for a real loser to get a puncture before the race even starts. A few of the marshals remember helping me out with my puncture before the race even started last year. That was a great day.
We may have a big team but only me and Young Tom have really raced together this year. I’ve suggested some team orders but it’s clear that we’re not that set on controlling the race. More smashing it to pieces and seeing what happens. That’s how they found the Higgs-Boson, though, so it definitely works.
Early on and I’m in a move with 2 of my teammates, Benno and Young Tom, and one interloper. Inevitably it gets shut down.
Very early on we have a minor disaster. Young Tom punctures and without neutral service he’s out of the race. He’s been flying and would have been nailed on for a top 10 in this one.
Benno’s active on the front with a couple of big moves before he realizes that his legs are empty from the 10mile TT the day before. At that point he becomes inactive. Something along the same lines must have happened to Sam as he’s not been seen for a while either.
I attack. Drew attacks. A couple of riders from other teams attack but nothing is getting away. It’s a head wind in all the wrong places and it looks like we’re in for a nailed on bunch finish.
Tom Trimble attacks and I follow. He’s a likely winner of this race but he can’t make this move stick.
On the penultimate lap and chaos finally erupts at the front of the bunch. We can feel the elastic snapping but we’re not sure where. Turns out it just frayed a bit, mostly at the back. The bunch is down to somewhere above half, but below two thirds of its original size. Not sure what the name for that fraction is.
The penultimate time up the finishing climb and I once again shift down into the inner ring. Now I live in the Peak Districk my climbing technique has improved no end. I now use a lower gear but spin much faster. Right now I’m spinning about 150rpm and it feels like I’m not even trying. I’m not trying. My chain’s come off.
I lose 30 to 40 seconds and with it the race. I chase but my legs still haven't grown back. I must find out if Starfish DNA is on the WADA banned list.
I’m finishing this race, though. I’m joined by another lad who also lost his chain. He lost his about a lap before me and so we’re both just riding for pride. We pass Tom Trimble who is in a bush. Crash? Pushed off the road? Nope. Piss. That definitely wasn’t the reason he stopped though. I find out later what happened to him but my lack of sleep prevents me from retaining that information.
My ‘opposite of a breakaway’ partner and I decide that if we can see the bunch down the long straight then we’ll chase them as hard as we can. We can’t. Thank god.
At the finish line and riders have already turned around to ride back to HQ. We didn’t get anyone in the top 10 but it was great to see so many of my teammates again.
On the drive back I eat a KFC for the first time in at least 15 years. Turns out the combination of Chicken grease and the little Lemony wipe that comes in the box, are the perfect combination for removing chain oil from your hands.
I stop for a nap outside a BP garage.