During the warm up for today’s race I cycle past a three-legged dog. Thinking he might have the same abilities to predict the future as the three-eyed raven, I ask him how I’m going to get on today. He says nothing. He can’t even manage a basic “sausages.”
The dog may have shown an inability to predict the future but I can and will. In a few paragraphs time I’m going to use a swear word. I’m not sure if it’s going to be an industrial strength one, or one of those ones that seem to be ok to say on the radio, even though they make you feel weird every time you hear them. If you’re reading this article aloud to a child, you might want to bail out now. You also might want to ask yourself what on earth you’re doing.
Today is the Peterborough CC Road Race. I’ve got unfinished business with this race. I turned out here last year as I was starting to find my feet in road races. I lasted a lap before completely blowing up on a short climb. I realized this was because my rear brake had been rubbing but it was too late to do anything about it. I thought to myself that I should learn something from this. Especially as exactly the same thing had happened in a race two weeks before. I’m a slow learner.
I don’t want to do this race really. It’s a two and half hour drive away, and that drive is almost solely on the A1 which is basically just a string of American style diners and the occasional sex shop. Apparently there’s a swingers hotel a bit further down towards London. What is it about the A1 that makes people think about sex things. The only thing I think about on the A1 is the KFC that I know I’ll probably have on the way home. Think about a man, eating a KFC, alone in a hot car, and dabbing his sweaty brow. Jesus that’s depressing. Let me cheer you up with this next paragraph.
Have you heard about this Brexit thing? It’s bloody awful isn't it? It ruined TV for an entire day, social media for about 2 weeks, the Labour Party for at least a year, and the country for eternity. It’s difficult to think of a simpler time before Brexit. I tell you what can remind you…. A bin outside a school in Sawtry that has an image of Atomic Kitten on it with the words “Stop dropping litter right now! Atomic Kitten supports Keep Britain Tidy.” The image is the most popular thing I’ve ever put on instagram, I don’t even need to add a filter thanks to how sun bleached the image is after over a decade outside. I know it’s not the seminal Atomic Kitten line up but I’d still take that era over what we’ve got now.
The school the Atomic Kitten bin is outside of is also the Race HQ just in case you were worrying about me. Seeing the bin has made me feel almost ok. I’ve been ill all week but that’s cheered me up more than any lemsip or Friends boxset. I remember to call this race report ‘The One With The Atomic Kitten Bin….’. I’ll write about the actual race in a minute. Don’t rush me, bro.
At the start line and I’m the only CC London rider here. A bit disappointing seeing as I live nearer to Manchester than the capital city, but the lads have probably got other things to be getting on with, like lives. Also they probably don’t want to be in a rambling race report written by a man who has already used the word ‘bin’ way too many times.
The next thing to cheer me up is the presence of my old mate Will from Rapha CC. I read the start list and never saw his name. I’m still convinced he wasn’t on it. Maybe my brain just wanted to make sure I got a nice surprise. Lovely brain.
Nothing much happens for the first lap. The roads are as bad as ever which is a characteristic of this course. The really bad part is on an extremely narrow section between two fields. It’s super exposed and the closest I’ll ever come to doing Paris-Roubaix. If I was in one of those inspirational adverts that you get these days, I’d be in black and white saying “this is my Arenberg Trench.” Then an awful hashtag would pop up. If only we could go back to a simpler time. A time when Atomic Kitten appeared on bins.
I’ve been ill but I’m doing ok. The race is totally out of control with endless attempts to break it up in the crosswinds. I stay near the front, fully expecting the race to be in bits at some point.
It’s all a bit premature as on the second lap the commissaire stops the race. Apparently there’s a problem with the Elite race. The commissaire also uses this as an opportunity to bollock us. Incidentally ‘bollock’ is not the swear word I warned you about. That’s coming up now. I still haven’t decided what it is.
I tell you what sort of rider is an absolute dick. It was ‘dick’ if you had that in the sweepstake you’ve won a tenner. The sort of rider who is an absolute dick is a rider who, when the race is stopped, takes his bike up on the grass verge at the side of the road, pushes it around the bunch, and then places it right in front of you. That is literally the worst overtaking maneuver I have ever seen. I think ‘dick’ is probably not strong enough. Bellend.
The race is stopped amidst a swarm of insects. I’m distracted from the bollocking by trying to see which jersey is the most attractive to them. The white of Cambridge CC seems to be going down a treat.
The race gets back underway and carries on as it started. This race is made for splitting up but no team wants to be responsible for doing it. With my illness receding I decided to attack. A lot. A couple of times I get away alone but can’t stay out due to not really having the legs. A couple of times I go with a group but those moves fail for a variety of reasons. On the last lap I watch as a rider from East London Velo goes clear. I should follow him but I don’t. He wins the race.
At the finish line a few riders are lamenting the “slowest sprint” they’ve ever been part of. That’ll be down to the headwind. The headwind and me. I’m in a great position going into the sprint but then a rider from Peterborough CC takes a line that doesn’t just deviate from the norm, it completely loses contact with it altogether. They might look each other up on friends reunited one day, but the earth will already be a scorched post-brexit hell hole by then. The line he takes is a perfect diagonal that nearly takes him into a parked van. If he succeeds in making contact with the utility vehicle then so will most of me. Disaster averted but I end up having to come round him and find myself on the front. The line is approaching but no one is jumping. I need a wheel to get on or I’m going to get jumped out of the points. I should swing over or stick the race in the gutter, but I’m terrified that fate really wants me to crash. Missing that disaster a few seconds ago has angered the gods. This is the latest film in the Final Destination franchise. Who knew that the final destination, all along, was the side of a parked van?
About 150meters out and I think the sprint finally starts. I jump onto a wheel but it’s chaos, I’ve got no legs left, and I’ve got no time to make up the speed to get involved. I sit up as the top 10 is decided. Next to me there are idiots nearly crashing fighting for places outside the points.
My instagram picture of Atomic Kitten hits 26 likes.