There’s a famous saying that “in bike racing there are days when you ride like an angel gliding along a bed of tarmac dreams, and other where you ride like a big sack of dicks.” It’s actually neither a saying nor famous, but today I’m going to do one of those things.
Today it’s the first of the North Wales Road Race series. The next 3 are all very hilly and contribute to an overall prize. This one, at Denbigh, is on a rolling course and it’s the hors d’oeuvres for the main event. Like those hors d’oeuvres that you get at weddings when the meal is still ages away, but it’s been about a day since you had breakfast, this appetiser has been surrounded by an eager bunch of very keen lads. It’s such a strong field that it turns pre-race plans of easily slipping into the day’s breakaway into outrageous lies.
I’ve been gradually turning my wife into my soigneur, today she’ll sit by the road and make a daisy-chain rather than handing me a gel but we’re only at the beginning of the process.
As well as being my soigneur my wife is also my selecta. Her job is to surf through radio stations, during the drive to races, seeking pop hits. During today’s search we find a station that segues from The Flaming Lips into some vintage Highlife. The advert that follows this is for training courses for people aged between 60 and 90 and it makes me think that the station really hasn’t worked out who its core audience are. I forget about emailing them with some advice because Sizzo finds Dionne Warwick doing Heartbreaker on another station and I’m really getting into Barry Gibbs’s backing vocals.
Sizzo also finds this stone cold jam from Tommy Dorsey on another station. It’s the sort of record that can make any situation sound more fun than it is. You might want to put it on now because I’m about to start racing like a big sack of dicks.
The HQ for this race is a cute little school in North Wales. First thing I do is go for a piss and I’m directed to the girls toilets. I spend ages queuing for the cubical before realising that there are actually urinals in here. North Wales is either very progressive when it comes to gender fluidity or they’ve not been able to upgrade their bathrooms due to tory cuts. It’s fantasy versus crushing reality.
Today is my first race in the colours of my new team, Buxton CC / Sett Valley Cycles, and I’m in a jersey borrowed from my teammate, Rhys. It’s a size too big and it gives me the look of someone who’s just got into cycling. Forget the aerodynamic drag, I’m more worried about the sartorial effect this will have on my performance. You look good you go faster, so not having matching socks, gloves, shorts or a cap is bound to cause me to lose a bunch of watts.
I’m getting my excuses in here early. Here’s another one. I’ve got very little clearance on my frame when I run 25mm tyres and I’ve recently started inflating them to a much higher level. I find out after the race that my rear tyre has been rubbing on the brake calliper so that’s another bunch of watts lost. If only I’d had a pair of Buxton CC socks, it might have negated the effect. I hope this is the reason I spend the race not being able to attack as hard as I normally do.
The other reason for me not being able to attack hard is that the race is ferociously fast. We cover the first half at around 43kmph, the first 2 laps were well above that. Somehow, despite the pace, my teammate Joe manages to squirrel up the road and I won’t see him again for the rest of the day. For a while I give myself the chance of getting in a break by tagging on the wheel of anyone else who tries to escape but, ever the good teammate, I refuse to do any turns. One rider turns to me and berates me for not contributing. I try to tell him that I’ve got a teammate up the road but it just comes out as a tiny amount of breath and some vowels. It’s clear that I haven’t got the legs, the kit, or the right amount of tyre pressure today.
I stay in the bunch and contemplate a sprint for the finish. I’ve stayed pretty fresh for the last few laps and I know the uphill run to the line suits me. I also know that to contest the sprint I need to be at the front of the bunch as we turn off the course and head through 2 tricky bends before the final ramp kicks in. A few other riders know this and start taking ridiculous chances with oncoming traffic. One rider heads to the right hand side of the road when almost everyone else knows a lorry is coming the other way. This dickish behaviour carries on all the way to the finish and I decide it’s not worth it. On the final right hand bend a load of riders cut the corner that we’ve been expressly told not to cut. They’ll all be disqualified but not before getting in the way of anyone behind them. I roll in right in the exact middle of the field. Joe’s put in an awesome ride to get 4th, which bodes well for our chances in the rest of the series. You know what I’ve ridden like a big sack of.....