This race report is actually a bumper Easter bank-holiday double race report EGGstravaganza. It’s kind of like a bespoke stage race if stage races began with a massive time trial on Friday, a flat road stage on Sunday, and a day working in London in the middle. If you guys at the UCI are looking for new ways to invigorate cycling then I’m happy to discuss this model with you.
Part 1 of the stage race is the Buxton MTT. What does the M mean? Massive Time Trial? Mega Time Trial? Nope, Mountain. The Buxton Mountain Time Trial. Does Buxton have a mountain? No, but this time trial is actually in Longnor. Does Longnor have a mountain? No, but it does have a massive hill that you go up 3 times. If you look up the definition of a mountain in any dictionary it’ll say a mountain is “what happens when three hills merge or the same hill creates 2 identical copies of itself.” Please take my word for that and don’t look it up
Mountain or not, the Buxton MTT features as much climbing as a proper mountain TT, and a lot more than a Massive TT or a Mega TT. Again, if anyone from the UCI is interested in either of those formats then please give me a shout. In actual figures the Buxton MTT is 53 point something kilometres and features about 1100m of climbing. This is what the profile looks like…
Analysis of the route shows it’s got a really steep hard bit followed by a less steep hard bit, then a short steep hard bit, then some more slightly-less-steep hard bits, then another really steep, but short, hard bit, then a bit that’s relatively flat but actually isn’t, then a mega downhill fun bit. You do that 3 times.
Last year the weather was perfect. I finished 27th overall and took 2nd place in the road bike category, winning myself £20. This year the weather is dog shit and way more people are riding road bikes, a lot of them are very strong too.
The weather is so bad that Arne has ridden over from New Mills wearing a full waterproof suit and and what looks like a motorbike helmet. He looks like Neil Morrissey’s character from Boon.
You still here? Thought a reference to a motorcycle courier based drama set in the East Midlands might have alienated a few of you. Incidentally the peg for Boon on IMDB simply says “Two middle-aged ex-firemen start out in business together". You can imagine executives tripping over themselves to commission that. It practically writes itself.
There’s not much to say about the TT other than the weather at ground level gets a bit better. Up on the hills, particularly on the first lap, it gets a lot worse. I go pretty well, catching my 2, 3 and 4 minute men before the main climb is done on the first lap. I also take 20 seconds or so off my time from the previous year. A good effort considering there’s a headwind up the climb and a really nasty crosswind on the flat but not flat bit. Also I drop my chain on the third lap and lose a good bit of time sorting that out. It lands me 16th overall but disappointingly I’m only 5th in the road bikes category. Further analysis tells me that I was fastest up the steep climb but that I lost time on the descents and flatter bits. I’ve also decided that I need a TT bike as the only rider to pass me was on one. I’d put time into him on the climbs as soon as the road got below 4% or so, his aerodynamic advantage became obvious and he left me trailing. If anyone wants to hook me up with one then I’ll happily write about you in this blog and actually enter some time trials.
There were 2 official photographers taking pictures at the race. I think there’s a photo of every rider apart from me. I’ve been through all of them at least twice and I’m not on any of the photos. It’s basically the plot of the 6th Sense but with Bruce Willis’ part played by a Litespeed.
I won’t write about my day at work in the middle of this weird stage race, but you can watch some footage of it.
You can also listen back to it here.
Sunday’s stage, in my weird stage race, is the Frank Morgan Road Race. Readers may remember that 2016’s race was one of my bleakest experiences on a bike as the industrial estate the race was held on became the target of 2 severe hail storms which were only interrupted by a spell of really cold rain. This year’s race is only a slight improvement.
The race, otherwise known as the Scouse World Championships, is held on an industrial estate somewhere that might be quite near to Aintree, or St Helens, or Bootle, or any combination of the above. It’s a short course that is a perfect rectangle and it basically involves attack after attack after attack until something gets away. It’s almost impossible to know which is the attack to be in so the best plan is to wait until everyone has tired themselves out and then go with whatever comes next. It’s also essential to be up towards the front so that you can see what’s happening and be a part of it. It’s even more important for me to be up the front as at the HQ it is obvious that I’m the smallest person in this race which tells what sort of attributes it favours. As an aside it’s also noticeable that HQ is full of about 100 people, 99% of whom are a white man. The other 1% is a white boy. Why is cycling so lacking in diversity? I’ll write about that soon.
Before all of that, though, there’s the drive to the race. It’s notable for one thing and that’s the bit where me and Sizzo are stuck behind a lorry containing a Shire Horse. That’s a pretty big event when you live in the countryside, but it’s even more exciting because the lorry has the Welsh word for Shire Horse written on it. I can’t remember the spelling but I pronounced it as “Eggley Seg” which, I think you’ll agree, is absolutely delightful.
Back to the race and I’m feeling good now that my tyre isn’t rubbing on my brake calliper like it did last week. My only concern is that my warm up has been sufficient enough to lead to me discarding my gilet and leg warmers, despite the fact that it will probably rain at some point. I’m also wearing summer gloves which will almost definitely lead to problems with my hands if the weather gets really bleak.
The first few laps are as predicted. Attacks go but are brought back very quickly. The major surprise is that a lot of the road has been resurfaced and so the back straight is less like the surface of the moon after a light meteor storm. It’s all very relaxing compared to last year.
About 20km in, and with a lull in the action I end up flying off the front, using the headwind section to hopefully put anyone but the strongest from chasing. I slow up to let another escapee get on my wheel and we carry on together. We’re away for a lap before getting brought back into the fold. This kicks off the crucial point in the race as a counter attack immediately goes. Quite a few riders fancy this one, and I know that it might be significant so we all try and make it in. All this does is line out the bunch and bring everything back together. I decide to wait for another lap or so to try again but during this time a serious break starts to establish itself. A chase is organised on the front of the bunch and they’re brought back to about 20 seconds. Unfortunately there’s only 6 of us working on the front. Behind us are a couple of riders with men in the break who are doing a great job of doing nothing, as they should be. There are maybe 10 or 12 in the break and they’re all working together so we need bodies if we’re going to bring things back together. We’ll make this catch with just a couple more riders but it gradually ends up as just 3 of us doing the work. I wonder what some people have even turned up for.
If no one else is going to work then we’ll just save our energy and try and establish our own break then. We try this repeatedly but are either shut down by teammates of the lads in the break, or the bunch puts in just enough effort to catch us before sitting up. It’s excruciatingly negative racing and the messing about leads to the break pulling there lead out to a minute.
Now it’s pissing it down and the wind is ripping through my summer clothing causing my core temperature to reach “fuck this” levels. I want to finish this race after what happened last year but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify carrying on. All I’ve got going for me is that on each lap we pass a factory that makes Wooden Pallets and I keep replaying that Burnistoun sketch.
Widden widden widden widden widden widden widden widden pallets aside, this is now getting fucking awful and so I pull out. A few minutes later when I’m wrapped in a space blanket in the back of the Micra I see that Sam from Manchester BC has done the same. He’s been ready to pull out for several laps but didn’t know where HQ was and was hoping to find a rider he could follow.
This was never a race I had high hopes for, but today I definitely had the legs to get something out of it, so I’m pretty disappointed. I get over that by going to Nando's and then remembering the Welsh word for 'Shire Horse'.
Back racing in May when the serious business of the hilly races starts. Those I’m looking forward to.