How many chicanes do you think a bike race needs? Maybe none? Probably. This race had 48. What you definitely want on a fast track with about 100 riders on it is for there to be a massive compression point every couple of minutes, just in case for a moment you stopped feeling afraid for you life. Also I reckon it’d be a great idea to place one about 100m before the finish line just to give the finale that extra pizzazz that a massive pile up really guarantees. I’m confident that this circuit was designed by the people who made the assault course on Gladiators. Somewhere in a UCI office there’s a letter, in a drawer, requesting special permission to install a travelator just before the flamme rouge.
Welcome to Darley Moor. Aka Dar Wars. Aka Darmageddon. Aka Moor Moor Moor How Do You Like It? The answer to the latter being not at all you god damn maniacs.
It’s Sunday and I haven’t got a race between now and the first of my real targets for the season, The North Wales KOM Series #1. Rather than drive the 3.5 hours down to Essex to do the CC London race, where I’d have to be in the queue, to enter on the line, from about 6.30, which would have enormous repercussions for the execution of any nervous shits before the race; I decide to turn out for the first in a series of Sunday races on the Darley Moor circuit.
Normally Darley hosts races on a Saturday, and thankfully, due to work, I can’t do any of those so I’m excused the slowly unfolding horror. Today, though, I need more race miles in my legs so I’m reluctantly giving it a go. This isn’t quite a criterium, but it is a very short course, with a hairpin, and too many riders. Actually it’s totally a criterium, they may have made it about 20km longer than most of them but that’s not fooling me. I haven’t raced a crit in well over a year, since I left London and couldn’t do that one with a hill in it anymore.
I’ve got 2 teammates in this race, Steve and Phil, but due to my ongoing issues of not having my new team’s kit, we just come across like 2 Buxton CC riders and a rider who really wants to be in their gang.
The other feature of Darley Moor, other than the endless chicanes and the hairpin, is the wind. Even on a still day the wind absolutely howls across the track. I think it’s probably generated by the sharp intakes of breath that the whole peloton takes as another bike disintegrates in the middle of the pack.
The tactics for today’s race are simple. Stay up near the front to avoid as much trouble as possible, start launching attacks about halfway through, and counter attack whenever one of our team is caught. To an extent we stick to that, apart from the fact that I put my first serious attack in after about 20km. I quickly learn that the mighty headwind is going to make getting away very hard, but I’m here for training as much as points, and besides it’s much safer suffering alone out the front.
The first few laps have been heart in mouth stuff. There’s too much energy in the bunch and so riders are pushing for gaps that aren’t there and causing the whole bunch to twitch. By 30km in I think I’ve used my entire season’s worth of shouts of “LINES!”
With about a third of the race left, things get a bit more relaxed, by that I mean the pecking order has been established. It roughly equates to ‘lads who want to repeatedly attack’ at the front, ‘lads staying out of trouble in order to sprint’ just behind, ‘lads dicing with death’ behind them, and ‘maniacs’ or ‘not got the legs’ at the back. The maniacs will try and get involved on the final lap leading to danger, which I guess is what the maniacs like.
With 2 laps to go my final attack is caught. It might have stood a chance if the rider on my wheel hadn’t attacked me as soon as I flicked him through. There’s no chance he’ll make it on his own but fair play for trying.
Coming up to the line on the bell lap I drift back a couple of places. I want to be in the top 10 all the way around so I can be in the mix in the sprint. This is where I make a key mistake. I end up with riders either side of my heading into the chicane and have to dab the breaks in order to not get wiped out. I needed to be either on the left or the right of the bunch and now I’ve lost my good position. I try fighting back to the front but the maniacs are coming and things are going to get fucked up.
Darley Moor is a motorcycle circuit, and it’s pretty appropriate as on the final lap is like something from Mad Max. Everywhere riders are off the track. At one point 2 riders go straight over the grass, rather than take the chicane, they try and rejoin the race in a cloud of dust like some post-apocalypse oil-punks trying to off Mel Gibson. Next time you race here, why not wear spiked shoulder pads and have a truck follow you? Maybe with a guy playing a flaming guitar on it?
One rider goes off the track and then tries to rejoin the race right in front of me, despite the fact that he’s now going at 3 miles per hour. Another rider has either had a mechanical, or just lost his mind, and indicates that he wants to turn off the course, using the only space still left open to me. This time I'm forced to slam on the brakes and I lose another bunch of places. In the end I’m perhaps able to sprint for a place just outside the top 20, maybe just in it. I come away disappointed not to have been able to fight for the win but with my bike in one piece and more race miles in my legs. Me and Sizzo go for a burger at the Pico Lounge.