“It turns out it’s kind of a Kriss Akabusi arm pumping thing…..”
Yesterday I was having a meeting about a show marking the 15th anniversary of The Wire. With that in mind I thought I’d open this post with a quote from later in the story, unfortunately most of what I’ve written seems to be about Wind Turbines.
“Are wind turbines powered by batteries?” or something to that effect, my wife asks me.
“i’m pretty sure that would defeat the point” or something to that effect, I reply.
This conversation happened only seven days ago but it’s apt as I’m back racing on a circuit only a kilometre away from last week’s Barnsley Road Club Road Race. Taking place on top of the Pennines, the Eric Biddulph memorial road race is also known as the Tour of the Windmills as the course is pretty much surrounded by Turbines. That tells you two things. 1, it’s very rarely not windy around here. 2, a load of Nimbys are well annoyed that someone prioritised saving the planet over spoiling a view. I actually think they look really cool.
The more I think about it wind turbines might have a little bit of battery assistance to get them moving. You’re enjoying all this Turbine chat aren’t you?
At the start of the season I picked this out as one of the races where I hoped to go well. I nearly won on this course the last time I raced it, and like a ferret and flat cap salesman, all my best results this year have come in Yorkshire.
You already know the wind will be blowing on this course, I can also tell you that it’s at the hilly end of rolling. There’s a long uphill drag to the start/finish line, and couple of punchy ramps in each lap. There’s also one of the most pot holed sections of road that I’ve ever raced on. There’s a clear route through them but it involves stopping, turning round, lifting your bike over a fence, and walking through a farmers field for a bit. A difficult move to pull off in a race.
The first few laps are about discovering what the wind is doing and which potholes are the absolute worst. The answers are headwind on the climb and for most of the rolling section, cross wind on the rolling, potholed section, and that penis shaped one on the right hand side just before you take the hairpin.
The race splits up in the fast crosswind section on each lap, but comes back together shortly after we turn into the wind. So far a few riders have tried to get away but have blown up very quickly. I’m chatting to Dave from Charlton Velo and we both agree that it’s going to be next to impossible to do anything off the front. It’ll be best to just make the race hard and keep whittling down the bunch.
We’re almost halfway through the race and I pop an energy gel, almost immediately go on the attack. I’m the cycling Popeye. Actually I’m the latest in a long line of cycling Popeyes but their power ups weren’t spinach or energy gels, and quite a few of their results have now been written out of history.
Almost as soon as I go off the front I hit a pothole that I hadn’t previously discovered. I hear a crack and my saddle is now set at an angle that means for the rest of the race it’ll operate like a slide. I enjoy it so much that each time I reach the bottom I keep climbing back up and having another go. There is over an hour of this race still to go.
Off the front I’m joined by a lad from FTR Milltag. He asks me if I’m serious about this move. I tell him that we’ll get up the climb and take stock from there. We’re making a good fist of this, and we’ve got about 20 seconds or so on the bunch. At the top of the climb we don’t say anything but it’s obvious to both of us that we’re going all in on this one.
A lap later and we’re still away with perhaps 25 to 35 seconds on the bunch. My companion hits the start of the climb hard but when I come through to take my turn he struggles to hold my wheel. Over the top and I have to decide whether to press on alone or go back to the bunch. I press on. There are 4 laps to go.
The great thing about this course is that it is winding and rolling. It means that you can get out of sight for a while and then be afforded a great view back across the course as it rises and falls around the hills. The bunch are a long way back as I get out of vision again. They almost definitely don’t think that I can do this and that’s my best chance. My other chance is that they keep attacking each other and each time getting shut down.
On the next lap and I’m held up by a horse in the road. That was the downfall of my last big solo break at the Weaver Valley Road Race. I’m then held up by a car trying to do a 9 point turn on a country lane. That one’s a new one on me. The lengths bike racing will go to to stop me winning are amazing.
One of the commissaire’s cars is now behind me which means I must have a decent gap. It pulls alongside me to tell me I’ve got a minute and seventeen seconds. This is where I start to really suffer but I moderate it by setting myself small goals. I let myself enjoy the downhill and tailwind sections in exchange for having an awful time everywhere else. I tell myself that I’ll try and take the bell alone, and then see what happens.
2 laps to go and I can’t see the bunch at any point on the course.
I take the bell alone, wishing the race was over and waiting to be inevitably swept up by a late counter attack. Halfway around at it hasn’t come yet. I slide down my saddle for the millionth time and drag myself back for another go. Each time a car comes driving past me I check to see if it’s the commissaire’s or not. If it is then my gap is coming down and my day’s probably going to end in despair. Each time I’m thankful that it’s just an impatient driver who’s desperate to get to the Garden Centre.
At the bottom of the final climb you get a great view back around the circuit. You can see an exposed section of the course that is perhaps 90 seconds back. I look and see nothing. The race car pulls up alongside me and I hear “you’ve got a minute and forty four seconds”.
“Fucking hell” I shout back, laughing.
As I get over the steepest bit of the climb I’ve got time to enjoy this and let it sink in. I think about the first road race I did, where I got dropped on the first lap. I think about a mate who can’t ride anymore after a freak injury. I think about the people, like Coach Watto, who picked me up whenever I was disheartened with the sport and always told me that my rewards would come. I think about the brilliant people at CC London, and now Buxton CC, that I’ve ridden with, and how we have pushed each other on to keep getting better. I genuinely get a bit emotional but luckily my Poc sunglasses are modelled on something Elton John would wear so you can’t see most of my face.
One thing I don’t really think about is my celebration. I’ve never really thought about what I’d do if and when I win a race. Let’s just see what comes naturally. I'll probably do a dope endo or a gnarly skid. The fact that I can’t take both hands off the bars due to my saddle being at 45 degrees, and the fact that I’m massively lame, It turns out it’s kind of a Kriss Akabusi arm pumping thing. I’m pretty relieved that I don’t start shouting “awooga.” At least I’ve got something to work on.
I’ve got time to turn around, hug my teammate who’s waiting at the finish line, and gather my thoughts before the next rider crosses the line, over a minute behind me.
Thanks to Huddersfield Star Wheelers for putting on an excellent event.
Also massive thanks to 23mm for my wheels. So glad that I could finally get a win on them. If you fancy a new set of wheels then give Mike a shout and tell him I sent you. Rest assured they are fast as hell.