“FUCKING HELL” I’m yelling as a child knocks on my door. It’s actually Matt who is 17 and is doing today’s race, but I still feel guilty. I’m yelling because I’ve been moving house all week, whilst doing three different jobs, attempting to watch as much of the Tour De France as possible, and to top it off one of my cat’s seems to have conjunctivitis for like the millionth time. Getting drops in his eye involves a level of self harm that would leave me totally absolved of sin in the eyes of the most hardcore catholic sects. Fuck wearing one of those spiky leg things, just hold my cat and open a tiny bottle of eye drops. That spot in heaven is nailed on, mate.
As you can see I’m barely holding my life together so the last thing I need is a race, or for my tyre to look ripped and for my turbo to break. All of those things are about to happen and so I’m probably going to fire an RPG into a drain pipe like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Phil arrives in the fun bus to talk me down, just in time.
We’re off to somewhere near Halifax today for the 3RT Dave Rayner Memorial Road Race. Sizzo’s not coming which means I've got no soigneur, the knock on effect being I’ve got no one to tell me that I really should be wearing sun tan lotion, or to actually bring any sun tan lotion. Combined with the ultra low cut of my skin suit, the effect is a painful red ring that is quite breathtaking when the light catches it. It’s like a late evening sky reflected in a clear lake. Also it hurts like fuck.
This is for you stat fans. Before the race I’ve managed 4 shits across three different locations. The combination of stress and nerves is a potent cocktail. I’m looking forward to throwing an energy gel into the mix midway through the race and seeing what sort of bleak situation I can get myself in.
We’ve arrived about 14 hours early for the race, but once we’ve signed on, pinned on our numbers, and set up the turbo, there’s about 20 minutes until the roll out. I’ve noticed that my new tyres have a coating on them that has already started to peel. Phil assures me that it’s not integral to the structure but I’m half expecting a condom of inner tube to start poking out like when you used a nice football on some shit tarmac, midway through my first breakaway attempt. Jack and Matt both back up Phil’s assessment but they ride for different teams so they would say that. I’m also not sure how much of Phil’s advice to take. He’s suggested I use some of his barrier cream in the absence of sun tan lotion. It stops external irritants from messing his skin up when he’s doing his plumbing work but I’m not sure it’s an adequate analog for factor 50. I’m not even sure I want to create a barrier on my skin. What if I overheat and die like that woman that got painted gold in Goldfinger. Also I definitely now want to paint myself gold for a race.
I’ve not written much about my Turbo as it’s an inherently boring thing to write about. Basically it’s broken and a pair of mole grips needs to be permanently attached to it in order for it to be useable. Release the mole grips and the resistance level instantly goes up to a level that is equivalent to trying to ride up a 30% gradient. Not ideal for a gentle warm up. Today the mole grips are attached but the thing they are attached to decides to move on to pastures new. Today’s warm up is now going to involve actually riding the course. It’s short, flat, but with an uphill finish that’ll be hard when it goes full gas. We’ve also got to do it 12 times.
My plan for today’s race is to be involved but to not try and force any breaks, just get into them if they occur. Yet again this is a course on top of the hills where a permanent wind has been blowing since wind was invented. There are also about half a million riders (5 actually) from 3RT in the race, so unless they’re in the break then it’s not getting away.
The race seems to coincide with the only 2 other things that happen in this village in the entire year. One of them is something to do with horses and the other is a fun run. As with all fun runs those taking part seem to be only adhering to 50% of the stated aim. They’re having an awful lot of fun but don’t appear to be doing too much running. At least most of them are wearing fluorescent orange tutus which make it easier to spot them as we go past. At one stage a big group of them are lined up, applauding us on either side creating a tunnel of orange. It’s like riding through Dutch corner on Alpe D’Huez only it doesn’t smell of piss and there is a disappointing lack of Techno.
Nothing much happens in the race other than someone pushing the pace each time we go over the climb, but it’s less than a 90 second effort and so not hard enough to create big gaps. My first difficulty comes when I go through a gentle left hand corner and a rider comes from behind and goes shoulder to shoulder with me. I’m face with a choice of pushing back or having to break to avoid an oncoming car. I push back and also do a bit of swearing. It’s not the worst bit of chopping that I’ll face in this one. That comes a bit later on a sharp left hander. A young rider comes out of nowhere and cuts across my line in order to make up a place in the bunch, all at a time when there is literally no danger of the race splitting. I ride up to him and do my version of that bollocking that Lance gave to Christoph Bassons that time. Hopefully it won’t make him quit the sport because I don’t want to have to go on Oprah.
I almost come a cropper on the same left hander. I’m second wheel following a rider from Chronomaster who just checks his line ever so slightly. It means I have to brake and try to adjust mine. My back wheel locks up but I'm able to correct the skid and gain 10 points for artistic expression. Totally gnarly dude.
Almost every time up the hill, the same 3RT rider, Matthew Kellett puts the hammer down meaning we all have to chase hard. Turns out he’s doing it because he’s been stuck in the 11 sprocket for most of the race and so he’s only really got two speeds. Later in the day Rigoberto Uran will get a stage win and be feted for having the same problem for a couple of kilometres. Kellett will just get mad kudos on Strava.
The race comes down to the inevitable sprint up the hill only it’s for 2nd place downwards as a rider who no one really noticed has managed to get away and stay away. I’m badly placed about 2km out from the finish but I’m able to move up the outside, and then convince another rider to tow me the rest of the way to the front of the bunch. I’m sat in a good position as the sprint opens up. It goes early, from the bottom of the hill but I’m in the wheels so I’m happy to follow. A rider from Wold Top comes surging past getting a pretty decent lead out from his team. I’m caught napping so I can’t jump onto his wheel. He picks up second, thinking that he’s won, and his teammate holds on for 4th. I follow Ryan from THRE Datawolves as he’s a great rider for a finish like this. Follow him is all I can do and we come across the line in 5th and 6th respectively.
There’s a damn good prize list for this race but I’m just outside the positions that feature cash as part of the bundle. Still I’ve won a bidon full of stuff and a massive 3RT wine glass. I’m calling it a trophy, and now I’ve got two for the season. I’ll probably have to get a cabinet now, like those ones that everyone’s gran has. Only mine will just have two trophies in and not a load of Toby jugs and a Charles and Diana commemorative plate. I've also won a session in an altitude chamber which I’m pretty sure is the sort of thing that Michael Jackson slept in every night. Everything seemed to go well for him so I’m looking forward to giving it a go.
On the way home we stop at the top of Holme Moss for an ice cream. I have a knock off version of a white magnum. It's called a big white or something. Very enjoyable.
Big shout out to 23mm for my new wheels. This was my first race on them and they were bloody lovely. Give Mike at 23mm a shout if you need a new set. Tell him where you heard about him.