If you’re going to turn up to a race and find out that you’ve forgot to pack your socks, you really don’t want it to be anywhere in the North West. Elsewhere you’ll probably come away from the race having maybe been caught in some grainy mobile phone images. If you’re racing in the North West then your kit misdemeanour will inevitably be captured in high resolution by Ellen Isherwood.
Today I’m racing in the North West.
Today I’ve forgotten my socks.
It’s not like I’ve got no socks on, I’ve got a perfectly functional pair of ankle socks that look pretty dope with trainers and shorts. With cycling shoes and bibs I look like a fucking triathlete.
Amazingly I make it to about the halfway stage of the race when there are only around 25 riders left in the bunch before my faux-pas is pointed out by Ryan from THRE Datawolves. I thank him for pointing out how much of a prick I look. It’s made worse by the fact that Ryan’s pristine white socks are firmly within the Goldilocks band. Once again, fuck my life.
Before we got to this point, some of us were in a bike race. I say some of us because most of the peloton have disappeared after the first climb. We’re on the Bashall Eaves (long) course and when I raced here last I did a couple of big turns up the hill when I was working for my teammate. It helped reduce the bunch to 14 riders by the end of the race. I’m not sure if the Crimson Brother riders have been reading this blog but they decide to implement the same tactic on the first lap. All three of them hit the front and by the time we get chance to take a breath and have a look around, half the riders have been dropped.
We lose a couple more just before we hit the climb for a second time, when a crash takes a few out. I choose to avoid it and head straight for a hedge until a gap opens up that I can just about safely fit my bike through.
Right now I want to talk about Hayden Allen from THRE Datawolves. I want to talk about him because he went off the front on the first lap, got caught somewhere on the second lap, and then went off the front again. If you’ve never met Hayden, that’s because he’s probably off the front.
He manages to do this for the entire race, claiming 3 of the primes and taking the win. I’d tell you more about what he got up to but he was off the fucking front.
I always love racing on the long Bashall Eaves course. It’s got everything including climbs, descents, sweeping narrow bends, and a stretch of course that is only marginally better than the surface of the moon. By the final lap I’ve finally worked out the best way through it. It involves almost stopping my bike and then plotting a line that closely resembles a very fancy signature. It’s not fast or pretty but it works.
Today might be the hottest day of the year and so I’ve got two full bottles on my bike. Even on a cold day it’s necessary to take two bottles on this course as you will inevitably drop one of them. I lose my first on lap one when I hit a pothole as I’m trying to put it back in its cage. For the rest of the race I have to ration myself to two small sips per lap. I look forward to urinating again in a couple of days time.
Heading into the final lap, Hayden is caught and then buggers off the front again. This time with a couple of pals. One of them is a rider from Crimson Brother. I don’t know what went wrong for him, but the next time we see him he’s throwing his bike into a bush. He’s not just tossing it aside, this is a proper over the head bodyslam. Wiggins and Dumoulin have done similar things but they don’t have to take their bikes into the shop on Monday morning and pay to get them fixed.
At various points in the race the road has been blocked by sheep, tractors, and cars heading the opposite way over narrow bridges. Still riders seem willing to risk their lives for the sake of a couple of extra points as we get to the final kilometres. There are enough races named after cyclists who have been killed that you wonder why riders still take blind bends on the wrong side of the road.
It makes little difference as the race bunches together once again on the final uphill before the sprint. I try to go from back to front by following Dave from Chorlton Velo. He makes it around the bunch but the door is slammed shut before I can scrape through. I’m way too far back when the sprint really starts but I go past enough riders to finish 12th. After pointing out my shit socks, Ryan takes 2nd to make it a 1-2 for the Datawolves.
Later that afternoon I’m staring at high resolution images of my bare ankles.