Question: Is the hardest part not knowing what could have happened?
“I think with this sport, you kind of learn to not even think of it. I haven’t really asked myself that question. I am completely at peace with it. It is only a bike race, at the end of the day…” Dan Martin, Garmin-Cervelo, speaking of his crash at LBL14
Ready or not
That’s some sound advice from Mr. Martin. With the very real possibility of crashing out, why then am I racing today? The answer is really quite straightforward: because I was once very fearful of racing. The speed, the turns, the peloton surging forward like an unstoppable bull, raging through crowded, narrow streets. Then again, if you pick up any good self-help book, or religious pamphlet, they are unanimous in their solution, which is: to overcome your fear, you must face it head on. And not necessarily on your own.
“I can’t say I’ve overcome that fear. More that I’ve learnt so much by training to race, that there’s now no reason to be afraid. And I have my friends to thank for that.”
There’s also another very good reason, and that is “There’s no point training if you are not going to race…. There’s no point racing if you are not going to train”, and we’ve done enough that it’s about time we do something about it.
Racing #2 and the LBCC are enjoying themselves way too much to let anything spoil this evening. There were forecasts of hard rain, but all that was hard were my two teammates, digging deep and giving it beans on the track.
Baroudeur, Craig ‘Mack’ is with us. We hope to have him on the track and racing soon, but for now he’s here for a recce and some very welcome support. We catch up whilst getting kit ready. I for one am glad for these rituals. Everyone makes time to do their own thing, mediate, getting ready for the couple of hours of speed and exhilaration.
Before long the track is cleared for us. We take the bikes off the rollers and unto the tarmac. The circuit is reassuringly dry and grippy, but for how long? The reduced number of racers makes for an uneasy start line, but we can’t wait.
I’m getting into my own routine now: sitting with the team as the marshall briefs us. I dip my head down and when all is said, I look up and all doubts are erased.
The first pedal stroke is disorganised. Cleats miss their mark, clicks and gears shift before the symphony of the race begins. Slowly we come together, taking shelter in each others company, but secretly wanting to attack at the first opportunity. We put faith into our aluminium steads and represent – Aluminium Massive!
Within the first three laps I quickly lose my position and sight of both Chronos and the Captain. I try not to panic and pick the best riders around me to form a temporary alliance. As my confidence gains, I eye the Big B’s and manoeuvre to their wings. There’s an early break and I fear that we’ll lose them. Making a classic school-boy error, I give chase.
Both riders are spent by the time I reach them, and it’s not long before the peloton chase us down. I’m wasted, but Captain gives me a smile and remarks perhaps that was a little early. There’s encouragement in his voice and I manage to hang on.
Once again, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by riders who know what they’re doing. In my small space within the race, we move swiftly and safely. There’s even time to sip a drink, sit up and stretch before the surge of the next turn.
As we whizz round, the final three laps are called. Suddenly, the leaders accelerate at a blistering pace. We give chase and pray we can close the gap. Just as quickly as it started, the race slows down. Captain is at the front with Chronos and no one wants to lead out. Captain weaves to either side of the track, and still there’s a reluctance to break away. The guile of competition spares no one.
The final lap is upon us and believing I can take advantage in the lull, I make a break for it. It doesn’t last long. As I swing around the penultimate straight, I feel the wolves hungry to pounce. One after another, the peloton swallows me up. I manage to find a second wind and give it another crack. One, two and three; I sprint past those who earlier had me beat.
It’s still not good enough to reach the top ten, like Captain and Chronos, but I’m happy to leave having learnt a few more tricks.
We regroup and do half a lap to celebrate the results. It only hits us afterwards, as to how far we’ve come, and that’s when we squeeze!
Thanks to Baroudeur, Craig ‘Mack’ for the great pictures.