Robin Parker writes…
An ex-East Grinstead CC and former Tour De France rider is famously quoted as saying that there’s no such thing as “too cold”, only “not enough clothes”. And so it was with these wise words from Sean in mind that I found myself warming up for the 2nd and 3rd cat race at Hillingdon. By warming up, I mean that “ride about a bit before the event” that we cyclists do almost by habit. With the temperature struggling to reach 2 Deg C and razor sharp sleet being driven horizontally across the finishing straight with a force threatening to slice exposed flesh from the bone most normal people might take issue with the term “warming up” !
Anyhow, there I was with a bunch of other hardy souls (perhaps fools?) rolling away from the start line. With everyone a little wary of the conditions it seemed like the ideal time to launch my first attack. Joined by a couple of guys, we had the bunch lined out in pursuit. They got us back and the bunch eased. So away I went again. Different couple of guys joined me this time. But same result. Maybe third time lucky? So I’m away again. But no joy. Once I was again returned to the fold and with legs protesting violently, I decide that perhaps I should ease up a bit as I won’t last the race at that kind of tempo!
This nearly proved disastrous as I then found myself a little too far back when the hammer went down and the bunch stretched to breaking point and beyond. Still, no panic. Some hard turns, a bit of patience and with a small group I returned to what was left of a much reduced bunch. Things settled down after this frantic period until the finale loomed.
As the end of the hour approached, a couple of guys escaped. Then another three. But with 5 laps to go I was already thinking about the sprint, determined to make amends from my hopeless positioning at Hillingdon of a few weeks ago. I didn’t get distracted when another guy shot off with 2 to go – although maybe I should have as he managed to stay away to the finish also (that doesn’t usually happen at Hillingdon why don’t these people read the script!).
I was well placed at the bell and perfectly placed 3rd in line around the final bend. With a strong cross-head wind blowing hard from the right, everyone knew that they needed to leave it late or risk dying. I was first to jump diving up the left hand gutter with about 200m to go. I quickly realised that I was under-geared. Sit down click the gears. Mercifully gear change accomplished first time (not easy at 30+mph with frozen fingers, big wet gloves, and a bunch breathing down your neck!). Second kick and the line arrived before anyone managed to sweep past. Yes!
7th place and first BC points of the season. But more importantly, a bunch sprint win at Hillingdon. The LVRC National Crit champs are at Hillingdon this June and I don’t expect this to be won with a solo victory (as long as everyone reads the script!). There’s plenty more training to be done and more practice events at Hillingdon to really get that finish dialled in. But as an early confidence boost, this is a pleasing result.
And just for the record. While there might not be a “too cold”, I can report that even two pairs of neoprene overshoes are “not enough clothes” to spare toes from freezing in driven sleet!