Paul Winkley writes…
Guildford Town Centre Races or ‘A man’s got to know his limitations’
This is the one they run on closed roads over a very tight circuit which includes a section of cobbles on the High Street in Guildford.
Andy Seltzer and I were supposed to ride this last year but it rained all day and on the grounds of safety we cried off. I had an email from the organiser inviting late entries for this years event and thought – why not, I could teach those ‘bozos’ a thing or two in bike handling, so dreaming of glory and practicing my victory salute I set off with the family[!] for Guildford.
I must admit being a bit bothered about this one having snuck a preview of the course very early on Sunday morning. The most important part of the course is the sharp left hand turn up Market Street which you take flat out after a down hill stretch from the High Street. I warmed up and quickly found the level of adhesion at about 25mph using a stretch of the pavement for extra grip. Its then up hill to the cobbles of the High Street. You can use the camber of the road to turn left and point things in the right direction before rattling slightly uphill to the start/finish line.
The race plan was to start as near the front as possible and on the left hand side as I was sure that it would be ‘full on’ from the gun. How right I was, soon we were flying downhill to the turn up Market Street and onto the cobbles, over the start line. Lap one, 43 seconds! I heard the commentator say ‘and they’re not hanging about tonight’ and they weren’t, but I was, slowly riders were passing me and I could do nothing about it!
I’d often read articles about how hard it is to ride on cobbles but I have to admit compared to some [most] of these guys I was seriously lacking in the horsepower department. Soon I found a group of similarly equipped souls and we were soon lapped by the leading 6 riders but I pressed on regardless because out of 40 starters I was sure that not all had passed me. The race lasts for 20 minutes [by the Town Hall clock which hangs over the course] plus 10 laps. I persisted, even beginning to pass some riders on the cobbles until the order came for ‘all lapped riders to leave the race’ with 3 laps remaining – game over.
Stopping by the family on the barriers to watch the handful of remaining riders come in, 15 classified out of 40 starters, maybe not so bad after all.
It was hard. Would I do it again? Maybe, if I was fitter and thinner, but I turn 53 in few weeks it might be time to hang up my crit wheels!