Robin Parker writes…
15th September. TLI National Road Race Championships. Audlem circuit (Cheshire). 100Km
The weather forecast for Sunday’s race was not good with heavy rain, high winds and single digit temperatures forecast. So when the heavens opened shortly after I arrived to sign-in I figured that was to be the weather for the rest of the day. The high winds did indeed stick around all day, but the rain, for the most part, eased off for the race itself – although the roads themselves remained wet throughout.
The race was run over 6 laps of a 10Km circuit to the north of Audlem in Cheshire. After a long neutralised section the race exploded into life. The race had a completely different rhythm to it than the LVRC races that I have competed in this year. This was more like Belgium, with attack following attack and with splits forming in the wind. I made sure to keep myself to the front, but at the end of the first lap it felt like I had spent the whole lap jumping across gaps and I was already feeling it in my legs.
Into the second lap and splits once again formed in the cross winds. A small group at the front, then a second echelon formed and I found myself in the bunch as the third group on the road. We didn’t seem to be losing much ground so I was only mildly concerned. After doing a turn on the front to keep the momentum moving, I swung off to drop back for a breather. It was then that I started to get seriously worried! What I had assumed to be “the bunch” was now only about 10 guys. Fortunately I think that everyone realised the seriousness of the situation and we quickly closed back up to the second group, although the lead groups was disappearing into the distance.
Into the third lap and I made sure that I was the right side of the inevitable next fracturing of the remaining riders. This time, the back end of the split never regained contact and we were left with a group of around 10 riders. There then followed some very heated exchanges between a couple of riders; one who was keen to organise the chase and another who was keen to block for his teammate up the road. A bit of swearing and gesticulating I’m used to. But physically trying to push another rider into the ditch. That’s a new one on me – at least in a vets event which are after all, just a bit of fun!
Fortunately everyone remained upright; tempers diffused and some order returned to the group. However, the ferocity of the opening laps had sapped the strength from legs and the steam had gone out of our chase with the gap to the front group now being given as 3 minutes.
It wasn’t long into the forth lap that I sensed the unmistakable feeling of squishy rear tyre. I tried to ignore it in the hope that maybe, just maybe I was imagining it. But when you bounce up and down a bit and you can feel rim on tarmac, you know that it’s the end of the road. With no following cars, that was the end of my race.
It was a disappointing way to end my championship challenge for 2013. But I’d given it a fair crack and I was a long way off the winning break. So at least I am spared any thoughts of “what if” I hadn’t punctured. So now it’s time to regroup and refocus on the last few races of 2013.