As it was my birthday on Saturday, the plan was for my wife to take me out for dinner, though in a change to the normal routine, I had decided to treat myself to a road race before the less healthy festivities. I had targeted this particular event as one I could do well in, partly because it would be a great present to myself, but mainly because it was only 35 miles with no significant hills to climb. I trained well, ate appropriately and, like a child ready for weaning watches its Mother’s fork, had watched enviously each time my wife raised a wine glass to her lips: now I was ready to reward my sacrifice. It was not to be. I had hoped to sit in the restaurant with the fingers of fatigue pulling at my eyelids and the deep satisfying ache of exertion burning in my legs. Sadly I had to make do with thoughts of regret and annoyance, wondering what might have been.
The course was tight, I had been told that, but one road in particular was on the verge of un-raceable. Only just wide enough for one car, there was an 18 inch strip of mud and grass down the middle of the uneven, pot-holed and gravel strewn Tarmac, which left room only for one rider either side of the road. To exacerbate the problem, it was a fairly steep descent, with a strong tailwind and a right-angled left turn at the bottom.
The first lap was fairly normal, the speed rising and falling, people getting a feel for the day and the competition. There were a couple of speculative attacks off the front and, on the second pass of that nasty descent, all seemed to be going well, that is until that junction. I scrubbed off enough speed, knew where my fellow competitors were around me, and tipped into the turn. Suddenly my back wheel was sliding out, then flicked back in line, and I drifted onto the grass verge. Someone shouted, “Well held!” as I bounced along wondering if I could get my cleat out from my pedal. Then someone was next to me, touching me and I was down. Stiff shoots of coarse cut grass pricked my skin, the clattering sound of metal and carbon filled my ears, the smell of dust and embrocation flooded my nose. “My bike, my lovely bike!” I thought as I watched others riding and falling onto it. Bollocks!
I leapt to my feet. No pain. Good. Untangling my bike, I set about replacing the chain on the chainring, getting ready to ride off again, but then noticed a rear puncture, probably the cause of the problem. There’s no mechanical support at this level, and my spare wheels were in my car. Race over, eight miles ridden. There was another rider sat on the verge bleeding from his face. I swore, angrily launched my helmet onto a bank of nettles, then set about trying to help him, though was relieved when a first aider took over. The injured racer was bundled into a car, someone sorted his bike and that was that. I swore some more, retrieved my helmet from the undergrowth, removed my shoes so I didn’t damage them or the cleats, and started walking.
Replacing calories I hadn’t burnt, dinner was good. As we ate I bored my wife with yet another blow by blow account of my misfortune. Again I told her how I love the exhilaration, the speed, the burn in my lungs and the pain in my legs, how I long for it. Resolve restored, slowly my sorrows disappeared in the warm haze of fine company and good red wine.
These things happen I suppose, but I can’t wait to race again. Now would be nice.