Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Hapless Rider - Post Script


Despite the severe weather warnings of gale force winds and heavy rain along the South Coast, Stan and I still made the trip down to Brighton to do the London League Cyclo Cross race at Stanmer Park.

I wasn't relishing riding in the pouring rain and I was still feeling a bit tired from my previous day's training. At least I had the cyclo cross bike though, as opposed to my trusty but rather heavy Rockhopper.

Usually I like to arrive at the races an hour before so I've got full preparation, warm-up and recce-ing time before the start. However on grotty days like this I'm quite happy to get there a little later as I can't be bothered hanging about in the cold and wet too long. I generally get everything done in one hit - all in under half an hour - out of the car in my kit, carrying the gear I need, ride up to the sign-on, warm up and start the race very soon afterwards.

Unfortunately, I mistimed things a little when I decided to go to the loo 5 minutes before the start. And for some strange reason in the signing-on hut, I busied myself folding up all my warm-down clothes into neat piles. (Hell, I don't even do that at home !)
Imagine my surprise when I looked up from what I'd been doing to see all the riders tearing off up the field and I wasn't even within reach of my bike. "I think they've started," someone very observantly pointed out ! Funnily enough I still didn't see that as an incentive to hurry up.

I just calmly and slowly took my bike and rode across the field to start my "race". Admittedly I did feel a bit silly riding across the start line a good minute after everyone had left, and they'd already rounded the bend and were at the top of the hill !

At moments like this you end up just riding like you've got nothing to lose. There's no real tactic that enters your mind - you just turn the pedals and do what you can as fast as you can. The terrain was so muddy - it was like riding through brown rice pudding. On the first run-up my bike got clogged up to the point I could no longer wheel it. Unclogging it cost me more time. I wanted to pack. But hey, I'd paid my money. Also the car was locked so if I stopped now I would only have ended up standing around getting cold. So riding around getting very muddy was the least worst option. So on I continued squelching up the field, through the trees, and then down again.

I also figured that to avoid getting the bike clogged it would be essential to carry the bike on all the muddy run-ups. Not an easy task as the bike was probably 50% heavier with all the mud it had collected, and I was having to use my dodgy arm. Then when I thought things were already pretty bad I got caught in a really strong gust, on one of the most exposed parts of the course. I was almost blown over !

Then a point comes when your character comes out and you decide you're gonna soldier on. Someone up there is taking the piss (almost literally) and you've had enough. You're not having anymore of it and you're gonna stand up and be counted ! The terrain went from sticky to treacherous, with many people taking a tumble. I slid and dabbed my way through a number of very dicey sections - especially where traction with the wheel was practically inexistent. I was determined to finish. And on this day finishing the race at all would be an achievement in itself.


So that's what I did - I managed to finish. And on top of that, by some miracle I didn't come last. My diligent pedal spinning managed to get me past a few people, and I ended up doing not such a shameful ride in the end ! My bike might have been unrecognisable in all the mud, but hey - I think things just got better !


photos by Phil Jones (Dulwich Paragon) and Stanley
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