Thursday, 23 April 2009

Up the Palace!

Tuesday was the Queen's birthday - so what did we all do? We went to the Palace of course! Well, Crystal Palace actually.

And there was not a gun salute to be heard - just the sound of a whistle, a bell and a siren plus the whirring sound of the smooth pedalling and the odd clink from the chainging of gears. Of course there's the occasional shout of "hold your line", or "on your left", plus the regular cries of "work together, keep it going, dig in." All the while, suited and booted officials diligently make notes as a man shouts out the numbers of the riders who complete each lap of the circuit.
Thus is the routine of the Crystal Palace crit races, which started on Tuesday and will continue until the end of August.

I was in the priviledged position of not having to get involved in this merry go round of a circuit, which can be quite daunting even for some of the most seasoned road racers.

I leant my services as a marshall for the race. So it was just a case of standing at one of the entrances to Crystal Palace Park and alerting passers by and other park users of there being a cycle race in progress.

As we were quite flush with marshals there were 3 of us at this particular entrance, which is on a tricky hairpin on the circuit. It meant then that we were able to do a fair "division of labour" when it came to marshalling.

So at times I was able to just watch proceedings. On such a punishing circuit there's no where to hide. There are so many turns and corners, plus a challenging climb, thus many opportunities for you to be dropped. This course definitely finds holes in your training (or lack of it)!

Spectacting the race was very interesting. There's the guy who sets off like a lightning bolt from the gun, but then gets caught by the main group about 5 laps in and then he burns out and becomes relegated to peloton fodder. Some riders start off quite conservatively, just sitting in near the back end of the pack, and with the help of another fellow rider manage to work their way up to the main group, then contest the sprint for the line. The class act, for me is the one who just burns off the front from the gun and then manages to stay away for the whole of the race and win.

That's what Charlie Blackman (Cyclefit) did in the women's race. She did it in such style, and her victory was a very deserved one - especially as throughout the race I saw the sweat and heard the panting even from a good distance away!

My team mates from Dulwich did well. Two of them were new to the course, so were a little phased by the number and trickiness of the corners. They didn't disgrace the club by any means with their performances. Karen, the third rider finished just off the podium in fourth place.

I hope to be at Palace within the next few weeks. Watching the race has given me the motivation to have a go. I hope to race there soon.


photos by London Cyclesport
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