Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just like the pros do it!

Mike Rutty Memorial Road Race, 03/06/2012
2 hrs, 2 whole hours it took me to get to this race! This is the longest I have had to drive myself to a race ever! Pretty good run though and thankfully the race started at the more gentlemanly time of 10.15 rather than the standard 9.30 start. This race just about made it through my race qualification criteria, the main rule of which is that I will not enter races which take longer to travel to than it takes to complete the race itself! Unless of course #I am riding there or its a very important or extremely awesome event. This race was one of the shortest road races I have done since my 3rd cat days, at a distance of only 56 miles this would take about 2.15 – 2.30 hrs to complete depending on the nature of the course.

I didn't really recognise any names on the start sheet due to being out side of my usual West Midlands stomping ground, although there was one name, Mark Corbett, a talented rider from Worcester who I have raced with many times in the past. At least I will have one friendly face to approach in the bunch. The course itself was 7 laps from the gun of a pretty tight and narrow road circuit with what seemed like more downhill than uphill! how that works I'm not really sure but that's how it was. To make matters worse, the finish was after a big long open descent which meant that the sprint would open up at about 40 mph!!!! I really should have put on the 23-11.
As with pretty much all of the races I have attended in the last 2 years, this one was organised with the same precision and skill as we have all come top expect and was all thanks to the effort of VC Bristol. The HQ was spot on as it was located at the local Football Ground so we were all treated to a riders briefing i the Club house complete with fully functional Bar!!!! Although this wasn't actually on for todays event. Riders a generally nervous and edgy before a race as it is but matters were made worse when a rider somehow came a cropper in the car park and he was so badly injured that an ambulance had to be called. This unforeseen event along with the grim looking sky which was sporadically producing rain and making for a very greasy circuit made us all just a little bit on edge than normal.

After a it of a delayed start due to waiting for the ambulance to come and go, we rolled out the HQ and pretty much straight in to the race. Straight away the race lined out and as I started at the back I really found it hard to move up through the bunch in to a good position, then when I did I couldn't stay there for very long before being swamped by rider from all directions. This is one of the only course I have raced on that has no double white lines anywhere on the entire circuit, this meant that rider felt it was ok to dive in to blind corners on the wrong side of the road and sprint round the bunch in the opposite lane whilst riding over blind crests. Soon the inevitable happened and the British Cycling commissarie called a halt to the race as we turned on to a quite part of the course. For the next 10 minutes we all got a pretty big bollocking due to our outrageously dangerous riding but this also made for a great chance for a natural break! We were given strict order that for the remainder of the race we would not be allowed on the opposite side of the road not matter what and if we did then we would be given an automatic fine of £10.00. I for one was fine by this and really didn't want a fine so I religiously stayed on the left hand side of the road. This made moving up though the bunch even harder but so be it. It didn't take long though for other riders to turn a blind eye to the rules and start hammering down the right hand side of the bunch on the right hand side of the road. Why??? Oh well, there the ones who will be sending a check to to British Cycling in a few days.

As the race developed it was clear that a break was not going to get clear very easy and every move was shut down very rapidly. from the start of the race i noticed that my rear wheel was being very noisy and it seemed to get worse as the race wore on. It was with 4 laps to go that I began to have technical problems as my cassette had worked itself loose and now began to lock up the freewheel. Not good. I had no choice to but pull to the side of the road, raise my hand and wait for neutral service, this would be the first time I have ever had to do this. As the bunch disappeared in to the distance, the service car came speeding to stop just in front of me. I whipped out the rear wheel as the driver rushed out shouting “What is it, What is it”, “Shimano 10 speed” I replied. With in a few seconds he had threw my wheel in the car, grabbed a worn looking spare and slammed it in to my bike. “Have you had service before” he asked me, “nope” I replied. “Right, ok then, when we get going sit behind the car and I will take you up to the first car in the behind the race. Just trust me and we will get you back on”, “Righty’o, got ya” I said back in an amazingly clam tone, much more calmly than I thought I would have ever have been in this situation.

Video of the cahse back to the bunch

Off he ran back to the driver door as I mounted my revised steed and off we went in pursuit of the bunch, Just like the pros do it! Now I have never done motor pacing before but I was pretty happy to get in as close to the car as possible, the problem was I couldn't bloody get there! Every so often I managed to tuck right in behind it but then the driver would speed up and I would loose some ground, this meant that for 80% of the chase I was out of the sweetspot of the draft and having to work super hard to keep up. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but after a good 20 minutes of chasing we approached the bunch just before a sharp turn which lead on to a climb. I was told to move around the cars and get on the back of the bunch but as I hit the climb I had nothing in my legs to close the gap and soon the race was disappearing from me again. I kept chasing hard but was loosing ground so once again my buddy in the service car jumped back in front of me and this time I was determined to stick to the bumper. So for the next 10 minutes or so, me and the driver formed an silent bond as he kept me in his ear view mirror and helped me back in to the race. Finally we approached the back of the bunch and as I seized my chance to jump on to the tail end of the race, I gave my buddy a thumbs up as a way of showing my gratitude for his help.

So now I was back in the race but the race had happened as I was off the back! A break had gone clear which contained 7 string riders, they were always in sight but with only a few miles to go before the chequered flag the gap was never breached and this group went on the contest the win with Jason Flooks, riding for the organising club, took the win in his home race. My friendly face, Mark Corbett managed to make the break and took a very well earned 5th place. I rolled in with the bunch and although I may not have done anything in the way of an officially result, in my head I was ecstatic and very happy due to my achievement of making it back on to the bunch. So many times I have seen rider puncture, get service and then make it back in to the race, Its pretty rare for riders to make it back so for me to do was great and it was a fabulous experience. Of Couse I owe a lot to my Buddy in the car who showed some amazing driving skills to help back. I don't know your name but you know who you are so once again, thank you very much for an awesome ride!

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