Up at 8am, out at 9am (thanks for the ride Nick), racing by 1030am – local races are great for ease but unfortunately the local weather was not the best! All week in Newcastle we’d been experiencing sunshine and showers, I knew I was in for a wet one. And yet I put the bib-shorts on, the summer jersey, the wool gloves…
So we were off after a short rider briefing, I’d turned up late and started at the back…my first mistake. We were off, not in a particular hurry but I did notice a two man break in the neutral zone, interesting! I knew it would all boil down to the first climb up to Wallridge crossroads, that the hammer would go down in a big way and if you wanted to stay in the bunch you had to be in the first 20 riders. Due to hesititaion, a bit of arrogance (I’ll be fine…) and lack of skill I ended up at the very back coming into the corner up this climb. Oh dear, everyone’s worst nightmare – dropped right away. I was climbing well, at least as fast as those at the front of the bunch…but…I was trapped behind the 20 or so riders who were spat out the back. My day was over. Lesson learnt.
I chased to get back on, and wasn’t that far away if truth be told but with a lack of help I became the man in the middle – between the strong wise ones and the weak climbers. Not a good place to be. I had no choice but to spend the rest of the day in a slower group. We still managed a decent pace but not really what my legs are capable of – or what I thought they were capable of.
And so we rode for the next few hours, nothing happened, through and off for most of it with the occasional half attack. Time to think about the mistake I’d made but also time to train – 70 miles quite hard is not a day wasted. Little by little the group reduced as riders pulled out. The weather was savage – incredibly wet and on lap 4 of 5 the heavens opened…hail, just what we wanted. It hurt, riding at 25mph whilst hail pings off you is not too much fun (fun to look back on); I considered quitting here, it seemed no longer a race but survival and survival meant a warm car. I kept going, I needed something from the day. Lap 5, again I almost quit but I thought, just 40 minutes more. Shivering, unable to grip the brake levers, not drinking anymore…kept going. 1km to go, I wasn’t bothered by this stage, couldn’t care less, just wanted the line. Towards the line the guys who’d done no work had a sprint, couldn’t see the point myself. Finished. I wanted the taste of tarmac out of my mouth, cup of tea – pronto!
So I was out of the race early on, no prizes on offer but I finished. I might never race the Sloan again, it needed to be ticked off, so I swallowed my pride, passed those who expected more of me at the side of the road and put my head down. 3 hours later I made it. No placing, just a finish. Not a hero, just a finisher. One or two claps not a chorus. My mental force carried me on, hunger is one part of cycling and when I have the legs and the hunger it will be time to be a hero.
Number 4 – I won’t forget that number in a hurry.
Congratulations to the winner, Will Haynes – top ride.