Ups and Downs, Smiles and Frowns

I’m new to this cycling lark, actually I’m new to competitive sport. My idea of competition was the year six sack race, I was pretty decent at it. I placed my feet in the ends of the sack and essentially ran. I won the year six sack race from the heats to the main event. I even got a certificate. Cycling is different – you can’t cheat.

The last month has been a roller coaster – I secured my first win but I also had a few mishaps and disappointments. I have since raced three British Cycling criteriums (thanks to Paul and Nick who gave me lifts) – I’ve not even sniffed the top 10. I’m not great at moving round the bunch, due mostly to my lack of boldness; I’m a relatively shy lad and this translates when I’m on the bicycle. Often I find myself at the back of the bunch and you can’t have any hope of winning from there.

Next fault – cornering. You don’t have to corner fast in Category 4 races. Step up to 2/3/4 races and it’s a whole new world, everyone leans, picks a fast line, and pedals through. I don’t…I’m still braking whilst cornering. Unfortunately this fundamental skill has passed me by and I am now having to pick up this skill during races, not ideal but I’ll get there.

The worst part of the month of May was 25 minutes into a 2/3/4 criterium at Hetton-le-Hole. I hit a rock, it shook the bars but I thought phew, I’ve got away without a puncture. I was wrong…I was soon riding on the rim. No worry, I signalled to the bunch about my issue and started to ease off. We flew round a bend at 27mph and the tyre rolled in between the break pad and the wheel rim. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing you’re going to hit the tarmac. Wham. Ouch. Riders fly past and have the kindness to swear. I cried in the shower after the race but I knew I had to clean the wound…I’ve never been so low with cycling. Soon I was back to myself and wanted to be out on the bicycle again, flying. Racing cyclists are a hard bunch, you kind of learn to live with pain and can almost switch it off. I couldn’t switch it off that night but I was soon back out and even completed 10 hours of training the week after.

Down and hurt.

The after effects of crashing are bruises, scabs and a fragile mind. I finished last in the bunch last Sunday at a criterium in Middlesbrough – it wasn’t a tough race but I couldn’t corner. That won’t last forever. Nick from our club sprinted to sixth, which was great as he was active throughout.

At the back – fearing the next corner.

On the plus side I’m still enjoying the local TLI events. Last night I was third on a relatively lumpy course which finishes on a hill. Positioning was poor again but I was able to rely on my speed up climbs to get a ten pound note for a very wet nights work. I cornered a little better, so the confidence is coming back gradually. I do well at the TLIs but ultimately this is because the bunch is much smaller than a BC race so my inability to get near the front doesn’t effect me as much.

To finish I’ll just say something positive – recently I’ve been feeling great on the bicycle, despite the crash and a heavy training load. I’m really improving and improving fast. Onwards and upwards.

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