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.
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.
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.