When everything goes dark

So after a fortnight spent wondering if riding from Acton to Wimbledon and back might benefit me in some way, I got a chance to put it to the test. I recorded the ride to Wimbledon on my Nokia N95’s Sports Tracker software once:


I’m not sure where I clocked 148km/h coming over Putney Bridge but I guess that’s what happens with rudimentary GPS devices. It’s otherwise pretty accurate.

I managed to get out of work early enough on Tuesday to head down to Hillingdon for the 4th Cat race. Was a bit worried that it seemed exceptionally windy and I’m shit at riding in the wind. Well, not that bad, just I seem to catch a lot of it, no matter where I am in the bunch.

Turns out I was right to worry. That “headwind all the way round” that defies explanation was as strong as it ever is at the start and there were some boys with big engines in the 4ths this week. It went off fast and got pretty lined out in the first few laps, like spaghetti in the breeze.

I tried to hold the wheels and stay up towards the business end as best I could and was feeling average, if not strong, when gaps started appearing. I moved across them without getting too near my limit and wondered if a break might get away.

Eventually a couple of guys got a gap and were moving away about halfway into the race by my reckoning. I made the decision that in the windy conditions it was likely to break apart more and jumped across the gap. Weirdly it didn’t hurt and I never felt like I wasn’t going to make it.

If you want to find out what it feels like when you bridge a gap and it really does hurt then you have to read David Millar’s blog on the Garmin/Chipotle site, The Millar Diaries, in which he details what it’s like trying to get across a gap when your livelihood depends on it, rather than just your Tuesday night dignity.

But turning away from the thrill of the Tour De France for a moment, how did my race pan out?

Well, our break got out there and held our gap. we tried to get organised and seemed to be doing well for about three laps. But we started missing turns and it never really got smooth enough to extend our gap. Perhaps a mix of inexperience or just not being strong enough to stay away.

Once it was brought back the pace stayed high. Seems like those who had seen us get away for a while had sparked some action and it got lined out again. 40km/h in the back straight into a block headwind means that someone must have been pulling hard. It might have been the Dulwich Paragon rider or it might have been the Polish guy from Prologue Bikes who suddenly went off like a man freshly stuck with a hot poker.

For about a millisecond I considered trying to give chase, then realised I was on my limit already, halfway down the bunch and never going to catch him, let alone enjoy the opportunity to have my legs ripped off by him. He won by almost a lap.

Meanwhile I started to tie up, legs went all cramp-crazed on me and I was struggling to cling on to the flailing tail of the bunch, occasionally managing to move up but not holding my place when I did. My plan was just to last out to the end and not get tailed off.

I thought I’d do that until I started to get a bit of tunnel vision and started to feel my senses going flat. As is my luck they’d just hung out the 2 laps to go board as I finally let go of the back of the peleton.

Now perhaps I should have rolled on and just finished but it’s a training race and there’s no point endangering other riders by trying to stay in when I was clearly either going to black out or lose control. So I wheeled off by the hut and tried to recover a bit. Des teased me about not being up there for the sprint so I’ve now got a point to prove in a couple of weeks.

Home to a Chinese takeaway and wandering around in a fuddle. Still no points to my name.

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