After trying a few time trials, I decided to have a go at regular racing. Fortunately, the MK Bowl is but a 10/15 minute drive away, and has regular races, this being the final Spring season race. Yes, I am useless at this resting the knee lark!
I woke up nice and early this week, making sure breakfast had enough time to digest this time! The strange yellow light shining through the window would provide excellent conditions I thought, but guessed it would also mean many racers. The race started at 9.30, so I got there at about 8.30 to make sure I got a place. As I was getting ready in the car park, I bumped into fellow LBRCC'ers Tom and Simon, who had both raced before. I got a few tips from them, and a few things to watch out for, and my nervousness started to turn to excitement!
We rode to the track and did about 5 laps to warm up, which definitely helped both to learn the corners and get the legs going after quite a tough week of squash, with 4 hard matches! Feeling good, I stripped some layers as it was now about 13c and getting warmer, and wolfed down a banana and bottle of water. I had elected not to ride with a drink, as I'm not that confident of drinking on the go at the best of times, nevermind in a race. I worked out I'd be OK, it wouldn't be more than an hour, and my body seems to function OK with lack of water, probably adaptation through squash.
A quick plea from the organiser not to crash, and we were off! The first couple of laps were quick, as I had been warned, hitting 44km/h for the lap! It wasn't a problem in a bunch though, and everyone slowed on the (very slight!) uphill, obviously not used to Pennines! It took me a couple of laps to get comfortable, not having ridden in a group so much, but the advice of 'pick a back side and follow it' worked fine, focusing on that made me think less about the corners I think.
As I got more comfortable riding in the pack, and reacting to slight movements by others, I started to push up a little every so often, although I seemed to gravitate towards the edges come the corners. I was starting to feel great by about lap 10, tempted to have a little fun an attempt a doomed break, but less than halfway in I thought better of it, I didn't want to be dropped in a state of exhaustion! As we approached halfway, I felt to be taking the corners better, staying in the bunch and avoiding having to waste energy getting a wheel afterwards, so I started plotting how I would launch an (Ill fated but passionate) attack.
However, next thing I knew I felt a slight slip round a corner, followed by the horrific feel of a rim under an airless tyre. I couldn't believe it, my first race and I was the first to drop out with a puncture! I managed to get most of the way round before it was pancaked, but the final hundred metres were one of my least favourite walks! The organiser asked if I wanted to rejoin, but it seemed futile after taking X minutes to fix a puncture. He did tell me about his first race though, how he got no.13 and punctured on lap 3! Could be worse!
Annoyed, I lay (threw...) my bike unceremoniously against a hedge and sat down to contemplate life (sulk...). One positive was that it was so sunny I got to work on my tan lines (Re: Rule #7!)...but that's clutching at straws for optimism! Shortly after, I was joined by team mate Simon, struggling with a child-borne cold, and a Team MK rider who had suffered the same fate as me. He retrieved a pin of some sort from his wheel. And having picked it up in the same area as me, I suspect it was also my downfall.
Looking at it optimistically, it was good to see the end of the race, where several individual and one pair unsuccessfully broke away for a lap or two, and finally a sprint finish. At least I know what to expect when I finish. There was one crash involving a couple of riders, from sprinting in the main pack I believe, garnering criticism from several veterans. The race was won by a St Ives CC rider I think, with Tom placing mid-pack.
In a final bid of insult to injury, I only had a regular length stemmed tube, which I was unable to inflate, needing a long valve stem for my wheels, leading to a walk of shame back to the car park. Overall, not the worst day, but could be better! Average speed of 40km/h certainly looks good!
No riding for me the next couple of weeks, as next weekend is Intercounty Squash weekend, so I'll be playing for Bedfordshire against Worcestershire and Avon, in Bromsgrove. After that I'll be heading to Cyprus on the 9th, finally forcing me to rest my injured knee! I'll hopefully post some reviews in that time, possibly of the Bont Riot shoes, and Michael Hutchinson's new book 'Faster: the obsession, science and luck behind the world's fastest cyclists'.