Up the League! (The Bath Cycle Races)

it had to happen sooner or later. Finally, at the ripe old age of 35 years young, i made it onto the start sheet of a massed start road race. i couldn’t escape the need to get some bunch racing experience ahead of the BSCC road race at the end of the month, so signed up for the Bath Cycle Races, a short blast around Victoria Park with 40 or so other crazed roadies. I’ve entered others but generally been rejected – i didn’t get a ride at Mike Rutty or Betty Pharoah. it’s been quite frustrating really.

the weather was perfect for it, not much wind and glorious evening sunshine. it could have been a touch warmer, but there you go. putting it simply, it was a brilliant event and i had a whale of time. i rode hard on the front and really enjoyed being in the bunch and mixing it up. Time trialling consists of getting your head down and riding fast until you’ve finished. Road racing is similar, but with a thousand other considerations at any one point in time, running through your head in an infernal internal monologue. Early on I was worried about being too far back as the bunch got moving, then i was worried about being on the front for a while, even though i quite enjoyed it, then i was worried about slipping back and losing wheels, then i stopped worrying and just kept riding hard. I had an idea about what wheels to follow so when Mike Kiss went i decided to go after him, thinking we might get the gap. It was a real laugh, but very intense. I had no problem with the surges and this is generally seen as a pretty full-on race. in fact, the fastest lap of the evening was done by the 3/4 rather than the elites. i think because it’s half an hour everything thinks they have to pedal like madmen, there’s no time for an ebb and flow, it’s utterly relentless. My kind of race.

One of the reasons i’ve not done any roadracing as yet is because i don’t want to crash, and it’s a well-know fact that 3/4, or particularly 4 road races are crashier than a demolition derby. the bike handling on show at Bath was pretty sturdy and people were generally polite. i was expecting to be shouted at and abused by foaming roadies. it didn’t happen. It’s ironic therefore, that i managed to crash out in my first road race. When chasing Mike out of the corner he grounded a pedal and wobbled like a plate of jelly. i was accelerating out of the hairpin and had nowhere to go, apart from left and into the kerb, and then over the handlebars.

it’s crazy how one minute you are absolutely on the rivet, the next second you’re on the floor, with heartrate still working at around 175bpm, muscles warmed up, adrenalin coursing through the bloodstream. i took some road rash and am pretty sore today, i couldn’t get out of the saddle to ride uphill. in a fit of funny arrogance i thought to myself ‘this is how regular commuters feel every day’.

the pictures of the crash are completely hilarious. they have extracted no sympathy, only riotous laughter. I’m actually flying. there was another crash at the end, a chap looked to have the win, looked over his shoulder and went down quite hard. Kieran and Christian were also riding for BSCC, with Christian taking 7th for some more points. I’ll be back next week. i think.

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