What happens if we stay?

Like everybody else I have no idea which way the referendum vote will go and what will happen after. Still, plenty of politicians, campaigners and vested interests want to predict that socioeconomic armageddon or WWIII is just around the corner if their side doesn’t win and perhaps after all the recounts have been settled they may be right. One thing we probably can be sure of is that if we remain in the EU then immigration will remain a hot topic for Mail readers everywhere….and now I have a boring Friday train commute and time to kill.

On the 24th June the referendum vote is declared; Britain will remain in Europe. Immediately the trains, planes and ferries are full of wave after wave of unrestricted EU citizens moving to the UK. The tabloids screech invasion and Prime Minister Cameron resigns with a shrug at the bitter infighting which consumes the tories. Over the summer daily net immigration averages one hundred thousand and the Conservative government churns through Prime Ministers Johnson, Gove and Osborne. In the end the Queen, dissatisfied with her elected government and unaware she has an opposition bench, dissolves parliament and constitutes a plutocracy to be lead by a triumvirate of Johnson, Gove and Osborne. Most people don’t know what this means but seem quite happy to be governed by a wealthy elite, just like in the Downtown period of the early 20th century when folk knew their place.

By Christmas 2016 the UK population has reached 100 million. Living space and housing are now critical political issues for the ruling plutocracy. Radical new ideologies that intellectuals name communism and fascism threaten to take root. Having no innate imagination with which to find a solution the triumvirate turn to the private sector. A number of crackpot ideas are proposed such as building houses and a big moat to keep migrants out, however the final PPI contract is awarded to Richard Branson’s British Virgin Island One project.

British Virgin Island One is an ambitious engineering project to detach and elevate the British mainland from its current horizontal position to a vertical position perpendicular to the Earth’s crust. This would effectively turn Britain into a 600 mile high reinforced geological tower block and double the nations surface area, albeit on a vertical axis. Nicola Sturgeon campaigns for a new independence referendum to float Scotland into space.

The project provides a massive boost to the UK steel industry and economy in general. To feed the demand for jobs the second Great EU migration begins. By 2020, with the project well underway the UK’s economic growth is in triple digits and outstripping that of the rest of the world. By 2030 half of all EU citizens have moved to Britain and, to take advantage of generous in work benefits available only to UK citizens, nearly all have taken British Citizenship.

The project is successfully completed on time and under budget in 2040, the first time ever for a PPI. The ruling plutocracy, now governed by ministers Johnson Jnr, Gove II and Osborn are quick to realise that with fully 50% of Britain outside the Earth’s atmosphere the nation has become both a convenient space elevator and platform for cheap and accessible exploitation of the solar system. The UK soon becomes the global leader in the commercialisation of space. The demand for jobs this stimulates creates the third great EU migration.

By 2050 almost the entire European population is living in British Virgin Island One and, as in the thirties, most have taken British Citizenship in order to access generous in work benefits. The British population is now just shy of one billion, the population of the rest of the EU is exactly one thousand. The European Parliament unanimously votes to leave the EU and become British.

Over the next hundred years Europe, free of human influence, reverts to wilderness. The majority of the rest of the world has moved to the UK and taken British citizenship. Following the recently completed Queen Elizabeth II Dyson Ring, the population is put to work building a Ring World. With a 3million kilometre diameter, a billion square kilometres of living area and access to effectively unlimited solar power, immigration has long since ceased to be an issue for the forty billion British citizens who make up 99.99% of the human race.

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Wellingborough Road Race (National Jeffin B)

I was chatting to Jake before the start of the Wellingborough race. Jake started racing with SNCC last year as a fresh young 4th cat and finished as a 1st cat racing for Spirit Bikes. He’s had a pretty good 2016 season so far; the other week he topped a string of strong showings by finishing 13th, and highest placed U23, at the Lincoln GP.

I had thought I was done with racing against Jake when he gained his 1st cat licence by ripping the legs off almost the entire field at an Alconbury circuit race last August. Apparently not.

Along with me, Ed and Wayne were the only two other SNCC riders brave/foolish enough to enter this race, the hardest of the NCRA summer series…and the only reason I even contemplated entering in the first place.

We rode out of Middleton into the picturesque Welland valley, normally a great place for a leisurely ride in bucolic English countryside. The race was neutralised on the climb through Bringhurst, then we turned right onto the circuit and 15 minutes of oxygen debt began.

The run down to Great Easton was predictably fast, the left turn on to Stockerston Lane, more affectionately known as the Devil’s Staircase, was… predictably fast. At one point on the climb I had a Spirit rider to the left of me, an NFTO rider to my right and a Richardson’s-Trek rider in front and I thought; this isn’t going to last.

On the climb’s final steep grind I passed Wayne going backwards. I stayed in the bunch, at the back, but still in the bunch and got to the next bend after the climb, but they weren’t slowing down. The climb had only warmed them up. I was on the wheel of a Corley rider, but a gap was opening between the next two riders in front of him. He jumped around and I followed. It was only a small gap, but he couldn’t close it. I went passed for a pull but that wasn’t helping so he came through again.

Earlier Jake had told me how he could now ride faster than the average speed in these races, so if he missed a break, he could ride across to it. Simple really. Corley and I weren’t missing a break, just the whole bunch. We chased down the B664 but the gap kept on growing. I figured our speed was probably hitting just below the bunch average.

Corley gave up at Medbourne. 23 minutes or 10 miles since I had first gone climbed the Devil’s Staircase I was back at the top. I waited for Wayne. He came up a minute later with a Peterborough rider. We rode a couple more laps and then I watched the race.

For the final two laps Spirit were in control with one lad, Antony Moye, up the road and the rest of the team regulating the bunch. He stayed away for a well deserved win. Ed stayed with the bunch, a tremendous effort given the final field, and finished 30th. At this rate, a 1st cat licence should beckon for Ed. I on the other hand will be a little more selective about my NCRA series race entries…

Anthony Moye on the final climb looks back with the bunch in pursuit, but the win is his.

Anthony Moye on the final climb looks back with the bunch in pursuit, but the win is his.


Jake Hales and Jake Hennessey round off a 1,2,3 for Spirit Bikes

Jake Hales and Jake Hennessey round off a 1,2,3 for Spirit Bikes

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Rocko 3/4 scratch, saving the legs for Sunday

My first race at Rockingham speedway this year was a 2/3 scratch. The circuit was short, and took in the biggest of the infield’s little bumps, just before the start/finish line. To get to the lump there was a stretch of block headwind and before that a fast sweeping bend, then you were pretty much back to the start, at the top of the little bump.

Racing were Dave H, Ed, Simon R, Wayne and me; Tom and Adrian were over in the 4th cats.

From the start Ed was off the front, first following a wheel and then going solo. The rest of us either just sat in or sandbagged at the front while Ed’s gap grew. We let the other riders do the work and watched for any moves.

20 minutes in and there was a crash. 4 or 5 riders went down and the bunch threatened to split. It came back but a small group of 5 was pulling away, Simon among them. Dave, Wayne and I moved to the front, lined-up in a row, slowed down and controlled the bunch with an easy pace. I was starting to enjoy this race. We couldn’t get away with our rolling blockade for long, it lasted for little more than a lap, but it gave Simon’s group and Ed some breathing space.

Simon’s group eventually split with two lads managing to bridge to Ed and the rest, Simon included, being swallowed back into the group. I spent the rest of the race near the front, but not helping at the front; we were actually racing a bit like a team and had no interest in jeopardising Ed’s advantage. The one long pull I did do was a pedestrian spell while Ed’s group to lapped us.

Ed finished 3rd. In the sprint for the minor placings I found myself leading into the block headwind. It wasn’t a good place to be and I was swamped in the charge for the line. Simon placed best for 10th. Over in the 4th cats, Tom came 4th and earned his 3rd cat promotion.

I enjoyed the race and, rarely for these days, felt in control rather than being put under pressure by it; I was mostly near the front, but I wasn’t riding aggressively – with Ed up the road we were trying to ride like a team and help his lead. It’s reassuring for the next Rocko trip, but this relatively easy 2/3 circuit race has given me no false sense of confidence ahead of Sunday’s E/1/2/3. My inside information is the big boys, young lads really, will smash it for the first couple of laps then it will settle down. So, only 20 furiously fast miles and the first two ascents of the Devil’s staircase climb to survive before I can sit like a grape in the bunch….yet…I have a nagging doubt that a 19 year old 1st cats’ notion of “settle down” isn’t the same as mine.

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NCRA Greenwheel 2/3/4 Race 

Some start sheets are more ominous than others. Looking at the names and some of the clubs for this race, a cat 2/3/4, it was definitely at the more ominous end. The NCRA clubs were all pretty well represented, but to make up the numbers there were a good bunch of riders wearing the jerseys of Planet X, Corley, NFTO and Spirit. On the start line a lot of them looked frighteningly slim and young and no doubt quick. Still it was the warmest day of the year so the weather was nice.

From the club there was just me, David P and Simon M. We started from the Southwick HQ and took a right for a neutralised first ascent of the courses long drag of a climb up to the water tower. Over the top of the hill and the race was on. Not surprisingly it was fast. In fact too fast for some. Simon was among the first casualties getting dropped as we climbed for the second time. I kept trying to move mid bunch, but every time I looked behind the cushion of riders which had been there before were gone. The next climb wasn’t any easier, plus the heat was getting to me – the previous weekend I had been walking in Peak District snow, now I was racing in 25 degree heat with only a slight breeze to buffer the humidity.

I got round for a couple more climbs and then my legs decided to overrule my brain. Over the course of the next lap I joined up with a couple more riders. One of them, I never did get his name, gave us a commentary on how hard the start was and how did the leaders manage to go so damned fast. A quick anecdotal analysis of the situation suggested it was because we had children, fairly demanding jobs and our training was only a half-hearted effort squeezed in between everything else. Oh, and we’re probably old enough now to be their fathers. At the time it was reassuring, but on reflection it doesn’t account for some of my team mates with similar afflictions but considerably better performances, though I don’t think the substituting cats or home improvements for children is entirely fair.

We dropped one of our three. The other rider with me was from Peterborough. We pushed each other as hard as we could, but with a couple of laps to go we were lapped by the lad from Spirit and another from Corley. For me that was my cue to call it a day.

I rode up to the finish line and met up with Simon. The race was in pieces, the two lads off the front had nearly two minutes over the small chasing bunch. There was a third bunch of a suffering dozen and behind these were the remaining stragglers.

The Spirit rider made the final climb look easy and took a convincing win.

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NCRA Spring series Race 1: Hail over Naseby

Last Tuesday’s chain gang had been a good night ride. I had joined the route between groups. By the time the fast group caught me I had caught one dropped rider from the first group and the rest of them were in my sights. I slipped into the fast group easily and it soon became apparent the work was being done by just three of the riders, and now me. After the Raunds roundabout the four of us dropped the rest then went on to catch and pass the first group on the Chelveston climb. A few jumped on but only Wayne lasted. Simon and I peeled off for our homes and enjoyed the warm down in the mild evening air. It was a confidence booster of a ride ahead of the first road race of the season.

Skip forward to the weekend and the weather had turned Arctic; a cold north wind was bringing icy rain and battered cubes of hail to the Northamptonshire roads. Joe, Harry, Tim, Wayne and I had turned out for SNCC, although we were almost down to four men when Tim punctured during our warm up ride; fortunately we had the means to fix it before the start.

Wayne and I were in the fourth group with Tim and Harry ahead and Joe behind in scratch. Ours was a large group, but despite that we worked fairly well on the first lap and for so early in the season. I was feeling pretty good, but after half a lap a few cracks were beginning to show in the bunch. The first climb went well. Then an attack came. I had been expecting something, just a little later on. I had been at the front, wondering when the next man was coming through. The one that finally did was a young lad from Bourne Wheelers and he just kept on going. A handful of other riders bridged across but not me; I didn’t look like it would sticking so was happy for our main bunch to reel them back in. They caught the leading groups and sure enough they started fracturing.

My group passed Harry on the finish line drag. Tim was a bit further ahead and joined up. We caught the remains of the attackers on the gnarly stretch of road leading away from Naseby.

Onto the airfield road the wind was against us. My glasses were really quite filthy and I was spending most of my time wiping them clean, or at least trying to, so I didn’t immediately notice the growing gap in front of the rider ahead of me. I still had some one on my left so thought we were all right and working together, but no. Through and off had brought me to the back of the bunch and we were now being strung out. Realising the danger, I accelerated forward, riding to get back in, but after a couple of hundred metres my legs weren’t having it. I could see a couple more riders in between me and the bunch and started developing a hopeful plan to leap-frog back in.

At the start of the climb, the scratch group caught me. The main group were about halfway up. I tried to jump on the scratch group wheels but again my legs protested leaving still off the back.

Over the climb, I wasn’t the only one dropped. I could still see single riders to aim for. The first was an easy catch and I rode straight by. Next up was Arbis’ Karl, a tougher catch than I had expected, but I got him. Next up was a 45 RC rider to become my third catch of the day. We were a group of three although for the final lap I was doing the lion’s share of the work and we would collect no more riders.

On the final drag our little trio was still together and we were all well aware of that unwritten rule: we may have been well out of the points, but it was a race, we were a group and some one had to cross the line first. Tom, the 45 rider, and I rode side by side. His breathing seemed more laboured than mine, so passing the start line I applied some pressure and soon put in some distance when no response came. Karl still had something and he passed me on my right. I ramped up again, drew level then accelerated away for 24th.

Joe and Wayne had fared much better taking third and tenth, while Tim and Harry had dnf’d. A mixed day for the club with some good success, but I was disappointed. At the start of the day I thought for once perhaps I might finally finish the first race without being dropped. Next year…

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It’s January and my half-arsed training is, well, under way. After work, I rode straight from the train station to the Market Square to join up with the club’s weekly chain gang/winter base miles ride. I was cutting it fine, and that was before factoring the slow commuter shuffle from train to platform to bridge via the bottleneck of ticket gates (I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by standing by the train doors, ready to sprint for the stairs like some commuters do).

When I arrived at the Market Square, the only cyclists were two lads on BMX’s. The clock on one of the buildings was showing 8 minutes past, so I carried on, hoping to catch the group.

At the A1 flyover, on the Bushmead road, I caught a glimpse of flashing red lights down by the red house. I guessed the time gap at around a minute and a half. David had said they had altered the route since last week to use the larger minor and b-roads; some of the ones we had been using have deteriorated badly over Christmas, and in a group, in the dark, best avoided.

I followed them, part guessing the route at junctions, part relying on thin wet tyre lines printed on the road. A light rain kept trying to get started, but never enough to entirely wash the group’s  tracks away.

Riding out was hard. The roads to the west of St Neots are all false flats and exposed drags and tonight were given steel with a brisk headwind. For a while I had fleeting glances of the group’s lights, flashing like a mobile disco, but all too soon I was relying on their tracks alone. At the top of Chequers Hill I scanned the valley below but saw only a few street lamps and the house lights of Wilden.

In previous weeks the group has turned left out of Wilden to Renhold, followed by a loop up and down Graze Hill. It adds an extra leg of road, but some bits are iffy, with gravel and holes, and I wasn’t sure if they would stick to any of this part of the route or not. The roads were getting wetter too and so my tracking was less reliable. I carried straight through Wilden thinking, and hoping, to head them off at Ravensden if they did, but not far out of Wilden I rode over a dry patch of road, sheltered by a tree. It was streaked with tyre tracks.

Shortly before the turn to Robin’s Folly I saw lights ahead, no, two groups of lights and stationary. I caught up with the first group – a puncture was being fixed with. Obviously I hadn’t been hoping for a puncture in the group as a way of catching them for some respite, but the company was nice.

Respite never came though. Before, I had tapped out my own rhythm, now I had to ride to the pace of the group, which on a single speed isn’t always easy. I did some turns at the front, but was spinning out into my single speed interval mode – rapid spin, cruise and repeat. While it gets the heart rate going it is hard to sustain for long, so I spent more time hanging at the back, but, that’s the training compromise I have to make. With not enough time to get home from work, to swap for a bike with gears, and my single speed the only road bike I’m happy(ish) leaving multiply locked at the station all day, the Tuesday night ride may become quite a work out.

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Missing the fun

Under the kitchen spotlights I went through the usual morning motions of the regular cycle commuter: looking outside and judging the forecast then choosing the thicker winter bib tights, tightening up winter boots against frozen toes and positioning my snood just so over ears and face. Expecting a bit of ice, I left a few minutes early. Outside I ran a finger along the side of the car, it was wet and the dark sky was starless, so perhaps no ice after all.

Away from home and onto a more open road, a band of orange predawn light, rising in the eastern sky, terminated under the fuzzy edge of thick clouds spreading from the west. After a mile a light rain started. Two more miles and a slushy spot of sleet wetted my lips. By the time I got to the station the sleet had given way to snow. 

I imagined the scene at home. My oldest grumbling out of bed, my youngest probably already dressed, then the sequels of delight, first from one and probably the youngest, then spreading virally to the other, when the first heavy snowflakes were spotted. A quick text gave me confirmation, and information, with my youngest hoping school would be cancelled. Wishful thinking for her I think, but perhaps there’s hope that the sleigh we brought them three years ago might finally get some use.

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