The Wednesday night forecast promised the recent cool and showery weather would be broken by a one day heatwave. Thursday morning and it duly arrived on a Spanish wind, but moistened by its passage across the Bay of Biscay, the day became sticky. In the afternoon I worked on the computer. Sweat made my wrists tacky on the kitchen table; writing code become a physical labour. I drank another glass of water then wiped the perspiration from my forehead.
By early evening the temperature hadn’t lessened, but I felt ready for a race. Adrian L started in the first group, Tim in the second, while Wayne and I were in the third. There were only eight in our 3rd cat group, behind us were ten 2nd cats.
The Sawtry circuit heads South up a drag along the old A1. It then turns left, passing the defunct Monks Wood research station, a victim of Blair’s anti-science cuts. From there it plummets down Walton Hill and back to Sawtry.
Tonight the start up the A1 drag was slow and hard, with our progress hampered by a steady headwind. Nevertheless we organised quickly and soon had an efficient paceline going. Of course, that didn’t stop one rider from thinking he was stronger. We gave him a few metres gap so as not to interfere with our work, but it wasn’t long before he was back in line.
The strong 2nd cat group caught us along the old A1 on the second circuit. Before the catch we had been doing a good job matching our mph numbers to the ambient temperature, now we were exceeding it. Looking at the ride metrics last night, for one five mile stretch we averaged over 32mph, peaking at 43mph, down-hilling on Walton Hill’s 10% gradient (it’s one of those small but steep hills bordering the Fenland basin).
Shortly after the catch a break had tried to go. One of the Maxifuel riders was stalling at the front while his team-mate and a few others drove the escapees forward. I jumped across. We started working, although I found it hard going. My lungs and heart were fine but my legs and head were not. The break was pulled back, but I doubt I would have survived it. A few miles later my legs solidified to lead and I was dropped.
Heading up the A1 drag for the third time, my legs felt dead and my skin goose bumped in the heat. The exertion in the heat was getting to me. I drank and took it easy, not that my body was giving me much choice in the matter. For a while I entertained trying to catch other dropped riders (I hadn’t been the only one struggling), but when all I saw from Walton Hill was a deserted road, I gave the idea up and rode to the finish to await the final sprint.
At the finish line Wayne’s boys saw me and came running across shouting Daddy! But as they got closer I could see the confusion spread across their faces until they recognised me from a previous race. Clearly we really do all look the same in lycra, and if even our children mistake, us I won’t feel so bad accidentally blankly passing over club mates in civvies!
Soon race marshal’s were flocking to the start line like roosting birds. Down the road the lead race car came into view flashing its headlights. The race was close. News that a lone rider was ahead of the bunch caused a stir and then we saw them. The lone rider was Keira, a junior woman and ballsy regular at Rockingham. She had attacked a couple of miles out but, rather arrogantly, been dismissed by he bunch. Their mistake, she survived holding on just long enough to take the win. Wayne finished in the bunch, while Adrian and Tim had been dropped on the drag, but finish they did.
Not a great night for St Neots in the NCRA races, and definitely not a good night for me. Still, St Neots CC was not completely without glory. Back at the car, I’d had a tweet from Alasdair; he’d won the 4th Cat race at Milton Keynes Bowl!
Driving home, the sun touching the western horizon, the car’s thermometer stayed at 28.5 degrees celsius.