Carnage in lycra and before the race had even started. Warming up, riders were falling foul of the narrow gutters crossing the parking area, and which are just wide enough to trap a race wheel. Gareth wasn’t the first to come away with cuts, grazes and a flat tyre, nor was he the last. While Gareth was replacing his inner tube and having his shifters straightened, Peterborough’s James crashed ungraciously to the glossy black tarmac. More rash and another flat tyre. At least the rain had stopped.
Fairer weather, we soon saw, was a short-lived phenomenon. As we lined up for the start thick black clouds, loaded with rain, rolled over the Speedway grandstand. Our group got off to a furiously fast start, being dragged along by a few brave riders prepared to take advantage of the wet, but many of us, I think, were more cautious. As the rain hammered down, the drops cratering into the standing water, four riders slipped away.
We had some organisation going, but not enough to reel the breakaways in. We passed Gareth early on, the crash having caused gearing problems. The 2nd cats caught us twenty minutes later, although Wayne had been dropped. The pace became more erratic with attacks frequent. We were picking up riders from the leading group and eventually swallowed them up. Lewis was still there and riding well for the appalling conditions. The last of the short-lived breaking attackers were back in the bunch. I was feeling good and maintained a decent position near the front. Around the u-bend for the final time and I was in 6th wheel, I couldn’t have asked for a better position to start the sprint. I cranked the legs pushing the 11 tooth round. I passed two riders and crossed the line 4th feeling pretty pleased.
Back in the HQ I drank a scolding cup of necessary tea – a soaking wet skin suit is fine when you’re racing and burning through fuel, but the moment you stop, the shivering soon starts. Rowland called across “eleventh”. What? I thought I was fourth, the first across the line had raised his arms in victory, surely something must be wrong? No, the four original breakaways from our group had stayed away and picked up a couple of fourth cats. Another rider in between meant we had been racing for 8th, I’m not sure how many of us knew that. So I drove home feeling just a little deflated. Still I suppose I should thank Rowland for preventing me from writing an embarrassingly incorrect blog post.