The problem with Kolsch, the local brew of Cologne, is not its strength but its size. Served in delicate narrow glasses, each round is a meagre 200cl serving. Fortunately the table staff were attentive. They sashyed between the packed beer halls with cleverly designed circular trays; the glasses, not filled to the brim as spillage would be messy, sit secure in shallow holes while the tray is held firm from a long central handle. Exhausted glasses are replaced and a biro’d tally on a beer mat updated, but you still lose count of how many you’ve had. So that was how I spent the weekend before my first race since crashing in May and given it was a stag weekend I wasn’t even going to try to be good and ignore the peer pressure.
Parking in a Naseby field on race day I felt decidedly unprepared. There were four of us from the club. David H in the first group, Dan and I next and David P behind.
On the start line and ours was a large group. We set off up a slight incline and Dan had immediate mechanical problems with his electronic shifters. I left him spinning furiously as he tried to keep up.
As is the norm the pace was brisk. A couple of guys were content to do most of the work at the front, especially on the rough back section but once we were on the Sibertoft road things became a little more organised and about half of us started working together. I did my turns and felt stronger than I had expected, but on the exposed airfield, the strong wind started to inflict some damage. It came close to splitting the group and I think a lot of people rode hard then to stay in the sheltering bunch.
The second lap I found harder. Much harder. Having passed many stragglers from the first group we caught their main body ahead of the airfield. David H was still there, but I couldn’t find the reserves to push forward to join him. My initial strength was depleting rapidly. Finally my legs buckled against the wind and I was dislodged.
David P’s group caught me a little later and I stayed with them for a few kilometres, hoping to get back to the main bunch, but again I couldn’t hack their pace and dropped off the back.
At the start of the final lap I was solo, ahead I could see one rider. I had someone to aim for. I caught them at Sibbertoft and we worked well together to catch a third. We stayed together almost to the end when one of the other riders attacked on the final drag to the finish. The third rider was dislodged and I too was gapped by about 20m, but she didn’t have the strength to see it through. I caught her and finished ahead.
It was about as good as I was expecting and there is definitely room for improvement. The wedding which followed the stag weekend is out of the way too, so canapés and bubbly can’t be an excuse of the next race…