I’ve always suffered from a bit of pre-race nerves and I guess that’s normal for any racer except the most gung ho. Promoting the club’s second road race in the NCRA I’ve found the race nerves have mutated into pre-race anxiety; you’ve got 60 odd competitors, plus commissaires and supporters turning up. That’s a lot of tea to provide.
Friday morning’s cloud broke in time for me to see the moon eclipse the sun into a brief, bright crescent. Once the day’s astronomical wonder was over, I drove off to collect the cycle event signs. With the car seats down, the new CTT monster boards squeezed into the boot. It was late morning and I was feeling peckish so, since I wasn’t racing, I picked up some donuts. They weren’t great; I compensated with a healthy quinoa salad and a spin around Grafham.
Equilibrium restored, I spent the evening with a glass of wine and the laptop, making sure the 20 odd club members helping out on the day knew the plan.
Saturday dawned and the warm sun I had enjoyed while riding around Grafham had been replaced by a cold northerly wind: ideal race conditions (if you’re not racing, that is). Later in the morning, I met up with David and Adrian to organise the signage. With an OS map laid out on the car bonnet they had a hasty briefing. I left confident that the signs were in good hands.
Next stop HQ via B&Q. I opened up on time with my mental schedule. Shortly after the first marshals and Mark, race commissaire for the day, arrived. The riders soon followed and the Keysoe village hall car park filled up. People were given last minute chores ahead of the marshal’s briefing and I went to tie up the chequered finish board. It was then that I noticed the direction signs opposite the HQ were pointing the wrong way. A miss-turn in last year’s race was embarrassing, a misdirection in this year’s…well. I called Adrian and David and they drove past just as I was asking where they were. The mistake was minor and the arrows were soon re-pointed.
Shortly before 2pm, with red flags flying, the marshals dispersed to their assigned junctions. The race was in the commissiares’ hands and I just wanted to see the riders away on the road. I had one final job before the start – make sure Rowland, the NCRA organiser, had a cake set aside for later (he went for a coconut and cranberry flapjack. I hope he enjoyed it, it certainly looked tasty enough, but they had all gone when I got back).
At 2.20pm the first group of riders were on the road. 8 minutes later the last riders were away and the race was on.
A small group of spectators gathered at the finish line, by the Keysoe limit sign. At the end of the first lap riders from the first group off were the first ones through, but the other groups were not far behind; the last group having halved their eight minute deficit. The five St Neots riders, Jake, Dan, David P, Alasdair and Joe all looked comfortable in their groups.
The circuit is just over 9 miles, so three laps were being raced. Shorter in total than other courses in the series, but not lacking in toughness, something the wind capably added to. At the end of the second lap I was ready with the bell. A good sized lead group had formed from the first three groups. Jake and a couple of juniors led the charge behind, but many other riders were falling off the pace. In a gap I chalked a straightish line across the road.
More spectators were lining the finish and an air of expectation grew. A mile down the road, you can see the summit of Mill Hill in Keysoe Row. All eyes were turned to it, scanning for the first race car to crest. When it did the finish line hushed and the excitement grew. I turned my back to the race, tablet aimed at the chalked line to video the finish. The lead car went by. Expectation then, “Go on Jake!” came the cry. I saw him flash by first and added my voice. A win for Jake Hennessey and St Neots CC. David and Joe came in 5th and 6th and Dan rounded off the top 19. Unfortunately Alasdair had the kind of race I can relate to…!
Overall a good day for the club. The race ran smoothly, last year’s teething problems were a thing of the past and my pre-race anxiety melted to a post-race buzz. Of course no race can happen without support, so a big thank you to the Commissaires, NCRA and all the club volunteers who made the race happen.