The club had a good turnout for Saturday’s NCRA race at Old. Dan was off in the first group, Ed and David H in the second, I was in the third, David P and Joe in the 4th and Jake in scratch. The ubiquitous breeze was in attendance, otherwise the weather was fair, a far cry from last year’s onslaught. The pothole from the previous Sunday’s Southwick race had written off the rim of my rear race wheel, so I was riding my on my spare/training wheel, you know, the one with the dodgy bearings, from all the salty winter miles, that you never get round to replacing.
There were four St Ives riders in my group and, unlike last week’s Rhino riders, they showed no intention of ripping our group apart. Instead we worked well from the start. Most of the group shared the load against the headwinds, blowing across the opening stretches of the course.
We turned onto the airfield road and picked up a brisk tail wind. The pace shot up and the couple of riders who had been hanging at the back split off. A few others followed so that by the time we pulled off the Lamport road we were down to 7 riders. Along the Scaldwell road we continued to work together, but as the terrain tipped down for fast run into Old I felt an ominous stabbing in my side.
Can a banana bring on a stitch? My customary pre-race banana hadn’t tasted like a bad’un, but the pain I was now feeling was real enough. To keep in contact I tried balancing effort against hurt, but the equation wasn’t working in my favour. Climbing into Old, I couldn’t hold the group.
Now, out of the bunch, I soft pedalled and hoped the stitch subsided before group 4 arrived. It did, moments before they caught. I latched onto the back and lurked there for a couple of minutes, just to be sure the increase in pace didn’t bring the stitch back. When I felt it wouldn’t return I slipped into line and took my turns.
We caught my old group around Mawsley. Incredibly the organisation continued and two long lines slipped past one another; every rider chipped in their energy at the front. Scratch wouldn’t have chance if we kept this up, but on the Lamport road something odd happened. I was in the back quarter of the bunch, in the line moving forward. Then we stopped moving forward, instead my line started slipping back. Before I knew it I was at the back switching lines to move forward. But no sooner had a I passed a couple of riders than it happened again, I was slipping back and switching lines. Then they reversed again and for a fourth time. I exchanged puzzled looks with the riders around me and agreed to make the most of the easy time.
Finally the front agreed which line should take the lead. My line moved all the way forward and we turned off the Lamport road a functional group. We hit the downhill part of Scaldwell road just after I had pulled off the front. I slipped down the line, but something wasn’t right. I was in the 11 sprocket, flat out on this fastest stretch, but I was dropping away from the wheel in front; I wasn’t keeping pace with the group. At the bottom I was dropped. Roland drove past with a shout of encouragement and advice to join up with scratch.
After Old I caught Carl from Arbis and carried on. I kept glancing back for scratch and they caught me just past Mawsley. They were a fresh faced bunch, but they weren’t setting the road aflame with youthful energy. My old legs, twice the age of some of theirs, had no trouble keeping pace and even taking a couple of turns.
Back at HQ Jake explained what happened next as the result of (teenage) boredom. He made a little dig off the front, testing the waters. The other young lads handled it, but it was too much for me and I was off the back again. On the Lamport road I could see him attack them again. They were reacting to him and I at least had the satisfaction of catching one of them before the finish line.
Scratch never made the catch, but the combined power of groups 3 and 4 had caught 1 and 2. Ed was the best placed for St Neots coming 3rd with Joe and Dan finishing 7th and 8th. Overall a good day for the club, but not for me. I’m not really sure where it went wrong. Stitch aside, I had felt OK, especially when the groups were working and I was taking my turns. So to get dropped on a descent, especially when I had started so near the front, I can’t explain that.
Nor am I going to blame my performance on my spare rear wheel. The bearings really could do with replacing, but it is academic now. On Sunday morning I had time for an early morning ride. I did a loop through Huntingdon and Sawtry. My legs felt a bit leaden, but otherwise it was a good ride. Unfortunately I never finished it. To miles from home a spoke in my spare wheel snapped and, with the loss of tension, buckled to make it unrideable home. Thanks to the two unknown riders plus David L and Tony from the club who all stopped to help.