By the time I got to Southwick HQ I was warmed up and no, I hadn’t ridden over or anything like that, rather I’d had the car heater on full blast into the footwell. It was a vain attempt to finish drying off my shoes after yesterday’s race. I caught up with the others; Jake was feeling confident, David wasn’t giving much away and I was just expecting a lot of suffering for my legs.
We started from HQ neutralised. This was good because it meant we climbed Southwick Hill at a sensible speed and it gave my legs a bit more time to acclimatise. We continued neutralised over the hill to the first left bend. Once we were all safely round the flag was pulled in and the racing began. And guess what, the pace was instantly fast. The bunch strung out. The rush of blood from brain left me reasoning faster is better because the race will be shorter.
In a race I like to tackle Southwick Hill in the small ring – I can spin easily, and keep my legs fresh and responsive for any sudden change in pace. naturally then, on the second time we climbed my chain refused to shift. I flicked the gears back and forth to make it move and by the time it had I was a few metres off the back. Not a problem and I wasn’t the only one. The bunch however were climbing quickly and I wasn’t getting back in, just holding the gap. Over the hill and the pace lifted I was having to ride hard, really very hard to avoid being dropped. A Fenland Clarion rider was with me and we worked together, although to be fair he did more than I. At the next tight left bend, where the bunch had to slow, we got back in.
Surprisingly the effort had left me feeling quite good and I started trying to move forward. On the winding back road to Southwick I saw an arm go up ahead. Someone had a flat. Then I realised it was one of ours. At first I thought David then saw that it was Jake. Now here was a snap decision. Jake was third overall and had a good chance of bettering it, certainly more than me way down in fifty something place, but there was no neutral service. So I dropped back, pulled over, gave him my wheel and sent him on his way.
Walking back to HQ the race convoy passed me. I dug out my phone and started timing. David was at the back, having realised what had happened, and signalled he would drop back to pace Jake back.
Thirty seconds later I saw a Welwyn rider struggling to get back.
Forty five seconds. Empty road.
One minute still no sign. I hadn’t thought the wheel change had been that long…
A couple of minutes later I heard voices chatting merrily away. Jake and another dropped rider rode around the corner. He had decided he couldn’t make it back on. David didn’t make it back on either. I was disappointed at the time, but with hindsight it sounds like Jake’s call was probably right; The bunch was being ripped apart at the front and if a rider of David’s calibre couldn’t get back…
Rowland had offered fro me to jump on the back and ride around for training, but I decided to head home instead. When I left I followed the bunch up the hill with several laps still to go. It was smaller than I remembered. A kingscliffe rider was slipping off the end, shaking his head as he realised his race was over. The race was in pieces by the end and only a handful were left for the sprint. Corley cycles rewrote the GC taking first and second on the day and overall.
Finally a huge thanks to the NCRA, Rockingham Forest Wheelers and Peterborough Cycling Club, Commisaires and volunteers for putting on an excellent weekend of racing.