Last Tuesday’s chain gang had been a good night ride. I had joined the route between groups. By the time the fast group caught me I had caught one dropped rider from the first group and the rest of them were in my sights. I slipped into the fast group easily and it soon became apparent the work was being done by just three of the riders, and now me. After the Raunds roundabout the four of us dropped the rest then went on to catch and pass the first group on the Chelveston climb. A few jumped on but only Wayne lasted. Simon and I peeled off for our homes and enjoyed the warm down in the mild evening air. It was a confidence booster of a ride ahead of the first road race of the season.
Skip forward to the weekend and the weather had turned Arctic; a cold north wind was bringing icy rain and battered cubes of hail to the Northamptonshire roads. Joe, Harry, Tim, Wayne and I had turned out for SNCC, although we were almost down to four men when Tim punctured during our warm up ride; fortunately we had the means to fix it before the start.
Wayne and I were in the fourth group with Tim and Harry ahead and Joe behind in scratch. Ours was a large group, but despite that we worked fairly well on the first lap and for so early in the season. I was feeling pretty good, but after half a lap a few cracks were beginning to show in the bunch. The first climb went well. Then an attack came. I had been expecting something, just a little later on. I had been at the front, wondering when the next man was coming through. The one that finally did was a young lad from Bourne Wheelers and he just kept on going. A handful of other riders bridged across but not me; I didn’t look like it would sticking so was happy for our main bunch to reel them back in. They caught the leading groups and sure enough they started fracturing.
My group passed Harry on the finish line drag. Tim was a bit further ahead and joined up. We caught the remains of the attackers on the gnarly stretch of road leading away from Naseby.
Onto the airfield road the wind was against us. My glasses were really quite filthy and I was spending most of my time wiping them clean, or at least trying to, so I didn’t immediately notice the growing gap in front of the rider ahead of me. I still had some one on my left so thought we were all right and working together, but no. Through and off had brought me to the back of the bunch and we were now being strung out. Realising the danger, I accelerated forward, riding to get back in, but after a couple of hundred metres my legs weren’t having it. I could see a couple more riders in between me and the bunch and started developing a hopeful plan to leap-frog back in.
At the start of the climb, the scratch group caught me. The main group were about halfway up. I tried to jump on the scratch group wheels but again my legs protested leaving still off the back.
Over the climb, I wasn’t the only one dropped. I could still see single riders to aim for. The first was an easy catch and I rode straight by. Next up was Arbis’ Karl, a tougher catch than I had expected, but I got him. Next up was a 45 RC rider to become my third catch of the day. We were a group of three although for the final lap I was doing the lion’s share of the work and we would collect no more riders.
On the final drag our little trio was still together and we were all well aware of that unwritten rule: we may have been well out of the points, but it was a race, we were a group and some one had to cross the line first. Tom, the 45 rider, and I rode side by side. His breathing seemed more laboured than mine, so passing the start line I applied some pressure and soon put in some distance when no response came. Karl still had something and he passed me on my right. I ramped up again, drew level then accelerated away for 24th.
Joe and Wayne had fared much better taking third and tenth, while Tim and Harry had dnf’d. A mixed day for the club with some good success, but I was disappointed. At the start of the day I thought for once perhaps I might finally finish the first race without being dropped. Next year…