SERRL Benenden 2/3/4 19th September

With the season drawing to a close (even though it is only mid-September!) the opportunities to get the A bike out are fast diminishing.  Therefore a chance to do another SERRL road race was not to be missed.  With both ReubenE and SteveS calling time and hanging up their racing wheels for the year it was left to PaulS, DavidM, KevM and I to uphold the reputation of the club.

At risk of repeating the same mantra every race – the SERRL races are simply brilliant.  Hats off to the organisers.  A special treat this weekend too as we had the use of the Rolvenden Village Hall; which is a 5* facility.  Support cars, motorbike outriders, timing chips and free refreshments.  For a 2hr40 race.  For £15.  Not theoretically possible.

Early Signs

Not good.  I went to bed with a sore throat – bad timing; I very rarely do ill.  I woke up feeling not at my best and this was confirmed with the slightly painful swallowing of my eggs and rice in the car on the way down.  "Your farts are going to smell nice", PaulS said.  I’m not sure what he thinks my farts normally smell like but never the right side of indifferent I’d imagine.

Race

Off we set.  60 strong or thereabouts.  Nice rolling course; 6 laps of a 17km circuit.  I actually prefer the shorter circuits I think. I can learn them more quickly and there is definitely a psychological advantage of counting down the laps; visible progress.

The first lap was at a pretty strong pace.  I felt very ordinary. So-so on the climbs and generally fatigued and weary.  In darker moments my thoughts turned from the optimistic “I might be able to get something out of this race” to “I wonder how long I’m going to last today”.  Luckily longer than DaveM – riding with confidence after a great performance and 2nd place at Hog Hill last week – he didn’t manage the first lap; getting dropped on the long, testing climb back up to Rolvenden and unable to get back on.

I felt very much outclassed today.  There were a good handful of guys that looked, as Hugh Porter would say, “full of riding”.  I watched lots of attacks go off the front and actually benefitted from the circumspection required by my indifferent legs. Knowing there was no way I could hack a long breakaway, or even chase down others, I had an uncommon serenity.

I tried to stay towards the front of the peloton but this is harder than it sounds.  It’s easy to get boxed in and the other riders are always jostling for position.  However, tough as it is, PaulS made it look very easy.  Looking incredibly comfortable for the whole race and always in the right place.

Every so often I’d wonder how KevM was getting on.  Not being an out-and-out road racer (his speciality is the triathlon) I thought the pace might have been a bit fruity for him.  Not at all as it turned out – he did a great ride finishing safely in the bunch.

The End

Odd, in a word.  The pace was hotting up for the last lap and there was a bit of motivation from the more vocal members of the peloton to chase down the breakaway.  My legs didn’t agree but I still ended up with the front few riders.  I was not expecting anything other than a big chunk of riders to go blasting past and I would be able to do nothing but watch it happen.  I was happy and resigned to the prospect of finishing the race in the bunch and pleased that it was soon going to be over.

The reality was slightly different.  We were attempting some “bit and bit” as only Hugh Porter would say – though with the usual end that it would be disorganised and I’d end up pulling the bunch along.  Which is precisely what happened.

With about 8km to go I pulled out a gap.  I’d love to remember what happened so I’d know what to do next time and do  it again.  But I simply rode away.  No big attack. No small attack.  I just rode quite hard.  The guys in the peloton probably thought that an old bloke, all over his machine, looking knackered was not much of a risk.  But I kept pushing and the gap kept growing.

8km is a long way, riding on your own, trying to hold off 40 riders that are better than you.  But I pretty much did it.  I was caught and passed by one chap but held off the bunch for a solid 5th place.

A good result.  I’m more bemused than pleased.  It’s a little hard not to feel that the good results I’ve had in the road races aren’t a bit lucky but I think I must have enough of them now to prove otherwise.