SERRL Chilham 123

Well, after a bit of a result the previous week it was time for me to test myself out against the ‘big boys’ – or rather first and second category riders.  I’d already had SteveS and AndyC whittling on about this race and this had rubbed off on me a little and I was actually a little nervous.

Conclusion

My goal really was to just finish.  And, to cut a long story short, that’s what I did.  Unfortunately, however, only two thirds of the way through the race.  Naturally this was pretty disappointing but there were two really big positives to come out of the race

  • I think I finally ‘get’ racing.  Despite the less than mediocre result something in my head finally clicked.  The last couple of seasons have ended with me being a bit unsure about my ambitions for the following year.  As a consequence I’ve ended up having half-hearted attempts at racing and 90% efforts at the Marmotte.  Next year will be different.  Racing really is the pinnacle of cycling and, nice though it is to rock up to Sportives and kick a little ass, this is rather easier and less satisfying than doing the same at a race.
  • In addition to, and partly as a consequence of I suspect, my epiphany was the brilliant performance of my team-mates who all did the jersey rather more justice than I did.  ReubenE did a sterling job supporting the team, AndyC rode to a frankly amazing 5th, SteveS a brilliant 8th and PaulS a sterling 15th.  Martin Brundell would have said that this was a ‘stellar performance’. 

 

The Actual Race

In a slight break with convention I was partnered by PaulS for the journey down.  Naturally I couldn’t get the phrase ‘twice your age’ in every 10 minutes or so but the experience was only slightly diminished by this fact.  One thing I definitely got right was my new trainer purchase; bright yellow with blue trim Onituska Tigers.

The weather looked pretty shit but I was reluctant to make any judgements; the previous couple of week’s I’d moaned like hell and it had turned out OK.  We were nice and early and the arrived at the 3* village hall in Godmersham.  In another slight departure from the norm there were actually team vans; not least the Orbea ForGoodness Shakes team.  This new level of professionalism should have made me think about a nice, conservative ride.

That’s pretty much as it started.  I expected to be on the rivet from the off but actually the ride was pretty comfortable.  In contrast to the other SERRL races I’ve done this year I actually disliked the course.  Firstly the roads were a bit busier than usual and more, well, ‘major’.  Second there was a long, steep descent which, in the dry would have been fine, but in the wet pushed me well outside of my comfort zone.  Third the lap was relatively long at about 20km or so.

I was comfortable going up the climbs and only struggled on the downhill having to really push when it evened out to recapture the places I’d lost as I gingerly (no offence) made my way down.  I suspect I had too much pressure in my back tyre as, even when the road levelled out a little, I could still feel my back wheel dancing and skidding beneath me.  Terrifying.

This went on for an hour or so I guess before my pecker started to go up.  I was still feeling very good and comfortable with the pace and decided that perhaps life in the peloton was not for me.  I enjoyed periodically checking that SteveS still wasn’t enjoying himself which was the main thing and made my way to the front of the bunch.

All I can now remember (time has passed) is that I seemed to be involved in break after break.  Or chasing another break.  Killing myself.  Wondering what happened to the simple formula of peloton and breakaway.  And riding this race like I do the third and fourth cat races.  For nothing.

Like a little puppy in attitude.  But, alas, my body is still that of a mediocre 39 year old cyclist.  And, an analogy I’ll borrow from PaulC, riding is like eating a cake.  Each time you dig deep you have another bit of the cake.  And eventually that cake runs out.  And if it runs out before the end of the race well that’s just tough titty.

The onset of fatigue was swift.  I looked down at my computer and realised that 2 hours was up and I had only managed 1 gel for the whole of the ride.  Not enough I think.  The energy slowly ebbed from my body and I decided to call it a day on the big climb and the bunch drifted away.  Luckily it was only about 15km back to the start!  Still, it was nice to have some time to think about my failure and to heartily thank the marshalls with a big smile.

I did finally get back, met up with ReubenE, got changed and had a Diet Coke and some banter.  Unfortunately my t-shirt of choice was the ‘shut up legs’ one.  Oh, the irony.  More like ‘oooh, my legs hurt, I’m going to stop, ooh, it hurts’.

On the plus side I got a ringside seat for the last lap or so.  Seeing AndyC kicking arse at the front of the breakaway on the last lap was an inspiration and as the peloton came through both SteveS and PaulS were looking great.

Rubes and I drove up to the finish line.  One of the Orbea Shakes guys came over first with a huge gap (insert own jokes here) followed by a couple more riders.  Then delight; AndyC in 5th.  Then more delight SteveS in 8th.  And again as PaulS came in in 15th.  Any small amount of envy I might have had vastly overshadowed by the respect for such great rides.

Another Conclusion

That’s it.  Should have eaten more and should not have ridden beyond my ability.  I think I could have stuck it out in the bunch.  It’s so hard to resist chasing away when you feel good.  Inspirational ride by the others and oddly a dubious result for me has left me more motivated than ever.

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