10 whole minutes.

10 whole minutes. That’s the amount of track time I got this weekend. 10.

The ratio of track time : pointless fretting in my head is somewhere in the region of 0.1 to 0.04.

I signed up for the Beyond Spring Crits 1-3, Saturday morning was interesting. There appeared to be snow coming out of the sky. Which caused me to think  “hmm. Perhaps this won’t be on. Or it will. And there won’t be many people there”. 11 am and a text message informed me that my welcome to 4th category group road racing was still warm.

Originally I planned to go to Southall. Then I changed plans to go to Feltham and ride from there. Thanks to a rail replacement service my original plan was called back into service. I was fairly nervous. So much so that I couldn’t really remember how to get from my house to Clapham Junction. I didn’t get lost, but I didn’t go the easiest way. Then I got up to Hyde Park and again, sort of forgot how to make the connection from the top of Hyde Park to Paddington. Even though I knew exactly where I should have been going. I ended up at the back of Paddington station having to cross over a metal bridge, in new road cleats, with ice and snow, and metal steps. And then ride down a cobbled back street. Seriously. Looking back on it, perhaps I should have had one of those conversations with myself.

Getting to the track, I signed on, got changed, sat down and waited patiently. While trying not to look nervous. Or too confident. Or overdressed. Or underdressed. Or with no idea what I’m doing. Remember that last one.

There were junior racers out there on Saturday. One of them was crying afterwards. I felt like that before I started. They finished. I went out to have a look at the circuit I was going to be on for 30 minutes (+5 laps). I had everything on. Sleeveless base layer (homemade), arm-warmers, race jersey, winter jersey, montane waterproof, leg warmers, fleecy shorts, 2 pairs of socks, silver overshoes, two pairs of gloves, glasses, cap, helmet. Remember that list.

I did 2 laps to warm up. I was concerned that my previous effort on Thursday was too much and so had spent Friday spinning gently on the turbo and inflicting pain via a foam roller. I felt alright. I really did. The course seemed fine. I seemed confident in my “abilities”.

All get to the line. When I signed in there were 13 names on the sheet. Which made me think “hello, this could be a nice easy introduction”. There were more than 13 people on the course. It looked a bit like this when I turned around.

A similar sight.

Off we go. And I’m at the front. Properly. No one in front. I like that. The snow’s coming down. It’s cold. It’s not slippy. But it’s cold and it feels good to be turning pedals. And I’m into corners with others, and I’m not nervous. And I’m alright with that. I’m not over confident. Perhaps I should try and, oh there go two riders off in front of me, and some more. Hmm. I’m drifting backwards here. I should probably try to get back up there. There’s a slight hill, and I’m going round people as I go up it. Through the corners well. Onto the third time round. Hmm. That was a poor choice, I’m going down the left hand side here of some riders. I don’t feel happy about that. But I’m up the front again. And back in the pack. Someone bumps me. That’s fine. Bit later on someone drifts in from my right, I move and touch my front wheel into someone’s back wheel as they come through on my left.

BANG.

Down. Bike down, head down, BANG. Bump. Second bang on the head. Hmm.

Get up. Very annoyed. Two other riders down. Sulkily get up. Sulkily walk back to club house/HQ. Moan about the rips in my overshoes. Worry silently about any damage to my bike. The front wheel sounds fucked. It’s got a slight wobble. The levers are scraped and out of alignment. Straighten them up. Apart from that everything else looks fine.

This wasn’t epic. This wasn’t Flandrian racing. This was fucking stupid. 10 whole minutes of being on a bike in a race, and I didn’t even finish.

Back next week though right?

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10 whole minutes.

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