Before the storm
Saturday was race day, with my bike fixed (in a fashion) I arrived at the Darley Moor race circuit a bit nervous but keen to get stuck in. Despite only riding once this week I knew my fitness was good so it was just going to be a case of getting experience and not making any silly errors, I wasn’t planning on making any silly moves, the main aim was to hang in there and hopefully be at the right end of things towards the end of the race, so how did it go?
I’d spotted the AMAC bus parked near the track so having seen Bish walking around I figured I’d rock up at the side of them, Mel had promised me a cup of tea and a bit of familiarity never hurts. I had 3 club mates on their way but I was there first so figured I’d catch up with them later. Conditions were quite nice, dry, not much wind so having got my race number I kitted up and decided to familiarise myself with the circuit. After a few laps of varying intensities and a couple of sprints to fire my legs up I came back to the car to strip off any excess kit and commence a final warmup. As I got on track I spotted my 3 club mates, Dave, Tom and Phil half way round, it took me a full lap to catch them and also Jake who was riding for his new team Clay Cross and then all of us rolled to the start line.
By now everyone in the Cat 3/4 race was in positon and the starter gave us some final instructions before we all clipped in and set off. It was a brisk start but not the explosion I had thought it might be so I settled in and tried to keep nearer the front as we headed down to the hairpin turn. I quickly found myself drifting back and having to push hard to get back to where I was so with that in mind I kept thinking where I needed to be next time to help keep my legs a bit fresher. With each lap completed I was learning more and more and feeling really good, I was able to move up if I drifted back and I was taking the corners with more and more speed each time as my confidence grew. Dave was riding well, always up near the front, Phil, Jake and Tom all seemed to be handling things well, Tom was a novice like myself, Jake and Phil had a few more races under their belts so whenever Jake was in my vicinity I tended to try and hold his wheel.
What I was finding was that although my legs were good I’d often get boxed in behind slower riders so position wise I kept falling back or finding myself not in the place I figured was optimum especially at the hairpin turn. With this in mind as we headed toward it on lap 6 I pushed hard with the aim of being in 3rd or 4th wheel, sadly the excitement got the better of me and I ended up doing a short solo mini break away, with a long way to go I soon realised this was foolish and despite Phil coming past me I decided to re-join the pack, albeit in a better position.
Dave and Phil
After exiting the hairpin in a decent position I pushed to hold it and was on the outside as we approached the chicane, we all went round this ok but then disaster happened, directly in front of me a rider went down, as he slid across the tarmac I had nowhere to go, his bike was on the track in front of me as he began to slide off the circuit onto the grass. I don’t recall exactly what was going through my head but I knew going off the track at 30mph would be certain disaster so I just hoped that his bike would clear my path, but in the same split second I knew that wasn’t about to happen so I attempted a bunny hop to clear his bike, I failed.
If I had been either side and bunny hopping his front or rear wheel I might have made it, sadly I was directly in the middle and this launched me skyward and I came down with an almighty thud. Being near the front third of the peloton at this point my first instinct was to curl up into a ball, I think everyone missed me but I was laid on the tarmac in pain and unable to move. Scanning around my body nothing felt broken but I just couldn’t move, it was at this point I spotted Tom and Phil who had also been caught up in the crash. Phil looked Ok, Tom had a nasty gash to his finger but was walking. Jake’s brother who was watching the race eventually helped me up, Phil came over and asked if I was ok, miraculously at this point I felt fine so I got back on my bike with the intention of carrying on, albeit a lap down and for training purposes only.
As the pack came past we re-joined and started lap 7 and headed down toward the hairpin. I was on the outside but holding my line when another rider cut across me and put me on the grass, he waved back to say sorry but with tyres now covered in mud, bar tape hanging off and also not being sure if my bike was actually ok I decided to roll back to the car, survey the damage and leave it for today.
Back at the bus
As I rolled down my arm warmers my elbow was bloodied, jersey ripped, my left hip / thigh had some road rash but I felt fine, I guess the adrenaline was still going through my system at this point. Being parked next to AMAC now proved a master stroke as Mel brought me a cup of tea, (this tea drinking is getting a habit) and then eventually patched me up on the bed inside the bus. I was in good spirits if a little frustrated that my race had ended. Jonno, Browny and Melly who had come along to support stopped by for a chat, I also got a message from Matt Bagshawe offering a lift if I was broken but I felt fine to drive home myself.
The race was still going on, Dave was still doing well, Phil having regrouped was also holding his own and Jake was near the front as the final bell was sounded. I made my way to the finish line to see the sprint, Jake coming home in a fine 6th place, well done mate. I figured at this point that getting home would be a good idea so off I went, it was at this point I saw that my helmet was broken, this would explain why I felt a bit groggy, best get myself home.
The day after the race I started to ache and felt a bit down, my neck and shoulders getting worse throughout the day. I had a lay down on the bed and then realised I couldn’t actually get up so needed Alison to lift me up. The aches getting progressively worse as the day wore on, thankfully the bandages had stayed in place so although bloody they kept my clothes and sheets clean. Bike looks ok too, I hope.
Back to work today, neck and shoulders aching more now and driving was a challenge but hopefully things will settle down.
As I reflect on the race, for the 6 laps I did I felt like it was coming together, I was learning quickly and handling things well, the frustration now was wondering where I would have ended up, I’ll not know until I race again which I fully intend on doing once I’ve recovered. I enjoyed the buzz, I didn’t feel overawed by it and even though I crashed, this wasn’t my fault and my reaction once I was on my feet was positive and to get going again, I was happy with that part at least.
Massive well done to Jake, Dave and Phil, Tom has a nasty gash but not too serious, thanks also to Jonathan for the pictures, all the SNCC support that came along and also to the Andy Moore Team for patching me up.
I’ll be back.