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West Suffolk Wheelers 21

March 10th

West Suffolk Wheelers 21(34km) 8th March
Following on from the mental boost of my 4th placing in the SpoCo standings I realised the only chance of my 15 minutes of fame would come from an early high place in the competition by competing in every early event whilst other (far better) riders were more choosy (and quick while Lee was ill). Once people had completed the requisite number of qualifying rounds I would be back where I belonged at the bottom of the table. So into the fray once more I put my name down for this event at Risby, conveniently near to Bury St Eds Crematorium. The wind had settled in the week but returned in time for the weekend so it was a similar story to the Breckland 10. This course was basically two laps of an almost 10 mile loop plus another bit as a start/finish straight. This worked well and was great for making the most of the tremendous tail wind section but did mean that half way round the second lap you knew it was all up hill and against the wind from here. It was also great for spectators as the route came through Risby twice during the ride as well as starting and finishing there. This was lucky for me as I’d persuaded Sarah and Jacky to come out and watch this event!

My minute man rather upset me when he passed me within the first 4 miles from the start, but what a tailwind it was! 55kph was easy and I could even turn my top gear over for the first time ever! (52×12.) As I turned into the wind my average speed was almost 40kph and I was delighted. Once I’d crawled all the way back into the wind and up the long drag though, I was put back in my place. But the thought of the next stretch with the wind kept me going and I think I was even quicker on the second lap. My personal target was to be in the top half of the finishers and be inside the hour. So my finish time of 58:05 was quite satisfactory (winning time 48:19! B*st@rd) and I turned out to be 27th out of 54 finishers – in the top half – just! The icing on the cake though was the 94 points which took me to joint 2nd overall and the leading vet to boot! I knew this was only a statistical blip and when the season pans out I will be back in my place but hey? “Look at me now Mum!”

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Colchester Rovers CycloSportive

March 3rd

Colchester Rovers 50 mile (80km) CycloSportive – (previously known as Reliability Trials) 2nd March
Straight out again next day after the Breckland 10, I elected to drive out to Gt Bromley for this event. Met up with Terry and Mac who had turned up to do the 25. (They probably felt obliged to, as the event was organised by Mac’s daughter Julie.) Again choosing the Silver event (2:45 hrs), I set off among the now familiar sea of Blue/white VCR tops. The unusually gentle start led quickly to the first pile up of the season

Something happened ahead of me everyone braked and swerved, I braked, the gentleman behind me didn’t. I felt the familiar old feeling of front wheel overlapping back wheel – and then a yell – and then a crunch. I looked behind to see a Colchester Rover in the road on his knees with his (helmeted) head in his hands. We all stopped (as is the VCR way) and several of us went back to see if he was OK. He stayed on his knees for some time and blood ran down the side of his face. It looked bad. But then he sprang up and declared he was fine! However I knew from my Scouts First Aid that a bang on the head must never be dismissed and we persuaded him and a couple of team mates to return to the HQ barely a mile back up the road.

So we went on. I found it really hard today having ridden yesterday and been unwell (again) this week – I was hanging on from the start, then in Mistley my crank came loose (not very reliability!) and although I had the tool to tighten it, after the few minutes it took, I had no chance of ever catching up again. After about 10-15 miles alone I was caught by the two guys who’d returned to the start with the faller. (Apparently he was OK – only cutting his eyebrow on his broken glasses.) The three of us worked well together, battling into the fierce headwind across the Tendring Hundred. Eventually we caught up with a couple of VCR riders who had been dropped. It made me feel better to learn that they are not all superhuman – but not better enough. Together we fought on but at about 10k out we took a wrong turn. Although we realised immediately and all turned around we’d seemed to have gone off the boil. I found myself alone ahead of the others and it occurred to me that we weren’t going to make it back in the 2hrs 45min allotted time. I was unsure whether to wait for them or not, having worked so well together but the gap opened up and I unwittingly left them behind. I thought I might just make it if I raised my pace, so found some extra energy and pushed on for the last 5 or 6 miles. When I got back I was declared the last rider to make it from my group and I felt a bit guilty that I’d dropped my colleagues so near the end. My guilt was abated though when it turned out they had had their start times reset when they returned to the start at the beginning. They had 15 minutes in hand on me and came in five minutes later – well inside their time! I’d have been so cross if I’d sat up. Still we were all friends again – so that was nice.

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The CC Breckland 10

March 2nd

The CC Breckland 10(16km) 1st March
After noticing that on Vet’s standard I was by far the worst finisher in the Ely Hard Riders 25 I was determined to do better in round 2 which was the CC Breckland 10. However a week of chronic headaches and the headwind from hell once again knobbled my final week’s preparations. I arrived in good time but then spent most of it trying to find the start so I could drive round the course. When I finally got my bike out and began a tentative warm up I found that on the flat Norfolk landscape I could whiz along in a south easterly direction – no trouble, but turning round to go north westerly – I could hardly move.

I was pleased that I’d remembered my HRM this week but to compensate the on board computer decided to pick this moment to play up. So I spent most of the rest of my prep time fiddling with the transmitter only to find just before my start time that the receiver unit had become dislodged from its base which was causing the problem. The course was basically a square shape and the first leg was slightly cross/tail wind, so wasn’t too bad until I noticed my HRM was knocking out 170bpm (which is a lot for me with 9 miles still to go). After the first turn I was then going with the wind which was fantastic. For a few miles I felt like a proper tester, rolling along at 45-50kph! If only I could keep this up. But by the turn my HR had only dropped to 169 as I faced into the cross/head wind section. But I felt OK and felt I held a decent pace along this slightly uphill stretch.

Attempting some anaerobic mental calculations (always difficult) I began to think I might get a reasonable time but there was a dead STOP at the next junction after which it was about 3 miles back to the start – directly into the headwind.

Any ideas about a reasonable time were quickly dashed – I could barely move in this direction! Those 3 miles seemed to go on forever and at the end I knew no records were going to be broken by me today. But no-one had come past me and I think I remember passing two riders so maybe things weren’t too bad. I glanced at the results board as I headed for my well deserved, free cup of tea and saw 25.54 next to my name. Still slightly asphyxiated and obviously hallucinating I bragged to the tea lady that I’d just done my best time for over 20 years and she was most impressed. However once I’d drunk my tea and concentrated more carefully on the boards I saw that 25.54 was my Vet’s standard time! My actual time of 27.30 brought little surprise from anyone, least of all the tea lady when I admitted my mistake to her. She’d heard it all before. Ever the optimist, I always try and interpret any statistics in the most favourable light – but the best I could make of this was that it was a 5 minute improvement on my standard time in the previous 25, but still 1.36 down.

The good news was that neither Lee Bark or several of the other contenders from the Ely ride had turned up so with just two events completed I’d bagged points in both rounds and was now standing 4th overall in the SpoCo competition at this stage!

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Stowmarket Reliability Trial

February 18th

Stowmarket Reliability Trial(63miles/100km) 17th Feb
So on to the third RT of the year. Stowmarket & District CC’s event is held, interestingly enough, in Needham Market. Terry and I travelled out together for this. The fun of the Wivenhoe event was quickly forgotten as the main field set off at an alarming pace – whilst I was still in the toilet. Terry, recently returning from a training camp in the Med, suffered an adverse reaction to the cold of the Suffolk roads and despite catching the back group, we were almost immediately riding on our own. Terry was clearly unhappy so we agreed to separate. By Hitchin (again) I was on my own (again) in a long and largely fruitless pursuit of the rest of the field. Only passing a few stragglers (some of who’d stopped for a leisurely chat with Len who was also passing by, distributing DVDs!), I rode on alone but at least I was on some unfamiliar roads. As I turned onto the Shotley peninsular though this worked against me as I soon lost the route. But on the upside this did lead me to pull out in front of a small group of guys who helped me find the way back onto the route. We rode together for a bit but by the time I was back on familiar roads we’d split into three with me in the middle, and I slogged back to Needham Market alone again. Thinking I’d sold myself short by getting lost I was pleased when the clocked ticked over 100km as I pulled into the car park after 3.5 hours. Over an hour behind the front runners but still in time to get a tea and a piece of cake. Despite everything though, I’d enjoyed the outing. It was a good training ride – thanks to all concerned at S&DCC.

So what’s next? Oh yes, I’ve got the next Spoco 10 on Saturday and it’s the Colchester Rovers Reliability Trial on Sunday. I must be mad!

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Ely Hardriders 25

February 12th

Ely Hardriders 25(40km) 10th Feb
Partly through blind optimism but mainly through sheer stupidity, I allowed James to persuade me, against my better judgement, to enter the Ely Hardriders 25 mile TT. Despite my cycling heritage I have to admit that I have never done a 25 or even entered an Open TT before. At least it might stop Len hassling me, I thought – one way or the other!

Forty-two or not, my naivety is such that it was only when the entry confirmation dropped through the door that I wondered why it was called the “Hardriders” event (something to do with being for hard riders perhaps?). Spotting Lee Bark’s name on the list it occurred to me that I may have made a grave error. Still, in for a penny in for a pound is one of my many mottos. So I promptly added to my problems by returning the enclosed entry form for the whole 2008 season of Spoco events – quickly before I lost heart – which was to be shortly after we arrived in Ely. On a very cold but windless morning, newly appointed Team Manager, Rog talked the talk but as we drove the course, it finally dawned on me that this was 40km – almost all up hill (!?) – with no tail wind – it was cold – I didn’t have Ken’s wheel to sit on – I shouldn’t have gone to the pub last night – I was alone – and I was scared!

With due reason too. It was bloody hard. I set off like it was only a 10 (as 10s were my sole experience of time trialling up ‘til now) and quickly passed not my minute man but my third minute man! The fact that he was standing on the verge crouched over a flat tyre didn’t dampen my enthusiasm – I wouldn’t be last! In my far from faultless preparation, I put new batteries in my heart rate monitor, tested it out – on the right bike, and then left it at home on the kitchen unit. I didn’t need it though, to tell me that my heart was about to jump out of my throat if I didn’t slow down. That was about as long as my enthusiasm lasted. 25 miles! At this rate I wasn’t sure I’d mange 10! I pulled out onto the A road and ahead of me there was a long line of traffic held up behind a tractor. My roadie instincts told me “if I could just get to the rear car…” But this was a time trial – that’s not allowed is it? So am I supposed to slow down? (Per chance!) I always did think this was a silly sport. Luckily for me my dilemma was resolved when the cars all passed the tractor on a long straight leaving me to catch it and pass it – wide on the other side of the road. I may come in last (or second from last) but no-one will accuse me of cheating. From here on it just continued to be hard

Between 25 and 35km two or three riders passed me. Clearly quicker – but their legs were barely rotating, such was the size of the gears they were pushing. Just watching them made my legs hurt more as it was only my pride preventing me from switching to the little chainring! After what seemed like another hundred miles on the bleak fens, I saw ahead of me a large group of riders. Now either they were all cheating or it was the local club run. It must be a club run so I’ll soon whizz past them! But I couldn’t even catch them. Eventually we turned back towards home onto what must be the bumpiest stretch of road in the fens. My legs were already burning but at least now the club run guys started to split up and one by one I eventually passed them all – wide mind.

I tried to muster a smile for TM Rog who I spotted lurking with his camera but almost immediately past him I was aware that the bumpy ride wasn’t only due to the poor state of the road. My rim was hitting tarmac. Oh! and wasn’t I on for a course record? – Well by definition, it must be a personal best and I didn’t want to keep putting “42 year old novice” on my entry forms so I pressed on to at least get a finishing time, doing the last 5km on a flat tyre. I felt like crying when I eventually hobbled past the chequered flag. I did cry when I realised the finish was another mile or two from the HQ and I had no team car to get a lift back in. I stopped to examine the tyre but my brain was as flat as the tyre was so I just rode back gingerly on the already ruined tyre. 1hr 13mins 26secs. Joint 26th out of 32 finishers. So at least I wasn’t last – even discounting the DNFs. James was 12th with a very respectably 1:05:47, but he was wearing Lee Bark’s overshoes. Lee did 58:27 in his other overshoes. A full quarter of an hour ahead of me. I decided I must be planning to peak later in the season – and to borrow Lee’s overshoes myself next time!

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