Reminiscing: First Category Please -One Way Ticket!

This is the third instalment of my year of 2014. A lot happened and there was not just a lot of miles racked up on the bike but also a lot of miles racked on the car getting to races!

I also mentioned in my last post that is is not all showbiz behind the scenes and it really is not as can be read further on. Something I did not mention however is that in September I really was thinking of a Stage Race and training for it. From the 19th June everything was planned around the Fin Del Verano.

It was a 4 Stage Event based in the East Midlands over two days.

However picking up where I left of in my last post (2014: The Next Part (II)) I had just rode in the Rutland Tumby Road Race and about to ride in the Prudential Ride London Sportive. The first and currently the only time I have ridden it.

The Club had put a team in which did very well in the previous year and those riders had decided it was right to give other members a go. Unfortunately though between us for various reasons I never really co-ordinated with other riders on the team and that led to a few consequences. One of which was finding a suitable place to stay. I could not get in anywhere near the start with all the hotels booked up and me leaving to to late. With a 6am start and having to be in the gates for 5:10 I was struggling. So I decided if I cannot get near the start, I will try and get somewhere near the finish. At least I can get back quickly and I will just need to bear the 3am start to the day. It also meant a long journey to the sign on which was Saturday at the Excel Centre.

I still remember how it felt to get up at 3am that Sunday morning. It was not the most pleasant alarm I ever had!

I got the hotel room empty ready for check out and left the keys at the desk. Got the car packed and my bike out for 3:30am. Time was tight, and I had worked out how long it would take to ride across London but did not leave much time to spare. I started off and headed towards paddington. It was more or less a straight road and I don’t remember how I thought I was going to navigate it other than look on google maps beforehand and go to memory and check my phone if I thought I had gone wrong!

Thankfully there was no need for any of that though because as I road along the route more and more riders appeared and turned on. First I was riding with one, then two others, ten others. Before I knew it there was literally a peloton of us travelling down at once. It was a good job too because I am not sure without a lot of stress that I would have got there on time! Going through East London at 4:30 was surreal! Everyone still in the nightclubs and a massive group of us riding to start a 100 mile ride!

In the end I got there in one piece and in the gates on time. But then I had along wait till the start and travelling on my own meant waiting on my own as I could not find any of my other team mates in the mass of riders. Rumours were also circling on the weather which was forecast and it was not pleasant! In fact on the tannoy just before we started they announced Box Hill and Leath Hill would not be included due to safety reasons! The route was going to be altered. Not great news but it was what it was.

I was set off with others at 6:02am and we were allowed to catch the riders who had set off in front of us as they were slowed down enabling us to catch them. That meant there was a very large group of us on the road. Up to 200 I would think and the way I remember it. From about 30 minutes in it rained heavily the whole way round! Everybody was very wet and thank goodness it was not cold otherwise it would not have been pleasant! Still though people were out to cheer everybody on, even when we got out to Surrey! Missing Leath Hill and Box Hill though meant a shortened route.

A photo taken from the start line. This was the 6:02 group which was set off second. The was another ‘funnel’ just like this one seen which was to the right. The first group was set off at 6:00 and were slowed down further ahead to allow us to catch them which made the group much bigger.

The full circuit was 86 miles and returning to London we went through Kingston Upon Thames where the route joined on an avenue where people heading the other way out to Surrey were just on the other side of the central reservation! I remember Speeding past at well over 25mph and someone saying ‘Look, there are the leaders’. Such a buzz.

It didn’t take us long to get through Wimbledon and then to Fulham. I was thinking of the finale. Not that it’s a race but everyone wants to get over the line first still. Just before turning onto the Thames Embankment a pothole! A puncture and that was it! No way I was going to get back on. Luckily I suppose it was with only 6 miles to go as it really would have been painful with all the rain! Fixing it as fast as possible I tagged onto another group and got to the finish!

The weather was appalling and there were no crowds at the finish to greet us because of the hard rain pouring down! The last time I was there was for the one and only marathon I had done a number of years before hand and it was packed. This time almost a ghost town with a soaked girl handing me a goodie bag full of sugar.

Very wet I had to get back as quick as possible! The ride still only took 3:32:53 even with the puncture. So I was back before 9:30! The hotel paid off at this point because Bayswater is not far from the Mall so I could get back to the hotel before check out time of 11 and have a nice warm shower! Apart from an interruption of a monsoon when I got to Marble Arch stopping in a bus shelter for 10 minutes to avoid it I got back trouble free, had the warm shower and headed home!

Ride London though was still a good experience! I still have the medal hanging up for it because it was still a great event to be a part of!

The deserted finish when I got there. So early many people would not even know it happened. The Mall would have been much busier had the weather been better.

Leaving Ride London behind it was back to Rockingham midweek! I was also riding too and from the events in Rockingham. From where I was living at the time it was exactly 19 miles. With the race between 25-30 miles and a warm up and cool down I was hitting over 70 miles. Not bad for a work evening!! Both good training and my car at the time started giving me warning lights, low tyre pressure and stop this car along with a spanner symbol so it was good to try and give it a rest.

On this particular occasion there was a breakaway of 11. It went in the first 10 minutes in dribs and drabs grouping together over time. Club mates Hans Van Nierop and Jonny Unwin had both made it. I was the last one to bridge over from WVCC, and it was a particularly hard effort. It took nearly a full lap and a couple of laps to recover when I got there! I really did pay for the effort at the finish coming 10th on the line! It was still a good evening though!

Although a good evening for results. The nights were drawing in and I needed to invest in a light which was something I was putting off due to affordability. My solution was a torch which I had a bracket for. All well and good when the torch is new it was a cheap way of getting a good light. However this was not a new torch because you needed to buy another one every year. I thought I would get away with it and held off but the batteries had now moved inside from the vibrations made on the road and the torch flickered on and off. I needed up having to hold it and ride one handed but that was only a little bit better. I kept telling myself if I can get to Harborough I know the road like the back of my hand and I can ride it in the dark if need be. Crazy and stupid but that was the state of mind at the time in comparison to reality and everything and anything was being spent on racing and although my back light was working fine (I did actually had a very good one) it is not something you should be doing as humans unfortunate don’t have night vision. With all my resources put to the test but although I was doing very well on the road this story shows a more darker side to the situation.

Back on the road the season was in full flight, I had momentum behind me and I got to the upcoming weekend with no race planned!!!

At this moment I would say my attitude to racing shifted dramatically! It was a big turning point and I would say this is definitely the moment at which I started to see travelling time as no issue, no problemo if it was a 3-4 hour drive!. I looked for a race everywhere, looking on the BC website all over the country desperate to enter something!

This was the weekend of the Leicester Castle Classic which is something I could easily get to but I had missed the entry not planning anything in. I emailed the organiser but the race was full, with all reserve slots filled as well.

Continuing to look, I stumbled across Rider HQ. There I found the SERRL League! Its worth noting that SERRL stands for South Eastern Road Race League. There was space however! I emailed the organiser and got a ride. I also had to join there league for £25 which is supposed to last the season and plus the £20 race fee! That was ok though! Chilham was the destination. I had never heard of Chilham before but its in Kent which is a 3 1/2 hour drive one way.

The race was a 10 am start and which meant I had to be away for just after 5am! On the journey with coffee in hand I arrived at the HQ, or what was supposed to be the HQ but a lady had arrived just before me to put a note on the door. As I stopped she came over to me and said we have had to move the HQ, it’s a few miles down the road. I emailed everyone but I thought I would put a note here just in case anyone missed it. Good job I caught her as I had not got that email being a late entry!!

I followed her to the new HQ. Signed on and pinned my numbers on and once we were off literally as soon as the flagged dropped I attacked being very keen. Establishing a small lead with three others but it was short lived as we were rode back after a few km. I then missed the next move subsequently and that was it. I vaguely remember this course and it rained for a lot of the way through. I remember it dried up at the finish though and we were in for a surprise.

SERRL Chilham (3)
The first breakaway but not the proper break. I was in but we were not allowed to go and were subsequently caught. At this level depending on the riders it leans more towards teams and whether you are allowed to go because people are good enough to ride you back. You would need to be exceptionally strong or at an advance UCI level to force a break or even win on strength alone with no tactical knowledge of the field.

Every lap we went round a sign was saying turn left for finish and I think it said 1km but I cannot remember if it definitely did. It was long enough though however far it was because it was an horrendous climb and with no recce off the course and not being local I had no idea how steep it was and after 80 miles something like that can really hurt! I had no idea how many were away but I really wanted something from the race so I left everyone at the bottom.

SERRL Chilham (2)
Chilham: One thing about this circuit was it had a ver fast decent. This photo shows that place, and remains one of my best photos. The kit, the bike, the scenery all looks right in this picture. I used to have to carry large bottles because I would not have any body to feed me which was especially difficult on the hotter days.

I remember just how tough it got and I was in a bit of pain. Some people who timed there effort passed me but I hung on as best I could as not too many riders did. On crossing the line I was in bits because of the effort it took. Luckily the HQ was not far away, I had no idea where it was so had to ask for directions. Then the long drive back. I did not know where I finished as the results were to be published later with only the top so many confirmed on the day. I was checking for updates regularly keen as anything to find out if I had made the top 20. To my delight finding out a few days later I had!!! 1 point, all that effort worth it! Well to me it was anyway.

SERRL Chilham Results
The Result of the SERRL Summer Series Event 12 – Chilham. Won by Lloyd Chapman. Its worth noting every club or team in the results was from the south with an exception of me and Welland Valley CC. I actually thought I had worked out I had come 22nd but was delighted when I found out I was 20th. Back then it was more regular for riders in the points to only be sent to BC meaning if your not in the Top 20 nobody knows how you got on. So to me it was more than just the 1 point at which it looks on the surface. Its about ‘making the grade’ as it were. It also sort of provided truth to the story and the effort I had made to get there. Now most full results are sent in.

Only a sportive and two races described but all very much pivotal for myself really. This was the moment I hit the button that puts the car into 6th gear turned off reverse, and the moment that was ‘I am taking this very seriously’ to ‘now cycling is religion and nothing will get in my way’.

An Elite Licence is always something that I wanted in the back of my mind since I started but it was a 1st Cat Licence I was now after at the time, and even though I had a vast amount of points to make up I didn’t see that as any obstacle. Nowhere became too far and I had slightly lost touch with reality. Up next the road to the Fin Del Verano.



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