It’s a race stupid!

It’s taken me five months to feel I can write this. Long enough for the pain to recede – not the physical pain, which was slight, but the painful memories of painful realisations.

A little preamble. Mum died in June 2012 after a period of illness. She’d had a list of things she had wanted to do but unfortunately she had never managed to take a trip up Blackpool tower. We had a family get together in Blackpool to do just that on the day before the 3 peaks cyclocross race. It was incredibly windy and in fact the tower was closed until later in the afternoon. Instead we mooched about on the prom and the piers, Harry riding his ripstik that he’d just got for his birthday. I had a go too and discovered too late that I no longer have the suppleness of an 11 yr old as I fell and bashed my hip. After a meal Dad and I drove over to Stainforth where we’d booked to stay in the pub – we arrived just in time for last orders and sneaked in a quick half before bed. Even at that point I wasn’t taking this seriously enough.

Race day dawned absolutely as forecast. Enough people have written about the epic weather so I won’t add to that except to say that the few minutes ride up to Helwith Bridge was all I needed to see this would be a tough day. Signed on and shivering on the start line the whole peloton had a somber air to it – everyone’s spirits well and truly dampened. In transferring gear from car to car the day before I’d managed to mislay my water bottle so asked in the hostel if anyone had a spare. Someone very kindly lent me one and just asked me to put it back in the lockers afterwards – thanks if that was you!

The race unfolded as usual. Very little of the base of Simon Fell was rideable but before even reaching the steep bit I realised I’d lost my borrowed bottle which had fallen off while I was carrying. Bother. At this point I’d decided that no records were going to be broken and I was confident of completing the race so I could say I’d done this most epic iteration of the event so dumped my bike and ran back to look for the bottle. Right back. To the back. Eventually a kind marshal offered me a lump of field which was wrapped round the bottle I was looking for and I ran back up to the bike.

At least being near the back gets better pictures! BC snapper via Flickr – thanks!

British Cycling pictures

Plodging up the hill I was too hot, my hip hurt and I seemed to have little power in my legs. The positions tell the tale though as I passed the back markers all the way.

Ingleborough

10:57:48

01:27:48

01:27:48

512th (593)

Cold Cotes

11:24:32

01:54:32

00:26:44

482nd= (592)

Whernside

12:27:51

02:57:51

01:03:19

405th (563)

Ribblehead

13:03:13

03:33:13

00:35:22

378th (562)

Pen-y-ghent

14:17:58

04:47:58

01:14:45

355th (506)

Finish

14:49:50

05:19:50

00:31:52

345th (504)

On the Whernside descent a lad wiped out just behind me  “ran out of talent” or brakes depending who you believe. Further down I paused to offer Phil Haygarth a hand with his failing brakes. Then something happened. On the track along to the Ribblehead Viaduct I started to see people ahead, chase them, catch them and pass them. Suddenly I remembered that this is a race. This is what it’s all about, fighting for places with your peers, not letting people pass you and chasing down those in front. I’m not really that competitive normally and I’m never going to get in the top 100 of a race like this but one of the things I’d enjoyed in previous years was this jostling and battling and I’d forgotten.

The rest of the race was completed with the legendary bike wash at the foot of Pen y Ghent being a great new feature. Back at the hostel in Helwith Bridge I returned the bogey bottle and had a couple of mugs of reviving tea while hypothermic riders were brought in in various states of awareness. One group of spectators were being repaired after a rider had just ploughed into the crowd rather than turn into the finish straight. It truly had been an epic day.

My day was completed with a ride down to Settle where I met Dad at the Naked Man cafe. Shortly I was the naked man thankfully getting changed into clean, dry clothes.

As we drove North we soon left the maelstrom that had been the storm over Yorkshire and found clear skies and sunshine and family wondering what all the fuss was about. It was easy to forget the awful conditions endured by competitors and by amazingly tough and devoted marshals but I’ll remember the lessons I’d learnt. It’s a race stupid!

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