The big day came. As per usual my legs felt like led the day before, the weather was bad and we failed to set off on time. Months of training had gone into it but somehow by this point I was almost feeling indifferent – simply wanting to get it over with. Riding in a Race run by your home club just adds that bit more pressure, it’s tricky not to feel obligated to come away with a result.

It’s a routine I’ve long since become familiar with. Walk into one Village Hall or another, hand over your race license, back to the car to get your bike ready, warm-up, race briefing and finally roll out through a neutralised section before the chaos starts. There is one piece of advice that every experienced racer will give you – don’t start at the back. You’ll end up caught behind a crash, having to bridge a gap or getting left behind on a corner, basically putting yourself out of the running.

For me it’s turned into a big problem, ever since my injury 18 months ago I’ve been nervous about riding in a high speed bunch. Any thought of how amazing it would feel to win a race is easily overriden by a fear of being taken away from the event in an ambulance. In circuit races I can usually get away with riding at the back, hopefully still having the legs for a late attack. Sadly in a road race riding in that position is the equivalent of a death sentence when it comes to the chance of a good result.

As you might imagine after reading the above, the Race I’d spent months training for was something of a disaster. At the back of the bunch, ending up on the wrong side of the split after what proved to be the decisive ascent of the hardest climb on the course. The rest of the event was spent trying (in vain) to chase back on, unfortunately a group of four riders will never be faster into a headwind than a bunch consisting of thirty. In the end my result was a very disappointing 32nd place – still within the top half but much, much less than what I’d hoped for. The sole consolation was that of seeing a Uni friend finish in Second place following a much better ride than my own.

After a performance like that it’s helpful to give yourself a couple of days before trying to properly analyse it. You’ll never be objective following a bad race. This time I’ve just had to be honest with myself and admit what I’ve known for a while. They say that sometimes you’re just never the same after an injury, regrettably it’s true in my case. Whilst I’ve long since recovered physically, mentally I’ll never be in the same place again – you won’t find me jostling for position in the bunch at 30 mph or taking risks on a descent to chase down a breakaway. It’s time to walk away from Road Racing and set my sights on new sporting goals.

My enthusiasm for Time Trialling has grown considerably in the past couple of months, having realised I’m not all that terrible at it. Finish 4th in my first Open 25 two weeks ago has provided a great deal of motivation to get more aero. Project Ironman officially started today with a gentle 5k run, Triathlon may yet turn out to be the sport for me. Having already spent far more money on equipment than I originally planned I really hope it goes well.

I began writing this with a heavy heart and strong sense of disappointment. Now though, reading back through it evokes a sense of optimism. Truth be told I’m relieved to be ‘retiring’ from something that has caused far more anxiety than elation. I’ll be-able to look forward to competing rather than inwardly dreading it, no more sleepless nights worrying about crashing or getting dropped. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d even be riding a bike yet alone racing one and managing to moving up a category I’d have laughed in your face.

On that I’ll stop. Probably time to get back to revision.

Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply