Paul Carvill does his first Road Race in eight years and Chris Ware does his first Road Race EVER!
The Ray Levers Road Race (run under TLI) is held on the Torworth Circuit (nr Blyth) by the Harworth & District Cycling Club. The race is run under a Handicap System and sees three groups set off at 2.5 minute intervals. 7 laps over a relatively flat course sees the total distance at 33 miles.
I ended up in the Scratch Group (eek!) and was now expecting a bit of an ass kicking, having not road raced for so long. The front two groups were away and then finally it was our turn and off we went. The group worked well to start with and everyone seemed to be putting in turns, and then the wheels fell off!! So each time a good chain gang was formed it seemed to die with people interupting the flow! I even ended up riding of the front on a couple of my turns due to nobody being on my wheel! There were people falling out left right and centre! Nothing changed then 🙂
We did not seemed to be making much headway with the two front groups containing Chris and they had now joined into one big peloton and were tramming on. The sprint was now gathering pace and a couple of riders went down in the melee! Onimpex Bioracer rider Steve Davis takes the win, showing the younger lads how to finish.
Two had got away in our group on the last lap due to the messing about and stayed away, we then geared up for the anti-climax of a bunch gallop, Joe White was sat on my wheel and we headed towards the line at a reasonable pace and then with 250 to go Joe gave a kick and went for it. I wasnt that far behind and chuffed to have gone as well as I did in my first race back.
I saw Chris at the line and asked him how he had gone on, “F$%king Awesome” he said with a grin the size of Lincolnshire, top 20 at least he said. We both rode back to the HQ buzzing at having mixed it up and looking forward to the next race.
Ray Levers Road Race, Blyth, Easter Sunday 8th April, 2012 – My First Road Race!
Where to begin? I’ve harboured intentions of trying something other than Mountain Bike racing for a number of years, however until I joined Lincsquad, these good intentions were just that.
I saw a post from Mr Carvill stating that there was to be a “road race” in Blyth with entry on the line. Being a typical bank holiday weekend I was scratching around trying to find something to do and had none other than some very tentative plans for Downhill Biking at Wharncliffe. Time to finally give it a go. What had I to lose, other than perhaps only several layers of skin and a body still full of unbroken bones.
Sunday morning arrived, bright and cheerful – me and the weather, and off I headed down the A1 to the Cricket Club inBlyth. Entry on the line seemed all too simple.
“Have you pre-entered?”
“No, it’s my first ever race and I understand I can enter on the line”
“Here’s an indemnity form for you to complete absolving us of responsibility for any damage or injury!!!”
“That’ll be £15 well spent, and here’s your race number, please pin it to the rear of your shirt, bottom left”
My immediate thought was that this rather specific requirement for the location of the number was solely in order that the race Marshalls and/or ambulance crew could work out who you were if you were laid face down and unconscious in the gutter following a “race incident” – think I’ve seen way too much race footage.
With that thought, and another that maybe, after all, DH biking might have been the safer option (body armour and a full face is specifically frowned upon in road race circles, and as importantly does hinder speed a little), I headed back to my car to “prepare” mentally for my impending doom.
I bumped into Paul, who offered calm words of wisdom: “just relax, and try to ride in a straight line – you’ll absolutely love it”. Wise words indeed as anyone who has followed me will understand. He also advised a little on race tactics and race etiquette (in case anyone did not know, Paul has raced at a competitive level before – but it was a long, long time ago!) “If anyone shouts at you, just smile and turn the other cheek, don’t do what I did, turn around and lamp them” – fair enough. “Try work your way to the front of the group, especially on the last lap”. How prophetic.
We rode in tandem to the start line (that’s in tandem not on a tandem – that too would be frowned upon!). The course was of an undulating nature, seven laps of 4.7 miles with three reasonable climbs per lap. The race was of a “handicap” nature. Given that my handicap was the inability to ride in a straight line, I was “allowed” to depart in the first of three groups (I later found out that Paul was released in the “scratch” group which I’m sure had nothing to do with any skin allergies he may or may not have). I approached that start line with an assorted motley crew of serious looking young and not so young men, almost all with scars and abrasions on their legs that I hoped were resultant from a series of accidents with razor blades and not anything else, but I doubt.
10.00am sharp and we’re off, the race has begun. I’m at the back of the “peloton” wondering what had I let myself in for. Before I knew it I was being towed uphill at speeds in excess of 28mph into a headwind (and that was within the first 2 miles). Every race I had ever seen on the television starts off slowly and then the serious business of “racing” commences with around a third to a half of the race to go. I was now not only concerned for my body beautiful (do chicks really dig scars??!!) but also how my heart and lungs cope with this level of pain (I was going to say discomfort, but it was definitely more than uncomfortable). Thankfully I need not have worried as it simply got harder!!!
I had previously joked with Paul that I would be either the cause of a major race incident or I would be out the back of the group within the first five miles. Thankfully after the first lap and a half neither prediction had come to fruition. I was slowly but surely beginning to enjoy this racing lark. I was following instructions. I was riding in a straight line. I was even doing my turn at the front of the peloton.
At the end of lap one, two “racers” slipped off the front of the group and dangled like a carrot for a donkey 400 yards off the front for the next 4 laps. On lap three I tried to “bridge” that chasm – for after a mile and a half off the front of the group a chasm it was as I had eaten into their gap by all of 100 yards. Once my lungs had finished exploding I dropped back into the group and held on and waited for my “recovery” to kick in. And kick in it did.
Lap four saw us caught by the second group (these were not severely handicapped but not sufficiently quick enough to be in the itchy group). I thought that when we were caught the new boys would fly past and that would be the last I saw of them. How wrong I was. The pace simply increased by a few MPH (or 10 heartbeats a minute – thank you Garmin!) and I still hung in. I think the pre-race fuelling of porridge and Easter eggs (not in the same bowl – that would just be wrong, wouldn’t it?) were beginning to have an effect as I was moving up the field and was one of the lead ten who were regularly taking their turn on the front to pull the peloton along.
The elastic band finally snapped for the two gentlemen dangling off the front as they were quickly swept up by our pack of hungry wolves on lap six, the penultimate lap. I was almost beginning to relax, I’d not heard any cussing aimed in my direction for at least 3 laps, I was still doing my turn on the front, and had not managed to force anyone off of their two wheels. I could feel the tension beginning to rise in my co-conspirators around me. We were approaching the last lap, only 5 miles until it was all over, and still no sign of the superior scratch group – would we, could we, hold off the fit boys in that final group.
Soon we would know. The last lap was unfolding underneath the buzzing of my carbon wheels, I was beginning to breathe from my nether regions, but I was still in amongst it. If you had asked me 60 minutes previously if I’d a chance of winning, I would have replied with there being more chance of me becoming Pope (and I’m not even a Catholic) but here I was amongst a pack of 40 other panting dogs baying for the finish line to arrive and almost tasting the scent of victory. As the pace rose yet again I found myself towards the back of the group with Yoda Carvill’s kind words of wisdom still ringing in my ears “work your way to the front of the group, you must…” The group was splitting with this injection of pace. I had left it too late, or had I.
It was time to make my move. Coming around the last corner and up the final drag it was time to put the hammer down. Time to drop the bomb. Death or Glory in the final four hundred metres. That’s all that was left to make the difference.
Process: Find a gap, stick your front wheel in the gap, stamp on pedals, find next gap, repeat until finish or you are finished. Using this process I managed to gain promotion into the top twenty by the time the finish line had been and gone (and managed to witness along the way an almighty crash and resultant road rash courtesy of one protagonist not holding his line to the finish – now I understand that road racers shave their legs to make it easier to pick out the pieces of gravel from underneath the flappy skin – Claire, do you mind if I borrow your VEET…)
It was now time to reflect on what had undoubtedly been my most enjoyable cycle event for some time. It had been the proverbial journey in more ways than one. What had started as fear and trepidation, turned mid race to exhilaration, onto determination to finish well, then disappointment at the end that I could and should have done better. A rookie error left me unable to fight for the win. I have certainly learned from my mistake and will not make the same one again when I race next time. There will certainly be a next time cos I am hooked…
Thanks to Paul Carvill for bringing the race to my attention and his words of encouragement. Many, many, thanks also to the Officials, Marshalls, and everyone involved in the organisation of the Ray Levers Road Race.
A big thanks to all the organisers, marshals and volunteers. The event is very well run and look forward to having a go next year.