The race wasn’t till 16:00 but I had to be there for midday to get myself categorised, it was just crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s really, as a below knee amp I was pretty sure I would be C4 and I was. It was a good chance to talk to some of the staff from British Cycling and find out more details.
I had turned up with TT bike thinking I had entered a TT on a closed circuit but it became quickly evident after bumping into one of the GB coaches that it was in fact a timed road race on a closed circuit track, so I had the wrong bike with me. He asked around and one of the young paracycle girls, Millie had kindly offered me her old bike which she used for cycling to college. No it wasn’t pink and no it didn’t have ribbons on, as I’ve been asked many times. Her dad, Dave couldn’t have been more helpful setting it up for me, although luckily it only needed the seat raising and the cleated pedals tightening so the cycle leg didn’t come out. Luckily I am very flexible so can ride just about anything as long as I can reach the pedals all is good. It was a horrendous day weather wise with gales, rain and hail, so was pleased for the very sharp brakes! One of the Coaches, Paul kindly lent me a crash hat as I had only brought my aero bonnet and I was set. If a little nervous, on a borrowed bike, wet windy conditions, with the able bodied race running at the same time, on a 1K circuit with two dead turns, one 90˚ turn and my first race in a pack!
The races before mine didn’t feel me with confidence. Waiting in a mobile home out of the weather, people came in that had pulled out not wanting to wreck their season, saying it was too wet, too windy and too cold. Luckily by the start of mine it wasn’t tipping it down at the start which means at least you can get warm before getting wet.
My warm up wasn’t as long as I would have liked, but warmed up off the circuit, then about 10 minutes on the track and all the nerves were gone. I hadn’t raced outside Ashford for about 1 ½ years (Madrid was the last) and was going to enjoy it! Speaking to Tom one of the coaches beforehand he said they would start very quick and to just try to stay with the pack. It wasn’t a lack of speed on the straights but was on the corners that dropped me from the 9 man front pack and a lack of experience on a couple of the corners. I just didn’t know if the bike would hold on the wet surface. I got working with other riders though, some that were a little work shy but a good bunch in general. The last half of the race I was in a group of 4 and working well together when going into one of the dead turns the rider in front of me broke too late and had to fight to stay on his bike. He was swerving all over the place but saved it well and I was pleased for the good brakes on my new steed! My confidence grew as the race continued and was learning all the time. I could take the dead turns surprisingly fast, even in the wet and felt comfortable standing, coming out to get back up to speed on the exit. My little group of four had become two on the near crash and when it got to about ¼ of a lap to go I tried to make a sprint for home but he had me on the line, by about a rim.
I just loved it though and couldn’t stop smiling! Definitely lots to learn and work on but 2nd amongst the para category’s and 10th overall including the able bodied guys, (I think 37 entrants) so it’s a good place to build from.
I also didn’t crash 😎
Massive thanks to the captains’ fund and to ATC in general, your support over the years means a lot!