Getting into bike racing over the last six months has been awesome. It’s the most exhilarating form of road cycling there is, flying round at 44kph in a pack of riders, inches (or less) from the wheel in front and the elbows to the side. The tactical side of racing is genuinely fascinating, and the pressure of constantly having to make split-second decisions on positioning, which wheels to follow and when to attack isn’t something you get anywhere outside of a race, and it’s really good fun.
The lure of BC points was strong over the cold winter months, and with the help of Joe Friel’s Training Bible (I should probably do a blog about that), I followed a structured training plan for the first time in my life from October to January which culminated in my one race win. The motivation of wanting to do well in races coupled with doing training which wasn’t just ‘riding my bike a lot’ was successful in making me way faster than I ever had been before, certainly for that time of the year, and I couldn’t have done one without the other (or Zwift).
I’ve experienced crossing the line first, and the slog of riding for 90 minutes in the gruppetto after being dropped mid race. I’ve also managed to remain upright, which is a bit of a surprise and also the reason I don’t think I’ll do any more races in the near future.
In the six races I’ve done I think I have seen five people go to hospital. One second they are riding along next to you, the next they are in A&E. This doesn’t just affect their weekend, it often means they are not at work on Monday morning and wherever else they may be spending their week. There’s also plenty of people I follow on Strava who frequently upload races with titles and comments such as the below.
Social media also has plenty of pretty harrowing tales of life in the London crit scene which pop up all too frequently.
There can’t be many amateur sports out there with such high volumes of broken bones and bent carbon, are there? As seasoned racers will tell you: that’s bike racing.
This spill at Hog Hill hit the headlines recently.
I feel a bit like I’ve been playing Russian Roulette and have the opportunity to get out whilst I still can. With the summer ahead, the last thing I want to do is spend 8 weeks unable to ride because of a broken collarbone, or worse. I’d also gain about 25kg in that time if I can’t ride, even though Tesco’s 3 Lindt eggs for £1 deal is over for the year.
I definitely don’t want to put anyone off trying racing, it is awesome and everyone should have a crack at it. I just can’t really justify the danger at the moment. For me the summer is about riding around in the sunshine in new places, stopping at nice cafes and smashing out the odd hill before having a beer and a pizza. Comme ca.
I’ve enjoyed each race I’ve taken part in, although the one at Lea Valley was a bit of a waste of time in hindsight having turned up with the sole intention of not getting injured before Majorca, which ironically probably raised the chance of getting caught up in a spill. The road race in Devon was definitely safer, and I’m not 100% ruling myself out of ever doing more road races, just nigh on impossible to get into any run by Surrey League/SERRL unless you ride for one of the bigger clubs with the resources to promote events.
At the start of the year my goal was to get to Cat 3 and be able to hold my own at that level, which I’m happy I’ve done, albeit about 9 months ahead of schedule. The other two things I’m aiming for this year are a sub-23 10 mile TT and a top 30 place at a hill climb. I’m building a TT bike at the moment, hopefully it’s around 10 days from being rideable, and that will give me something to train for. I should then have enough form and not be too fat for hill climb season to end the year. This year I’m 99% sure is the year I’ll finally get a CX bike having spent the last 5 winters saying how much fun it looks on YouTube.
I’ve written an honest account of each race I’ve done this year. I did this to give people who were in my position of being a bit unsure & afraid of what it was like to take the plunge into racing a flavour of what it was all about. I think subconsciously at the start I really wanted to be able to say everything about racing was great and everyone should do it, after riding in two crashless races in December & January. However, once I started to see snapped carbon and crushed collarbones, I had to report on that too. It’s all part of bike racing, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to make it much safer when you’re dealing with such high speeds and small margins of error.
The reports are: