Green At Every Turn – Bristol South Road Race 2014

It isn’t always the case in racing that you arrive at your target race with the legs that you planned to have. Thankfully, from the minute I got on the rollers to warm up on Sunday I knew that today I had got my preparation right. Judging by the nervous smiles and previous week’s performance I could say the same for Jon, with Giles bouncing back from his trip over the bars last weekend to be ready too.

We’d enlisted the help of Mike and Paul to hand up bottles and so we were left to get set and firm up our plans for the sunny, warm and only lightly windy hilly hilarity that is the Stowey Circuit.

This week’s plan A was pretty simple – Jon and Giles to have a go at the KOM competition and we all would twiddle our thumbs for the rest of the lap until people got tired (usually lap 3 or so) then have a go in a breakaway.

Plan B was simpler still – regroup at 4k to go, get into position then let the green-train loose for a champagne spraying leadout for me (Pete).

Plan A went well, J-Fow showing that riding an aero frame doesn’t slow you down on the hills and that he was king of Stowey, with him putting Green, Cream and Pink up front each lap to ensure he stashed his (specially reduced-size) jersey full of points and bagged the hefty prize for King of the Mountains.

Last week’s crash looked to have knocked the edge off Giles’s form but he was one of a select group that made it over Stowey Hill all 8 times with only a visit from the cramp-fairy on the final lap dragging him out of the back of the bunch. Just a week after an A&E trip that counts as a result in any sensible estimation.

As each lap passed the crowds grew larger, with Bristol South and Walcot Easy Riders vying for supremacy on the lower slopes, Walcot owning the middle section and a great mix of Bath CC, Walcot, more Bristol South and everyone else’s plus ones lining the KOM and final bend. This Sunday was the only UK race I’ve ridden that the cheers, and atmosphere has really drowned out the rasping breath of competition to give the bunch the feeling of being the main attraction at a real and exciting event that matters to people. Speaking for everyone that rode on Sunday, that was a great feeling and having the crowd wearing the same jersey as you just made it ring a little louder in your ears.

We even had fancy dress as for one lung busting lap I was haunted by the image of a 6foot pig banging a colander and wearing Tom Marshall’s sunglasses. Being heckled by a sentient farmyard animal is not something we made a plan for – I’m going to read some Orwell and see what he suggests about dealing with personified pigs. We may not be boy scouts, but VCWRace always aim to be prepared.

I was surprised by the excitement, shocked by the volume of cheering and pan banging and really proud to have a few people comment that VC Walcot helped make the event more exciting both on and off the bike. Yesterday was a perfect example of why racing as a club, supported by club mates and cheered on by club mates makes the whole experience better – I look forward to returning the favour.

My contribution to Plan A was to twiddle my thumbs and spin my legs, persuade/harass the bunch not to chase the breakaway that Jon had driven clear (you didn’t really think he’d stayed in the bunch did you?) and then when the break came back ride an accidental and lonely lap out front. Sometimes no one wants to play with you and you just need to accept it and slink back to the peloton like a teenager coming back to their pint after having to ‘check-in’ with Mum.

The next two laps were where Jon’s KOM was sealed, with his legs still spinning while others were creaking wrecks being nursed up the 8% gradient. When you factor in 6 full-gas efforts up Stowey the fact that it was Jon closing down attacks from the eventual winner with 1k to go is epic. You don’t get that from most climbing waifs.

500m later, with Steven Roach off the front, a mess of individuals on the right of the road and Jon piloting me on the left, it was a proper bunch gallop. Jon wound up his leadout I was sure the race was won, he accelerated, I accelerated but the guy next to him wandered and knocked into Jon stalling his sprint and closing the door on me coming round my lead out. It was only a few pedal strokes lost, just a dab on the brakes but it was just enough to prevent the win that our team work deserved. If only Steve had got his celebrations started even earlier, I might have been the Freire to his Zabel. No such luck.

And a little video too…

After some lounging in the sun, picking apart how the race was won (and lost), we got to make 3 trips to the podium.

Thank you to everyone who cheered, banged pans and most especially to Mike Young and Paul F who handed up bottles, gathered kit and gave moral support. Riding bikes is only a part of what racing is to a club like Walcot – supporting and sharing the ups and the downs of people you know and like is what makes club life priceless on days like yesterday.