“Kids, if I can give you one bit of advice for life, it’ll be: Don’t try to be a pro cyclist. It’s too hard” Mark Cavendish, tweeted after Stage 19 of the 2015 Tour de France.
Buoyed by my initial experience of bike racing I eagerly signed up for Westerley Spring Crits. The race at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit was a combination of 3 and 4 cat so for me would be a step up for someone doing only his second race.
0 – 5 minutes: Wow, this is fast.
5 minutes: Still haven’t learnt rollers. Must warm up better.
6- 8 minutes: The huge peloton flies round the track. Riders are being spat out the back. I struggle to cling on.
15 minutes: The pace increases, my body screams, must stay with the group.
16 – 18 minutes: I slow too much going into the tight corner, I sprint every time out of the bend.
25 minutes: Why am I doing this?
26 minutes: This is electric. Fast. Fun.
27 minutes: Too Fast.
30 minutes: I see my brother watching from the sides. I want to get off. Just one more lap.
32 minutes: Is that a stitch? Just one more lap.
34 minutes: Just one more lap.
35 minutes: I rejoin the bunch. The pace seems to have eased.
36 minutes: No, still fast.
40- 45 minutes minutes: The peloton surges round. I continue to follow. My body continues to howl.
50 – 55 minutes: This is magical. We ride together, at speed.
1 hour – I see the sign. Five laps to go. The pace increases, merciless. I don’t have much left.
1 hour 3 minutes: A scream, two riders ahead fly through the air. They spin forward and crunch on the tarmac. I ride past. I try not to look.
1 hour 10 minutes: The peloton sprints for the finish. I roll through.
I’d finished 48th from a starting bunch of eighty. I was exhausted, spent, cooked. I discovered new levels of physical pain and inner turmoil that I wasn’t even aware existed. My body was pushed beyond any previous limit. My cycling computer suggested 91 hours recovery, I wasn’t arguing. There’s an enormous sense of achievement of pushing myself to a new physical limits. With more races on the cards I hope that this suffering will result in some success.