05/03/17 – Pimbo – Cull Cup Road Race

I’ve been racing for many years and I’ve found that most races have a story to tell. I start this season as a 3rd Category British Cycling rider and TLI Cat A, and I plan to bring you my stories and experiences in the form of a racing diary. So, with all the winter preparation done and being happy with my form, my first race of the season was yesterday’s Cull Cup, organised and promoted by St Helens CRC.

The weather forecast was not great but, as a daily commuter, I’m used to riding in Britain’s finest and, as my dad always says…’you can only get so wet’. With the bike clean and ready, I decided that an ‘ass saver’ mudguard type thing would be a good idea. However, it was late on a Saturday afternoon and I couldn’t get one from my LBS…so why not make one.

Here’s how I did it:

I sourced a generic template from the internet, completed the design and layout using Inkscape and printed the design onto glossy photo paper. I then laminated and trimmed it three times to give enough stiffness to hold its position. Finally, I applied a little bit of superglue to seal the edges of the saddle rail cut-outs, stood back and admired my creative handiwork.

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Blue Peter would be so proud!

Why is it, when you go out for your usual ride, whatever the weather, you know exactly what you’re going to wear but, when it comes to race day, you feel the need to take every piece of cycle clothing you own…just in case. It’s usually at this time, when I’m getting my kit ready, that I start to feel the first round of butterflies, as I imagine how the race is going to go. The human brain is an amazing thing, and I’m convinced that little flutter of adrenaline can easily increase your heart rate by ten beats.

Race day

Now, anyone who races or competes will be able to relate to this next statement, “race day is possibly one of the most effective instant weight loss programmes around”. I won’t say any more as, if you know, you know.

As someone who doesn’t have breakfast, and then only eats lunch at about 2pm, my race prep breakfast is porridge and almonds, washed down with freshly brewed coffee. Another coffee to take with me and I’m good to go.

For non-cyclists, the local club road race is a funny thing to describe. People imagine this large scale fanfare of an event, with loud music, a selection of fine food and drink, crowds of enthusiastic spectators, with a generous prize and champagne podium for the winner. If I’m honest, I’m not the quickest at correcting their illusion. Queuing up at a small village hall to get my number , scrabbling around for various sized safety pins, sharing one toilet with another sixty riders, all to the feint smell of home baked scones doesn’t sound quite as glamorous, but it all certainly adds to the atmosphere that I enjoy so much.

With the start fast approaching, clothing is on and a last minute toilet visit is made, before lining up for 48 miles around a wet Merseyside industrial estate. After a longer than ideal safety briefing from the British Cycling officials while we waited for a rider to fix a puncture, we were set on our way.

…and they’re off

A two mile circuit to be completed twenty four times at approximately 25mph, so not the most enthusiastic thought ahead when, after just one lap, my feet are already drenched, the water is making its way down my sleeves into my gloves and my eyes are full of grit. Deep in the knowledge that this is going to be grim, there’s only one thing to do…attack. With a slim lead, and joined by three other strong riders, we dangled off the front for two laps, only to be brought back. Positioning within the bunch is a skill on the nicest of days, so with standing water everywhere and continuous jets of spray from the riders in front, hats off to all for riding extremely well, with not one dodgy manoeuvre to be seen.

As happens on so many occasions, it’s often the next attack that sticks, and this was the case today. With six riders forming a break, it was going away from the bunch with every lap and I could tell it was not going to be brought back. Knowing this, and with about twenty miles left, there was only one thing left to concentrate on…keeping warm.

Putting the pressure on to generate some body heat

With four laps remaining, I was starting to shiver. Changing gear was an event in itself, as I had to visually adjust my fingers to make sure I was pressing the lever, as I couldn’t actually feel it. I couldn’t get out of the saddle as I wasn’t sure I had a good enough grip of the bars, so the sprint for the line was all seated. The race was won by Bioracer rider Tony Greenhalgh, who managed to escape the break with a lap to go…chapeau Tony!

Full results and further photos can be found at www.velouk.net

80 riders started the race, and there were only 29 that finished, so I was content with my 12th place. With riders hardly able to talk or move, getting into dry clothes was almost as difficult as the race. Conditions were so bad that the later E/1/2/3 race was cut to 15 laps, shortening it to 30 miles.

With the heater on full blast in the car to reverse the mild hypothermia, the shaking finally stopped after 40 minutes of driving. With two cups of tea and feet up on the radiator when I got home, the thoughts of discomfort begin to fade, the bike and kit were cleaned, and I started thinking of the next race. Part of what makes cycling so great, is that we’ve all got our own personal experiences of epic challenges, that we can talk about for years to come, and ‘Pimbo’ will be one of mine.

I started this diary with how difficult it is to explain certain aspects of cycling to non-cyclist. How do you even begin to explain why, up and down the country, people spend months training and pay good money to ride around bleak industrial estates for many miles, in the worst possible conditions, while pushing their bodies to the extreme…and all for fun.

Non-cyclist just don’t ‘get it’, and this, my fellow riders, is the reason ‘I’m not the quickest at correcting their illusion’.

put me back in my car!

A special shout-out goes to Bikmo Jack, for standing at the side of the road to cheer me on and for take these excellent photos, which capture the story perfectly.

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