Monday, May 20, 2024

A Reader Writes: My Best Race

"It had been full-on for the last 45 of 100 miles, a true classic."


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It was my best race, but the omens were not good. Arriving at the start I had skidded on black ice on a roundabout and ended up on my arse.

This was going to be a long, cold ride with the risk of falling off again.

Following the turn back northwards at just over halfway there was a general regroupment of the field and now, on the long drag back up the dual carriageway following the turn you could see sixty or seventy survivors in this main field.

My Best Race

Once over the top of this long drag there was little change over the next twenty miles or so of generally flat dual carriageway until the field reached a section of the course where dual carriageway gave way to a single lane each way.

Here the combination of a further six miles of gradual ascent and the narrowness of the road caused the field to split apart with a leading group comprising maybe only twenty or so riders.

And with the road being so winding those who lost contact would also have lost sight of us and with it, all hope of a good finish. 

Emerging from the claustrophobia of this section onto a further six miles of open, flat dual carriageway felt quite a relief but, with less than twenty miles to go the general consensus was that advantage we had gained in the front group was worth working to retain and the additional road space allowed for most of the group to come through-and-off with just a few wheel suckers and hangers-on at the back.

I had ridden a time trial on this road in the past and it seemed just like a team time trial now.

With about ten miles to go the dual carriageway ended in a roundabout with a ridge to be climbed, about a mile and a half up, and a mile and a half drop down the other side – the perfect place to split the lead group further and shed a few more.

Sure enough the strong guys seemed to maintain their pace up this long drag, all in the big ring, with some blowing up, unable to stay on.

By the top our lead group was now down to maybe fifteen who swept down the decent at full speed to the roundabout at the bottom, where the dual carriageway resumed once again, on another section of road where I had ridden a time trial in the past.

My Best Ride

Now, another four miles of bit-and-bit before the next drag up over the downland.

The final drag came with about six miles to go.

About a mile long but again, a gradient you could power up in the big ring if you still had the strength, which most of our fifteen did, still there at the top.

Another, last section of dual carriageway before a last two lane stretch of about three miles to the finish.

This would be ‘the final’ as Sean Kelly would describe it. With the finish being on a short dirt road reached by way of a very tight 90 degree left turn after a narrow railway bridge the first to the corner would, barring accident, be first to the finish.

So ‘the final’ battleground would be these three miles, you would need to lead onto the railway bridge to get into the corner first.

New attacks caused one final split at the front, fifteen becoming no more than six or seven. It was frantic.

Sure enough I got to the railway bridge in third place, the two in front of me simply too strong for me after 100 miles and we all held position around the final left hand turn and down the dirt road to the finish.

My Best Race

It was the best ‘race’ I had ever been in – or would ever be in.

It had been full-on for the last 45 of 100 miles, a true classic.

It was the Ross Wheelers Reliability Trial.

Hampton Court to the turn at Worthing Pier and back up the A24 again to finish in the café on Oxshott Common. And the winner was … Dick (Spider) Westwood.