It was really touch and go as to whether i’d ride this event – it was a bit of an unknown, but from what i’d seen on the old internet, it looked like a fun evening – i’d play it by ear.
Now.. what to wear?? – may be a slightly odd thing to think (avoided the sexist statement of sounding like a woman there!)but if I was going to ride, I didn’t really want to make an idiot of myself – so the ballgown was a definite “no no”..
So, under my wife’s instruction, I wasn’t allowed to dress in my retro jerseys and shorts, instead, had to go undercover in jeans.. Managed to find a cycling related jumper though – don’t get to wear that one very often, so off we went.
I should add at this point that today had been a hectic one (here’s where I start to stack up the excuses) with a cyclo cross event in Colchester – an hour of full on racing, totally draining my weak and feeble body of strength and energy (that oughta do it – message across: “I’m tired and weak”)
The rush home from the race, dropping off the kids (not a euphamism), then on to Norwich to pick up some friends, and spend 15 minutes driving round looking round for a parking space – we should realy have ridden too, as there were a good assortment of bikes outside the pub, but 20 addtionbal miles would have gone down like a glass of cold sick with my wife.
After getting a drink (not of sick), we proceeded upstairs where the compares were just starting the proceedings with the first qualifying heats. The place was already heaving, with the rig at one end of the function room, and everyone else watching. The compare was doing a great job of whipping people up, to get behind their riders. There was a bit of added rivalry with 2 major clubs from Norwich well represented: Iceni Velo had organised the event, and VC Norwich had good representation – nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry! I should at this point explain what Rollapalza is, I suppose: It’s Roller Racing, and (as I’ve been failing to explain to my work colleagues), it consists of 2 bikes, connected to static rollers, and riders attempt to complete the 500m course as fast as they can. The progress is indicated by a large clock behind them (for the spectators to see), with the clock hands indicating progress of each rider.
After watching the first few riders spinning their proverbials off, I started to get nervous – not the best time to have second thoughts, but what the hell – just have a laugh, and i’d dragged my wife and friends along for the evening, so I ought to at least give it a go – after all, how hard could it possibly be? – standby for gratuitous story of how I was much better the longer ago it was: I used to be able to sprint on junior gears at 40mph, and once followed a truck at 53mph (before the computer on the bike stopped working). So I knew (well I hoped) I wouldn’t be last – the thought if the cross race kept creepign in though…
So – I signed my money, and got a stamp on my hand (which after 24 hours, and several hand washes and a shower, still hasn’t faded), and put my name down.
I was drawn against a team mate, but this first round was just about going as fast as you could, to qualify for subsequent rounds. I sat on the bike, and waited to be adjusted – facing a sea of faces, offering encouragement and banter about what we were about to do to ourselves. The countdown – overwhelming anticipation – last minute thoughts of ride on the tops or drops? – pull forward on sit back?? – can I remember how to even pedal?? – 5-4-3-2-1 GOOOOOO! – got the gear going ok, my trainers helpd in tightly by good old fashioned toestraps – phased out in the late 80s by the introductions of clipless pedals – still very popular in track racing though – I should add that I wasn’t thinking all this while I racing, I’m just going off on a tangent.. The two helpers were shouting in our ears how far it was to go – it wasn’t about winning, although it would have been nice to take a scalp to boost my confidence, I was up against a super sprinter, although he hadn’t been riding too much – I on the other hand had RIDDEN A CROSS RACE – did I mention that??!
“100 metres to go” – god, it seemed like i’d be pedalling for ages already, and I was starting to die – couldn’t keep the gear going… – managed to creep across the line, and lost by about 5 100ths of a second.. would it be enough to qualifty? – WHO CARES – I was simply trying to stop the gear, and climb off the bike and try not to collapse.. My legs had turned to jelly, and as I rejoined my friends and wife, the breathing and heat caught up with me [stand under the fan].. I watched the next few heats, then got another pint. The last of the competitors finished their heats, and a few more people beat my time – although my legs were shot, I was hoping that I’d done enough to qualify…. As it turned out, I had done just enough (helped by the fact that my rivel who’d beaten didn’t feel at all well after out bout, so pulled out)
The wait for the heats intensified, and I discovered I was drawn against “Smiley” – someone i’d ridden with and against since we were juniors – in 1989! He has an awesome turn of speed (although he’d done the same cross race as me – finishing higher up). He once offered to lead me out in a race and dropped me in the process before sprinting as I gasped for breathe – he was the record holder at Bob Whitear’s infamous fitness test – so I didn’t fancy my chances..
5-4-3-2-1…………..(a surprise start): GO – off again – oops, false start – think someone in the crowd shouted go, so I GOed!! – off again [properly this time], and this time my legs felt better than in qualifiying – I whipped the gear round, and wasn’t dying, but couldn’t go any faster – my helper was shouting in my ear “you’re level – keep it up – push push push” and I pushed!!…. We finshed – I was only three 10ths of a second behind him.. – so close, but i’d given my all and lost out to the better rider.
Even if i’d made that round, I wasn’t sure I could have done many more – especially as the final was held over 1km – twice the distance – that wouldn’t have been pretty – cuppa sick anyone??!
With the planning already started for the next event i’m already thinking of what training I can do to get faster (short of losing 15 years) – sad, but that’s the competitive spirit in me..