A Walrus at the Worlds
By Flipper FingersSeptember 14, 2015
There was to be drug testing. This alarming realisation leaped from the page and stung the senses like kelp to the face in a strong riptide. This was evidently going to be an extremely serious event. My qualification for the UCI World Amateur Road Race had been somewhat accidental, the result of a frenzied fenland […]
There was to be drug testing. This alarming realisation leaped from the page and stung the senses like kelp to the face in a strong riptide. This was evidently going to be an extremely serious event.
My qualification for the UCI World Amateur Road Race had been somewhat accidental, the result of a frenzied fenland charge through the mass participation madness of mountain bikes and baskets at the Cambridge Gran Fondo back in June.
GB Kit was to be mandatory, a rainbow jersey was to be awarded to the winner and cycling shoes were to be worn on the podium. So, along with the doping control, these were not the type of regulations synonymous with the average Kelmscott-based triathlon. I envisaged a fearful thrashing. I signed up immediately.
The setting for this madness was Aalborg, a delightful part of the world seemingly full of impossibly nice human beings and lovely restaurants, lovely restaurants which were soon overrun with extremely thin men eating exceptionally good dinners in compression socks. The city’s bike lanes teemed with time trialists, practice pelotons poured into the surrounding countryside and the air hummed thick with zipping hubs and the whir of carbon slicing through the breeze.
a far cry from my own preparation which consisted mainly of a pair of sprained wrists following a rather embarrassing solo face plant in Bushy Park
The atmosphere was slick and professional, a far cry from my own preparation which consisted mainly of a pair of sprained wrists following a rather embarrassing solo face plant in Bushy Park and a pre-race practice ride which in no particular sequence comprised three punctures, one too few inner tubes, a taxi, welcome refuge in a Danish church, a kit drenching thunderstorm, £125.00 in a bike shop and a pair of new tyres which I am fairly sure were designed for a tractor.
I had to hope that race day bought some fairer fortune. Dawn thus broke and a booming tannoy sounded through the cobbled streets, lycra was king and a multi lingual buzz of nervous chatter cut through the air. Everyone in the starting pen looked good, so very good. Their calves, seemingly chiselled from polished teak, glinted in the morning and their shrink wrapped spandexed arms hung loosely like spaghetti over their handlebars. The countdown began like a death knoll. A hush descended. Oh hell. This brief but pregnant silence soon shattered as garmins reverberated on stems and the brittle rattle of clipping pedals echoed loudly off the carbon frames. We were off.
Chaos reigned supreme. 170 riders jostled for position, wild shrieks and flailing hands warned of bollards and cobbles and 90 degree turns. A blur of colour hurtled hysterically through the suburbs. Welcome to the “neutral” zone.
Just 10km in and the pinch points and uphill punches were causing panic amongst the peloton. One Canadian man careered into a corn field and an Australian lay prone in a roadside ditch. 40kph cross winds whipped across the exposed terrain and the concertina effect claimed victims at every turn, riders spat out onto the roads, never to be seen again.
At 70km, the elastic finally snapped. The squeezebox had played its last tune. With burning legs and lungs in mouth and a heart thumping inside my jersey, I sat up. The split had been achieved and the peloton had been blown apart. 40 or so Europeans raged ahead, attacking at 50kph plus, stretching away as dots on the horizon.
After a few futile skirmishes , a disorderly and disjointed détente descended over us with only the hills taking prisoners. I reached for a drink and began to settle in for the day.
With age group starts just 10 minutes apart, it was only a matter of time before all hell broke loose again and sure enough, a wild honking of horns heralded the approach of the 35-40 year olds. A motorbike screamed by, clearing the way for a surging solo Slovakian and then like rolling thunder, his herd of pursuers charged wildly in his wake. I latched on, breathing heavily through a mule bar which I’d popped into my mouth with the most unfortunate timing.
20km later and the mule bar had lodged firm. There was more chance of it decomposing than it being ingested. Fury ruled the roads once more. Bidons were snatched from stewards and hurled deep into the countryside of which I saw nothing as my eyeballs, on stalks, focussed manically on the wheel in front.
With 10km to go, the wilderbeasts had trampled all before them, mere dust in the wind and like wounded animals, we limped home in our twos and threes.
There were no finishers t-shirts here. You got nothing for crossing the line. No spoils but for the victors. Yet the sense of achievement was unparalleled. I had come here and competed and that in itself was enough.
Average Speed: 35.3kph
Placing: 90/166 in age group. 8th Brit in age group.