Not a good week for me mechanically with two punctures travelling to work on Wednesday and the folding pedal falling off my Brompton on Thursday (brilliant design but just not robust enough when grinding up a hill), so I suppose it should have been no surprise that I punctured on my one warm up lap before today's race. So, as Doug sent us off, my bike was upside down in the mud while I swapped a replacement back wheel borrowed from a kind soul. I first assumed he was there for the next race but maybe he was a spectator. Anyway this was not his spare wheel, you should understand, it was the wheel taken off his bike so I really do owe him one. The circuit has spares but all Shimano equipped.
So I spent my first half lap sprinting to get up to the group which had fortunately this week gone off at a moderate pace. I raced 'blind' as my Garmin was in my back pocket being protected from the mud. (Yes, I know, mechanically skilled people do not turn their bikes upside down but I find it reduces the chance of fluffing a rear wheel change and I was in a hurry).
The borrowed wheel served me very well, for a while I thought it was squeaking loudly but I eventually figured out that was number 50 who seemed to be in my vicinity for much of the race. There was a stiff West wind which served to thwart the attempts of the few who tried to get away. [Edit: no it didn't, there was a succesful break and clearly I did not know what was going on!]. I thought there might be a risk of a split with the crosswind so tried to stay near the front. Getting right to the front, though, was a definite mistake as it was hard to drop back without the entire pack coming by on the leeward side.
We eventually passed the 4ths reasonably cleanly though there was one rider who just could not resist latching onto our race.
It had been drizzling as I arrived at the circuit, but for the last 20 minutes of our race we were treated to glorious winter sunshine. This appeared to relax everybody and the pace slowed right down. The field was at least twice as large as it has been in recent weeks so as the race slowed and bunched it was hard to get by.
With 5 laps to go everybody decided simultaneoulsy it was time to move up the field so the pace distinctly quickened. On the back straight of the final lap quite a few of us lost contact with the bunch. With that number jostling in a sprint, there is always the risk of mishap; a few riders went off into the grass and one unfortunate rider fell heavily on the finishing straight.
26 miles in 01:05:40. Average 24.3 mph.
While I was racing, a journalist was trying to contact me. It sadly seems to require a high profile death before the editors of national newspapers are interest in cyclists' safety. Keep an eye out for an article by Paul Bignell in tomorrow's Independant.