On and on we go.
Point by agonising point, near miss by near miss, underachievement by underachievement, my slow – but inexorable – journey towards the ‘summit’ of the British Cycling 3rd Category continues.
That I should already have reached my destination and traded my cleats for pipe and slippers this season is beyond doubt, a case in point being my latest spurning of a truly gilt-edged chance to clinch the deal.
I can look upon it reasonably rationally now, almost two weeks later… a far cry from my reaction immediately after the race, when a pal from the Dunsfold series, Matthew, ambled up to see how I’d fared only to find me in a blind fury, beating myself about the head with my open palms while roaring obscenities sufficient to make a navvy blush.
Albert Einstein defined madness as continuing to do the same thing, hoping for a different outcome. I disagree; true madness is the point you’re driven to when you know the outcome should have been different but you still commit the same old blunders to cock it up.
To further elucidate, the only tactical certainty about the Eelmore circuit near Aldershot is the need to be among the first handful of riders approaching the final hairpin before the home straight. I knew this; I’d watched the videos on YouTube, thought about it non-stop beforehand, as well as talking about it at length with my clubmate Shane as we drove to the circuit.
So how the Hell did I find myself totally boxed in at the back of the small bunch as we sped downhill towards the final bend on the last lap? Why wasn’t my thinking and tactical acumen up to the job? After all, it’s not as though I’m some callow beginner, I’ve competed more than 30 times now.
The answer is that at the business end of a race I simply can’t get my brain to process all the data quickly enough to make up for the fact that I clearly have no natural mental aptitude for this sport, nor the bravery to put my neck on the line for a result.
Even in the moment of realisation that I’d cocked it up there was probably a small chance of redemption, if I’d immediately slowed, switched out into open space and just gunned it in the last few metres before the corner, taking my chances of a spill if I couldn’t make the turn at such a speed.
However, I dismissed this as the lesser option compared with just sitting where I was and hoping for the best in the sprint – a sprint I would of course be starting a country mile behind the first riders through the corner, given the reverse concertina effect tight turns have on racing bunches.
Sure enough, the leaders were almost out of sight by the time I’d straightened up and despite my strongest-ever sprint – properly out of the saddle and on the drops for the first time in race conditions – I could only make up half a dozen or so places and finished eighth… again.
Two more points, when four would have seen me home and dry. Four that, with all due respect, I should have scored relatively comfortably, given my present form and the relative lack of opposition (only about 17 riders took the start and several of those looked like real beginners)
But anyway, the milk is spilt, no use crying further, stick the points in the bank and move on.
I kept in shape with a leg-sapping but ultimately fruitless sojourn at the Surrey League handicap in Kitsmead Lane last week, but now all eyes are on the return of the handicap series to Wivelsfield this Thursday, for what is my own and my team’s ‘home’ race.
If you’ve been with me since last season you’ll recall that Wivelsfield was the venue for my racing breakthrough, when, after some notable hammerings I finally put in a competitive performance, missing the points by just one place.
As a result, I’m targeting this year’s handicap fixture to finally secure those pesky points, perhaps a little unwisely given the calibre of riders who’ll no doubt be in it, but buoyed by the knowledge that a couple of team mates have pledged their support on the night.
Everything, including the ever-loyal family support club, is going to be in place. Surely nothing can go wrong this time…