Author's Musing

Richmond Park TT – 30.06.13

I’m not a massive fan of posting about mediocre performances, but I did promise Mrs Slack whilst signing on that there would be a blog post on this one. And, though I thought my own performance was a just ‘ok’, I did think the event itself was pretty awesome.

I entered the Richmond Park ladies road category mainly because I did quite a bit to pester our club committee to sign up to the London Women’s Cycling Racing League. I think it’s a good organisation to support and could help other ladies in the club find a path to competition if they want it. As I’m only really TTing this year, the TT (though on road bikes) was the only league race I planned to do so early as it may be, and a TT on a road bike it may be, I figured I better do it.

So – on Sunday morning (after spending most of Saturday driving round with a chief commissionaire writing notes on a road race – which was strangely quite fun) I got up at 4am, to leave at 4.30am, to be at Richmond Park by 5.30am and racing my road bike at 6.20am. I meant to get an early night, but instead finished Saturday night with a little (tiny) bit of Jack Daniels and 5 hours sleep. Not ideal.

A little bleary eyed and with little help from the SatNav, and a lot of help from Mr Brennan, I made it to the edge of the park later than planned. Many of the riders, coming from Dulwich Paragon/ KingstonWheelers/ London Phoenix etc probably know the park a little better – and I imagine the marshal who ushered us in and gestured straight then right thought we did to. We didn’t.

After following the wrong road for a while, we returned to the start, where another marshal sent us up a ‘no access to cars road’. So we returned to the roundabout, where she apologised very sincerely and sent us the right way. We then found a car park, parked up, only to be told it was the wrong car park. Anyway – much faffing and about 20mins before my start time I collected my number in a bit of a flap. I was a bit agitated with the whole situation but I will say the marshals later redeemed themselves fantastically to be my favourite marshals ever – so keep reading.

All my panic over getting to the start was totally unnecessary, as it turned out it was a mere roll down the hill and I even got 10minutes to warm up and half a minute to go for a wee in an actual toilet – which was a luxury I thought I might be denied.

At the start, I took my position between a row of ladies (there were about 30 registered on the ladies road – a big turn out and a competitive field since most of them were experienced racers after LWCR league points I expect). I’ve never seen the park before, but I knew it was rolling and there would be a few bends. That, and that half the competition probably knew the course like the back of their hands. Great.

Anyway-  onwards: “3,2,1.Go!” Firstly- erm – no push? I suppose this doesn’t happen on a road bike? After about half a second of waiting (felt like ages) I realised I was expected to start pedalling – so I did.

First instincts: I’m TTing on a road bike – and it feels distinctly weird. I’m about a mile in and my legs hurt, and there is no bike beneath me to support the effort. I’d also forgotten mitts and sunglasses, so basically, I was a mile in and already a squinting, heaving bit-of-a-wreck in Redhill kit.

1.2miles flat(ish), LEFT, a nice big hill (ugh), roundabout OVER, and onwards to go LEFT. I massively lost time on every roundabout through basically completely coming to a halt trying to negotiate them – which was a bit of a fail on my part. What I did notice was that the marshals were absolutely excellent – all pointing the way, and I got some great encouragement ‘keep pedalling hard Redhill’/’come on Redhill, let’s go!’ – I’ve really never known such exceptional support from the helpers in yellow and I really appreciated it.

The course was surprisingly “rolling”, and I wasn’t best pleased to reach the speed bumps on the far end, but I finally made it to TURN.

On the way back – before RIGHT and after OVER (I think) – there was an incident. In the road, was a pigeon. Just in front of my wheel. As I got closer, it became apparent it wasn’t in a hurry to move. So, like a normal, sane person, I went around it. At which point, the creature decided to fly sideways and BOOFED into my wheel. There was a crack, a lot of flying feathers, and I’m pretty sure the bird was not in one piece when I rolled on. It was a bit of a shock, and I did feel pretty bad – but then the bird did attack me, not the other way around.

Anyway – onwards. At the second-to-last roundabout I had my favourite marshal comment: “Come on Redhill, you’re shit home”. It’s pretty cool for marshals to get that enthusiastic and excited. I’ve got to admit, I did then spend 400 metres pondering over what ‘shit home’ would actually translate to if one was to be picky about linguistics, but I totally knew what he meant, and he was right, I was “shit home.”  (unless, perhaps he said ‘straight home? Regardless – I had about 2miles to go).

Along the straight, to the final roundabout – RIGHT – where two guys warming up on the course proceeded to cross in-front of me (GRRR).  Then I only had 400m to the finish. They were, of course, 400m up-hill (past the finish – so not even a climb I’d had the joy of compensating with descent!) – but I was nearly home and that was enough.

Finishing, I heaved my final race-breath and crossed the line with what was hopefully something close to a smile.

The national 25 and 50 were my goal races for this half of the season (next I’m just after a good 25) – and this one was really just a good bit of training and the chance to check out some of the racing scene. For those purposes, it totally served to do it’s job. On top of that, it was a really fun event with a lovely laidback atmosphere which I really appreciated.

Like many events were there is any likeness to crit racing, it makes me feel inclined to have another pop on the circuits, but then there are always the crashes to put me off, and I like the element of truthful racing you get from a TT.

I’ve not TTed on a road bike since.. my first couple of TTs in… 2011? – and it hadn’t really occurred to me to even think about aerodynamics – so I probably should have considered that more and kept my head down. I also lost about 10watts on my normal 10mile TT time, which I wasn’t too impressed with, since I’d expect power to be higher on a road bike – I’m not sure if this was due to the bike or just be being tired (it’s been a long week!) – but I’d say this wasn’t really my best performance ever.

That said – any feeling of ‘not so great’ was reversed when I received my free coffee and biscotti at the café – and sat myself down to enjoy the park in the sun on the last day in June. I’d also say the competition was fairly stiff with quite a few pretty experienced road racers on the course.

A slightly tough event, with one too many bird attacks I’d say – but a good day out and a chance to enjoy racing on a circuit that’s basically dominated by bikes as opposed to cars, who play second fiddle in the park.

I'm an NCTJ Journalist and work at Cycling Weekly. Previous to this, I was the Editor at Total Women's Cycling. I've also dabbled in marketing and copywriting - having been Marketing Coordinator and Social Media/Content Editor at Evans Cycles. My first job was working on a local newspaper.  I've written for a variety of titles on a freelance basis, too. I got into cycling when I entered my first triathlon in 2010. I now race crits, road races, time trials, and do a lot of track training for not very much track racing.

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