I stared at the backs of the bunch of men who were racing at the same time as us. I was very confused why the men were there too. I was told that women usually never get a slot of their own on the circuit because there aren’t enough of them to financially justify it. The 28 women did outnumber the 23 men in the 1/2/3 cat race, but supposedly it wasn’t enough.
Anyway, soon the men were off and us women were given three seconds worth of racing advice. Any questions? I wanted to ask if it was still possible to go warm up quickly, as I’d turned up late and spent the past hour faffing around trying to take out cash to pay my day race licence. There was no time for questions or warm-ups however, since the race suddenly started and everyone was moving. I thought I’d better clip in and follow the mass of lycra.
Alas, we were off and riding fast. I tried to keep up with the group whilst simultaneously figuring out how Yewande’s bike worked. By this time I’d forgotten the mantra in my head on how to change Campagnolo gears. As a full-time Dura Ace babe, I’d never even heard of Campags before. I kept on confusing which way to push the shifters. Bad. Eventually I stopped bothering with trying to change the gears and hoped the chain would endure my stupidity.
Everything was going relatively well until suddenly the men’s front riders swooshed past us on the left. Few more male riders followed and there were a great deal of VERY LOUD shouts. LEFT LEFT LEFT LEFT!!!!! Those soon turned into COMING PAST ON YOUR FUCKING LEFT! FUCKING MOVE! On my side another small group of men formed into a chorus of swearing and condescending comments. I won’t go into the details.
The men were supposed to pass us on our right, not left. Accordingly, our women’s group lead riders had interpreted the LEFT LEFT LEFT shouts as ‘move left’ rather than ‘coming past on your left’, obeying the race rules. However, at the time I didn’t know what was going on and I concluded that we’d made a mistake. I felt bad. It was clear that the men were REALLY SERIOUS about their race whereas all I wanted was to go home and sleep. I hadn’t felt shit like that in a while, probably ever since my Stage 3 accreditation session at the velodrome which coincidentally had been the last time I’d ridden with a bunch of men who become rowdy and loud when they can’t ride as instructed.
Anyway, my negative feelings transformed into being incredibly lucky I was for being part of the most amazing, inspiring and rad cycling club. My team has only supportive members and no-one is ever making me feel crap. After all, I’d spent the whole morning riding in circles at the Team WaG x Velociposse track session, feeling proud of all of us (including myself) because we’d tried riding on rollers for the first time ever.
I was awakened from my slumber when I noticed there were only 5 more laps to go. The pace got harder and I started to panic for real. I tried to become tactical and concentrate on riding smoothly in the bunch, obviously managing to hit the curve on the outside every single time. I was also starting to feel increasingly stupid and insecure about probably being in people’s way.
It was that or something equally menial that kept my brain occupied until I heard the bell ringing. I gathered it must mean the last lap had begun. Swoosh! Everyone went past me and suddenly the individual riders had merged into a single flying machine of lycra-generated carbon that I was trying to keep up with.
As we rode up the last climb I heard the riders around me breath very heavily. I’d obviously sat at the back for the whole race thinking about who knows what and trying to shift my gears. It was only in the last half lap that I finally woke up and realised I needed to start pedalling. FAST. There’d already been an attack, which I hadn’t noticed and I tried to follow. It was too late, which realised as I hit the home straight and rode solo for about 2 meters against the crazy strong head wind. My chase was pathetic, but I did take the fourth place in a bunch of 28 E/1/2/3/4 riders.
My former messenger cool kid self was deeply traumatised by this turn of events. I’d ridden a road bike (a bike with brakes AND gears), wearing both lycra (not just lycra, but a skinsuit) and borrowed aero sunglasses. Ugh. I started to fear I’d soon start working in finance to complete the transformation into a roadie. On the ride back home I was just about to vomit at my new self until I came to a red light. I stopped with the two bikes (the road bike I was riding and the track bike I was shadow-riding) whilst clip
ped in. I thought I might as well learn how to track stand with the two bikes, which I did. BOOM. I’m still way cooler than the average road bike dude.
I also figured that maybe road racing wasn’t that bad after all. Thus, today (a week later from the first race) I rode my second circuit race at the Redbridge Cycling Centre. The day was a farce: I managed to drop my chain off not only once but twice, having to stop twice. After the second time I wasn’t able to chase the lead group, so I came sixth I think.
The conclusions from my first two races:
(1) learn how to change gears
(2) get fast enough to win
(3) learn how to wheelie over the finish line
Now all I need is my own, preferably carbon road bike, preferably not with Campags. Road bike donations anyone?