Newchapel Kermis, 2/3/4. Forty-eight minutes of being the nail.

So here we are, first road race of the year. Eeva, Yewande and I are signed up for the Newchapel Kermis, a straightforward 2/3/4 flat 50k. I’d been training hard all winter, dabbling in the odd track race, feeling strong, ready to give it some beans. Then I saw the start list. A smattering of cat 4s including yours truly, and then 40 odd cat 3s and 2s. I knew most of them could tear my legs off any day. Gulp. Where did I leave my bravado again? As it turns out the nerves didn’t kick in properly until the night before. Right as I shut my eyes to go to sleep. Good one, brain. Cut to race day and the never ending layering dilemma means I’m still faffing in the freezing cold whilst Yewande and Eeva are warming up. Matt saves my appalling self-organisation by basically doing everything for me. Legend. A quick, stern briefing and we’re off. I’ve opted for thick gloves, a base layer, leg warmers and a long sleeve jersey over my almost brand new skinsuit. It’s not as cold by this point though and I wonder if I’ll overheat. The wondering is not unfounded; eventually I’ll resemble a boil-in-the-bag chicken. The bunch is tightly packed, the roads are wet, and as we ride through the neutral section I watch a rider lose her balance and crash onto the tarmac. I later saw one of the riders describe the ensuing 50k as ‘The Hunger Games’. I don’t think they were too far off.

Jody Coxon – Southern Edge Cycling

The one thing everyone tells you in racing is to stay near the front, and if you’re not near the front, move up. I started in a good position, keen to keep away from the back. But as riders started to move around and past, I realised I didn’t have the confidence to follow. The bunch seemed like a solid wall, and it was all I could do to hold a wheel. Stupidly I hadn’t recced the course and I struggled to piece all the sections together in my mind. I was cautious through the corners and soon I was exactly where I shouldn’t be, in the handful of riders at the back. Everything is harder at the back, the speed fluctuates way more, you can’t see who’s pulling moves at the front, and you’re not getting as much draft advantage. You’re using way more energy and it’s a sure fire way to get dropped. Or get caught up in crashes. A rider ahead clips her wheel on the bike in front. I’m watching it in slow motion, pleading in my mind for her to stay upright, but she comes down right in front of me. I brake as hard as I dare, tangling her bike up in mine, somehow coming to a stop without falling. But the bunch is gone and I’m chasing as hard as I can, desperate to stay in the race, if only for pride. They’ve slowed a little and I know I can catch them, just push hard through this corner, not too hard, just a little touch of the brakes here…

Huw Williams – Flickr

You watch crashes on tv and the rider jumps up, grabs their bike and rides furiously off as if they’re made of solid steel. Maybe they are. I know for a fact I am not. Whenever I hit the deck, I’m yelling and freaking out and my whole body shuts down. And it’s no different here, on a wet lane in February. My bike slides underneath me and I skid across the road like a human curling stone. I later find out I just grazed my elbow but right now everything hurts and my race is done. The fantastic ambulance crew patch me up and drop me at the finish. Matt has nice words and I do a goofy video about how I didn’t even rip my skinsuit (seriously this kit is tough!), but really I am gutted. So much for an easy start to the year. The race is still on, however. Karla Boddy of Les Filles RT is out in front, with her teammate Delia Beddis and Emma Lewis of Fusion RT in a 2-up close behind. Eeva is near the front of the main bunch, and Yewande is in a group a few minutes behind. On the last lap, Annaleen Bosma from RCC makes a move, Eeva hot on her heels. Karla wins in style, having taken two minutes on the bunch. Emma and Delia take 2nd and 3rd respectively. The bunch comes into view, but there’s a group of three a few bike lengths in front, including our very own Eeva! She sprints hard, I’m cheering her on and she takes 6th, an impressive start to the season. Yewande also finishes strong and I forget my own silly race, I’m so proud of them both. After all there’s always next time, right?

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