Check www.samdunnsnaps.com and Honor Elliott for some great photos of the day.
I admit I almost lost my shit when I discovered the Rapha coffee van in the rider village was out of milk. The noise, the crowds, the queues… I was not up for this. After quitting smoking six weeks ago, and training for just a fortnight, it’s not like I was going to be truly ready for a fixed crit. But I said I would, because bike gang loyalty.
Waiting to enter the course, it was just me, Rosi, Yewande and Eeva repping Velociposse, with not a bit of fixed crit experience between us. It was unlikely that any of us would die, but we couldn’t be sure. Rolling around to the start line, I couldn’t actually get my left foot clipped in. Fine. Not a problem. Do not panic. The usual safety briefing – the only bit I remember is being asked if we had any questions and Rosi’s hand shot up. Nope, she was “just waving at someone”. I snort-laughed, as is right and proper in these circumstances, and felt relaxed for about a minute, until the crowd began to bang on the barriers. It was all getting a bit Gladiator (which definitely had some death in it).
And then there was some racing. Did I really participate? It’s arguable. The bunch shot off into the distance, with just a few stragglers in front of and behind me. Long story short I smashed around on my own for a while, genuinely having a nice time and doing my very best #critlean for any lingering cameras, without having to worry about riders around me. (Is there a theme here? Do I just hate people? Should I get into time trials? They sound lame though.)
Then I got a bit tired. Coming up Cheapside alone, almost blinded by the low sun and totally overwhelmed by the crowd who were clearly feeling sorry for the little’un, I thought maybe it was time to call it a day before I got lapped. Go find a tasty beer, watch our supergirl Eeva smash it on the big screen. I sucked, but I had a great time. And I too feel I look bangin’ in Velociposse lycra, so I’m cultivating my thunder thighs in earnest. See you soon, Minet Crit…
Listening to the commissaire on the start line, a few things go through my brain. One: besides a velodrome, prior to this race, I have ridden a fixed gear bike a grand total of five times. Ever. Two: OK I think these girls really know what they’re doing. This is not going to be your normal bike race. Three: I’m so happy my teammates Jess, Yewande and Eeva are with me. I wouldn’t be here at all without them. Four: OMG the crowd! Let’s have some fun, whatever happens…
Two minutes later and those five times on a fixie feel like five times not enough. The pace is fast, the course is twisty, I’m off the back, my quads burn and I’m breathing HARD. But this atmosphere is unreal! Through the blur of the pain cave I can hear people cheering for me and it makes my heart want to burst with joy. I see Jess and another rider in the distance and the more I ride, the more my confidence builds and I can see I’m catching them up, lap after lap. I’m alongside Jess, then all of a sudden I see black flags, a rider on the floor, the race is stopped. Damn.
We roll round to the start and it feels like forever before the race begins again. I look at Eeva and she’s totally calm and cool. Go Eeva! We’re racing – It’s now a five lap race, once again the peloton leaves me for dust, but this time Yewande is with me and we try to stick together. We chase the group, I see Yewande take the fast corner past the Guildhall… and crash straight into the barrier! Her bike flies up, gets some serious air and flips over the barrier. WTAF?! By some sort of miracle she’s OK (and carries on – Yewande, you are made of steel!), but I’ve had enough. I leave the track, tired but happy, and head to the finish. Three laps, two laps, one lap…final sprint…and Eeva gets third! Absolutely amazing super strong effort! So proud of everyone who raced – Velociposse history makers <3
Short answer: Matt made me.
Longer answer: Matt asked, I was curious and also I’ve been saying yes to everything to gain lots of experience.
I had no idea what to expect…first fixed gear crit, what on earth was I doing?We started off with one neutralised lap and as we came around onto the home straight along Cheapside, the race was on. No amount of smashy laps with Jess and Eeva could prepare me for what was to come. Cornering is not my strong point; every skills session I’m told by Matt “Look where you want to go”. By the second corner I didn’t think I was going to make it through the first lap, having gone round at speed and in a bunch. I started taking them more slowly, meaning the bunch quickly moved away. There were still a few riders around me which meant I could still try out different tactics – sitting on someone’s wheel so I could have a bit of a rest, then putting in an attack along the home straight to go it alone. With every lap I was feeling more comfortable.Then the flags came out: first yellow to indicate an incident, then black to indicate the race was stopped. My thoughts go out to those involved and I wish them speedy recoveries. Back to the start line. A tight schedule meant we would only race five more laps. “Race safely. If we have to stop the race again we won’t restart it.”Off we were again. In my desperate attempt to catch up to riders I knew I had been faster than, I took the second corner pretty badly. So badly that I thought I was going to take out Rosi. Thankfully I didn’t and we made it on to the back straight. Which is when I decided to go for it. The penultimate corner of the circuit was fast approaching. I hadn’t eased off. I wasn’t looking where I wanted to go. I crashed.
As I headed towards the orange crash mats (that thankfully did their job) I thought: “I’m so screwed”, then “I’m such an idiot, they’re going to stop the race and it’s my fault”. I got up quickly and somehow I was okay. But I couldn’t find my bike. It had ended up on the other side of the barriers but still intact. The only casualties were my new cycling shoes. All I could think was “get up and race”, which I did, only to find that Rosi had stopped racing and come off the course to check on me. I am so grateful for her stopping her race to make sure that I was still in once piece. My race ended a couple of laps later with the wave of a blue flag but it didn’t matter (because I at least fulfilled one of my aims by technically not getting lapped!).
I’m so thankful to have such supportive teammates and even though only one of us made it to the finish, I couldn’t be prouder. I wish those racing at Minet Crit the best of luck, I think I’ll be sitting that one out.