This week I’ve learnt three things, a. My bikes are the wrong size; b. CO2 is less good than a pump; c. I have absolutely no idea how to pace myself in a Road Race.
I’m officially a freak – Tribeca Sport hooked me up to one of their Retul harnesses last week and tried to fit me onto one of their bikes. Apparently bikes, pretty much any bikes, do not fit me – I’m the wrong shape! The only thing that comes close is my trusty old ‘cross bike. This is worrying for two reasons. Firstly it means that riding road, tt or anything that isn’t a ‘cross bike technically isn’t that good for me unless I was to get something custom made. Secondly it’s made me want something custom made!
Custom made things, as I’ve found out, aren’t particularly in my budget. It’s also opened my eyes to a world of bikes that are not just out of my budget – their out of everybody’s budget! My credit card is definitely not gold enough,…or platinum enough,…or whatever is fashionable at the moment. Anyway mine has a picture of a tiger on it and I’m pretty sure actual wealthy people don’t have tiger’s on their credit cards (although I don’t know why because tigers are fricking awesome).
So, very kindly, the lads at Tribeca lent me the closest thing they had for me to wrap my odd shaped body around – Comtat make stock and fully custom carbon frames in the same factory as Legend. I was borrowing the demo Aristo for the weekend and thought I’d better get a few miles under my belt before the race on Sunday. I did a nice 20 mile route taking in bits of Penshurst, Hever and Chiddingstone – nice until your CO2 canister decides that instead of re-inflating your tube, it would rather blow up in your face leaving you with no air in your new tube and a frozen hand that is now stuck to what was left of the brass cartridge. Bugger!
Obviously, being a pro, I wasn’t carrying a pump like any normal roadie and now the sun was setting! Luckily, for me, one of my best friends was an absolute star and after I’d made a quick grovelling phone call she brought me both a pump and a new tube. Times like that you actually realise how awesome your friends are.
Speaking of friends, when it came to Sundays race I did my best to make as few as possible! In road racing the thing to do is to pace yourself by sitting in the bunch for as much time as possible whilst doing short turns on the front. Any attacks should be chased down with only a short distance to the finish line. Clearly, being a predominately off road racer (where you just bloody go for it) this was never going to work for me, so I concentrated on destroying the bunch as much as possible by dragging everyone along from the front!
I must have done half of the race at least on the front and chased down more than my share of breaks. I raised the pace in the last lap, chased down the last break away and gave it everything through the last few corners, only to be piped to the line on the long drag up to the finish. Lots of lessons to be learnt, but I definitely made my mark. [Belgian Style – Head down, driving into the wind, no let up!]
I still think that we weren’t going fast enough – maybe I don’t have my road racing head completely screwed on just yet. My plan before the race was to give it everything and try and make the odd break which I managed to do. Ultimately it didn’t end up with me on the podium (in fact there was no podium?) and at the time I was pretty disappointed, but I did what I’d planned to do well and I was at the front of most of the photos, which is clearly the most important thing!
I also gave the Comtat a fair old test. The rear tire let me down on the last few kilometres when the sidewall split and I’d definitely stick a set of Schwalbe tires on instead, but apart from that the bike was very good. The Aristo isn’t really designed for closed circuit road racing, but to be honest this wasn’t really an issue. It has a lovely smooth ride on the flat and responds well to climbing out of the saddle. It really seems to stiffen up and hunker down when you give it the beans. Thanks again to Tribeca Sport for lending it to me.