When I entered this race back in April I thought I was just applying for entry, and that I probably wouldn’t be accepted as it was a fairly prestigious event. I then didn’t think any more about it until about a week to go, when I realised it was looming and that I was all signed up. I was woefully under prepared. I had taken part in one crit at the Cyclopark a couple of weeks previously, but that was it. I had been caught out at the back when the peloton split and didn’t manage to get back on, so it didn’t go too well! So my main aim for the Nocturne was just to finish. And not crash. Actually my main aim was just not to crash…
In the days leading up to the race I kept daydreaming about it, and when I did I found my heart started racing. I was a bit nervous, but I told myself that it was my body just getting prepared.
I arranged to meet up with the other Bigfoot guys who were racing – Gary, Craig and Bill. This took a weight off my mind as it meant I didn’t have to worry about the logistics of the day. We arrived and signed in, I got my free coffee and free massage whilst many of the other riders went through their warm up routines, many on rollers and turbos. Lots of very expensive kit, then there was me on my creaking old Felt with its budget wheels. We’d managed to get a couple of sighter laps in, I took a good look at the finish straight and thought that it looked like a good length for my sprint. But that was it as far as my warm up went. Having Gary there taking it easy too stopped me from worrying about my lack of prep. The 30 miles I’d ridden to get there would have to do!
Before we knew it we were being called for the rider briefing. We’d all intended to get to the front to give ourselves the best chance in the race, but somehow we were all nearer the back. As we waited my heart started racing again, just standing still it was beating at 130bpm! There was a long wait before we were allowed to get going, I overheard one guy talking about being able to hold 650 watts for a minute. Shoot, I have trouble doing 500 for 30 seconds, this was a little worrying!!!
There was one neutralised lap behind a motorbike and then we were racing. The neutralised lap was hectic as people tried to get to the front. I probably wasn’t aggressive enough and ended up near the back of the peloton. I was trying just to stay safe cornering round the tight turns for the first few minutes. Having a crowd was great, I heard lots of people saying things like “wow” and “ooooh!” as we took the tight bends as fast as we dared. There was one crash on the first lap just in front of me, but didn’t look too serious. As the race was short the pace was high from the off, and some riders were having trouble getting around the tight turns at race pace. This meant the peloton was, predictably, strung out in a line and that gaps kept forming. I found myself dropped very quickly and put in an effort to bridge back to the next group. I was now in a group of 5 or 6, but just as we started working together to reel in the front group the rider two in front of me took a fast right-hander too fast and slammed into the barrier on the exit. Looked nasty. The next rider had nowhere to go, and as he was in mid crash all I could do to avoid going down myself was shoulder barge the poor guy. Sorry dude! In doing so my left hand got mashed against his bike and I started bleeding from my ring finger. If the adrenaline wasn’t flowing at maximum before it was now. Our little group was now just a duo, but luckily for me my new ally was strong and wasn’t about to give up on the race. We worked together for probably half the race with a gap of 10 seconds to the front group. All I was thinking during this time is that the race was over for us, but I wanted to finish, which meant not getting lapped. We managed to maintain the gap to the front group and I started taking shorter turns but putting in hard little efforts which was bringing us back, slowly. I’d then spend two thirds of a lap recovering only to do it again. And again. Every lap I heard my club mates who’d come to watch cheering me on which helped me dig deep into my reserves. Cheers guys! With about 3 minutes until the 3 laps to go point I said to the other rider “we can do this”, and we seemed to find a little extra strength. At 3 laps to go the front group slowed in preparation for the sprint and we finally made the bridge. No time to think, I instinctually found Garys wheel. After I’d recovered I started moving up. On the penultimate lap I found Bill and shouted “come on Bill” at him. On the last lap I put in a last big effort and caught up with Craig who was on the front of the bunch. I took the last couple of corners with him and coming out of the last right hand bend I decided to see if I could make a long one count. I moved to the right of the road and went at 95%. With about 150m still to go I’d gone past everyone, but to make sure I changed up a gear and gave it one more big kick and “comfortably” took the sprint (actually I was WELL into the red, HR at 190bpm). I’d no idea where I’d placed. I thought there were maybe 2 or 3 riders further up the road, and as it turned out there was just the one. I rolled around into the riders pen and was told I’d come second – I couldn’t believe it!!
My Bigfoot buddies also did well, Craig finished 4th and Gary and Bill finished in the front group too.
After the race I was given my prize and some sparkling wine which I duely opened on stage as if I’d won. No class/shame me. Then we met up with the guys from the club who’d come to watch and kicked back with some beers 🙂
Awesome day in the saddle!