Cycling is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as (parklife). And morning soup can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as (parklife). Jim's got riders droop he gets intimidated by the dirty bikes, they love a bit of it (parklife). Who's that gut lord marching...you should cut down on your porklife mate... get some exercise! All the people, so many people, they all go hand in hand, hand in hand through their parklife. I get up when I want except on Sundays when I get rudely awakened by the alarm clock (parklife). I put my jersey on, have a cup of tea and I think about leaving the house (parklife). I feed my face I sometimes feed the kittens too it gives me a sense of enormous well being (parklife). And then I'm happy for the rest of the day safe in the knowledge there will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it (parklife). All the people, so many people, they all go hand in hand, hand in hand through their parklife. It's got nothing to do with vorsprung durch technic you know, and it's certainly not about all you joggers who go round and round and round....All the people, so many people, they all go hand in hand, hand in hand through their parklife, parklife, parklife.....Right, Song 2 over it's time to get (semi) serious...
How is this possible? The “great” British summer never fails to disappoint folk from far and wide, mainly those with a complexion in keeping with a pint of semi skimmed, yet we’re now past mid October and the cyclocross mud massacre that has been eagerly anticipated still hasn’t arrived. Not that I’m complaining, oh no, it’s only a matter of time before mother nature reigns down on all below, leaving a trail of battered bikes, frozen limbs and tarnished dreams, far worse than the redundant stock of thermal skinsuits at your local T.K.Maxx. So, until then, it’s short sleeves and exposed flesh all the way......eeek, and that’s just the spectators...scarey stuff indeed!
Prospect Park, Reading. The early chill dismissed as we are called forward one by one and take to the start line. All eyes focused on 55 minutes of racing, on a course characterised by slightly slick grassland with a sharp power climb up into a wood-chipped technical section, more grassland and....yep, more wood-chip (the type of surface that in theory should make things easier but in reality gives a sense of wallowing through quicksand on two wheels). In short, a tough test with little opportunity for respite. Not that we’d actually want any of that until the final chequered flag.
With a long, open, start it was possible to gauge the exertion from the gun before hitting the first climb. Positioned in fourth behind Luke Gray, Jamie Newall (Corley Cycles) and Ben Sumner (Beeline Cycles), with Crispin Doyle (Swindon RC) making up a five strong leading group. Cleanly through the lower part of technical and settling into line as we head full speed along the perimeter of the course, carefully negotiating the sketchiest off-camber s-bend before hitting the main ascent. Doyle pushes through to take the lead, powering up the climb to open a gap. I’m still four riders back, having to pause until I reach the top before trying to move through to give chase. Precious seconds lost so early is frustrating and unnecessary. I try to get across but fall short, with three quality riders sat on my wheel giving little assistance in the pursuit. If we’d nailed it there and then I’m sure the race would have been completely different, as it stands it turned into little more than a glorified game of cat and mouse.
As the pace yo-yo’d behind, Crispin pushed on, putting in a succession of consistent laps to pull out a good lead. Riding the race at the same “40 minute” threshold pace he’d worked hard at perfecting in the cyclocross heartlands of Belgium the previous weekend. Despite the odd dig to test the legs of the others in our group, and to keep things mildly entertaining, I’d resigned myself to the fact that, barring a mechanical or melt down, Crispin wasn’t going to be caught today. With another injection of pace, daylight opens up and Gray is suddenly off the back making it easier to keep an eye on Newall and Sumner. At times it felt like we were riding so conservatively that I wanted to put in another big effort but at the same time I was conscious of the nagging headwind and making sure I got the best result possible.
By the bell, Doyle is over a minute clear. I take a deep breath and relax, one final glance to see how the others are shaping up, both of whom seem to have the strains of the day written all over their faces. It’s safer to lead from the front and as I hit the bottom of the main climb I know that this is the time to go. By the top I’m a couple of bike lengths clear, keeping the pace high on the wood-chip and through the technical. Head down, it’s all or nothing, finally crossing the line to take second place.
Crispin did a great ride, no question, and as we wait for the presentation, the results and lap times are posted for all to ponder. Pleasing that my final lap of 6min 11sec was the fastest of the race, bringing me to within 41 seconds of the win but inevitably leaving me wondering what those infamous Belgie waffles may do for my own performance enhancement. Let’s hope we get to find out before the season turns into all but a Blur...PARKLIFE!