It’s early, the purest part of the day when the world has yet to wake. Quiet. Unassuming. Calm. The sky is already rich with dreams of the road ahead and as clear as an open mind. I pull the front door shut and take a deep breath, the chill winter air inhaled deep into my lungs. I’m alive. By the end of the driveway I’m already in my world, a bubble of thoughts wrapped in a layer of thermal clothing and intoxicated by the voice of Maxi Jazz “I wanna take a look at the world behind these eyes. Every nook, every cranny reorganise. Realise my face don’t fit the way I feel, what’s real? I need a mirror to check my face is in place. Incase of upheaval, fundamental movement below. What‘s really going on I wanna know. But yo, we don’t show on the outside, so slide. Just below my skin I’m screaming...”
How serenity can be throttled in a heartbeat. I wanna shout aloud what was really going through my mind, but the obscenities would’ve fallen on deaf ears. It wouldn’t have helped the situation. The pain starts to burn hotter and hotter like a freshly lit match. The right hand side of my kit now strewn with what looked like a barrage of bullet holes, ripped open by the abrasive face of the tarmac. I don’t want to see the extent of the damage. My bike looks to be in no better health, bars twisted in a sorry state as if it’ll never be ridden again. Black ice. It’s destructive nature has no concern whatsoever as to who or what may try and challenge it. To date I have never won the battle. Reduced to a lesser man and sent marching to clean my wounds and prepare for another day.....one that would come all too quickly and go by the name of ‘Round 10 of the Wessex League’.
I was hoping that a long, hot, shower would help rinse away the hurt, but reality is seldom like that. External injuries are one thing, scarred knees and hips go hand in hand. Internal trauma is another thing altogether. That effortless deep breath to fill my lungs now all but a memory, replaced by a sharp rib pain, reminding me to focus and man the funk up.
The 3.6km circuit in Wareham forest offered little in the way of a technical challenge, with a vast expanse of open fire-roads and sandy ascents it looked to be a classic powerman’s course from every angle. As we sprinted away from the start a gap quickly formed and by the end of the first lap it was Dan Lewis (RAF CC) and Mike Simpson making up the trio at the head of the race. It was good to share the work in the early stages before Dan slipped off the pace, leaving just myself and Simpson to duke it out. I’ve ridden with Mike in the Alps before and have witnessed first hand the raw power that he possesses. As an ex runner and rower his engine would be top of my Christmas list, it’s just doubtful that Santa could come up with the goods at such short notice.
With only one real descent on the course needing more skills than an hour at threshold on the velodrome, it was important to try and use this to my advantage. Coming at the start of each lap meant that even a couple of precious seconds that were gained here were easily chewed up on the flat again. It was soon evident that barring a mistake it was going to be very difficult to get away, and despite my efforts the attacks were nullified with nothing in it as we take the bell.
I lead into the final lap and try to put more pressure on Mike by riding aggressively on the parts that count. By the summit of the main climb I’ve forged a gap, albeit just a few seconds. I’m now committed, never looking back to asses the situation behind, preferring to focus fully on life ahead. Through the final corners and I can sense that Mike is back on my wheel. Knowing that Mr Claus would never pull through with my number one gift choice I’m hoping that he took the time to 'Amazon One-Click' my second wish. The flag is in sight, just a moment of racing left to give it everything, and I’m beaten on the line. Next year I’m writing “1 x pair of Cavendish SPOTY legs” in bold on that list and personally hand delivering it to (my ex-mate) Santa.
A week on and the question still remains, how long do cracked ribs take to heal? Unfortunately I already know the answer to that one, and it’s not ‘before I head to Belgium for a proper festive kicking’. As if that little escapade wasn’t going to be hard enough. The faithless words of Maxi Jazz resonate once more. Looks like it’ll be a few more weeks that "just below my skin I’m screaming".
Photos by Phil Gale (18.12.11)