The Great Missenden Wet One

Rearwheel and pedalsIt’s raining. It was raining for much of yesterday afternoon and it was raining as I drifted off to sleep some time after 10 o’clock. It was raining when my alarm went off at 5.45am this morning. It was still raining as I coaxed Barry (Jayne’s van) to maintain a decent enough speed to get me to Great Missenden for the West London Cycling Association Bank Holiday 25 on the H25/4 on time.

I spotted Hippy pedalling wetly with that hunched and weary stance riders have when they really don’t want to be on their bikes. We piled his bike in the back of the van and arrived in the nick of time, hoping the event would be called off. It wasn’t.

It was, however, reduced to just ten miles because the road was too flooded for the 25 course to be considered safe. I could have hugged the man handing out numbers when he told me.

It was raining during my warm-up, which consisted only of the gentle 400-metre pedal from the Great Missenden Memorial Hall to the start line. It was raining as they launched me onto the soaked and streamy A413 for my first TT since before Easter, when I picked up the worst cold I’ve had for ten years and had to stop training and competing for several snot-filled weeks until I had I recovered.

The first two miles were predictably unpleasant  as my hard pedalling shocked my cardiovascular system back into competition mode.  My legs hurt. My breathing was irregular. I eased back and concentrated only on keeping my pedalling fluid; focus on the pedalling and the time will take care of itself.

The water streamed towards me in the gutter, so I flicked into the middle of the carriageway where it was driest and kept myself below the pain threshold on the long drag to the turn. A slow, safe spin round the roundabout at halfway, then hard on the pedals for the slight downhill home.

It all happens for me in the second half of the race; that’s when I make myself turn my legs in the uncomfortable gears. I don’t mind it hurting if I know I’m on the way home. Except that I could barely see through my visor, I was more or less blind to the conditions on the way back. You’re heading home and that’s all that matters. All you see is the road.

There was a slight uphill and then a swoop down towards the finish line; I pushed and pushed and pushed and let out an involuntary cry as I passed the timekeeper. It’s always the same: the yelp, then that slump onto the bars and into the pedals, the hurried clicking down the gears, the deep, hurting breaths, the disorientation. It’s over. The relief.

It was raining as I pedalled softly back towards the Great Missenden Memorial Hall. My normal senses returning, I began to notice how wet my feet were, and my hands. My gloves were dripping. My beard was saturated with rain and spittle. I felt bedraggled and it wasn’t even 8am on a Sunday morning. I could have stayed in bed, like regular people, and Jayne.

Back in the hall, a dozen or so other hardy – or should that be foolhardy? – cyclists drank tea in the steamy air, murmured of slipped gears and potholes, and peeled off wet kit. The results board was already up. Just 11 of 27 entrants started. The winner rode an impressive 23.47. I was third, with 25 minutes dead. If only I’d taken the roundabout a fraction faster, pushed just a little harder, I’d have gained that extra second and broken 25 minutes. But third! Third! That’s not bad.

It was raining as I eased Barry home, chatting happily with Hippy about relationships and voting and what we have planned for the rest of the season. I dropped him off and trundled back to Jayne, the sky still grey and relentless. Third. That’s pretty good. That’s my first medal. Maybe it was worth it after all.

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3 thoughts on “The Great Missenden Wet One

  1. On his blog, Hippy thanks the organisers and stewards for pitching up, despite the weather. He’s dead right – so thanks to Andrew and his team for organising the event and making sure it went ahead despite the weather. And for standing around in the rain for the best part of an hour at an ungodly time on a Sunday morning, directing the occasional cyclist around a roundabout. Someone tell me why do we do this again?

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