Nobody is going anywhere without a St Junien rider. There’s at least six of ’em, and they ride like pro’s. It’s my first road race of the season, my first race as a UFOLEP second cat, we’re on lap 4 of 10, I’m sitting out of the wind in the middle of the bunch, and it’s gonna rain.
Every attack is chased down by the St Junien boys except when there’s an St Junien rider in it, then they block. The sky has gone very black, and thunderstorms are forecast. Right now two riders are away, one St Junien, and one from another club. But, there’s a couple of daft engines willing to tow the whole bunch along at quite a pace, and as the rain starts the two are in sight.
It’s light rain at first, just enough to make the road a little slippy. There’s some tight bends and a gusty wind. Not ideal conditions. The two are caught, and almost immediately another St Junien rider attacks. On the long drag of a climb around the back of the course the pressure is on, and gaps are starting to appear. Two go clear, another is trying to get across. It’s throwing it down now.
Along the narrower part of the circuit the St Junien have done a great job, and the three are out of sight. There’s a lull in the action. I’m getting cold. It crosses my mind to pull out. “Any fool can ride a bike when they’re feelin’ good”, and “what will you gain by pulling out?”…..jeeeessus, it’s my own words come back to haunt me!
Two laps to go, no chance of seeing the break again, and half the bunch pulled out, there’s 9 of us riding hard. Almost like we don’t want to pull out, and we’re going fast to get it over with as quck as possible. There’s no let up, and each man happy to give a good strong pull at the front. Over the climb on the back of the circuit for the last time. I’ll be glad to see the back of this one.
Into the town, I’m sitting 7th in line. I’m not interested in sprinting for 4th place, it’s too dangerous in these conditions. Into the finish straight, a block headwind, I stand up and make some effort. I finish on the wheel of Jean-Marc from the St Junien club about 5th in our group.
Back at the van I strip off and get into warm clothes as fast as I can. I don’t think I could have been wetter if I’d swam. I’m happy with my ride, my fitness was OK, and I had no trouble with the pace. The second cats ride a little harder, and a little closer, and a little smarter, but I still fancy my chances, when the summer comes. 🙂