25 June, 2013

Remember when...?

I think the last five days are going to be recounted many a time and if I ever make it to a ripe old age and I'm rocking away in my favourite armchair, terrorizing young nurses, they're going to get very bored of "...It was the summer of 2013, (back when we had summers!), when I was on my way back from the National Championships..."

Showing Peter Sagan up with my sick wheelies, pre-warm up.

Before I go into the gory details I'll briefly talk about the race: in the time trial on Thursday night I came fourth. I'm happy with that, as with it being so tight at the top I was only 12 seconds away from third, and second! It's amazing that after over an hour of racing four guys who train completely differently can be within 32 seconds of one another, and two guys can be within 0.1 seconds! I was gutted not to make the podium but I know that I couldn't have given anything more. To paraphrase various Greats of the sport: 'All you can control is what you do and if you give 100% in a time trial then you have to be content with the outcome'.

Team talk with chief soigneur Martin, just before the off.

After my drive up on Wednesday I had a bit of a sore throat and it turns out that when you push yourself hard your body tends to perform a coup against you. So on Thursday night and Friday I went from sore throat, to chesty cough, to headache and beyond. I kept thinking that maybe I could get over it by eating loads of fruit and napping but the body is a stubborn mule and when it's decided, there's no arguing. So that was the end of my Nationals campaign, I began my drive back on Sunday morning a little disappointed, but glad I made a decent showing in the TT. I must say a HUGE thank you to Ed Hood and his lovely lady Marlene for putting me up and showing me the bright lights of Edinburgh town. Also, Martin from http://www.veloveritas.co.uk/ is an awesome soigneur as well as a talented reporter. Thanks to the Dave Rayner Fund for supporting me financially and giving me the means to make the fairly epic trip up to the Highlands, I appreciate it guys!

If you want to check out the race in more detail here are some good links:

Is that a gel in your shorts or are you just pleased to see me?

And so the real story begins! I'm halfway back from Scotland on my 450 mile drive when steam begins billowing from Saasha the Skoda, never a great sign. After pulling over I realise that yes, the car is really rather hot, and no it's probably not a good idea to try and stick my head under the bonnet just yet. My main worry at this moment is that the car is going to spontaneously combust, Hollywood style, and torch the £15k worth of bike equipment in the boot. Thankfully, that didn't happen and the nice RAC man Simon turned up  to tell me everything was okay: except, he didn't. It turns out that the fan belt snapped, and within a few minutes the engine cooked itself, all the seals warped, gaskets cracked, and dreams of a future together forever were shattered.

Epic PR coverage from the guys back in France!

I was a little stumped as to what was normal procedure in this position. To summarise I'm 230 miles from home, with two bikes, six wheels, four bags, three helmets and a tonne and a half of stationary metal. Thankfully Simon, my newest and bestest friend at this point, towed me to a just lovely Holiday Inn at the services where I enjoyed a five star meal of microwave lasagne and a gin and tonic and made plans for the next day. 

Trying to keep my head in the game, and out of the wind, on the second lap.

9am Monday morning and I'm calling round scrap yards to get the best price for Saasha whilst also trying to get a hire car delivered to get my stuff home in. I sort out both within the hour and then wait a few more to get picked up by the car rental lady Liz to travel to the compound and pick up my swanky new car. We get to the office and as forms are being filled out it dawns on us that yes I'm 24 years old, which is younger than 25 and therefore they can't help me. The look of guilt on the guys faces at Enterprise was so intense I felt bad for them! By this point, nothing could phase me so I just chuckled and shrugged. To their credit they were great and found another company, a rival, that would sort me out and then drove me to their compound. Thanks very much Jon-Jay and Liz, you legends! The new rental guys, Thrifty, needed a proof of address and having broken down on the motorway I didn't have a bank statement on me surprisingly. Off I trotted to the bank, two miles down the road, for a bit of impromptu cross training.

Really glad to see Matt Bottrill finish an awesome 2nd on Thursday!

I returned with the forms and despite coming across as a pretty dodgy character: "Yeah so, that address is my home address, but I live with my sister at another address. And erm, I sort of live in France too *gulp*..." They rented me the car. By this point, Saasha was at the scrap yard, in Bolton, with all my bike stuff in. Visions of a huge metallic claw grabbing her by the roof, smashing windows and dropping her into the crusher were providing me with some quite vivid daytime nightmares. Off to Bolton I toddled and after two occasions of asking where my car was, and subsequently crapping myself, at two wrong scrap yards (all I had to work on was a phone number and a vague location) I found her.

I'm not sentimental with possessions but giving up your car after four years and 50000 miles is like losing a best friend. You know your car will always be there to help you out, even if she does smell a bit funny, drips a bit from her undercarriage and provides a constant annoying drone when driving over 30mph. A car is freedom, and spontaneity, two things I love. Plus her life insurance figure of £200 from the scrappers seemed like a pretty poor payout for someone so fundamental in my life.

Dealing with the hoards of screaming girls post race. It's just a part of my life now.

It's been a crazy few days and quite a weird series of events I think you'll agree, but I've met some lovely people. Those northern monkeys are alright you know! Now to make all you young-uns hate me rather than pity me, I'm off to Glastonbury festival tonight. BOOM! Life is swings and roundabouts. See ya.

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