I have a long list of entries on the “things I need to do before I die” list, and one of them was to participate in a bike race. I’ve done a lot on my road bike, including time trialling, and covered many miles, but have never actually raced.
The opportunity has always been there, as some members of the club I belong to participate in weekly races at the Milton Keynes Bowl, but I never considered it at all seriously – until now. Racing was just not me at all - too nervous and too slow.
So what made me change my mind? I suppose it was just the chance to try something new and I had lots of encouragement from other club members. I’ve also been feeling recently that my training was stagnating somewhat, so this was an opportunity to suss it out as a fillip to that.
So, having gone through all sorts of mental contortions, chief of which was trying to find an excuse not to do this, I found myself at the Bowl on a lovely Tuesday evening, coughing up a tenner to take part in an LVRC (League of Veteran Racing Cyclists) circuit race. This was the first time I’d used my LVRC membership in anger, as it were. I’m 63 years old, so I am classified as a Category E for LVRC purposes. More on that later.
One of the club members very kindly took me in hand, and we warmed up together around the circuit whilst he explained what was about to happen. I resolved to stay at the back of the bunch and keep out of trouble for as long as I could last. I had no expectations of being able to complete the race – it would be around an hour long – but I just felt I had to give it a go, at least.
We all assembled at the start, with me definitely right at the back. I was at least given encouragement by some of the other riders in my age group, which made me feel better. We were addressed by somebody at the front, but I couldn’t hear a word. It didn’t really matter – I was just going to follow the crowd.
The faster guys (LVRC categories A, B, C and D) set off first, and the rest of us about 30 seconds later. Obviously I was nervous, but I am at least used to riding in groups. The Bowl is a tight circuit, and it soon became obvious that cornering at speed was a key skill that I don’t have! This, of course, slowed me down slightly, but it meant that I had to pedal frantically to catch up with the bunch at least once on every circuit. This, and the frequent changes of pace, really took its toll, but I began to get used to it, to relax a little and enjoy it. However, I only lasted about 20 minutes, but I had recorded the statistics for most of the ride on my Garmin, so they would bear analysis later. More than one person had told me that it would take a while before I could last the full course. They were right!
I looked at my stats later, and was astonished. This was my highest average speed ever, my highest average heart rate and my power output was in a far more respectable bracket – the kind of figures that I want to achieve on a much more regular basis. It is absolutely amazing what competition can do to the human body. I was disappointed that I had to pack in so early, but pleased with myself for finally having tried it.
Obviously, I was completely knackered, but it was a great deal more fun than time trialling. Having seen the stats, it became obvious that, if I need to up my game (which I do), I must do more of this. It’s a date next Tuesday evening at the Bowl, then! You may hear more from me on this topic, whether you like it or not……
In summary, I feel that this could actually kick-start a sea change in my fitness levels, which I certainly need. It was fun, exciting and beats the turbo hands down as a tool for really hard interval work. It’s also encouraging to note that there is the potential to race bikes for some years to come. I’ve got an awful long way to go and so much to learn, but it’s like the start of a new journey for me. Not for the first time, I fervently wish that I’d started this road cycling lark about 50 years earlier!