The most eclectic race of the year by far. Where else can teams, trackies, hipsters and have-a-go-heroes race the streets of London together? At 20+ mph? Without brakes?
I managed a late entry to the Track Bike Race, and feeling slightly more prepared than last year (a real track bike and some half-remembered racing lines). We have a very long wait on the start for a casualty from the Leigh Day Kermesse. Hugh Porter fills in magnificently, interviewing first, last year’s winner Wayne Crombie, and them most of the new and very well-organised Team Cinelli fixed gear criterium team who are fielding four riders (plus allies) including last year’s runner up.
We ride a neutralized lap behind two sponsored taxis. Of course nobody mentioned that we had to stop after that lap!!!! Last turn and I’m winding up for the race proper and have to stop. Without brakes. Back pressure, skidding and I’m looking for an exit route as I narrowly avoid the rear taxi. It was almost a second casualty before we’d started. I back up and we are off. Except I’m not. That furious deceleration has loosened the cog, so I spin as others get away. The cog bites and I’m away for the sprint to the downhill first bend. Five places down already.
Discretion being the better part of valour, I lose a couple of places into the first bend, but my secret weapon, 25c Schwalbe Ones, sees me corner confidently and into bend two, the tight one. The line is good but it is contested, a sprint up the incline and the pack are already gapping me. And so it goes on. Full gas around the top of the course in 48×15 at 100 rpm and no let up into the bends. First lap, 26 mph!
I can hear the cheers on every section, “Daren”, “Twickenham”… And I can honestly say it is worth an extra cog. The main group are away and I am heading the chasing pack – lots of exposure for the jersey on the big screen, apparently, but the others behind can’t work as hard. Worse, the race has been reduced from 20 minutes + 5 laps to a 15 minute all-out dash. I let another rider take over and recover, planning to sprint past on the climb for the last lap. The board counts down. Tim is coaching by megaphone, everyone is cheering. The gap never closes.
One lap to go, apparently, but no bell. A mistake? I’ve saved myself. Ho from Look Mum No Hands attacks, and I realise too late that it is all over. A sprint for the line and a mid-pack finish. 21/35 with quite a few non-finishers. A lower position than last year but a much higher standard overall. I’m pleased with my bike handling but really needed the longer race. And a flying start. At least we weren’t lapped this year. Progress.
In other races Kevin Jones, on a borrowed Brompton, flew round the qualifying heat and into the final. In the most unlikely marginal gain in racing, he removed his dinner jacket and I pinned his numbers directly to his fine white shirt. The bowtie was retained. Class! In a furious final, where two small-wheeled drop-barred race bikes (that happened to fold) led the pack in a three-lap dash, Kevin again contended for mid-pack honours. Well done. Now ready for the Brompton World Championship. Kevin, you know you want to!
Onto the ladies race, with Laura and Emma flying the TCC flag. And what a race! With the darkness descending, the pace looked very fast indeed. Laura maintained top ten position throughout with good position and a good race face! She finished an eventual seventh position. Outstanding! I don’t think we could have cheered you both on any louder.
So thank you to all who turned up to support, it really did make a difference to me and I’m sure the other riders as well. It is an event like no other. Some new races but a familiar format. Kevin has proposed me for the Penny Farthing race next year (n+1). There is a vintage steel race bike crit (I know you are out there), a Boris Bike race where I you 4th Cats can place very highly, and with the explosion of track interest, I expect TCC can try and counter Team Cinelli. They really were impressive taking the win and four riders inside the top 11.