From nine to eleven is two hours in the real world but on race days time runs differently, the first hour and a half lasts ten minutes while that last half hour is at least four hours long. The exception is of course the last five minutes; they last about 30 seconds. And so it was this morning; I tried reading, German lit homework would you believe, but I couldn't concentrate on it or anything else.
So of course I ended up running from my room to reception arriving a minute or two late.
“There you are Bond, thought you'd had second thoughts,” Steve noted.
“Sorry, I er lost track of time.”
“As it's just a short hop to the circuit, we'll be using the ride over as something of a warm up.”
“We'll be knackered before we start,” Claire moaned.
Darren snorted, “Maybe you girls will be.”
“Oh yeah,” Sal put in, “we'll see!”
“Calm down you lot, bags in the bus, shoes on, five minutes.”
One of the hidden things with being on the squad is that whilst our bikes care is ultimately ours at race time Darren or one of the other mechanics looks after our steeds. After yesterday's performance on the muddy Northamptonshire lanes my mount certainly needed some TLC. I've been around bikes enough to spot stuff like ( a ), the Pinarello was gleaming again and ( b ), those tyres are not what I usually ride!
“Put you some tyres on Drew, don't want a repeat of yesterday do we?” Darren grinned when I retrieved my wheels.
“Ultremo's, they only just tested them in Radsport a few weeks ago.”
“Well we had some pre production examples donated by Schwalbe, guess they're hoping to get some BC business, so you've got a free upgrade, I'd of lent you some wheels but I've only got Shimano with me.”
“Tyres are good, cheers Darren.”
“Show ‘em how it's done this afternoon.” He offered with a wink.
“I'm banking on it.”
We took a slightly roundabout route to RAF Cosford, the pace never going much over thirty kph – the idea wasn't to wear us out after all.
“That looks like your bike by the bus Drew.” Claire observed as we headed to BC race central.
“Duh, I'm riding it.”
I had to admit though; it did look a lot an Apollinaris squad bike, same colour and everything.
“Everything okay people?” Steve asked as we pulled up at the bus.
“Bit of a cross wind,” Darren the rider observed.
“That'll probably influence things this afternoon.” He agreed, “Before we go any further I'd best introduce your new team member, you want to come round Mr Waugh.”
No it can't be, he's like in Germany, Dad would've said – wouldn't he? The lump came around the corner of the bus with his uncle.
“Josh you lummox!” I exclaimed.
“Hut hum?” Steve interrupted, “Some of you might know young Josh from last season, this year he's been riding for Apollinaris in Germany with Drew here.”
“Bit of a hunk.” Sal whispered to Claire behind me.
“He's got a girlfriend,” I supplied in a stage whisper.
“No harm in looking.” Claire stated, “Hello Josh, I'm Claire.”
The introductions didn't take long; well they were curtailed by Steve reminding us that we have a race to ride.
“So how come you're here?” I quizzed my friend as we queued to sign on.
“Your Da asked if I fancied it last week like, we did a chipper Frankfurt way like.”
“Yeah but like Germany – England?”
“I flew over yesterday, Uncle Joe picked me up like, I stayed with him last night then we's driven down this mornin' like. ‘S like being a pro, flying to races and stuff.”
He was clearly well chuffed to be here, I was glad he was here for other reasons, not least his proven record on the roads of Germany.
We reached the table and I handed over my licence, after yesterday I was expecting the third degree.
“Bond, BC Juniors.”
“Don't see many of these.” The chap doing the signing noted as he searched for me on the sheet, “Ah right here we are, thirteen.
“Waugh, BC.” Josh passed his permit over.
The guy did a double take, “Two in the same race, hang on, Bond, Jenny's girl?”
“Might be,” I sighed, for heavens sake it's got my name on the licence!
He looked at Josh, “I'm guessing you're related to Joe Waugh right?”
“My Uncle.” Josh admitted, “He's outside somewheres.”
“Geez, I remember riding against him in the old Premier series. Here you go, eighteen.”
We both quickly signed the sheet before he could detain us longer with more reminiscences and headed back to the bus.
“Okay then, I'm making Drew team leader.” Steve told us, “He's got the experience most of you still lack. Listen to him, try to do what he asks, Josh you've got the second seat. We've talked about what happened last week, there won't be a repeat will there?”
A round of mumbles came as reply.
“What was that?”
“No Steve.” Came a more confident reply from my teammates.
“Now then, there's a good field here today, let's show everyone why you guys are wearing BC jerseys and not them. I want to see commitment out there okay.”
I looked out over the battlefield – a bit lumpier than some but fairly exposed as you might expect. From the start it drops slightly for the first kilometre before starting a steady climb to the opposite end of the field before dropping again back through the start area.
It's surprisingly sinuous, the longest straights are only about 250m's long and there are only two notable corners, one almost hairpin the other a fast square corner. I'm sure I won't be the only one considering the hairpin as the prime escape point. It's a little under 4km per circuit, we do 25 laps to do just shy of 100km or 60 miles.
“So what d'youse think el Capitano?” Josh asked joining me.
“Reminds me of Eastway a bit.”
“Longer but I see where you're coming from like.”
“Where are the others?”
“At the bus I think man.”
“Let's go have a chat then.”
Steve and Joe, Josh's uncle, both nodded but said nothing as I concluded my pep talk.
“Everyone happy?” I asked.
“What if someone else gets away?” Darren asked.
“It's your job to stop that happening unless we want it to happen.”
“Tactics man,” Josh offered in support, “sometimes you give the opposition some rope, sometimes not.”
“What Josh says is true, we might not have the physically best team but if we ride as a team instead of a group of individuals success can be ours. You've all seen some of Drew and Josh's races in Germany; those working in the pack are every bit as important as the front-runners. Follow these guy's instructions, they know what they are talking about and you'll have me to answer to if you don't.” Steve told the assembled masses.
Nothing like laying the pressure on.
“Right then, lets do it.” I suggested with more confidence than I felt.
The sun was out but a few cotton wool clouds were scudding overhead at a speed suggesting the wind hadn't eased from our ride down from Lilleshall. The supporting senior race for second and thirds with a fistful of ladies had quickly split into several small groups each riding their own race seemingly oblivious to the rest. Our race could easily go the same way.
Unlike back home there was no pre race introduction or even local bigwig to start us just the chief commissaire. Being on a closed circuit the powers that be had allowed an eighty rider field, BC Juniors having by far the biggest team even if we were nominally two four rider squads. The lead motorbike shot ahead and like a newly woken crocodile we burst into movement, several riders setting off at full pace despite the neutral zone.
They wouldn't be a threat, not today, not on this circuit, no let them have their heads and see who will give us a free ride by chasing them down. Claire and Laura are neither up to Ron's level of performance or physical strength so I don't want to throw them into the fray too early.
Despite a lot of squealing brakes and cursing the field negotiated the hairpin without mishap and with the green flag waved from the motorbike we were now racing. Early enthusiasm had us start the long climb at a surprisingly quick lick but everyone from BC held their station comfortably. A couple of chancers went off the front just before the next proper corner; we're not even a lap in yet.
In Germany the bigger teams would already be taking control, trying to close down and control the race. Here even the more numerically strong outfits were riding as individuals who just happen to wear the same strip – you could see it at Northampton yesterday but it was more obvious today. A last little kick up and the circuit flattened before taking a sweeping left across the end of the runway and back towards the hangars of the air museum and the finish line.
The escapologists floundered as the wind found them and they found themselves shark bait swallowed whole as the circuit started to tip downhill.
“Come on Gaby!”
“Dig in guys!”
I hadn't seen them before we started but Jess and Manda had clearly made it to Cosford. I grinned to myself at the thought of them both in cheerleading outfits waving poms about – who'd be daft enough to do that?
A quick glance around revealed some riders already doing the rubber yo-yo at the back of the field. None of ours thankfully, whilst we aren't in a block all together everyone is in the right half of the field. I caught my lieutenant's eye and nodded approval, 24 laps to go, a long way out.
The next few laps were pretty uneventful, the bulk of the bunch staying together occasionally dropping a rider at the rear or pursuing another hopeless escape at the front. We held our station, not hindering nor helping to keep the lid on things. A couple of other clearly more experienced riders had similar strategies, the kid in the Manx Road Club jersey looks a bit handy, have to keep an eye on him.
We were eight laps in before the first serious move; well in my reading at least, was made. Darren got his chance to do something at last shooting after the four primaries to take a watching brief cum anchor position.
“Watch?” Josh asked.
“Ja, fur kleine moment.” I hoped he'd take the hint even if his German isn't up to much.
He nodded in understanding, oh yeah; we've got a few tricks to throw around this afternoon.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 18.04.13