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Lincoln GP – in the saddle

RC RT

Just for the record:
Ben Pochee (pictured above front row first from left)
Rich = Richard Wilkinson (back row second from left)
Pricey = Ben Price (front row second from right)

Friday night. I was up to 2.30am in MSN messenger negotiation with my
italian ex who now lives in Dublin as we tried to agree terms to get it
back on… I go to bed and can’t think due to buzzing head with thoughts of
latino love once more and fear of Lincoln cobbled hell. Got up later than agreed to meet Pricey, get to him late, feel awful due to lack of sleep and then we drive on up to Rich’s place in Lincoln.

We ride one lap of the course and Rich does a great job telling me and Pricey
what needs to be done at various parts of the course, with the biggest
factor being your position at the start of the cobbled climb and holding
wheels over the top where it gets drilled and gaps appear. We eat pasta in Ask in town with Tom Gardner and Dean Shannon (Heron RT), PCA are there as
well and don’t really look all that jolly, Rich is keen for it to kick off
there and then, Koffi Anan where you?

Rich then drags us to a local pub / club which contains many of his
conquests, I enjoy a Guiness, it is very smokey and I have to drag him out
at 10pm, great to go out with him and Pricey but I am just gagging for some
kip.

We turn in at about 11.30pm, with Rich exclaiming that he hopes it is
pissing down in the morning, as it will put off loads of people, althought
the thought of cobbles more slippery than a used car salesman in a ice
skating competition with eels in his pockets, does not fill me with similar
excitement.

Wake up – its hammering it down with rain…

Start line: big peloton and big rain. Excitement and fear in equal measure.

As we roll out I immeadiately realise I have almost no brakes until they
bite and almost lock up….oh dear. First lap is realtively tentative, with riders getting a feel for available grip and where the wind hits hardest etc.

2nd or 3rd time up the cobbled climb and I realise how tough it is to hold
position coming up to hill, 130 riders swarming all over the road trying
to be in the top 20 or 30. Frustrated by several premier calendar races where my passive trying to hold wheel tactics have lead to me being dropped by others losing wheels, I decide to attack about 2km from the cobbles, 2 or 3 of us make a half hearted
attempt but Agisko haul the peloton back quickly… but at least I am near
the front for the next climb!

As the laps tick by Rich keeps waking me up and reminding me to get near the
front for the climb and after 6 or so laps we both realise that almost
half the field has been spat out the back. We also become aware that the
feed station is positioned at the critical post cobble desperate wheel
hanging on false flat, and as such it is almost impossible to get a bottle
as you drive as hard as poss to stay in touch… oh dear. Maybe I should
have started the race with 2 bottles….

Food for the day was a last minute Bassets Fruit Jelly babies, I can’t use
the jersey pockets as they are too high for me to reach, so I stuff my
jelly sweet tucker under the elastic leg grippers of my shorts. Food is
great and seems to work a treat, but they were a tad soggy and road grit
encrusted.

Riders are now getting tired and it seems that more accidents are
happening, a PCA rider hits the deck on a wet bend and sickeningly slams
the kerb hard, riders are touching wheels on the cobbled climb and coming
un-stuck, specators are providing an awesome atmosphere and building in
numbers as the race nears its conclusion. Several supporters try to help
riders re mount on the cobbles not always with the desired outcome. Matt
Talbot runs straight into a bushy tree on a a sharp right hand bend due to
lack of brakes, but manages to get going again without losing contact.

I lose my back wheel also on Talbots Tree Corner and suitably cack myself,
I also go wide on the pre cobble descent bend and hit a man hole cover
that has me shreaking like a girl. Stay upright and feel like a lucky sod. With about 2 laps to go I realise that I still feel strong even though on more than one occasion I did more than my fair share to tow my group back into contact after the climb, I am failing to understand why I still feel good.

Matt Talbot tells I am looking too strong and should try to save my
energy, this comments excites me and is the first time I really begin to
consider that I might nab a top 20.

I eventually try again to re-connect my bunch with the leading bunch, and
in particular try to drag my pal Mark McKay with me, but after a hard
right bend and 100m I realise I am on my own, I chase the wheels ahead of
me and before I know it I am involved in a c.10 man break, chasing after
Chris Newton and one other rider (I think).

Kristian House will not take a turn and actually does well to block our
through & off. A dutch guy is furious with him and enters into a prolonged
‘discussion’. Myself and Matt Talbot do more turns than most (and I am
getting more & more baffled at why I still have legs)

With about 3km to go we catch Chris Newton, there is a brief aerobic lull
and I am in the strange scenario of realising that as long as I stay on my
bike I am about to fullfill my prem dream and finish in the top 15…
which sort of confuses my competitive senses for a while.. and then the
attacks begin.

I struggle to match the outright power of Mr Hayles et al, but cling on
and then on the final ding uphill prior to a sharp descent and the final
cobble climb, I get dropped on an attack, I struggle back on to the tail
as we crest the hill but am stuffed for the final run in to the cobbles.

Final time up the cobbles and again I feel good, but my 60kg weight sure
makes for a bumpy cobble skipping ride and very hard to get any true
momentum. I have the kerb on my left and the dutch guy in front but to my
right… and then the bugger blows and I am caught between him and the
kerb..aarrgghh, had to slow down, go round him and then get going again –
doh. Cross the line and am convinced that I counted wrong and we had one
more lap… but no, it was all over, I was 8th and I felt ok…. what?!

Kristian House, on fresh legs easily out kicked the Irish chap and the
loony strong Matt Talbot to take the win and I am still in shock at how
close I was and also how good I felt at the end. Next up Rutland-Melton. Hope it’s raining?!

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