A Grumpy Brussels City Crit
A couple of weekends ago I was standing next to a van shivering in torrential rain feeling sorry for myself. I contemplated hurtling around a wet 1km circuit on a brakeless track bike. I thought of the corners, two tight hairpins slick with leaves. Of the downhill section where it would be impossible to scrub off speed if I needed to. And the likelihood my fitness was where I needed it to be after a summer of missed rides and workouts.
I was feeling pessimistic, unenthusiastic and cold. I’d a lot on my mind and little of it was bike racing. I felt under the weather, my eyes ringed with black and my nose full of snot.
“Come to Brussels'” they’d said.
“It’ll be fun,” they’d said.
Despite all that, I intended to ride. I’d jumped in a van with my Wyndymilla Hype Energy team mate Keira McVitty and her Dad Mark and we’d driven all the way from England. We’d spent money and Mark have given up his weekend to support us. Wyndymilla, Hype Energy and ASSOS had provided us with the best kit possible. There was no way I was not racing and if I raced, I’d give it my all once the gun sounded (not that there’s ever actually a gun).
That time came a little later than we’d anticipated – as it was the first time that Brussels City Crit had been staged there were a few delays and a fair bit of confusion about when we’d be racing. With lots of extra time and not much information, my (dis)organisation soared to new heights. I had the wrong gearing and no way of changing it (the bolts were seized). I had no rollers to warm up on and no time.
Things still didn’t look good once I got on the circuit for a few practice laps. I’d neglected to bring a rain jacket or leg warmers so was immediately drenched. Then start/finish arch blew over in the wind. “What ridiculousness is this,” I thought?
But what do you know, once we started none of it mattered. Yes, I messed up the start when I couldn’t clip in and I missed eventual winner, Margaux Vigie, attacking straight out the first hairpin – it took me completely by surprise when with hindsight, it should have been obvious. But once the chase was on, all I cared about was catching her.
I surprised myself once we got going. I might come across as confident but I frequently doubt myself. After finishing second, now I can’t help but wonder whether if I’d gone into the race thinking ‘I’m really good at racing in the rain,’ I might have been better prepared to challenge Margaux for the win or at least make her work for it. After all, some of my best results have been in atrocious weather.
I frequently enter races having already decided where I’m going to finish and I rarely ever aim for first because I don’t want to fail. I’d rather predict a lower place finish then feel good about bettering that prediction. How many wins could this attitude have cost me? Answers on a postcard please.