When stuff goes wrong you can’t stand around blaming each other, you’ve got to get back on the bike and V it up. It’s been a hard four weeks dealing with the disaster that was Herne Hill. One minute you’re flying, the next you’re, well flying. After missing three races I’m definitely not flying anymore – as they say though, you can’t take the fight out of the dog…
This year I took the summer off. I raced a couple of races for fun and went on some awesome roadtrips, but always in the back of my mind was the ‘cross season. A few good alpine adventures would be my base miles and then I’d put the speed in with a few end of summer TT races which went really well. Then the plan was to use the first three races of the ‘cross season to settle myself in, find a rhythm and claim my place on the front row of the grid.
Months of training, planning and warm-up races all down the drain. A bitter pill to swallow, especially the way it happened but the doctor said I’m lucky it was only three broken ribs (and a couple of cracked ones) rather than a punctured lung or burst spleen. After two weeks of rest that record was starting to get a little worn out so I got back on the mountain bike (on the bike path) and did my first 5 mile round trip for tea with my girlfriend.
A week later the doctor said that the bones were probably only just starting to heal, but that five mile round trip seemed pretty good to me so on my birthday I stepped it up to ten miles. That seemed pretty good too so I figured I could ride the mountain bike to work again as long as I was careful and after a week of that I was taking the off-road way home in the dark. The final test was a road ride with my club mates and I felt really good – not strong, but not in pain either. Time to go racing again!
Dougie Fox (and all the Crawley Wheelers) had organised a brilliant course for round 7 of the league – a real proper ‘cross course and a hard test for a mountain biker like me. My fitness had deserted me and it was clear on the sighting lap I did that I was going to struggle. My lungs and chest hurt straight away, but the pain was manageable – I just had to focus on staying upright and not getting involved in any battles. The only way to get fit for racing is to race as they say.
My starts have got better over the last season and I went from the third row of the grid to somewhere in the top ten, however I spent the rest of the first lap rocketing backwards. Everything hurt and on the second lap I really considered stopping, but there was something burning inside me that just couldn’t stop. It may have been different if I’d had a mechanical but whilst everything was working I had to keep pushing. I’d also planned before I started, that probably half race distance would be a good place to stop, but once again, there was still some fight in me and I was starting to re take positions previously lost.
With two laps to go Jon Dennis came past to lap me, another good opportunity to duck under the tape and call it a day, but the fire in me was getting stronger and I remembered an old trick from years ago. Once the leaders start to lap you, it’s possible to jump on their wheel and pass other riders on the same lap as yourself as if you’re on the lead lap too – cheeky maybe, but it helped me retake several more places and test myself against the fastest riders like Jon, Bruce and Chris – you can also study the fast lines that the leaders are taking and use this as training.
It made me realise how close I was to race pace (not very) and what may be possible again in a few weeks time. I’m not nearly as strong as I was at the start of the season let alone four weeks ago when I was starting to get fast, but I’m going to keep working to get back there and maybe toward the end of the season I can up my points tally a bit. Massive massive thank-you to everyone who shouted my name – I often say thank-you but, today especially, it really helped me dig that bit deeper.
Jon Dennis (Control) 57:27
Bruce Dalton (Kinesis) +01:38
Chris Ansell +02:07
33. Glen Whittington +1 lap
Photos by Pip Jenkins, Garry Christopher and Dave Haywood, photos and video by John Mullineaux
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. #aeightracer @eightbikeco
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – email@example.com.