Position: 15th (let’s not dwell on the fact that there were only 16 female competitors on the start line)
I might as well start entitling all cycling related posts ‘Another of Roz’s dumbass ideas’, because yet again I found myself, on Thursday, May 25th, waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread. The Tour Series was coming to Aberdeen, and as she had e-mailed suggesting a women’s race (but, like, IN THE FUTURE IF THEY WERE EVER TO RETURN), they obliged, which meant that SHE was obliged to sign up, and coerce as many
victims fellow female cyclists into signing up as well, thereby proving the organisers weren’t wasting their efforts. And because I am clearly incapable of saying ‘no’, I willingly entered, knowing fully that I was likely to face severe public humiliation. But whatever, you know, support local shit.
As if to make up for my erroneous decision, the weather played nicely. In fact, it was easily one of the most beautiful days Aberdeen had been graced with this year: glorious sunshine, blindingly blue skies, and temperatures that lured thousands of locals out as spectators (or, by chance, into beer gardens of the pubs surrounding the course). I mean, I wore flip flops and considered removing my sweater – it felt like being on holiday.
As my teaching timetable is currently light, thanks to the fact that the senior kids are all on study leave, I was able to duck out early – which was just as well, as I had some bike maintenance to take care of. During a social ride the previous evening, after casually commenting that I was still on the same tyres and inner tubes that came with my bike back in 2013, I suffered my first ever puncture. And my second. And then my third. In the end, one of our group – Trish – had to phone her husband for roadside pick up as we were out of inner tubes and we were stranded.
Having never actually changed an inner tube or tyre before by myself, I wanted all the time I could muster to get things sorted. I also had to remove my pannier rack, lights, bluetooth speaker… As it turns out, I have a lot of junk on my bike. I’ll cut the tension right now and let you know the tyre swap was a success, and it also became disgustingly clear that I need to clean my bike more frequently. Or, you know, ever.
Once cleaned up, and with everything I needed in a rucksack, I cycled down to the AWCC support tent to meet Roz, Rosie (who had also been fooled into signing up), Katherine (who was taking part in the team challenge), and Eilidh (who was there to
laugh at support us).
Fully expecting to make a fool of myself, I decided to play up to my role with some fancy dress. However, the unseasonably warm weather dictated that I would have to ditch this idea, as I was dangerously close to overheating when I was standing still. After all the effort I went to getting into the outfit, I felt disappointment as well as relief when I peeled it off again.
Before too long, Natalie had also materialised, and we anxiously talked tactics. Chiefly, the conversation went something like this:
“Stick together and work as a team? Then we won’t look so bad?”
After a few warm up laps in a nearby lane, we found ourselves being ushered to the start line for the briefing. We were to race for 30 minutes on the 1.2km circuit, and we’d be told when our final laps were. There was an eye-of-the-storm moment in the 30 seconds before the start when nobody really had anything else to say. And there was no way of avoiding the hurt that was to come. Natalie, Rosie, Roz, and myself had taken our position at the back of the back.
And then it began. I clipped in securely and pushed off with a mighty heave – only to have to brake as the two women in front of me struggled to get clipped in. I was right on their back wheel and did think: Well, fuck, wouldn’t it be awesome if I crashed ON THE START LINE. Thankfully, a pile up was avoided, and I tried to pick up speed, but Roz and Natalie were already specks in the distance. I had been abandoned at the first hurdle! I desperately tried to hold onto the wheel of the girls ahead of me, but those bitches are fast, and I was struggling.
My main fear going into this event was cornering. Being notoriously terrible at turning (in particular, right hand turns, which dominated the course), I worried I’d either crash into a barrier or come to a complete standstill. What I actually found was a newfound love of weaving in and out of the small side streets, as it actually seemed to give me a chance to catch up to people! After a few laps, I could see Roz’s AWCC jersey looming closer, and made an effort to jump on her tail.
“Help. Help. I’m fucking dying.” -Roz
“Team effort?” – Me
The two of us, initially joined by Rosie, made up the back of the race, and worked together round the course. Until Rosie sped off on a straight, leaving the two of us in her dust. Still, a two man team trumps a solo death effort, so Roz and I took turns towing each other along and trying to keep morale high, despite the announcer commenting FREQUENTLY that we were not only in last place, but soon to be lapped. He did comment we were still smiling though, totally unaware of the raspy ‘fuck you’ uttered between gritted teeth.
I don’t understand why I’m smiling. Ignore the smiling.
If there is one saving grace to going balls-to-the-wall, it’s that, somehow, time passes in a flash. Before we knew it we heard we were on our final lap, and we had a quick agreement that we would have a ‘champion’s finish’ (not my words) and cross the line side by side. Cornering the horrendous 180 degree turn for the final time, we dug in for the final uphill drag amidst wild cheering and applause.
In the end, we had only been lapped by the three leaders, so I’m pretty sure we didn’t suck too hard. Rosie finished two spots ahead of us, with Natalie just ahead of her. We were basically champions. But never mind that – we had beers to drink, dinner to eat, and, most importantly, the men’s pro race to cheer on!