Ah, how quickly we forget. There was a reason why I hadn't raced since 1997. Essentially I'm not good at it. Not gifted in any cycling department. Can't sprint, can't climb, can't descend, poor time trialist, not technically gifted nor good in the wet. Off-road? Worse. Overall? Not. Good.
But time being the great healer and early-onset Alzheimer's helping me not remember, I decided October 2013 was time to have a thrash around a race I last rode in 1986, the bona fide classic time trial Tour of the Trossachs. The route was the same, more or less, and I was curious to see what the ravages of time and hours of sitting at a desk do to an 'athlete.'
Well, guess what? It wasn't pretty. Even with the lightest bike I have ever ridden and the smartest of smart SRM PowerMeter technology, it started slow and then got slower. For some reason I thought I could ride 'flat-out' for 28 hilly miles without eating or drinking. Even as I type it seems like unfathomable stupidity, although I'm fairly sure it wouldn't have made much difference to my performance.
How bad? At one point in the Trossachs, toiling on the mini Braes of Greenock a concerned motorbike marshall rode parallel to me, looked at me sideways and asked "Are you OK?" By that point I was digging in the pocket of my jersey, delusional and glassy-eyed, hoping to find a fluff-coated Jelly Baby.
Shortly after I asked a marshall 'How far?' hoping and expecting the reply 'Three miles,' so when he actually said "Eight miles to go" I almost burst into tears. I was even praying for a puncture on my expensive new tyres that never came. I was so far gone I was more or less freewheeling down hills.
I should have known. I had had a DNA check for a story I wrote for Cycling Weekly and even my genes have been officially, scientifically verified as being 'not good' for cycling either. Apparently I have a small aptitude for sitting on my arse, rattling a keyboard and giving it the smart talk. However, since I've had about 10,000 hours of practice, perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise.
So maybe I shouldn't bother with those number safety-pinned on the back type races? Maybe I should go for those big number zip-tied on the front Sportives? In truth, I'm not suited to them either, though I think that's more psychological than physiological.
Actually, genes be damned, if I get my, um 'nutritional strategy' sorted for the Trossachs in 2014, I reckon I there's some room for improvement. For the record, I was fourth from bottom of the results board. And one of the riders behind me had punctured, stopped, repaired his inner tube and carried on. Yup, as I said I'm not blessed, as a high-output road racing cyclist I make a good fatberg. There's no getting away from it. Not. Good.
The race was won by flying vet (as in animal doctor) Silas Goldworthy who went on to win the 2013 Scottish individual pursuit title. There's a report on the Tour of the Trossachs and pictures on the Velo Veritas site by Martin Williamson, who took the pic of me (above) on the Duke's Pass. It was, in so many ways, all downhill from there.