‘Cross* diary 29: I PODIUM

August 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Posted in cycling | 3 Comments
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Last year’s Bike Blenheim Palace Festival of Cycling was a beacon of happiness in a rotten summer; the only weekend in six weeks of school holidays where the sun blazed, we tootled around on tandems, and the whole family stopped bickering and had a lovely time. So I was keen to go to its 2013 incarnation, Orbital Festival at Goodwood. We booked tickets, entered races and got excited, but at the last minute the boyf baulked at the five-and-a-half-hours-in-the-car-with-two-squabbling-children-and-two-nights-in-a-tiny-tent aspect, and it looked like it was all off.

Happily, I have some brilliant friends. My twitter pal, the lovely and devastatingly witty @michgreig, offered to put me up at short notice and be my partner in crime, despite never having met me. (Blind faith, maybe, but when you’ve wept with laughter imagining your respective crushes fighting in jelly, you know you’ve found a kindred spirit.)

women-in-love

On Sunday we were on the 7:02 from Victoria, plotting our day and guffawing. We got off at Chichester and drafted a friendly Bromptoneer to Goodwood. At nine-something there were already Bromptons everywhere; it felt odd to be riding a big-wheeled bike. In a fit of excitement, we signed up for a race – the Tutti Frutti scratch race. 45min plus one lap. It’ll be fine! We’ll be fine! Yeah. Yeah!

We wandered round the stands. Everyone was friendly and delightful, with the exception of A Certain Café, who were their usual grumpy selves (but they’re from London, so we probably have to let them off). A quick bimble round the racetrack; 4.5km with a FIERCE headwind in the home straight. Oof. Then back, in time to watch the Bromptoneers lining their bikes up in the sunshine.

The Brompton World Championships is an incredible spectacle; this year there were 750 riders, all dressed up to the nines. It’s a Le Mans start: they set off in waves, running to their folded bike in the paddock, unfolding it and leaping aboard, then charging past the screaming fans (me) ringing cowbells (Michelle) onto the circuit. They did four laps, with some impressive tactics being employed; if you’ve never watched teams of Brompton riders doing through and off, I thoroughly recommend it. We made friends with a little family and screeched GWAAAN ANOOP! every time their son rode past. Someone gave us a free Berocca**. It was all jolly nice.

As the last of the Bromptoneers rolled in, we were in the starting area, hyperactive with nerves. We defused them by joshing with the other competitors: ‘You look a bit pro. No skinsuits in this race.’ By the time we were herded over to the start line, we were all best buddies. A quick run-through of the rules from a marshal (disappointingly, these weren’t No Pushing, No Bombing, No Petting), a blast from his air horn, and we were off. I shot out the front like an idiot and wondered where everybody was for about a third of a lap, before the bunch (including Michelle) steamed past me, working together like pros. Oh dear. I couldn’t hold their wheels and pedalled round on my own for a lap and a bit, before being caught by a girl of about 14 and her dad.

Pride prevented me from letting them go, so I jumped on her wheel***, then went up to the front for a turn. Me! Working with people! Blimey. We steamed round for half a lap then I swung off*** and she came through***; we’d left her dad behind at some point. The two of us stayed together for the rest of the race. At a couple of points she flagged and I waited; after that I took the pulls*** into the headwind and let her do the tailwind sections. FOOL. The bell rang, we did our final lap, I pulled her up the home straight and she tried to come round me. I went ‘Ooh, you BEAST!’ and pulled out all the stops****, just managing to pip her for the line. Cheek. (There’s a photo of me doing this, looking like I’m about to be sick. I won’t inflict that on you. Here’s one I like better, of me doing Oh My God This Sodding Headwind: )

We giggled about excitedly for a while, WOOHOOing at the Brompton presentations and squeaking at people doing backflips on trials bikes. I fangirled all over Michael Hutchinson and Julia Shaw. We were about to go home when our names were called over the tannoy. We were needed for the presentations. Us! Needed! For PRESENTATIONS! We ran over, laughing hysterically, dumping bikes and bags and clattering up the stairs, to be called out onto the balcony for the WOMEN’S PODIUM. Yes, dear reader, I got a kiss, a handshake and an ACTUAL MEDAL for coming in third woman. Michelle, the Pocket Rocket, was FIRST WOMAN. People cheered and clapped and took photos. It was, quite honestly, one of the best moments of my life.

Women's podium, Tutti Frutti scratch race

Wearing our medals, we rumbled home on the train with ca. 1357 other bikies (most of them on Bromptons, of course, though this didn’t stop the guard having a good grump at us all). Andrew greeted us at the door in a butcher’s apron; the barbie was already on. He listened patiently to the overexcited gabble; we even remembered to ask him how his day had been.

When I got home to the family the next day, the boys responded to my news in typical fashion. 5yo (pouting): ‘But I wanted you to WIN!’ 8yo (kissing my medal reverently): ‘That’s AMAZING.’ It WAS amazing. An amazing weekend with amazing mates doing daft but amazing things. A heartfelt thank you to Michelle and Andrew for welcoming me and making it all possible. You’re utter stars.

* What does all this have to do with ‘cross? Eagled-eyed readers will spot that I raced on my ‘cross bike. More importantly, without having discovered ‘cross, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.

** Don’t drink Berocca if you’re frightened of neon wee, by the way

*** Get me, with the TERMINOLOGY

**** I actually pulled a muscle doing this. No-one can accuse me of not Trying Hard

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  1. […] I raced and MEDALLED and PODIUMED last weekend, curious readers have inundated* me with requests for advice. If no-hopers like me can race, maybe […]

  2. […] I may have been busy PODIUMING over the summer, my sights are set somewhat more realistically for ‘cross. Last year, I was a […]

  3. […] PODIUMING in an actual race. Okay, it was a ‘fun’ race at the Orbital Festival, and it was full of other […]


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