By Neil Wood.
The annual Duncan Sparrow road race at Pimbo is usually a well organised and great early season race. However this year, it fell on a particularly bad day and was a meteorological disaster. I left home at 07:00 and it was a bright and sunny morning without a cloud in the sky. Brilliant I thought, the weather forecasters have got it wrong as the forecast the night before had predicted rain all day. There was no way this sunny sky was going to cloud over for 6 hours at least. Well, this is Britain and anything can happen with the weather…and it did.
I signed on at Rainford scout hut, I was in there about fifteen minutes and when I came out it was raining. Not great, but it was just light drizzle. If it stayed this way then that’s not too bad. I hooked up with team mate Karl Owen who was in the same race and also chatted to a few other regulars and winter training partners including Darran Acton racing for VC-UK and Tony Lowe representing Team ASL. Pre-race talk was reduced to grumbles as the weather closed in further.
With the race under way and now raining quite heavily, I was about half a lap into the 24 laps that made up a 50 mile race and I was completely drenched. No part of me was dry and I was cold. I realised that it was going to be a lot tougher than I thought. This was more prevalent when the rain worsened. It went from raining hard to absolutely torrential. This was not helped by a biting wind, a temperature of around 4C and the added problem of road spray. I saw that other riders seemed to be dealing with it, so there is no reason why I should suffer any more than others as I have trained hard all winter. This was confirmed by Daniel Styler from Croston Velo who cheerily greeted me as he rode up alongside me. Maybe it was his poker face, I don’t know, but I was certainly feeling the cold. At around half way in, and looking around I could see that there were a lot of riders who quit, there was only around 40 or so of the original 80 starters. So they were feeling the pain and succumbing to the terrible weather.
Karl with Neil keeping close by
The pace was brisk despite the conditions as everybody was trying to keep warm. Physically I was feeling good, I could deal with the pace and I was feeling strong. However the numbness in my hands and feet was worsening and with around 8 laps to go I could no longer brake as I couldn’t feel or move my fingers. I also could not shift gear and I also could no longer grip my bars very well. Some small bumps in the road caused me to lose grip on the bars completely and almost caused me to crash. At this point I made a decision to quit the race as it was getting too dangerous for me to continue. I had quick word with Tony Lowe at this point who also told me he was packing in. Karl and Darran had made the decision before me. Every respect to the 20 or so finishers, they may not feel the cold as much as I do.
I sat in my car for about 30 minutes in wet clothes, heating on full blast and shivering before I managed to take my wet clothes off. At this point, I saw Tony again who got in the car, he had got dressed and we had a quick chat, but little was heard for the noise of chattering teeth from both of us.
I had volunteered to marshal the two races later in the day. The rain had subsided to a light drizzle again, so I got changed and wandered up to the start line. I found the race organiser Brian Rigby to be assigned my position. He took one look at me and told me to go home. He said he wasn’t expecting anybody in the first race to marshal the other races, despite me having volunteered in advance. I can’t thank him enough for this as I was still not in a good way.
Nice at the back
The race was won by local hard man Tony Greenhalgh from Bio Racer who got a couple of hundred meters clear of a breakaway group.
We had one team mate Kris Zentek in the later E/1/2/3 race. I was recovering at home so cannot report too much on this race. I know Kris was also cold and wet and got a bunch finish. Despite terrible conditions, the racing was a good measure of fitness and we know what is expected of us for the rest of the season.
With thanks to race organiser Brian Rigby from VC-UK
Photos courtesy of Ellen Isherwood with thanks
Also photo by velouk.net with thanks