For those of you old enough to remember ‘Quincy’ and the opening line of “ladies and gentleman, welcome to the most fascinating world of Police work, FORENSIC MEDICINE!!” followed by a sequence of trainee (American) Police officers passing out as Quincy uncovers a corpse, well that was what first inspired me to become a Forensic Scientist. Of course Quincy has now been superseded by the glamourous likes of CSI: Miami and CSI: Vegas but Quincy is where it all began and it’s Quincy I have to thank for giving me a crack at a national jersey.
‘How?’ I hear you all cry; well as a Forensic Scientist I am employed by a Police Force which affords me the right to take part in the annual Emergency Services Road Race Championships. The race takes in competitors from each of the emergency services, Fire brigade, Police, Ambulance and the AA (jokes) (other roadside breakdown cover also available).
One great thing about these races is, if anything goes wrong, there are plenty of qualified people to look after you! If the bikes were colour coded according to your service, it would make for quite an interesting and logical race convoy too, red bikes, blue bikes, white bikes and yellow neutral service 😉 but unfortunately (for me), they were definitely not always in this order….
This year was being hosted by Thames Valley Police (TVP) and organised by Nick Clarke. Before I go into the race itself, a special thank you has to go out to Nick, who must have lost a few years of his life trying to get this race to go ahead. Road works springing up all over the place meant that not only the original course was cancelled but the 2nd and then the 3rd contingency courses were also cancelled. At one point it was to become a national crit championship! But through Nick’s tireless work we had confirmation, on the Friday before the Sunday event, that a 4th road circuit had been found and approved by TVP. Hooray!!! Race on!!
Me and my 2 Police colleagues Neil Higgins and Gavin Rose travelled down to Buckinghamshire the day before and had plenty of time for a nice ride out to the course and do a couple of recce laps. The course was to be 12 laps of a 4.1 mile circuit. For a short lap it was quite a good circuit. It had a long drag into a tough headwind which turned onto a steep kick up at the end to the start/finish line, followed by a fairly fast descent down to a sharp left hander back in to the headwind.
This was my first race since the middle of June, but since then I’ve had 8 days riding my bike in the Dolomites and 2 consecutive weekends riding ‘nice n steady’ with my Team Chronomaster pals. So my legs were feeling very good and I was quietly confident of a good result today. The weather was sunny and windy. Great. A good recipe for a split, all I had to do was make sure I was in it.
Desperate for the jersey I’d been doing my homework and picked out a few key riders to keep my eye on. This was more difficult than I anticipated because most of the competitors were from the south and I had no idea how good they were. So my list consisted of the riders from the North that I had heard of and previous podium finishers of this same race. My tactic was to save my powder for about half way through the race and then try and get away. If anything went earlier I would hope to bring a few strong lads with me and bridge the gap.
First lap, a lad went up the road on his own. Checked my list, ‘nah, he’ll come back’ and no one seemed too keen to chase him, understandable given the headwind and the 50 miles left to go, so I sat in. The first 4 laps went to plan, I sat and watched a few attempts go and come back. On lap 5 I saw the winner from 2 years ago, Pete Nichols, move up the outside and ride off the front. He rode the whole course solo when he won, so I had to get on the back of him! I attacked, got across and immediately started to do turns.
A little earlier in the race than I had planned but with a strong bloke like Pete involved I was willing to give it a go. We had about 10 seconds on the bunch but my co-escapee had blown after the steep rise to the finish. With the bunch switching on to the danger of letting us go, we were doomed.
In the following laps I had a few more attempts and got away in some promising moves but it seemed that not everyone was able to work at a rate that would keep us away.
In the frantic attempts to get away I’d lost count of the laps and, while in a convoy chasing another attempt at a break, I checked my Garmin.
42 miles on the clock, my race brain told me 2 laps to go and we’d just hit the headwind straight again. Just like Quincy, I was now getting frustrated with the lack of co-operation from the necessary authorities and it was time to do this on my own. A small group had just been brought back after a fast chase so I countered straight away. I was off the front into the headwind and gaining good ground. After half a lap the bunch were out of sight! A lap and a half to go to catch the front runner (or so I thought) or just hold on for second. I buried myself for another lap.
As the line was approaching I realised I wasn’t going to catch the winner, I was just happy with 2nd place. Then I could hear the bell ringing, ANOTHER LAP to go!! Foolishly I hadn’t taken in to account the mileage from race HQ. My heart sank but even Quincy made mistakes, so I didn’t give up and rode as hard as I could up the short climb. As I crested and looked back I saw a group of 6 bridging across to me.
Decision time. Do I go for broke and try and hold them off or sit up and wait for them. With my legs tiring and a strong headwind to face, I decided the best idea would be to wait for them and use them to recover for the sprint. They came through and the bunch were still another 30 seconds back. Brilliant, right move.
With 2 laps solo in my legs I had the perfect excuse to do fewer turns and my legs were coming back nicely. The sprint opened up and I managed to hold on for 3rd. Not the Jersey I wanted but a race I loved. I think Quincy would have been proud.
Congratulations to Graham Crow from London Fire Brigade for an epic 48 mile solo win. Thank you again to Nick the organiser, all the Commisaires, NEG riders and Marshals for making the race happen. And thanks to our sponsors Specialized UK, Leisure Lakes Bikes and Chronomaster watches for all their continued support.