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Source: The Wheeler; words: Bill Frew
Gippsland cyclist and author Bill Frew recalls his sometimes embarrassing but typical induction into club racing.
When I survey my wonderful bike, leaning against the shed wall, I am always impressed by how potent it looks. I know it was made in a Taiwanese factory and is not the latest model, but you can see that it’s all about speed. My legs are well-trained, but I have never pushed this machine to the limit.
Illustration – Justin Garnsworthy
Meeting point in the city
What its limit might be I cannot tell. The computer recorded 89 on a famous descent, before I got nervous and feathered the brakes. So if it can plummet at 89, it can be propelled at 89. But where is the man with the power to do that?
I’m telling you this because you may be worried your bike is not up to scratch, but it’s your legs you should worry about. I learnt this the hard way. Inmy first race I was left for dead, even thoughmy bike was the best in the bunch.
I got into cycling with an old single-speed. I knew it was not a very goodmachine, or the previous owner would not have chucked it in the hard rubbish. When I traded it, the bike shopman told me about a local touring club.
Group of cyclist on the road
How this all began
So with a better bike and new helmet, I rode out with the club on Sunday morning. They had yellow jerseys saying ‘Gippsland Wheelers’ and they rode their battered bikes dangerously close, chatting cheerfully.
“Just sit on the back and watch the miles tick over,” said Big Barry.
“We’re stopping at KooWee Rup for lunch. They’ve got terrific pies.” I set my mind on getting to KooWee Rup. Lunch would be a different matter because inmy ignorance I had brought nothing to eat and had no money.
Just sit at the back of the group
The big bloke had not lied. The miles ticked over and the bunch was soon in the bakery, ordering pies, milkshakes and WagonWheels. They lay on the warm grass stuffing themselves, while I pretended to have a nutritious protein drink in my bottle.
Finally they heaved their bodies aboard their groaning bikes and we set off, cruising through flat cow country until we came to the bridge over the Number One Drain. There the Wheelers all dismounted, explaining that there were gaps in the planks that could swallow your front wheel, and it was wiser to walk across.
2 up riding is mostly tolerated by motorists
On the downhill sections cyclists reach high speed
Well it was a long bridge and I did not wish to walk. The Wheelers would see a newway. I mounted my gleaming machine and zigzagged across the planks, almost to the other side, where a gap ate the front wheel. It went down to the forks and I went over the bars into the deck, peeling the skin off both elbows and dinging the new helmet. I lay in a heap, wishing that the gap would swallow me too.
As I regained my feet they sauntered up, laughing. “Wow. That was a beauty. Ha ha. We heard the thump fromback there. Ha ha ha. You’re not hurt are you? Every time you zig, your wheel comes straight; that’s the thing. Don’t worry, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Ha ha ha.” They got me laughing too. They squirted off the blood with their water bottles and we were away again.
Don’t forget to drink during the ride
Flat tire is fixed within minutes on the spot
Don’t forget the snakes
The road rushed under our wheels, and someone called “10 to go!” Hah, this cycling caper was easy. A short time later I found it hard to keep up. Then I couldn’t keep up. Then I watched the bunch disappear in the distance. My head was spinning and there were tears on my cheeks.
The Wheelers came back to see what was wrong. They said I looked like a ghost. They said it was a hunger flat. “Your tank’s empty, that’s all. Who’s got some snakes?” They were all out of snakes; in fact they were out of everything. They had gobbled up the lot with 10 to go. Then Ted dug around in his jersey and came up with a lump of dried fruit covered in yellow fluff; a most delicious combination.
Pee brake on the side of the road
They talked and joked till the fruit took effect, then they positioned me in the middle of the bunch and rode home at a considerate pace. These were nice guys and I have tried to follow their example, but it has not always been possible, because I started racing, where nice doesn’t cut it.
Six months later, the Wheelers were a bit slow for me. I got a racing permit from the local club, plus a better bike, from the Trading Post, with full Dura-Ace and Spinnergy carbon wheels. I prepared the equipment on race morning in a confident frame of mind.
I presented my credentials to the marshals. “First race is it? What grade should we put him in? He looks a bit strong for D. What about C? Yep, stick him in C and see how he goes. Ha ha.”
Group riding is always fun…
Group riding is always fun…
D grade went off first; a mix of male and female, young and old, but going a lot quicker than the Wheelers all the same. Then Cwas called to the line and I had a chance to view my opponents. They all looked in good condition, but when I saw their inferior bikes my confidence went through the roof.
The bunch approached a long hill. It powered up the slope, but I still reached the top at the front. I eased up, expecting to exchange some compliments, but the others sprinted past in silence, accelerated on the descent, and that was the last I saw of them for three lonely laps. I thought the Spinnergys would catch them, but I was wrong.
To avoid hunger strike eating your ‘snakes’ during the ride is very important…
By the time I finished they had cooled down and were feeling sorry for the new man. They told me I had them worried on the hill, but had made a classic beginners mistake. “You let a gap open,” they said. “Rule number one: ‘Hold that last wheel’ … Hey, that’s a real flash bike” they said admiringly.
it’s the legs, not the bike
Six months later C grade was a bit slow for me and I was doing all the right things in B. But every Sunday I’d go out with the Wheelers, light and bright to recover from the race, and always with a pocket full of snakes to share with first-timers. I shared advice too: Always walk over wooden bridges and … it’s the legs, not the bike.
Socializing after the ride…
This article was published first here: www.thewheeler.com.au
Everyone has a cycling story. I’d like to publish them on my blog. So, don’t be shy, submit your stories and let the others learn from your experiences.
Tags: Coaching staff