Welcome to West Sussex.
Welcome to a Sunday “summer” road race. Although, someone forgot to tell the sunshine to join in. It’s 13 degrees, the rain is sideways and sending little rivers snaking down the road. Sebastien is currently sleeping, grumpy from his 07am wake up call (although I can’t help but feel a little like I’m taking sweet revenge by waking him up for a change!)
A procession of cars line the hedgerows on the steepest part of the course. (A measly 25%climb up Milland Hill) People mill around. Hoods up. Caps on. Umbrellas held low to avoid the driving rain from sneaking, cold and unpleasant in to collars.
The break comes past, 2nd lap. 8 laps remaining. Rear wheels spinning up the hill, flailing around like landed fish, teeth well and truly buried in handlebars.
Image by HughMcManus
Dirt, mud, sweat and steam. All come trudging past. Each lap, the bunch significantly smaller. Riders Retired from the race starting to line the roadside, cheering on those brave (silly) enough to continue to grit it out. On and on and on. From my point of view, The feedzone an easy one. The climb is so slow that I have time to take orders as my riders approach, gel?water?juice? Which flavour? Ok got it!
Lap after lap. Each time significantly less riders coming up the hill. Still the 2up breakaway trudges on. The gap sitting between 1min45 and 1.03 each time the bunch give chase, more riders are spat out of the back, still the rain pummels on. News of a bad crash comes in, and we wait at the sidelines with baited breath, hoping there are no season finishing injuries.
The boy is awake now, snug and wrapped against me, coats zipped up over both of us, him clapping each time the riders pass with an enthusiastic squeal that only a 14 month old could muster on such a miserable day! A brief reprieve from the rain, long enough for the road to go from river to stream before it is driving down again. Cold. Sideways. Miserable.
At last, riders come slipping up the hill for a final time. Less than 30 finishers from a start list of 65. Some victims of crashes, others falling foul to potholes, or sheer exhaustion.
Today was a race for men. Tough, determined men. Well done to all those that finished! X
Header image courtesy of Hugh McManus