Finchley Criterium – March 1st 2008 , Hillingdon Circuit
Blimey girls, it was windy… and frankly so was I – my previous four races (and a trophy!) were no preparation for a day like this. So there was me, Ed Packard and Richard Jerome, all with the new Willesden kit on. With legs freshly shaved, we really looked the part. Although only a spectator, Richard Cooper also looked the part; he, too, was sporting the new Willesden kit and had also shaved his legs. It’s possible to sustain quite nasty injuries waving a white hanky from the side-lines, apparently.
Richard Jerome was nowhere to be seen for the pre-race pep-talk, however. He’d gone up to fiddle with the photo-finish camera, looking evil and sniggering like Muttley. All the racers lined up for the three o’clock start like a flock of exotic birds in coloured lycra. The De Ver boys looked like big yellow canaries; remind me not to join their club. And off we went – down the hill, round the sharp bend, up the other hill, round the other bend… then the wind hit us like a sharp smack in the face. We all but stopped dead. The big canaries fluttered about a bit and the Cambridge Schoolboy Team choked on their gobstoppers. We huddled together for warmth and shelter. This was how it was for the whole race – up, down, up, down, SMACK.
To make the hour zip past that little bit quicker, there was a side competition to see who could be the quickest and hardest on the brakes. Any significant speed could also be lost through heavy swerving. Our own Ed Packard was particularly good at this manoeuvre; “Willesden!!!” they shouted, admiringly. I soon got the hang of it all, and on one lap braked so hard I was out the back before you could shout “Mine’s a large one!”. I had a job to catch up with everyone else and hang on, but I lifted my game a little when I heard Chris (“Jumbo”) James shouting encouragement. I was glad he wasn’t on his bike and able to give physical help (NB: the last time Jumbo gave me “physical help”, I almost ended up in hospital).
The last lap was odd: a group in the middle of the bunch went for a lie-down. I was too surprised to stop and join in, and I’m not sure I would have been welcome. With six boys writhing around on the grass, however, I knew I wouldn’t be last and decided to make a final push (I couldn’t call it a sprint ) for the line. I’m pleased I did because I beat compulsive trainer ,Mike Diggins.
YES….I BEAT MIKE DIGGINS! I DID!
Then it was back to the green hut for tea and cake and clapping and cheering and admiring the grass stains on various riders’ lycra pants. Richard Jerome had sneaked back up to have a look at the photo-finish camera again. Ed said how Richard enjoyed helping with computer-based electronic equipment. We all looked the other way.
The prize-giving was a masterpiece of Willesden cunning and contrivance: Richard managed to make himself 4th and copped £15; I embarrassed the Finchleys into rustling up a First Lady prize of a lovely white base-layer AND a kiss. It looks lovely on . Thanks Finchley ! Ed got the best prize of all, however, because I let him ride down the Uxbridge Road with me. So, apart from the injured cyclist who was carted off in the ambulance , we all had a really jolly day!
Jayne (AKA Bunty B.)