Raleigh’s flying Dutchman, described by his manager as a formidable Crit racer, describes what happened before the flag dropped in Stoke-on-Trent
The hours before a crit are always pretty nervous. Getting to the race may avoid traffic and gives us plenty of time to get ready, but it also means more edgy hours waiting.
Some tunes from the Raleigh van’s stereo, discussions about what sock length looks best and dirty jokes usually work quite well to kill time.
A couple of hours before the race is when you start to focus, although we will always find some time for some more jokes. I would like to share them with you, but I am afraid that they won’t be published, and if they were, that no one would take us serious anymore.
Anyway, we pin our numbers on with at least eight pins per number. The people without style pull their socks up as high as possible and we ask our mechanic Pete or Ben for the last tiny adjustments on our bikes.
With about an hour and a half to go it is time for the riders briefing, which is all part of the fun that comes with bike racing. We get told how the previous race went through the eyes of the organisers, they give us some specific information about the circuit of the day and what protocol there is for this race.
After this meeting it is time to get the show on the road: the team’s Skoda cars drive to the circuit and the riders check their bikes a final time and head out as well. There is usually just over an hour left to the start of the race.
Start minus 60 minutes
Some of us get a bit quieter than normal, others like to express their nervousness with some more loud banter.
Personally I like to stay as relaxed as possible and chat to a couple of friends on the circuit and wish them good luck. It must be hard work, trying to spot me during the race with speeds of over 55kph.
Before we begin the proper warm up and start sipping on a caffeine-heavy drink, it is time to ride round the circuit a couple of times to check out the course to make sure we know where all potholes, dodgy corners and hot girls are placed.
Going for an easy spin round the circuit is also very good to get an impression of the atmosphere of the day. I have to say we have been positively spoilt with the crowds in this year’s Tour Series.
We all ride our bikes because we love it, and it is amazing to see that lots of people appreciate what we do. Keen cyclists in club outfits, school kids and enthusiastic locals all cheer you on and make you feel like something special.
Unfortunately there is never enough time to give everyone high fives and chat with both friends and strangers on the side, as it is time for the real warm up. The headphones come out, the serious faces appear and we place our bikes on the rollers.
Because the races go flat out from the start, it is very important to be completely warmed up. Twenty minutes on the rollers usually does the trick and we plan to finish the warming up just as the commissaires start to shout that we need to line up. I am always wondering who is more nervous.
A final word from our team managers Eddie and Cherie and then we head to the start. In the final minutes before the race begins we get lined up and then there are the last few moments of waiting before the flag drops.
It’s time to look at all the passionate people on the side of the road.
I close my eyes for a second.
I take a deep breath.
I transform all my nerves into a complete focus.
I’m ready to rock!