Up early the only fussing around I made was which of the three cameras I own do I take? This caused a great deal of deliberation and eventually I opted for the Sony RX100. Of course I need not have bothered but more of that later.
The journey to Excel was not half as bad as I feared and door to door was about an hour. After collecting my thoughts I headed off for the Excel itself. This is quite vast and one half had the bike show while the other had the boat show. On my way in I saw the beaming smile of the co-founder of the Brompton Club Mick B.
I soon met up with Mark W and his pit technician (who later joined the fold and bought his very own 2013 Brompton for a bargain). We were allowed to get on to the track and put down a few laps. I leapt at the chance and headed out.
The track was fast! It also required concentration in the bends - one of which was formidable! There were all sorts out. Some folders like us and a collection of different bikes being tested by customers being wooed in to a possible purchase. After 5-6 laps I was sweating and feeling the pace. I returned to the pit. The corners were treated with a fine sandpaper material which provided greater traction. This was a welcome addition as I found it all bordering on terrifying.
Soon my partner in crime iCrazyBee arrived and thankfully I had someone to tone down the garishness of my own outfit. Retiring for a spot of luncheon, talk turned to the track and the best way to approach it. Back in the pits, before long we were joined by Laurence, Joe, Alasdair and Monskton-Monsk (who had flown in that very a.m from Spain)!
Now dear reader I have to say that I am not proud of the next few sentences I write. It is nothing short of quite shameful. The ideas of Social Darwinism surfaced in the pit. I began to look at my fellow folding bike racers and weigh them up, deciding whether or not I felt I could beat them...whether they posed a threat. You see, it had for a microsecond become a game of survival of the fittest and I was trying to ascertain whether I would place higher! This is quite shameful, I know.
With our race an hour away we went out to the bike show bit. I did take some photos but to be blunt, my heart wasn't really in looking around at anything - even Brompton's! Perhaps I was anxious but I wanted to get back out on the track while I could and that's what we did. After several more laps I was feeling a little better.
|500m and 10x laps. The Hairpin on the left!|
The moment then arrived. The briefing. Given instructions we picked a number out of a bag which represented our start position on the grid. Ten laps on a fast, 500m course. Bikes were folded and positioned. We moved back some 30 metres to the start line and waited. My mouth went dry. Strange thoughts raced through my mind. Had I turned the GoPro on my bike to record? Would nerves conspire to make me fumble the fold? Was my tie straight? Did I brush my teeth this morning? The flag was raised, countdown from three and then we were off.
Mark got a great start and raced into the distance. I did okay and managed to pass 5-6 riders who did not pass me again. The crowd was tremendous and I could hear their shouts - some of which were directed at me. I could hear the race commentator mentioning sartorial elegance and orange. I was going as fast as a dared.
Coming out of the hairpin on lap three, I adopted my usual out of the seat and driving forward but wobbled violently. Thankfully I managed to recover. I got behind one of the racers I had seen at the Nocturne and Brompton World Championships. I knew he was fast so I stuck behind his wheel for most of the race. His intention was merely to get in to the final. I know this as on lap eight he opened the afterburners and was off. I didn't see him again.
With the checkered flag, for me the race was over. I thought I had done well but as for the final - well there was always the Nocturne in the summer. We waited around and before long a lady came over, confirmed my name and number and informed me that I was in the final. This is what I referred to at the start of this blog. I was stunned. Unfortunately, iCrazyBee and Laurence didn't make it. Mark, Joe and Alasdair joined me in the final.
The final was slightly over an hour away but surprisingly the time flew by. Before long we were having another briefing, picking more numbers out of a bag and positioning our folded bikes on the start line. We were off again.
I was so pleased at getting in to the final and still tired after the first heat that I eased the pace - at least I thought I did. I wanted to enjoy it and get round in one piece. Some of the riders were incredibly fast. I suspect that if there had of been timing for this race I might have gone faster in the final than in the heats? Luckily the rumoured 15 laps for the final stayed a rumour and after 10 we were finished.
There was talk from some of a best dressed prize. One fellow rider said that he heard the race commentator talk very favourably about my attire. I did not win any prizes but take some satisfaction in knowing my outfit was certainly noticed. In fact I was the muse for several people working at the Nocturne and a few photographers. Perhaps I will appear in one of the cycling magazines?
I really surprised myself today as I genuinely didn't expect to get in to the final. Perhaps all the weight saving on the bike paid off. In addition to having lost some weight I certainly felt fitter - perhaps this all worked in my favour. Even though my beloved Orange Brompton wasn't there (much to the disappointment of some) my little Raw Lacquer S2L served me very well. I think I am going to keep the Kojak tyres on it as a little reward.
The IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race is a fantastic event and yet again it was well organised and great fun! I hope that in the summer I can do it all again.