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06/08/2014 - JOHN LEITCH's HOG HILL TALE FROM THE BUNCH

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TALE FROM THE BUNCH

 

Race report from one of the smaller fish, a rider who is more often struggling at the back than lining up at the front. John’s race experiences reflect ‘how it is’ for many of those individuals who roll up on the start-line time after time with little or no chance of winning… but who come back just the same.

 

Today I’m at Hog Hill. It could be one of my better races as some of the big fish should be away at Portdown. I am yet to master the technique of getting myself into the on-line entry world… I typically get a flashing box saying ‘hard cheese’.

 

Do it sooner says my IT adviser who shall remain anonymous.

 

That said, after the previous ‘Hoggenberg’-style race at Hog Hill (with me getting seriously dropped on the whole-circuit laps) I knew this would be hard… but you never know I might get lucky…. and I do just that.

 

Yes, after 20mins, as we come up the drag to the turn with organiser  Fred Little and his 150-decibel hooter announcing ‘one lap to go to the hill climb and the full circuit’ we have two guys out-front, riding steady ahead at a gap of 50m. They are not big shots so no one has been too bothered to reel them in.

 

I must go now, get across to make three. I do and it works and there are three not-big-shots riding ahead of the rest of the field.

 

Only I find that only one of the two is working. Oh lor, I need to help if the guy in the yellow top is just sitting on his wheel.

 

So here I am on the very front, riding into a headwind, up the hill. Will it pay off?

 

I get up the hill but sadly I’m washed away near the top as eight riders ride over and into the horizon. But I press on at full-tilt and I get back on within half a lap. So we are nine.

 

Behind the tally-ho is on and we might get caught again so I do my bits on the front until that risk fades. Eventually I’m right on my limit and I have to sit in…. and I get no abuse. Hello? Terry Devine’s wife must have sprinkled happiness on his Corn Flakes this morning as well as sugar.

 

At 40mins we face the climb for the second time. I’m third-in-line at the half-way point, so couldn’t ask for better than that, but their legs are stronger than mine and by the top I’m surrounded by nothing other than sunshine.

 

Still they might sit up so I spend two laps riding on my own full-on trying to get back in as they don’t seem to be at full gas.

 

Yes, I’m going to do it and I get to within 30m when the man in black gets a call from Cadbury’s as a lady somewhere would like a Milk Tray. It’s all-in-black Dave Brown who does for me, attacking from the back of his group with a passenger on his wheel.

 

The reaction of the rest will shape my race. I’m hoping they sit up. They do so I push closer to the line of four. But no, Pete Constable isn’t letting a free lunch escape that easily so he jumps out from second-in-line and next news there’s a string of four streaming back up to the Milk Tray pair.

 

Game over. I’m easing up and (for the second time) thinking of the bunch somewhere behind when ahead (luckily for me) they shell out a rider. Just the one. It’s that rider in yellow.

 

I make a big heave and get on his wheel. I have a plan. I need to induce him into working as a pair to hold off the bunch behind. That really would be a result.

 

Twenty minutes plus three laps left….. surely we’ll not survive. Hog Hill is all bends and loops and you get glimpses of your chasers about three times each lap. I see Dave Woods leading the charge behind.

 

I’m 69 and I’ve never ever beaten Dave Woods. I tell my legs that but the message coming back up the line is not too hopeful.

 

I’m doing big chunks of the work (in my opinion). Each lap I put the man in yellow on the front for the worst 50m where we have a stiff headwind but in return I do big long sections where there is side wind so I think he’s getting a good deal.

 

We’re holding on but they are ever-closer.

 

Suddenly at just half-a-lap to go we see two guys ahead almost track standing (I should explain that they are the race winners.. as they were a couple of laps ahead). I ride through the middle and ignore them. They are the big fish on a different planet. My piranha today is called Dave and he’s getting closer.

 

I’m on the front all the time now and the man in yellow isn’t behind me. I’ve not attacked him so I’m sad not to see him glued on. This is it, the last hill. The finish is slap bang on the top. I’m on the little ring and ready to drop through the gears one by one.

 

There’s a flurry so I look back and see the entire chasing bunch on my heels, at 20m perhaps. The gradient is less steep on the left but the distance is shorter on the right. I’m out left. I look across and level with me on the right is Dave Woods. Damn. He’s got the legs. I haven’t. What is amazing to me is that he’s the only one who overtakes.

 

Behind him there’s space. I hold my own in that space. No more invaders.

 

The changing room now and Dave’s happy (well he always is). It seems that our bacon was saved (well part-saved) because only two of the following bunch were working, so we were effectively two against two for 20mins. I like the thought of that. So there you go, even the low life has its day sometimes.

 

 

John Leitch, Redhill CC

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