Mick Ritchie and I raced the masters criterium support race for the Herald Sun Tour in Lygon Street yesterday… sort of.
I had earlier said to Mick that I would not race this course if it was wet. That’s easy to say… but when your all kitted up, registered, number pinned on and virtually on the start line when the rain pours down, it’s a little harder to pull out.
The course contained 3 hard u-turns and 2 ninety degree corners (one left, one right). Funnily, it was the u-turns which caused me so much concern beforehand but the 90 degree corners which caused the trouble during the race.
Everyone was so paranoid about the hot-dog corners that they slowed down almost to a stop at each one. The 90 degree corners however, were set to carry through much more speed and the road was covered in all sorts of those obstacles that, as I grew up learning to ride motorcycles, was taught not to touch in the wet (metal, white lines, black tar, oil patches…).
I went out hard from the start determined to be in the first few riders setting the pace around corners. I ended up on the front and led the bunch around the first u-turn without a problem. I then slowed again to the extreme before taking the first left corner into Grattan Street.
I hit it upright and at a speed I thought was quite reasonable but alas, I was wrong. I crossed a metal plate in the road, lost the front wheel – grabbed it back, lost the back wheel – grabbed it back, then pulled the turn in just in time to clear the median strip on my right.
Geeeeez! It scared the life out of me and put the moz on me for the rest of the race. Gus (6am-ers) and John Fox (Southern Vets) were static observers at that corner and both were absolutely convinced I was down for the count. I can’t believe I kept it upright. A little skill and a lot of luck.
So I sucked it up as best I could and continued. Ciaran Jones and I did the majority of work on the front through the next six laps or so and we managed to stretch the bunch out and take the lead group down to a group of about 8. Rob Crowe (Ridewiser) and a couple of others came through and assisted and the pace stayed high. I still felt pretty good and was riding strong.
On about the 7th lap I had a touch of wheels (still in the wet) with another guy going around the top u-turn. I nearly went down again.
I continued through the next two 90 degree corners which were freakin’ me out each lap at speed in the wet and then my mind took over and forced me to the side of the road where I sat up, rolled around to the start and pulled out.
It’s my second DNF ever and it doesn’t feel good but at least I’ll be in one piece for the Warny and still have all my skin.
Far out. Racing in the wet is not good.
Post Script – Gus late told me that about a lap after I pulled the pin a group of four crashed on that corner and hit the median strip badly. Shocking for those guys of course, but it made me feel a little better about my decision.