So the big cycling event in the Dubai calendar rolled around again with much anticipation, strategising and a little bit of preparation. This was to be my second Spinneys 92 Challenge and also for many of the group of born-again-cyclists that I ride with, it was the same or even their first.
This years event was 95km of mostly public roads, with the start and finish at Dubai Autodrome. The route took us out the Al Qudra road, then down and around the marina for a few loops, before heading back to the Autodrome for a lap
The joy of cycling is that every time you get on a bike, you seem to learn something new or improve a little and at the build up rides we learned to use some of the bigger teams energy to tow us around at a faster pace than we could normally sustain with our own group. As a result, the build up rides saw most of our regulars seeded in Group B which on its own seemed to be a pretty good effort.
As the day approached we had a couple of choices to make about who we would ride with on the day and how to get the best race pace. As a member of the Emirates Road Cycling Club (ERCC), I was invited to join in with the team effort and having seen that some of the “mighty engined” team members would be doing a lot of the leg work, a decision was made to try and tag on the back of them for a while.
Race day (it’s not a race it’s a challenge, yeah seriously) dawned and we got there nice and early to secure our space on the Dubai Autodrome’s grid, with over 1800 entries, a little chaos was expected. As we got organised, a sea of red ERCC kits gradually gathered up towards the front of the B seeded group ready for the off. Been on the Autodrome grid a few times before, but rarely with so little horsepower to play with, the feeling of nerves was much the same.
Just before the gun our team Capt mooted that we would head off at a steady pace until we all got formed up as a group. I took this with a pinch of salt, as Richard’s idea of a steady pace is my flat out. Sure enough at the drop of the flag, we shot off at full tilt for half a lap of the ‘drome, before exiting to the Dubai roads. Heart rates soared to unsustainable levels within a couple of minutes, just trying to sit in the draft of the quick lads.
Twenty odd minutes in, still clinging on for dear life to the front group, Richard commented on what a great break we had made, BREAK who ever mentioned making a break!! Sure enough we had split from the bulk of Group B and were strolling along at a very nice 40+ pace.
The next two hours were a blur of cranking it out and trying to, hang on, rest, get to the front of the pack before corners and roundabouts, so as to not get dropped off the back on the next acceleration out of the corners. Thankfully corners and lots of riders moving around don’t bother me much, due to racing motorbikes in my youth, however anticipating the concertina effect was the biggest challenge to staying in the game.
Moments were had tho’, a lapse in concentration led me to “feeling up” another riders rear tyre with my front, thankfully only resulting in a minor wobble. The worst moment happened when a cone was kicked back under my front tyre, which was no big deal for me as it transpired so quickly, but the curses from behind were not complimentary. Just hope no-one suffered too badly, as he who hits the cone last and stays on, must take the blame! Accidents and incidents did happen, many as a direct result of the road furniture. As one of our Swedish cycling luminaries labeled it, Le Tour des Cônes.
All things considered, the race played out beautifully for me and the kilometers clicked away, still hanging on to the wheels of the quick lads, as we ate up other higher seeded groups and the elite riders who were actually racing. Out of no-where the approach roads to the Autodrome appeared, with the final few kilometers held round the race circuit. As the group accelerated up the first hill of the ‘drome, my legs cried enough, so I jumped on a moderate paced wheel and got towed for a couple of Km’s, saving up for a final thrust across the line.
The EKRCC did brilliantly with many of the riders coming in Top 20, however some of the less hard working riders from other teams stole it at the post, guess that’s racing. My own efforts resulted in finishing 105th and 20th in my age category. Speedwise a 39.4kph average, about 7.5kph quicker than last year, just shows what an old bu**er can do when using other peoples energy!
Our normal riding group did pretty well too;
- Squeak the ex-MTB’r, top 40 finish
- Zozza, almost as good, just 3 seconds behind
- Furry new shoes, not happy with 37.8kph average
- Tacker, stopped making excuses and was fast
- Baldy, great average, 1 hour quicker than last year
- Princess, fast and looked annoyingly fresh
- DMC, top 20 female, EPIC
- Margarita Queen, great first race ever!
- Green Flash, will he ever turn up?
And so to the post race wash up, much discussion was had about who went fastest from our (non-ERCC) group, as it was close and there was enough contradicting data from Garmins and Strava to cause serious debate. None of that was important tho’ as just when I thought I had bragging rights on Strava’s suffer score with a pretty awesome Extreme 238, however DMC pipped me at the post with an EPIC 270. Obviously just like my school reports stated, must try harder!
All said and done, though it was a great day, all our regulars made it back without incident, although unfortunately one of the ERCC riders picked up a dislocated collar bone, after having a cone moment. Huge thanks to all the supporters, volunteers and organisers, not to mention the big engined domestiques from the ERCC team for dragging me around.