On 26th June I had the privilege of being one of the 45 riders lining up on the start line of the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists Road Race Championships in Oxfordshire. This was a superbly organised (by Reading CC) race and divided into 5 year age ranges so, a first for me, I was racing with people a maximum of 4 years youger than I am; a far cry from the British Cycling Road Races where I am, rather hopelessly, competing against many people less than half my age.
My hope had been to hang on to the bunch for the duration of the race. The first lap was sedate enough and I even got lulled into a sense of security. The circuit contained a steep descent from Stoke Row with a sharp bend at the bottom. Although it was a hot summer's day the descent was wooded and the road still wet. I find it hard to hold my nerve when descending (it is probably not helped by being a personal injury lawyer who has had clients whose bicycles have fallen apart underneath them at inopportune moments). My Garmin shows that 37.3 mph was the maximum I mnaged on that descent when the bunch was probably going 45mph. I had therefore to play catch up on the immediately following climb. I managed this twice but the second lap was fast (apparently the fastest of the day) and though I held on it was at a price and I just slipped off the back during a long upward drag on the approach to Nettlebed on lap 3.
I always try to finish a race I have started and before long I was doing a two-up with Paul Burgoine, whom I have known a few years now, and who has also blogged about this race. Initially he was more tired than I was and even suggested I left him (no way - it is no fun doing a road race on your own off the back), then as the remaining laps rolled by I tired and he recovered and then easily dropped me on the last downhill.
We succeeded in our objective in not getting lapped by the field but did not make it onto the list of finishers.
Better reports of the racing can be found elsewhere.
I would encourage anyone over 40 to join the LVRC. It seems to me that as we get to our middle years the need to remain active becomes more important than ever and you can have a good day out even if, like me (at least on my current form and weight), you are pretty hopeless.
It requires a lot of man (and woman) power to put on a road race; there are a lot of volunteers to be very grateful to in our sport. Also it was very decent of the ambulance to stick behind Paul and me, sheltering us from the traffic until the last lap meant that it really ought to be on hand for the sprint.