domingo, 30 de junio de 2019

Ditchling Devil 2019

The Ditchling Devil is probably the most important event in the Saturday gang calendar.

This year the pace was fairly easy for the first hour. Controled mostly by the mentioned group.

As every year there was a bit of a debate about the first control. Bacon roll or not bacon roll. I dare to say I'm recognised as a strong defender of not bacon roll and keep rolling but this year we agreed on a short stop ("three minutes") to allow bacon lovers to satisfy their gluttony. I was on gels, measuring the carbohydrates I needed in my body. That's how serious this event is.

After what felt to me like an eternal stop we decided to start rolling. Unfortunatelly The Pope was still busy, eating a third bacon roll I can only guess.

By the time he caught with the group (we were softpedaling waiting for him and Will... Kind of) he shauted something too strong to my delicated ears and "attacked" the group.

It was one of those attacks that is not an attack, he just sat in the front and set a pace we were abel to match. Not even close. Away he disappeared.

We climbed Dichling Beacon and we all got to the top. While we were softpedaling waiting for Will. Shaun, Denis and Richard "attacked" in the front leaving Rupert and myself alone.

This "attack" didn't look like an attack either. They just rode a bit faster. Rupert and I were just riding easy counting they'd wait in the T junction with the main road. But they didn't.
And we didn't wait for Will either.

And we took the wrong exit in the first roundabout we found (my fault as Rupert didn't have the route in his device).

Still we managed to close the gap just before starting to climb Devils Dyke.

To my surprise Will was with them. He had made a TY. Legal under the Audax rules but cheeky nonetheless (ps. I was told that, apparently, Will didn't do a TY in that sector, he passed us when we took the wrong exit in the roundabout. Oh well).

By this time (km85) I was finally starting to feel some power in my legs. Seeing The Pope descending as we were climbing fueled my optimism.

We all respected the agreed lunch stop. Pasta and rice pudding can't be skipped. The Pope was there waiting for us.

A group of 7 departed the control. Stayed like that for 20km. But then a gap opened. The Pope, Denis, Richard and Shaun in the first group. Rupert, Mark and myself in the second group.

I was not worried. We had 26km to the next control ("the cake control") and somehow I got to the conclusion they were going to get there just three minutes before us. Three minutes in a control full of cakes is nothing. We agreed on keeping a sensible pace and let it be.

Sure enough we got to the cake control (three pieces for me) and we set off all together again.

At some point Rupert and Mark got droped.

In one descend Richard had a mechanical.

It was down to four of us (The Pope, Shaun, Denis and myself)

I have to confess I was worried about Combe Lane. I knew my companions were stronger than me and I was probably going to be dropped at that climb. I decided not to take a single turn in the front (not that I had taken many before. Race craft they call it).

Combe Lane came and we let The Pope lead the group but not for long. Denis upped the pace and opened a gap. I knew I could follow him but I thought I'd better stay next to The Pope fearing a strong push in the last ramp (the steapest part).

But the ramp was approaching and his pace was even slowing down. I kept my own pace and managed to open a gap.

Denis was softpedaling at the top and so I was. It took some time for the idea to cross my mind.
I got to Denis and asked "Do you want to wait or attack?"

"Lets attack" he answered.

That was all I needed to hear. I moved to the front and upped the pace.

Looked back and saw The Pope and Shaun very close. Kept pushing. Looked back again and I saw the gap opening.

Denis came to the front and gave it another push. So strong I almost regreted my idea. Looked back again and couldn't see them.

An attack from far away. The dream of any racer.

We descended fairly fast but by the time the descend was finishing Shaun was next to us (great descender he is I learnt).

We had a short conversation and agreed to keep pushing it until Esher and wait for The Pope there (The Pope was the clear favourite for that sprint).

We kept the power on. Denis more than anyone. It was hard to just stay on his wheel.

Imagine our surprise when we were approaching Cobham when we saw The Pope in front of us. I first thought that was a true miracle but then realised he too had done a TY (big influence has he left in the group) and had taken a shortcut.

Things were not looking great in my head. The Pope in the group. Denis had just demonstrated he was very strong and I had Shaun regarded as a good sprinter.

The Esher sprint was going to be contested.

First Denis (the most generous rider when a sprint is approaching), then The Pope, then myself and Shaun closing the group. Not bad positioning I thought. Just pay attention in case Shaun goes from afar.

At some point Denis moved to the right and The Pope moved to the front. That could only mean he is feeling strong. My alarms were all over the place.

Denis waited a little bit on the right expecting me to follow The Pope. Not in a million years that would happen. I slowed down and let a gap clear for him to move to the second wheel.
The pace was very slow for this sprint. That's good for me I thought.

As we were approaching the last ramp I was expecting Shaun to jump but it was Denis the one that did the first move.

This is great I thought. I got your wheel.

Not for long. The pace was slow and we were in reach of a sprint so I jumped.

No one followed me.

I took the Esher sprint!!!!

Probably the most important win in my (quite limited) cycling palmares.

We kept a brisk pace to the end.

The Pope claimed he got first to the finish just because he turned right first.

I claimed it was me because I was the first one to cross the line that limits the pub (the best way of wining sprints is deciding the line is where you crossed first).

None of that mattered because we got there before the control had opened. We ordered our pints, the control opened, they convinced me to go for a second pint, Mark arrived and he was the first getting his brevet stamped "wining" Ditchling Devil 2019. My senses numbed by the alcohol I was only fifth (I think).

When we decided to go home The Pope decided to punish me and made me climb Nightingale Lane straight after the pub. My legs hate him, such a great friend....

(apologies for the length of the report but TY needed a full report to have all the information, as impartial as possible, for the after game in our WhatsApp group)

(Just to be clear. Ditchling Devil is an Audax event. Audax is not racing and has nothing to do with racing. No one cares who finishes first, sprints or tactics. All this report is just a joke)

Take care
Javier Arias González

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