'No 39, that's Kevin Wolff from the Old Portions Cycling Club. Born in 1967 so we know how his parents were celebrating the world cup'.
Thus, this was announced over loudspeaker to the whole of the Sidmouth Tifosi! Not quite Carlton Kirby, but not far off.
Sidmouth was hosting the departure for the Dartmoor stage of the Tour of Britain and the tourist board obviously had some spare budget so they decided to throw a cycling festival into the mix which included a number of town centre crits. Too good an opportunity to miss, being in the area as I was.
If you've ever wondered why this part of the world is known as the Jurassic coast then it's probably because over 40% of the residents are over 65. Some of them were probably around when Sidmouth's town planners in the 18th century submitted planning permission. A set of papers which obviously gave no consideration to criterium racing some 150 years later by building a selection of narrow streets bordering on the anorexic. Great fun for the spectators, rather unnerving for the riders.
Off we go and round and around Sidmouth we went, the 1.3 mile parcours running something like this: Full gas down the esplanade to take abuse from the commentator every three minutes. Scary fast left turn slightly downhill at about 27mph at least four abreast . Narrowly avoid the barriers as the road funnels down into a typical seaside town road lined terraced fishing cottages. Up to the Methodist Church and a super sharp turn left turn through a gap the width of Chris Froome's hips. Nut down the high street into another 90 degree right hander as wide as Quintana is high whilst trying to out manoeuvre two sixteen year old whippets who are trying to past either side. Swerve to miss the cobbles then sprint to get back on a wheel as everyone one else simply rode across the cobbles. Prepare to brake rapidly and steer to around other racers that hit the barriers and are now strewn across the road in positions their bodies didn't know they could pull. Try and get breath back before entering the esplanade where the weak and feeble were mercilessly dropped in the inevitable sprint out of the corner. Repeat for 18 laps while the residents and patrons of Sidmouth look on with faint amusement but happily bang the hoardings at every opportunity.
The pace was utterly brutal and initially getting dropped on the neutralised lap was an indication of things to come. My race came to a conclusion 15 minutes in, when the group I was in splintered due to rapid de-acceleration that occurs when someone in the middle of the pelaton clips the barriers. Not sure how I missed said chap from Bath CC but now condemned to roll round with the back markers to more abuse from the commentator.
City centre crit's = anarchy on a bike, carnage abounds and health & safety is a dirty phrase.
Loved every minute of it.