My relationship with handicap racing is a relationship that features the odd moment of glory, with a whole lot of domestic violence in between. And like a battered spouse I keep going back for more, you know, because it might just work out this time.
My first handicap races were in Bendigo, at the Madison Weekend. I'd had a win in a scratch race, and was feeling pretty confident. The outcomes quickly destroyed this confidence. Pretty much my whole family had come out to watch, and my brother Miguel captured the moment perfectly when he informed me that I had just been "swallowed up like a hamburger". Because I'm still something of a newcomer in this game, I generally get a pretty decent mark, which only really works ok until the backmarkers come through like a steamtrain, express to the finish, not taking any passengers.
I say that I generally get a decent mark, but that's only generally true. My first road race was a handicap. By the time the road season rolled around I was riding in A grade at on Tuesday nights, and someone, somewhere obviously equated success on the track to success on the road. I was with a pretty fierce group, and got dropped after about fifty kilometres, suffering some fragrant humiliation in the process.
Occasionally, though, things work out. If there's enough distance between your group and the next; if everyone in your group is prepared to work their arses off; if the groups behind you aren't particularly well organized; if you get a good push; if you're lucky, then you may be able to stay away. And this was the case in the Melbourne Cup on Wheels on Saturday night. I was with a bunch of guys I knew, and who I knew would be able to keep the pace pretty high. There was forty metres between my group and the next. And we worked our arses off. With about two hundred metres to go my training partner Joel 'Chopper' Leonard came past. I expected him to be leading a train of Olympians, Six-Day Racers and World Champions, but they were nowhere to be seen. So I hit it. So did the two guys in front of me. I saw Chopper cross the line, his fists in the air, and must've sat up a little bit, which allowed Barry Forde to pip me for forth by a tire. Still, fifth in the Melbourne Cup on Wheels is ok by me. Even if it means I might not stay in the frontmarkers group for much longer.