I didn't manage to get at the front of the bunch in either the qualifying heat or the final race. The Le Mans start is great fun and for the final they extended the run distance. The run wasn't exactly a sprint with 39 other competitors in front of me and I wore my mountain biking shoes with cleats and metal studs so I was a bit worried about slipping over. Next time I need to be more assertive and get close to the front, especially for the final.
2. Try and remember where your bike is parked. This avoides any backtracking and head-on collisions with irate tie-wearing runners
The organisers randomly hand out paper tickets to state the pen in which your bike needs to be placed and folded. Some competitors turned their bike's rear lights on to help pick them out. I could spot my Brooks sprung saddle and the lime green brake cables I fitted recently which was good as there were many similar looking Bromptons. Other racers had different bikes, including 'The Flying Dutchman', the Raleigh elite who was on a limited edition carbon fibre Dahon.
3. Ignore the thousands of laughing bystanders. This is serious. Put on your best race face
OMG there were 12,000 specatators and it was being filmed by Channel 4! My knees were knocking. One of the Brompton factory riders decided to have a lie down on the start line which was a bit of a distraction and helped to calm my nerves.
4. Sartorial considerations are of prime importance. Looking good is essential. Flip-flops or flapping flares, however, are a no-no.
I chose to wear my patriotic outfit which I wore at last year's world championship with a slight modification to the jacket using safety pins to keep it buttoned up. The Brompton company MD complimented me on my attire and suggested I also needed a red, white and blue matching Brompton. I must follow up on this, assuming he is going to gift it to me - and I need to specify it to be a 6-speed as the 2-speed gearing is a disadvantage in both the world championship and the Nocturne.
5. Fast assembly - which you have been practising like a squaddie on rifle drill - is a must. Do not forget to tighten the handlebar clamp, or your world will go very wobbly, very quickly
I had been practising the speedy unfold for the last two weeks with my daughter timing my efforts and I'd got it down to under ten seconds. All of the practising went out of the window in the qualifying race where I forgot to raise the saddle, found I couldn't unfold the bike and ended up doing everything in series rather than the two handed, multi-unfold I had practised. I had to make up a few places during the 3-lap qualifying as a result but ended in 10th place securing a position in the final.
At the start line in the final I went through the unfold in my head several times: raise seat; clamp; two hands to pull up bars and twist unfold, then tighten both clamps simultaneously; mount bike. It went according to plan and I got away at the same time as the 'lying down' factory rider. Once up to speed I checked that the clamps were secure before getting to the first of the two technical bends.
6. Sprint away, find a well-covered gentleman to follow five laps, then pop out from behind his ample behind and wave at the crowd. Winner!
This is where it all went wrong. At the start line of the final there was a bit of confusion as to how many laps we were riding. Previous year's races had been shortened because of slippage in the evening's timetable but the Commissaire said we were going to be doing 5 laps.
As I sprinted from the start I focussed on the riders ahead and concentrated on getting around the first two technical corners. I had practised them in the warm up and qualifying race and knew the racing line without touching the brakes. I took the first corner perfectly but heard two riders behind me crash and I ran a little wide on the 2nd corner, where I'd seen others run into the barriers, but I managed to keep my momentum and honked up the short climb easily. My family were spectating from the top of the climb and they waved their superb home-made banners and shouted encouragement as I passed.
I got into a small group with the (lying down) factory rider and someone riding an orange Dahon and we began working together to reel in riders ahead. I tested the legs of the other two on (what I thought was) the 3rd lap and I was able to outclimb them and distance them a little although they caught me using their gears. I also recalled being able to outsprint the factory rider on the qualifying race so I decided I would sit back in the group on the 4th lap and wait until the 5th lap to attack on the hill, try to maintain a bit of distance and, if required, go for the sprint.
Sadly that didn't go to plan as the the race finished on the next lap and I followed the factory rider over the line and he questioned why I didn't sprint. I hadn't heard the bell being rung on the previous round over the noise of the spectators and had to make do with 16th position.
I did a full lap cool down and soaked up the atmosphere. The Channel 4 camera bike followed me for a bit and I gave a royal wave for a laugh. I hadn't won but I certainly didn't lose and there was no embarrassment. My family were proud of me and I loved being a part of the racing.
It has been great to see my photograph appearing on the many blogs and professional photographer's sites. One of my favourites was taken after the race.