Malliot Blanc Column by Toby Miles - Britain’s chaotic road races
PUBLISHED: 17:01 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 19 June 2018
Read Toby Miles’ Malliot Blanc Column as the 18-year-old aspiring professional cyclist explores the more calamitous side to British road racing.
British road racing isn’t the organised chaos of the professional version. It’s just chaos.
Commentators have moaned of too much organisation and not enough chaos in the Tour de France. I’d suggest they bring their cameras to a village hall on a Sunday morning.
Behind the scenes access would be immersive. Watch as competitors stumble from the toilets, choking on the impossible stench made by nervous racer’s stomachs, and riders awkwardly struggling into their race gear in small cars.
Observe the reserve riders - who rely on racers not turning up to get a place - become incredulous as they’re refused their number with the start rapidly approaching and their window for warming up shrinking.
As the race rolls out of the car-park and into the neutralised section, watch as riders scramble to follow the lead car - whose operator has no concept that bikes go slower on hills.
Once the flag drops, viewers can experience the hair raising art of not having a head on collision with a car.
The camera helicopter could capture each last minute dive onto the left side of the narrow lane, as the race referee screams threats of disqualification from the following car.
Camera motorbikes could capture riders who have punctured attempting to be drafted back to the bunch in the manner so smooth looking on TV. Instead, a debacle ensues, with the rider being left behind on hills and slowed down on descents, never to regain contact with the bunch.
Cycling fans’ thirst for uncontrolled racing would be quenched with the broadcasts of amateur racing. Once a breakaway is out of sight, nobody knows the time gap.
Time gaps come from the following car’s megaphone - which only the riders who are suffering at the back can hear - or muffled from the roadside.
These spark rare conversation. ‘What’s did they say?’ ‘I heard 32-seconds.’ ‘I thought it was 56.’ Everyone continues, hoping the break is just around the corner.
In my race this weekend, I was left baffled when I looked down and saw not the six I expected but 16 riders about one minute ahead. I’d not even noticed 10 riders bridge across to the leaders.
Despite the mishap, I completed the 86-mile race amongst a talented field in a respectable top half finish.
Although it would be amusing, it’s probably best TV stays with the pros.
There’s something a little more interesting about watching the world’s best smash across France. That’s what I’ll be doing in July, when the world’s biggest bike race begins.