Am I too close to the front? Yeah, there’s a long way to go in this thing. Only takes one of the leaders to swing off and I’m in the breeze. Way too soon. Need to ease back and keep the matches dry. I don’t have that many to begin with these days; Father Time is catching up with these knobbly old unshaven legs. Ten seconds of soft pedalling and, perfect, I’m back to about tenth which suits me just fine. A quick swig from my bidon, remembering for the umpteenth time I really need to clean the mould out of it next week. How are other lads looking? There’s Terry, spinning easily, good position as he is every week. Can’t see Rick but I know he’s back there somewhere, tucked in, riding smart with the usual Sunday morning suspects, waiting for their moment to strike. But that’s still 15 minutes away, three laps at least. The calm before the storm. It’s a strange yet familiar time in the bunch. The optimists seem to have finally, mercifully, given up their attacks as the resignation of yet another bunch kick sinks in. It’s quiet, no talking, no braking, just the hypnotic sound of spinning wheels and rubber on tarmac. Two laps to go and the anxiety rises a notch. You can sense riders beginning to fret about their positions, some focussed on improving, others desperate to stay where they are. If only it were that simple. The handling gets progressively sketchier as the bell draws nearer, small gaps suddenly seem larger than before, worth exploring. Squealing brakes and profanities leave us all in no doubt: it’s time to be on high alert. The moves begin. An attack! Quickly closed down. Another! And another! Two riders sneak away, not by much, but enough to warrant attention at the front. The gap grows as the chase momentarily stalls. ‘Is anyone paying attention?’ I curse to myself. Is anyone going to do anything? This is a critical moment, goddammit. We’ve been working too hard to let this slip away now. I look left, then right. No movement. Fuck. This is it. On the spur of the moment I change gears, rising in the saddle and surging forward, knowing my own chance of winning this race is now going backwards as fast as I’m moving ahead. Others jump on my wheel, thankful no doubt for the chauffeur-ride back to the front of the race. ‘That’s okay’, I think to myself, after all I’m usually one of them. But not today. As we pass the bell, the two cheeky rabbits ahead of us are now well within striking distance, their lead is evaporating and they know it. 100 metres later and they sit up and I breathe a sigh of relief, job done, as the snaking bunch speeds past me, one by one. I’m well and truly cooked and, with no time to recover, the best I can hope for is to hang on until the end. Alas, I don’t. Rolling across the line I learn my good friend, Terry, strong as ever, has found his way to podium for what seems like the millionth time, but he can’t quite crack that elusive first win. As for the winner? He’s some old bloke who used to be a gun back in the day, and is still as wily as a fox. Chapeau to him. Chapeau to us all. Hopefully we’ll be doing this again very soon, in the real world, rather than just in words.