RIDER OF THE MONTH – SEPTEMBER
This is story of Rod Fountain, September’s Rider of the Month!
Here’s my entry to ‘rider of the month’. For last year’s event I’d recently joined an amateur race team called Team Citi-Thaioil. It was one of my first big races for them and so I didn’t put up a fight when Jim, our team boss, decided to enter us all in the Open class rather than our age category. I was feeling fit and thought it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d only raced age category before (40-49) and so lining up as the sun was climbing in the sky for the 10:30 start not only did it feel hotter, but the competition looked a bit firey too!
I looked around and knew that Konstantin Fast would win, since I’d seen him at other events. I was hoping that I could finish around mid-pack with those fast riders and whilst the thoughts were going through my head I saw Andy Schleck on the start line, but luckily he was there to start us off, not race against us. I suddenly began to feel a little out of my depth as Andy set us off but it was too late by then: we were rolling.
The course is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever raced, before or since, but sadly there wasn’t much time to take in the scenery. Konstantin was off, never to be seen again and so it was my mission to stay with the chasing group. With my team mates Nathan and Noel around me I began to feel a little more confident and as the first lap finished we all breathed a sigh of relief: ‘one down’ we though, two to go. If the pace stayed like that then it wouldn’t be a problem.
But racing is racing and those Open class legs, pounding like jack-hammers all around me began to do what younger legs do best, and pedal hard. Really hard. Half way around the second lap, with the sun now high in the sky I began to feel the hear in more ways than one. The attacks became frequent and they all needed covering. Sadly, for me as much as them, my team mates got caught on the wrong end of a split leaving me 9th man in the group that was behind Konstantin who was off in the distance. Lined out down the fast descents the speeds were well over 60kph and I was wishing I had a 53 on the front rather than a 50. ‘Another lap of this is going to hurt. Really hurt’ I thought. But, I’d trained for it and trained hard and whilst I wasn’t keen or able to drive on the front, I took some turns to show I wasn’t just a passenger.
On the last lap, and up the climb through the field of yellow flowers I really felt like I was in a small break-away in the tour, just like Andy Schleck! The heat was getting out of control at this point and I was out of water. I’looked down at my white, European arms, and they were slick with sweat and looked dark in the burning sun. This is tough racing, I thought to myself, but with a small descent at the top of this climb I’m one hurdle nearer to the end. But of course one hurdle nearer the end meant that more last-minute attacks would come and would need covering. I thought I was hurting on the climb but that was nothing compared to what was to come.
Down parst the railway carriages for the last time and into the fast turns the speeds hit over 70kph before the U-turn at the end. Predictably, the 9 of us came out of there cautiously, trying to conserve the last drop of energy until the last few hundred meters. But somebody went earlier than expected and the 1km chase was on. At any given point I was at the front, middle and back of the group, fighting for both position and breath. I was flying the colours for Team Citi-Thaioil and wanted to do them proud. 300m to go and I was thinking a top 5 was within my grasp. But right on cue, the big guns un-corked their sprints and I watched that top 5 slip away, coming in last in our group but 10th overall.
A minute later I was on my back, bike propped against a tree and was heard saying ‘no more bikes.’. That’s when a fellow rider who I’d been racing with said ‘Until the TTT tomorrow, you mean’.
A year has passed since that race and I have butterflies in my stomach just thinking about this year’s event. I’ve raced a lot for the team in the last year, and won a few too, but I still maintain that the Bangkok Bank Open is the hardest race I’ve ever done.
And yep, I’ve entered Open again!