‘If you want to race get a number!’

‘If you want to race get a number!’ A Ritz rebel insult thrown at half wheelers, show offs and those unhappy with the compromise to the group.

To a novice in his fourth year of owning a bike (even as a kid) it didn't mean much. Bike racing was for the elite, you had to be all sorts of special things, superfast, super fit and it obviously took a lifetime to learn.

Riding with people like Collins and a few other Ritz lads who had raced at a high level gave me an interest and I watched a few races.  It looked hard and scary but the riders were a bit more normal, not all supermen.

Then 3RT started and the answer ‘I'm 48, I can't do that’ to ‘why don't you have a go’ didn't wash and I joined and had a go.

Tameside 4th cat only, 17th April 2012. Clueless, no idea what I was doing, signing on, pinning a number on with shaking hands, lining up near the back of the field, trying to look like I should be there, checking everyone else out.

They all looked fit, fast and young and confident.  Bit of a briefing, whistle and BOOM!

Heart rate jumps to god knows what, clip in, sprint, 200m behind on a bit of elastic after the first hairpin, eyes watering with adrenaline, fear and effort I try to find a rhythm but am soon on my own.

 Assuming I am dead last I decide to keep going, see what happens.  No one is laughing at me, in fact no one is paying me any attention at all apart from the 3RT boys who have stayed to watch and encourage me.

I keep going, the group are gaining so I start worrying about what to do next, how do I let them by, it's not very wide.

I get caught on the straight, they go through easy enough but I can't believe how fast they fly by, head drops a bit but I can see another group on the road so decide to make sure they don't lap me and rode to the finish with a sense of achievement, not embarrassment.

20mph average, max 29mph, average heart rate 164, all the power I had (and as we all know nothing is real without stats) plus I was nowhere near last.

Transformed, club rider to racer, nothing special needed, just encouragement and a have a go attitude.

My palmares:

2012 raced 5 times in  at Tameside, never managed a group finish but got a 10th and a point.

2013, raced 19 times at Tameside and Dishforth.  3 Sovereign TT to see what that was all about.  Got 6 points but was always involved and had loads of close group finishes.  You need to learn how to win if you can’t just ride away.

I’ve started to learn and understand what's going on.  Missed my last three races after crashing, a real racer.

2014 three goals, get promoted to 3rd cat by June, learn some race-craft and have a crack at road racing.  All while maintaining a cycle, work, life, family balance.

You’ll also have a few things to explain to your partner...that a bike race is not the same as a bike ride so it doesn't count.  Also if you are going to race you have to train and that is not the same either but you will still need to do bike rides for relaxation.

Is it hard? Yes. Is it fast? Probably, depends who's in it. Is it intense? Oh yes. Is it addictive? Totally.

Is there room for improvement? Loads. Will I train for it now? With a passion. Is it dangerous? Little bit but you won't be hit by a car. Am I too old? no way. Am I glad I had a go? More than I could explain.

So...  If you want to race, get a number!

Brendan Devlin, 3RT & Ritz Rebel