After training hard all summer and having a few goes at the club 10 at Cuckney, I decided I was no longer going to be a complete embarrassment and took the plunge. I joined the CTT and entered my first proper ‘open’ time trial.
Team Swift 10 mile TT – course V718
If you haven’t tried a time trial, or perhaps only been to the friendly and pretty low key Cuckney events, it would be easy to get intimidated at your first open time trial. I have begged, borrowed and stolen a few bits of kit in the last month or so but there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of expensive, shiny and wallet witheringly expensive specialist equipment on show. Turning up on a semi-converted road bike puts you slightly on the back foot amongst a world of full carbon disc wheels and go faster aero calf guards. It’s hard not to stare.
My own investment in a top dollar skinsuit (castelli - obvs) backfired slightly when I was utterly unable to affix my race number. Indeed, the application of skin suit and rubber aero socks had me out of breath and breaking sweat on what was a very warm morning and turned out to be possibly more of a challenge than the race itself. Luckily the old lady who had parked next to me was more than happy to assist, volunteering to peel down my suit and stick her hand down my back to end my contortions and muttered expletives. Although not everyone was prepared to go to such lengths to make friends, I did chat with a few people beforehand which eased the nerves a bit given I was the only B&DCC entrant in the field.
As it was my first go and I didn’t have a previous official time I was placed in the ego destroying but perhaps aptly titled ‘Slowest Riders’ event. A field of 113 novices, rank amateurs and total bandits therefore assembled to do battle on the M/A63 dual carriageway (or the sinisterly codenamed ‘V718’ to the TT initiated). A similar amount of properly fast guys would be going after we’d shown them how it was done.
Whilst noted as a ‘fast course’ by time trialling aficionados in the club, I had been genuinely concerned about the downside of day tripping cars, Polish trucks and National Express coaches which I anticipated barrelling past me at close quarters. For the most part, my fears proved unfounded; although there were a couple of incidents during the race. Well marshalled and with a big field, by the time I was on the course, most drivers were pretty wary of the brightly coloured shrink wrapped MAMILS. They seemed to accept the few seconds delay they were forced to endure before arrival into the glamourous and booming metropolis of Hull with reasonable grace.
Although I had brought my turbo trainer (and it wasn’t stopping plenty of other people) there was no way I could take myself seriously enough to warm up on it in the car park. A quick whizz round the local roads and up to the start was enough for me. My heart rate had already been raised by the exertions with my skin suit. I timed it well and after a couple of minutes to settle down and make sure the gaffer tape sticking the visor to my third hand pointy hat was secure, I was able to focus on what I wanted to achieve. I wanted a ‘21’ which would be a PB of about 45 seconds over my Cuckney times.
Held securely by the pusher, counted down and off. Starting at the top of the slip road the speed was immediate and shocking. I was aiming to hold 300 to 320 watts and as I sped down the dual carriageway on smooth, sexy new tarmac this power meant I was flying along at bang on 30mph for the first four miles. It felt amazing. This is why I would recommend giving a TT a go to anyone. A couple of other slip roads were passed but no traffic joined and only the odd gust of wind from the left required any concentration to be applied to not disappearing under the wheels of an Eddie Stobart rather than wattage, cadence and position on the bike.
My achilles heel arrived in what felt like no time in the shape of ‘corners’. I was forced to leave the dual carriageway, cross and re-join the other side via a bridge and double roundabout. The climb up the slip road required a power surge to maintain pace but the roundabouts were big enough to navigate without touching the brakes. A plunge back down the other side evened things up and I was halfway at an average speed of 29.1mph.
I’d heard the way back was harder due to the ‘Welton Drag’ which was a supposedly uphill section between 6 and 8 miles. Maybe it was the psychology of expecting it to be tough but I was flying and enjoying myself and hardly slowed. I could also see both my minute man and my two-minute man starting to roll a little in the saddle up ahead and this helped me to keep the power on as I gobbled them up on the slight incline. The second pass was the hairiest moment as some idiot driver refused to wait for me to pass the slip road he wanted to exit. He barged past, cut across in front but was then forced to slam his brakes on to avoid splattering into the guy I was closing in on rapidly.
Average speed had nevertheless fallen slightly into the 28s and the last two miles were a bit of a blur of screaming quads and steamed up visor as I made sure I emptied the tanks. I knew a PB was nailed on but as the last half mile dipped down I got faster and faster and stopped the clock at 20 minutes and 40 seconds – an average speed of 29.032mph (per the official results). It later transpired that this was good enough to be crowned 6th fastest of the 113 so called ‘Slowest Riders’. Pfft.
So - a good result; just the small matter of the half hour ride back to the HQ. No easy feat on quivering legs with sweat sluicing into my stinging eyes. Basking in the afterglow of my amazing achievement, a young lad on his warm up congratulated me on my PB and asked about the weather conditions. ‘I’m hoping for an 18,‘ he said, cheerfully and skillfully skewering me on my second rate success. There was no danger of my head swelling so much that I would not be able to remove my borrowed pointy hat. I’ll get him next year. Maybe.