Last year I started to get a little lax in writing up race reports (or more accurately my mis-adventures getting in the way of people that know what they are doing!). This year, as we all know, looks VERY grim on the racing front. So I feel very lucky to have at least managed one event this year!
A few years ago I was a member at Beds Road Cycling Club. For one reason or another I drifted away from them. But luckily, through the sheer magic of Facebook, have stayed “connected” to a few folk there. So it was with some interest that I had an alert pop up inviting me to join in an early season TT event they were running. A few messages later established that I didn’t need to be a member, signing on was easy as a guest, and yes I would be most welcome. Nice people!
To put this into some context, out of swimming, cycling and running my only hope of ever getting anywhere is once I’m on my bike. Not the best, but not too shabby on a good day! And I can usually make up quite a lot of ground. But Time Trials are very much unchartered territory for me. Something that I wanted to do more of last year, but net result was one club ‘friendly’ evening race that was a lot of fun, but very much an experiment to prepare the club for possibly hosting an evening series. (I seem to recall I did OK though!).
Sunday 15th March was to be my second Time Trial. Completely unprepared as ever. The extent of my strategy was; turn up on time, don’t fall off, have tea in the club house afterwards.
I did check the weather forecast the day before and concluded this would be dry, but possibly VERY windy. Whilst the course was published, actually checking a map was way too much prep. But I did recall, from years gone by, it could be quite open on the roads near. Cardington. A road bike would be the order of the day…
So the Saturday before, I took my trusty Dogma out for a quick ride to make sure all was well, not having ridden it for several months. All was FAR from well in the drive train and gearing department. The Di2 was very much out of alignment. Skipping, slipping and generally pretty much unrideable. It was OK to get home from a local test ride, but any amount of power through the cranks caused skipping and slipping in most gears other than three. Great. Plan B then, I’ll ride my newly serviced TT bike. It needs more miles and I do love riding it.
In the same way that an aeroplane crash is never due to one issue, this was starting to unfold in a similar way. Luckily I remembered that there is a new(ish) TT rule stating that you have to have a red rear light when racing. There is nowhere to attach such a light to my Felt TT. It has a massive oversized aero seat post (which I love), so I don’t have a band connector. The integrated rear box has no connectors. And there is no real way to use any of the other parts of the frame. I used string… If ever I wanted to look completely NOT Pro…
Next problem arose on the morning of the race. It was bloody windy! The Felt has Zipp 404’s on it (which I didn’t swap out). So not as crazy deep as some folk that turned up with discs and 80mm fronts. But for a very average rider like me the 404’s were PLENTY exciting enough! So much so that I felt extremely tense for maybe 8 miles of 10 and couldn’t bring myself to get on the aero bars. Not comfortable, not efficient and certainly not fast
Have to say I was very impressed with all the facilities available at the club! I scanned my temporary membership card to sign in. There was a live results page projected up on the wall. There was cake 🙂
Smallish field of circa 30 riders. Two of us were guests. I decided to not get a push start (it wouldn’t have helped!!). On a non-windy day it’s a nice course. Certainly one that pays dividends to riders that know it. One small, not serious, climb, on the way out. If you knew it, then you would know that it was more than doable at full tilt, but not knowing it I rode far too conservatively. A few hedges and shelters, which led to proper unsettling cross wind gusts as you came past them. Then for the much discussed Bunny Lane!
There had been much discussion pre-race that this was a puncture waiting to happen. The various lines to be taken. And to be fair I did have a vague recollection from years back that this was a wrecking ground for wheels. And for sure I didn’t fancy trashing my fanciest wheels! From a very cautious pace, I turned into Bunny lane and actually slowed down EVEN more in anticipation. At that point I think a rabbit with the final stages of myxomatosis overtook me (!!) and I thought I perhaps ought to get my arse in gear a little bit! Actually a lot of it had been resurfaced (filled pot holes) and not too much debris really. Certainly have ridden and survived much worse. But by the time I realised all this, I had thrown away even more time.
A left hand turn out of Bunny Lane put me back on the home leg. With a hill descent. Now, going up it was a child’s play… But I HATE going down anything really. On a windy day, cross wind gusts, twitchy TT bike with deep section wheels, I was beyond super cautions (I could sense that bloody rabbit catching me again!). On the brakes all the way down. As an L2 Cycle Coach this was acutely embarrassing! But other than the dying rabbit no real witnesses. It also helped me develop some empathy towards nervous cyclists that I coach.
And then almost before it had really started it was over. Crossed the finish line and shouted my number. 34:11… All things considered this was an OK time. I gather 30:00 is a good benchmark for this course, but maybe not on a windy day and perhaps not pre-season. I’m thinking the aforementioned rabbit did it in about 32:30 ??? 😉
But I had a fabulous morning! Renewed some acquaintances and feel inclined to rejoin BRCC and do some more TT with them later in the year.
That is of course if there is any more TT to be had! Shortly after this race, pretty much all the major sporting bodies put out announcements advising against any event that would create a public group… I suspect the rabbit will be pleased. And perhaps my next race report will be 2021…