It was a busy weekend. Generally this season I’ve done one race a weekend, if that. This weekend i pencilled in two. It was the same double header as last year when I somehow contrived to win both the BSCC 10 and the Westbury Hilly.
The Westbury event starts on the edge of Warminster before heading off on a loop out and around the edges of the military bits of Salisbury Plain, via Chitterne, Lavington and other such places. there’s a long section that has frequent ‘tank crossings’. The road is reinforced with concrete and there’s a warning sign. It would be quite something to be ‘baulked’ by a hulking great weapon of war. I think i’d slow down if that were the case and not try any flash-harry TT moves to slip through or round the side.
It finishes beneath the White Horse after 24 miles of undulating roads.
There’s always a degree of anxiety following a race the previous day, but it’s not often a problem if you’ve tapered a bit in the run up to both events. At times like this it’s worth remembering that the Giro D’Italia is currently serving up 150+ miles per day, for 21 days, through some of the highest mountain passes of the Alps and Dolomites. 34 miles ridden at pace over 2 days isn’t all that bad, or strenuous, no matter how much effort you think you’ve put it. It’s arguably about the recovery, but even then, a 20 minute effort shouldn’t compromise another effort the next morning. And so it proved.
I was in ‘have it’ mode this weekend. It’s that weird alignment where you have a sense of form and the ability to ride ridiculously hard, almost at full pelt, and for some strange reason it feels right and proper and vaguely exciting. It happened at Falfield on Saturday and the same again on Sunday. The course starts quickly with a slight descent and I got straight into the big ring and smallest cog. I reined it in ever so slightly on the climbs, barely though, and absolutely thrashed it on the descents, hitting a maximum at one point of 49mph. I think i was probably still on the poles at that point, the road surface was good and there was no traffic. I had the usual conversation with people back at the HQ afterwards, a club member was saying how he used the 39:25 heading up Chitterne. I don’t know what i used but it was definitely the 54, it was a big ring course for the duration, i might have cross-chained it a bit in the 20 or something, but i just sat back and gave it some welly. He looked a bit horrified. Power to weight is a glorious thing when you’re riding up hill at speed and weigh 67kg. I think I averaged 21mph on the drag up Anstey Hill. It was fun.
There were some classy riders on the startsheet, including Tavis Walker and Derek Smetham. Tavis has mostly been installing large farm machinery and working, taking time out to take a kicking from the other Elite roadmen at Castle Combe from time to time. Derek seems to be on a hot streak of form and he owed me 6 seconds from the Dursley mega-hilly a few weeks back. I got back to the HQ and Derek had done a 52.35, Tav a 52.40. My garmin was telling me i’d done a 52.34 but I kept it to myself. I normally start it a bit early and it’s about 10 seconds slower that the official time, which was confirmed after an agonising wait as being 52.28. It was a close contest, the best sort. It’s great to bag a win this year, I feel as though the pressure has lifted a little bit and I didn’t fancy another second place.
I also think, pending confirmation, that i nabbed the course record. It was previously set by Rob Lyne and I sliced about 10 seconds from his time. I’m quite pleased about this, Rob Lyne is super quick and I very much looked up to him in my first few seasons as the kind of chap I would never ever get anywhere near. A few years back he was a professional roadman who rode the Tour of Britain and won the Severn Bridge road race. It’s a vicarious encounter with greater glory. I’ll take it.