I spent this easter weekend competing in two absurdly hilly races, the first of which was the Buxton Road Club Mountain Time Trial. It consisted of 3 laps of a small circuit out of the town of Longnor, each lap lasting approximately 10 miles. The first 4 miles were uphill, the rest was at best undulating. In total there was around 3500 feet of climbing. here’s a graphic of the torturous route (repeat 3 times):
I learnt the following things:
1. Riding a road bike in a time trial, of any description, is going to cost tons of time. However, it’s fun, in a painful, non-aerodynamic sort of way, and certainly has a training benefit. It’s also quite rewarding to overtake riders on TT weaponry. at times i felt like i was a hostage to the headwind, and longed for the dart-like simplicity of the TT bike.
2. For longer time trials, the pacing strategy is absolutely vital. This is less important to a hardrider course of 24 miles, where you can pretty much go out fast and then cling on. in a longer race it is a really bad idea to go out hard, attack the first climb and complete the first lap in 28 minutes. my subsequent laps were substantially slower. the consequence of my pacing strategy was emphasised on the last lap; i held off my minute man for 2 and a half laps, but when he made the catch he somehow found a further 3 minutes over 5 miles. i was having real difficulty turning the pedals by the end.
i managed 14th place, possibly 3rd road bike, i’m not quite sure. one highlight was riding alongside Sarah Storey, who had the rainbow bands on her skinsuit. she is absolutely incredible and an inspiration.
Sunday’s race was similar; but perhaps more prestigious; The Jack Clements Memorial TT, or as it’s better known, the Little Mountain. it’s a long-running event and has been won in the past by both Ray Booty and Graham Webb.
this year the field included matt clinton, a former national hillclimb champion, and several other highly reputable and quick chaps and ladies, many of them elite road racers. it’s amazing to be involved in this sort of race, it was spectacularly well-organised and marshalled and there was a large field of 120 riders. however, it’s sometimes dispiriting insofar as you do your very best and really ride yourself into the ground, and yet there are flighty super-fast people who seem somehow to glide around the course in staggeringly quick times. the dedication and talent is impressive. at some point, you have to tackle these kind of races, to see where you are and measure progress, but it’s not easy. this was about as far from a fish and chipper as i have possibly ever been, and certainly the strongest field i have ridden in for quite some time.
there were several prizes on offer, including a roadman’s award, which led to more people than usual riding road bikes, including me. i paced it much more carefully, and tried really hard not to lose everything in the first few miles; this seemed all the more important because it was a 42 mile event – this might not seem too long to a roadman or even a club leisure cyclist, but the effect of sustaining a TT pace over nearly 4000 feet of climbing, with two timed hillclimbs, is almost too much. on the whole i paced it well, but i still was running perilously close to empty in the last 5 miles. the organiser placed mile markers for the last 5 as tantalising get-you-home nods towards the finish. psychologically i thought i was home and dry, when in reality there was still some real lumpy stuff to come. it hurt, a lot. in terms of results, i came 20th, and I am pleased with this, especially considering i was on a road bike. i also stopped at a police cordon for 40 seconds or so due to a dead body in a field. there were two timed hillclimbs, and my aggregate time over these placed me 5th in that competition, out of 120.
i am looking forward to getting back on the TT bike next weekend for a race on a fast course, followed by an early season hillclimb on the Shap in the Lake District. this is a 9 mile special, not too steep. i think i might be riding my steel framed condor. i am turning slowly against the planet-x, it isn’t very comfy over longer distances.
this is my mountain time trial face:
this is alec’s mountain time trial face:
you will discern a certain similarity between the two facial expressions.