I imagine some cyclists go their whole cycling lives without winning an open event. Crossing the line first in a club event is great, but it’s not quite the same as that elusive Open win. however, there are so many mitigating factors that conspire, and quarrel, and ultimately stop so many of us from reaching the top step of the podium.
Wanting to win something can be a bit of an albatross, 2nd and 3rd is great, but bagging that 1st place, even if you only do it once, is a real game-changer. I’ve come second quite a few times; normally to Tejvan, but also to other super-quick chaps on expensive bikes. it’s something i’m used to, and i don’t bemoan it, in fact, it’s brilliant. i also come 10th or 11th often in flat events where the field is very very strong, and find real comfort in that. like in the man-with-no-pants race, where i came 10th. i count that as right up there with numerous second places.
setting a course record is another thing altogether; and it’s not often that you get the chance. it requires a relatively new course that hasn’t been ridden by someone like rob pears or chris boardman. last year i came within 45 seconds of the course record on the Black Mountain. In short, whatever the context, a new course record means you have ridden that race quicker than anyone else ever.
yesterday, i rode the Minehead Hilly, it’s a 26 mile course that undulates and rolls over the exmoor countryside. there is a whopping great big climb at the beginning and the end of a 12 mile lap. the course record was 1.13 or so, around 21mph average, and set by Andy Winterbottom, a 20 minute man on a 10 course. I thought a few others would enter; alec and steve no less, but they turned their attention to other races. the field didn’t look terrifically strong on paper, maybe three or four pretty handy timetriallists and a lot of club riders from Minehead. I began to harbour thoughts of the win, and also quietly hoped that i might be in with a shout of the course record.
I took the TT bike with full disc, the lot, but began to fear i had made a terrible mistake; no-one else was riding a TT machine. there were some tribars, but that was about it. a few aero helmets, shoe covers, things like that, but no proper pyscho stuff. i also saw a guy on cervelo r3SL, a veritable hill-climbers bike if ever i saw one, and felt more anxious. one of the officials pointed at my disc wheel and tittered, looked at the weather and made comments about ‘wind speed’ and ‘gates’. i remained unconvinced though, my experience of hardrider events this year has taught me that TT bikes are nearly always quicker, unless the course is absolutely ridiculously hilly and hard. this one – the u26 – was very hilly, but the far side was essentially a 7 mile blast down a valley through winsford with a tailwind.even on the startline i made a joke; about how i felt like i’d turned up in fancy dress to a wedding, or something like that, and a chap said ‘that’s ‘cos it’s a hilly event’, with extra emphasis on the hilly bit, as though i was making a catastrophic error of judgement. maybe this put a bit of wind in my sails, i’m not sure. it’s not like a had choice, although i did take some lighter wheels with me.
i went off quite conservatively, caught three people by the top of the first climb, then proceeded to tear past the rest of the field in a most ungainly fashion. it felt fast, really really fast in fact. my legs were working and seemingly free of lactic build-up, i paced the climbs perfectly. i tore down the valley at around 35mph, sometimes more, rarely less than 32mph, then took the final climb in the big ring, riding at a remorseless pace and rhythm. i felt so good that i was almost certain the course record was there for the taking; i didn’t check the average speed because i knew i was up on 21mph. i prayed for no mechanical catastrophes. I was the 18th rider off, and suspect quite strongly that by the end i had caught pretty much every single rider ahead of me. it was that kind of day.there were two behind me, the scratch rider and one other.
both the second and third placed riders beat the course record, with 1.13.27 and a 1.12.36. i came 1st with a 1.05.30, a full 7 minutes ahead of the second placed rider and over 8 minutes inside the course record at around a 24mph average speed. the promoting club members were a bit gobsmacked, as was I. the finish line was busy, a crowd of supporters had turned out and it really was a fantastic event to ride – and win.
peter whitfield’s race report:
“It was quite a memorable day: great weather, a very safe but very challenging course, and everyone talking about Paul Jones’s amazing new course and event record, smashing the old record by more than 8 minutes. He came past me going uphill about 5 mph faster than I was, sitting down, on the tri-bars, smooth as silk, and he vanished from sight in about 20 seconds – something special. But Leigh Pinchen and Michael Waterjohns were both inside the old record too: pity we can’t give new-record prizes to all three.”
i shall now cease blowing my own trumpet.