One of the nice things about the hardrider series is the range of amazing locations. it’s been said before, but it’s a league away from the A419. The Westbury Wheelers have been running an event for a few years now that heads across, over and around Salisbury Plain, with the finish beneath the Westbury White Horse.
The course runs around the edge of the military range on the Plain and is criss-crossed with the parallel mud marks of tanks and other assorted weapons of death. it’s a quaint juxtaposition. Red flags and angry signs warn of live-firing, lest you miss a turning and find yourself head down in the village of Imber, wondering where those marshalls are and why the army appear to be trying to kill time triallists.
the marshalling was exemplary, lots of people and lots of red flags and pointing. it’s reassuring. there was quite a bit of traffic, the race seemed to coincide with the moment when the brave Wiltshire burghers decided to get into their various cars and horse boxes and drive around quite slowly in a gentle fug, before being freaked into a panic-ridden state of catalepsy by crazed time-triallists on the charge. I got held up three times, once coming to a complete stop because of a bad decision by a car up front. I gave him a piece of my caffeine-fuelled, adrenaline-addled mind. It disrupted my rhythm for a while, but i was soon back in the tunnel of time-trialling darkness, head down, eyes up the road and the noise of the wind amplified by my spaceship helmet.
It was a fast course that suited me. There were lots of hills but they went up in a big-ring friendly 5% or 6% gradient. I say ‘big ring’ friendly, most people I spoke to afterwards were reaching for the Granny (the lowest gear you’ve got, usually the inner ring on a triple which, like Grandmother, is somewhat lacking in teeth) to give it a good shake. I then said that i could have gone into the small ring, but I would only have had to change back up again in a couple of minutes so it seemed silly. I didn’t add at this point that it meant i was riding up the hills in the 54:23, that would have been uncouth and unchivalrous
I fancied second place today. This was because Dean Robson was down to start. He’s a handy cyclist who has previously won the national time trial series and had a CTT scholarship to race in France. He won the Little Mountain time trial a couple of weeks ago. Dean is one of those people who looks fast even when walking around the HQ. The other usual suspects were out and about, but no Rob Pears who is riding the National 10 Championships (good luck!).
I wasn’t sure how my legs would stand up to two days of abuse on the TT whip, although it’s as much mental as physical. I followed on from my most recent strategic shift: ride as hard as possible from the start and then carry on to the finish, without letting the mind wander at inopportune moments. It worked well, i managed a 25.2mph average speed, just above evens, stopping the clock at 54.42, a minute ahead of Dean and also Matt Burden. It was great to see Matt riding so well, he’s had a really tough time of late. Sometimes when life gets utterly overwhelming, the pleasure to be had from riding a bike fast through beautiful scenery can be something simple and profound.
The prizes were the usual cash money, but with the addition of a bag of John Hurd’s Traditionally Bunched Organic Watercress. This is one of the odder prizes i have taken home but it is exciting and adds another dimension to tonight’s dinner. In another great day for the club, Mary jane took the fastest lady (said the bishop to the actress) and Rob took the lanterne rouge, clearly he has half an eye on the lucrative post-hardrider criteriums.
It’s been a great weekend and i’ve exceeded my expectations and aims. I had an idea that I might just bag a win if the Gods smiled benevolently on my awkward progress, but to take two open wins in a row has left me grinning from ear to ear.