Today was the Tour of Flanders, the first of the proper Belgian monuments. Watching Fabian Cancellara’s attack on the Oude Kwaremont was slightly terrifying; he had a dig, tested the waters then put the afterburners on, in the process dispensing with the fearsomely badass Peter Sagan as though he was a cyclo-tourist out shopping for croissants. Peter Sagan is such a fearsome badass that he regularly wheelies over the finish line just to show how sick to the power of rad he is. Cancellara had other ideas.
At one point Cancellera was doing over 50kmh on the run-in to Oudenarde. On a road bike. Jez from Strada Cycles told me Cancellara would win but i didn’t believe him. Jez was right. Jez knows cycling; there is documentary evidence of him with Lance Armstrong back in the day discussing important matters. Anyway, I digress. Cancellera’s blitztastic assault on the field at the end of a 250km race was unnerving and made several classy riders look ordinary.
This morning I took part in the WTTA Spring Hilly, so named on account of the balmy conditions and floral bouquet from the daffodils swaying gently in the jetwash of another screaming disc wheel. Or so I wished. Instead I found myself yet again riding gingerly and spending far too much time on the base bar, avoiding the ice or anything that might possibly be considered to be remotely slippery or icy. Whilst forsaking the gilet-under-skinsuit trick from last week, i still managed to ride with 2 pairs of gloves and lots of other layers.
Jeff Jones and Rob Pears fought it out at the top of the leaderboard. In the slightly esoteric and calming world of the Western Time Trials Association, where friendship and camaraderie take precedence over egotism and 5th Cat going on Elite posturing, it’s easy to forget that Jeff and Rob are two of the finest and fastest testers anywhere in the land. I settled for 5th place, behind several erstwhile rivals and have to be content and optimistic that faster times and higher placings might be just around the corner. I shall stick with it. Watching Cancellara pedal faster on a road bike at the end of an epic stage than I’ve ever managed in a flat 10 astride a slice of aerobongo made me feel inadequate.
The highlight of today’s event was the presence of John Woodburn. It’s always an honour to catch up with one of the greatest living time triallists in the UK. He comes from the golden generation, along with other luminaries like Alf Engers and John Pritchard. Today he gave out the prizes for last year’s hardrider competition where I managed second place behind the all conquering Rob Pears. In 1982 John Woodburn managed the LEJOG in 1 day, 21 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds. It makes me feel unwell just thinking about it. He also rode the 162 miles from London to Cardiff in 6 hours 44 minutes, setting a new place-to-place record. On a Moulton.