I’ve come to realise over the course of a few years that i’m pretty much an out-and-out tester. This includes hill climbs or any solo race of truth against the clock. I like the romanticism of road racing, but i lack the attributes or desire to succeed in amongst the bronzed continentals. Therefore, I accept my status as a hardcore tester. Despite any initial reticence, I’ve come to embrace this most British of pursuits. Nevertheless, I retain some ambivalence towards the sport. One of the key factors involved in time trialling is, unsurprisingly, time. Success is measured in minutes and seconds; perhaps more so than finishing position. Emphasis is placed on the achievement of benchmark times; initially under the hour for a 25, under 24 minutes for a 10, and then a series of reducing markers to be aimed at and crossed off.
The quicker you get, the harder it becomes to go more quickly. There are lots of reasons why; i’ve been led to believe it’s something to do with how the level of effort involved in overcoming air resistance increases exponentially the faster you go; ergo it’s much harder to add 1mph to your speed if you’re already travelling at 29mph. As a result, the course and the weather conditions become more and more important. The holy grail is a fast course on a fast day, whereupon strange things happen and people suddenly achieve lifetime ambitions. This has to coincide with the right form. Suddenly the variables become a little bit more complicated.
Of late I’ve been going well. ‘Going well’ is often subjective; I know the variables that can lead to a fast time and it might not be as clear cut as simply ‘going well’. Regardless, if you put in a succession of quick times, it’s clear that you are going well. This week I had booked in a prior appointment on a known fast course, the F11-10 near Aston Clinton, a place where the houses looked expensive and the roads were quiet. The last time i rode a fast course was two years ago near Hull, on the super-quick V718. I don’t ride there any more; i’m not a fan of the narrowness of the carriageway or the lines of sight. In fact, i tend to avoid most fast courses unless I’m sure that in relative (and relatively subjective) terms, they are as safe as the other courses I use on a regular basis. It’s not a simple as saying ‘all dual carriageways are unsafe’; but some courses happen to be unsafe and it’s self-serving to suggest otherwise. Anyway, I felt that a relatively quiet bypass road in the home counties with an unblemished safety record that doesn’t lead towards a major continental ferry port with all of the additional freight traffic that might ensue, or have a start point at the very junction that distinguishes it from motorway with only a change in colourway for the signs, might be worth a punt.
I shared a lift with the Spinkmeister. He was gunning for a 19 but i suspect he dared not mention it in case it didn’t happen. It’s a bit like this when you’re chasing the elusive 30mph ride; until you’ve actually bagged it you dare not even imagine that it might happen. It was quite blustery, by no means floaty, but nothing to really worry about. the faster you get the less you worry about certain types of wind conditions. The wind seemed to be cross, rather than head or tail, which can be significant in that it’s often a faster day than promised. It’s important to not allow yourself ot be beaten before you start; the conditions on a sheltered course are very different to those at the HQ. In the earlier event, the VTTA National Championships, Rob Pears had turned in an 18.53 which is super super quick. I did some mental Maths and surmised that a 19 should be in the bag if i rode according to form. Rob has ridden the 14th fastest 10 mile trial in the history of the sport. Ahead of him are Hutchinson, Wiggins, Dowsett and others.
I did my usual warm-up. This is a well-honed routine which consists of getting the bike out of the car, riding to the start, maybe riding up and down the road for about 10 minutes, having a caffeinated energy gel and then heading to the start. It’s not complicated. Richard said he’d seen some of the big hitters with olbas oil tissues up their noses, locked on the turbo churning out fat watts and clearing their breathing. I saw them, they looked really serious, like they meant business, proper bongo-business. It was quite intimidating. Everyone else’s bike always looks much more expensive and much faster. Usually because they are more expensive and much faster. I try and retain some sort of anti-tester status.Keep it independent, try not to take it too seriously. It keeps me sane and prevents disappointment.
There is one topographical reason why the F11-10 is a fast course: it has a ‘gift hill’ in the middle of it. This is a descent of sufficient length to speed things up a bit without suffering the indignity of having to come back up again. Clever course alignment helps in this respect, althought it’s more just luck than anything. After a relatively quick start I hit the top of the slope and floored it. It’s not a huge huge drop or anything like a ski slope, but it does really boost your average speed after a slow opening and complicated double roundabout thing. Once you’re through and onto the last bit it becomes a case of holding on. I’ve got much better at holding on lately, i think due to the rides at Aust which have consisted of going flat out and holding it for as long as possible. I knew the 19 was on with about 3 miles to go, so it became a question of how much of a 19 it would be. In the end, it worked out as a 19.38; a new club record and PB, heading up for about a 31mph average speed for the ten miles.
I guess with any long distance ride in search of fast times, it makes sense to turn yourself inside out and do the best you can; the worst that can happen is you try your best and fail, which is infinitely better than finishing undercooked and left with a sense of what might have been. Richard Spink also scraped under with a 19.52. He’s the second BSCC rider to break the 30mph average for 10 miles and it was a super ride. If we had a 3rd counter they could have carded a 23 and we would have taken the Club team record. Jon Simpkins, who carded an 18.53 and was a very nice bloke for one so fast, advised going off slowly. I ignored his advice, or so it felt. I managed to sustain the heartrate in a fairly tight upwards line and even hit the highest bits (185bpm) in the run to the finish. I enjoyed the race; especially the sensation of riding very fast for ten miles. It’s good fun. I think i came about 6th, Nick English was 1st with 19.11, a very quick time, then there were 4 riders on 19.30 or thereabouts. I was surprised to be in amongst them, to be honest and I’ll settle for reducing the gap between me and the mighty Wiggo to a mere 1 minute and 39 seconds. I also lowered the club record a little bit which is always really satisfying; it’s great to be a part of the lineage of fast riders for the South. John Legge was magnanimous with his praise. Lower down the field there weren’t that many 19s. I suspect that many people came along with high hopes and went home disappointed.
Normal service is resumed this coming weekend with a hilly circuit in the Cotswolds, where a fast average speed will be somewhere around 23-24mph.