The Hills Have Eyes

Back in the days of yore I used to organise a revolting time trial in the Cotswolds. It was a genuine hellfest, one for the masochists. I remember once Rob Pears entered his wife, Gillian (so to speak), and then got really scared when he thought he might have actually entered himself instead (so to speak). Some people really liked the race, as though it filled a void in their lives left gaping since the last time they read JG Ballard’s family novel, Crash. Since the demise of the megahilly, Glyndwr Griffiths has become the keeper of the flame of horrid bike races with his Mendip version of the Megahilly. It’s a neat circuit which starts up Burrington, drops down Harptree and then goes up Blagdon, before repeating it, just in case you hadn’t had enough. Interestingly, like all really shitty time trials, the descents are arguably worse than the climbs. The drop down Harptree is horrendous. Each individual section of tarmac has been resurfaced to a different grade and at a different time. It makes for a lumpen hellfest.

There was a contingent of hardy warriors lined up at the start, including the spangly Das Rad Klub Firmanent, with their pack of hardened mercenaries, led by the freelance smasher Tavis Walker, now riding for his 27th klub in 9 years.

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The Freelance Hellraiser; fresh from battling the hordes at the UCI Chrono Sportive thing in Cambridge
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Das Rad Wieler Coleman does sock battle with number 14: FINISH HIM

There was also a bagful of Bristol South, including Dan Burbridge in his first outing as the scratchman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop), a real privilege which came with a special and unique prize: 75 minutes of endlessly wet rain just for him. Joe from Hollyoaks was also there, mixing it up with the UOBCC shorts and the BSCC chamois, threatening the good decorum of rules and regulations, not to mention the inner turmoil that ensues from such bigamous actions.

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ScratchmanDan

I found the race to be a primitive experience, one of survival, and a bad idea from start to finish. I don’t quite know why, but I lack the ability to turn myself inside out anymore. I go into the time trial transporter device and expect to come out like that dog in the Fly 2. It doesn’t happen. I tend to ride to a thin line of self-preservation. I suspect it is just that, aligned with a lower level of fitness, a bit more weight and few more years. I worry about pacing myself and not blowing up, and in the process lose hours of time. I still enjoy it though, just not quite so much when some sprightly young beast hurtles past on a road bike.

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Getting ready to ride really softly up a hill

It’s interesting that I’ve ridden up Blagdon faster when training in April than I did in the race today. That’s borderline inexcusable, I wasn’t going that fast in April so certainly wasn’t moving quickly today. I’ll have to review things, flagellate myself a little, dig a lot deeper and just rag it a lot more. Time trialling is a state of mind as much as anything. Getting into that mindset is the trickiest bit. Beyond that, I’m enjoying it, and it was brilliant to have a loud cheer from Penny and Elliot at the steepest part of the climb, along with some gentle words of encouragement from Belle:

“Come ON! What are you doing! YOU’RE NOT DELIVERING BREAD! It’s supposed to be a bike race!”

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This isn’t Belle. This is a chap who chose some unusual equipment. It was pretty impressive though. 

I’ve entered a few more races. There aren’t that many on in the district so I feel like I’ve been railroaded into entering some absolutely awful bike races. We shall see. If the next two weeks don’t kill my nascent comeback stone dead, then that will be a surprise.

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False Dawns and Savage Winds

I’d been looking forward to today’s race. After the my first race two weeks ago I had a sense that it was a case of forwards and faster. The gaps were small and the Bath Hilly is deserving of the title with quite a bit of climbing. I had this feeling I was going to be flying and back where I where I once was. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out like that.

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At the starting line I contrived to pull my wheel over in the dropouts. It’s a schoolboy error. There are a couple of grub screws but I hadn’t set them properly. Clearly way too much power. What with my skewer being an allen key fitment (seemed like a good idea at the time) I had to return to the start to get an allen key to fix it. I lost over a minute there and then. I was OK with this. I thought, well, I’ll just have to ride a minute quicker than i was going to. Which would have been fine, if instead I hadn’t chosen to ride about two minutes slower. I’m not sure it was that bad, it just wasn’t that good.

Looking at the strava thing I can see that I’m climbing ok, but I’m just not riding fast enough all the way round. This i guess is the problem with time trials. Other people ride faster. Finding the secret to riding faster takes a bit of effort. I haven’t put the effort in just yet. Well, I have, but within a short period of time, and during that time within the confines of a busy job and family life. It’s hard graft. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the day, which is what I set out to do, it just happens to be more enjoyable if you beat more people, because that’s bike racing, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a cyclo-tourist. I came 11th, one place down on last week, although the missing minute puts me 8th, hypothetically…

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Timeless Sunday Morning TT Scenes

 

It’s good to be on the road back home again. Again.

It isn’t a touring bike. It’s a P2 Cervelo. Honestly, I’m such a tease. Anyway, after two years off I’ve managed 8 weeks of training since January 1st. It’s been a slow build. I’ve lost 6 kg in weight. With that in mind I’ve opted to attempt a string of hilly time trials. I’m resolutely not chasing fast times, I am racing because I miss it. These are usually my favourite races; they are technical, fast, and hard work. The first of these was today, the Chippenham Hardrider.

The weather looked abysmal. Thankfully the rain slipped away, but it left a horrendous headwind behind on the worst stretches of the course. There is one section which is entitled “drag me into hell” on Strava. It’s an uphill shitfest through some of the grippiest tarmac ever laid, and there is always a block headwind in your face, denting the balls of your eyes. Before I even got there I had the indignity of being two-minuted by Rob Pears, at mile 12 of 23. I was relieved, I knew he was coming and it meant I could just ride my normal, slow race, picking off people who happened to be a bit slower than me.

On the drag of death I espied a suffering fellow tester up ahead. Cue the world’s slowest ever chase as I reeled him in, millimetre by millimetre. The overtake was excruciatingly long and drawn out; we could have made a cup of tea and eaten toast in the time it took to edge past. I was maxing out at 13mph in the small ring. It was hectic stuff, the sort of stuff that saw Mark Renshaw booted out of a slightly more prestigious race in days of yore.

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I made it round without further incident or hair-raising speeds. The bike was fine. If you have a squeamish disposition or like things to be ‘just so’, then look away now.

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This is the stuff of nightmares. Verily, though, it’s how I roll. Just don’t tell Mike from Strada what I done.

There has been a lot of not knowing about this race; particularly of the not knowing how I would get on. I was aiming for a top ten overall, and fortuitously came 10th. I sat up quite a bit around the course because it was pretty dicey and my main aim was to get round, to get things moving and to see where I was. I fared well against people who are going well, which gives me reassurance that once up to full steam I might be able to turn in some higher placings. I certainly think so.

In my absence two key things seem to have changed. Firstly, everyone wears Velotoze. These are shiny latex fetish overshoes. They are really tough to get on. You have to put them on without your shoes and then put your shoes on and unsheath them over your shoes. I couldn’t be bothered so I opted for some old altura waterproof ones. Secondly, everyone has a shiny embedded pocket in their skinsuit which does away with the need for pins. It’s very clever. I wrestled with pins and managed to jab myself about ten hundred times. I am going to adapt one of those A4 paper wallet things and tape it to my ass. That should do the trick.

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I managed to throw the rock horns. I felt obliged. I might have to think of some other new BSCC meme to chuck out at the paps.

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Super pictures from Rich Lewton: 

And lastly, I managed to win a prize. Which isn’t too bad, although I’m slightly ambivalent about the ‘V’ bit. I guess it’s just age, the recognition that I’m not a senior anymore, therefore I have to duke it out amongst the other greybeards and let the young tyros do their absurdly fast thing.

 

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