The Welsh Championship 25

It sounds slightly more glamourous than it actually was. Today I trekked to Wales for their 25 mile championship event. In truth, it wasn’t that different to any other event on the R25, it’s a course that attracts the strongest, fastest and scariest riders in the principality, and from over the border.

It was my first run at the Glynneath bank this year. I try to head over there a few times a year because there is always the tantalising promise of at least a personal best, and possibly a 30mph ride. For a slower rider like me it’s subject to the vagaries and whims of the weather, and especially the wind direction. Today wasn’t too bad, a headwind out and tailwind back is the preferred option. It was a bit too windy so I bore this in mind and moderated my ambitions. I wanted to beat my old PB and come in under 52 minutes. If i got close to 50 minutes then that would be a bonus. I was riding blind, entirely on feel. I couldn’t find my garmin this morning. I used my wristwatch instead to get a sense of where I was. This ended up being a little bit confusing, i kept thinking i was off on a 10, when I was a 1, which skewed my calculations. I realised eventually. I also recognised belatedly that i shouldn’t go by the ‘real time’, because my watch is set to ‘work time’, which is very different to ‘garmin time’. I turned it off after about 15 miles.

There were some luminaries on the startline, including Andy Wilkinson. 25 miles is a bit on the short side for Andy who has ridden 547 miles in 24 hours and done the End to End on a recumbent thingy in 41 hours. He also managed a paltry 317 miles for the 12 hour. That’s 20mph for 875 miles, 23mph for 24 hours and a ridiculous 26.5mph for 12 hours. He proved today that he can also ride 25 miles at 31mph. He is unquestionably one of the legendary figures of time trialling in the UK.

Andy en route to the 12 hour record

I felt quite good, held a reasonable speed going out and chased it hard coming back. I managed a 51.36, which is a minute or so down on my best time, but still works out at a 29mph ride. I think there is a 30mph ride in there somewhere, but I’m more reliant on the conditions than some of the other super strong men. Jeff Jones won the race with a mid 48, with Wilkinson second. I’m not sure what position i managed; perhaps grazing the outside of the top ten.

It was nice to be racing in vaguely mild temperatures, without knee warmers or arm warmers. I used my new disc wheel which i got second hand from Mike at Strada. It came with some interesting new decals so I left these on. The bearings on the new wheel are smoother than the proverbial codpiece made of cashmere and it was a psychosomatic dream.

i love hooters: matches the colourway so had to stay.

Allen Janes came along for the day out and did a bit of riding around Rhigos whilst me and Danny got to grips with the fast tarmac. We talked racing and club things on the journey over and Allen came up with some startling statistics: he has ridden over 1300 open time trials. This includes nearly 800 25 mile races. He has calculated that his average speed for the 800 is 24 miles per hour.

Allen pauses for a moment to contemplate every minute of every single time trial, all 1300 of them.
Allen with his dad Ernie in the late 1950s.

It’s always grand to catch up with Allen.

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Time Trial Pacing: 50s and 10s (in the pissing rain, trying not to crash or give up)

ever since some errant klutz posted on the interweb about how wonderful the weather was and how it was going to be a ‘vintage year’ for time trialling, i knew the die was cast. (incidentally, going by the ages on my startsheet for the BSCC 50 next week, every year is a vintage year for timetrialling). since then it’s been wind and rain, then more wind, and some rain, but mostly wind. this weekend both conspired together to create an old-fashioned tumult.

the answer to the question,’ how do you race in the rain?’ is simple, you don’t. it’s time to DNS, stay in bed, cuddle the wife or the dog, or both, whatever takes your fancy at 5.30am. avoid at all costs lining up in a greasy, rain-swept and windy layby on a nondescript midlands trunk road, the likes of which you would normally steer well clear of, with only a skinsuit between you and the elements for the next two hours.

needless to say, i ignored this advice, and thus found myself perched astride my stealth chariot, pointing at the asphalt whilst the timekeepers giggled from beneath their enormodome umbrella.  once i got rolling i was warmer, and whilst i never forgot about the rain, it slipped away from the forefront of my consciousness. i tried to pace this one slightly better than the last one – if you remember i learned that 50s are not quite the same as flying 200s.

this time round things improved. the goal was to get under 2 hours for the 50, rain or no rain. in simple terms this meant riding at a 25mph average. i divided the laps on the garmin to 12.5 mile intervals, and wanted to ride each one in under 30 minutes, with the first two under an hour. it’s patently not rocket science, but it requires a bit of discipline. i ate more before the race – an extra peanut butter and jam sandwich. i tried to keep my heart-rate  below zone 4 (90% of max) as much as possible. it seems to have worked, below are the times and average speeds for each of the 12.5 mile splits. it’s pretty much on the nail. the slower 3rd leg is the hill back from the turn and a nasty draggy bit, it was my worse section of the race and the only bit when i thought i was going to lose it. after that i got back in a rhythm and even picked it up in the last ten miles.

1. 29.01  25.5mph

2. 29.58  25.8mph

3. 29.25  25.0mph

4. 29.17  25.6mph

there’s also a classic ‘climbing heart-rate’ profile, which shows the pacing strategy quite nicely, with a bit of a dig at the end.Whilst i am pleased as punch with getting under the hour, and getting the pacing right, i was also blown away by andy wilkinson, who is clearly some kind of monster. he rode a 1.47. to put this in perspective, if i had been on a 30, and he was on a 40, he would have caught me before the finish. he clearly has amazing power and has done a 100 in 3.42 before. however, that’s not the half of it. he’s also done 302 miles in 12 hours. this is over 25mph. i feel weak just typing these figures. anyway, here are the sum totals of my paltry efforts…. note the early start time on a sunday morning…vile.

it;s interesting to compare it with the 10 i rode the day before, on some of the same roads. it was a weird course that went out in a sort of loop and was a bit lumpen. it was raining and windy so i adopted a total ‘PLF’ approach, making it round in 20.51, perilously close to my PB, and a really quick time, in fact, quick enough for 3rd place in a field of 110 riders, of whom only 3 went under 21 minutes.

i’ve included gradients so you can see the effect on hear-rate. the start is much more abrupt, get rolling and riding hard quickly, i stayed at around 85-88 for a bit, then just mullered it, with good results. the second half was 30 seconds (!) faster than the first. the heart rate also climbs quite nicely.

all in all, i’m glad i rode in the rain, i nudged my PB a bit quicker and broke the magic 2 hour mark. i also feel like a proper time trialler, hardened and battle-fatigued, riding the course on the day and discovering what the ‘race of truth’ really means.