I’ve kept a bit quiet about this one because it was quite a scary event. Earlier this season I opted to try and put a club team together to ride the National Championships which were taking place at Abergavenny. The event rotates around and could be anywhere from Teesdale to Telford, so it’s always good to try and get a ride when it’s on your doorstep, or thereabouts. We managed to get an entry, which is always the first step, and kept our hopes in check. I rode with Richard Spink and Ed Trotman; Richard and I are fairly even matched, he’s better at the longer stuff. Ed is a classy roadman but not quite at the same level in time trial terms. His bongobike is also a slightly retro and rather heavy steel frame. The ideal is to find 3 evenly matched riders and then make sure you take equal turns. If there’s a disparity then it becomes a bit more complicated.
The startsheet was a bit terrifying with Olympic and Commonwealth Games riders, the current leader of the Tour series and lots of serious time triallists. The scariest of them all was Steven Burke, riding for Haribo Beacon.
It’s also a rare privilege to ride the same race as Sarah Storey; this has happened before about 3 years ago; i remember catching her slowly on a climb on the Buxton Mountain Time Trial; once the climb was done she disappeared into the distance. She is an amazing athlete.
Sarah was in the same team as the world track champion.
In short, it was a long way from your average fish-and-chipper. The course took in two and half laps of a circuit, with a total of nearly 37 miles. I have to say at this point that it’s a bit above my preferred distance; I usually max out at 25 miles, sometimes 30. I can do this kind of mileage with no problem, but it’s the speed with which you do it when time trialling that causes problems. I’m also aware that lately i’ve been feeling a bit under the weather in a vaguely non-specific way and definitely haven’t been firing on all cylinders. In a solo race getting your excuses in early counts for a lot; when riding with teammates it’s a source of disappointment and anxiety.
In terms of aims; we had a couple we were going for. A top ten placing wasn’t entirely beyond the realms of possibility and would have been a spectacular result. We were also aiming to be the first unsponsored club team home. This is an important one – in an unsponsored club, devoid of any financial or kit-based incentive or sweetener, you are representing the place where you live. It’s not composite; insofar as you ride with the club members you have and you ride for the club you are a first claim member of. It’s a more traditional arrangement. Sponsored clubs and teams tend to draw in faster riders, making it easier for them to field a particularly strong outfit. Clubs like Bristol South are the apotheosis of amateur endeavour, it’s Corinthian, if you like.
One of the ways you know it’s a serious race is you get ‘arm’ numbers as well as the number on the back. You also have the possibility of a doping control which is dreadfully exciting. The car park was chock-full of expensive machinery and well-honed racing cyclists and i’d slightly underestimated how long it takes 3 people to get ready, compared to the solitary man. We made our start in good time and headed out onto the course under beautiful skies with barely a breath of wind. It was going well, we had a bit of a ding dong with another team who seemed unaware of some of the fundamental rules of time trialling, especially those pertaining to company riding, section 21 of the CTT handbook, but it wasn’t too much to worry about, more an irritation. Towards the end of the first lap we were passed by the Haribo Beacon team with Steven Burke on the front, cracking the whip. They had made up 3 minutes and in the end took 5 minutes out of our time.
Throughout the race we held our shape and moved through fluently. My legs were beginning to ossify and it was left to Spink to drag us along the last few miles as my turns became shorter and shorter. Trotters by this point was glued to the back; clinging on to the mast and praying for the storm to end. We crossed the line in a beautiful parallel formation, managing a teeny bit shy of a 28mph average for the 37 miles.
We came 15th and were first unsponsored club team. It was a fantastic result and a great day for the club. The overall winners were the international riders; full results are here.