Today was the Bristol South CC 10 mile open time trial, taking place on the U7b, or as it’s affectionately known, ‘the graveyard’. Generally, it lives up to its moniker, burying any hopes or dreams of a fast time with all the clinical brutality of the grim reaper. The usual high-score combo is a lovely tailwind out, lulling you into throwing everything at the tarmac in the hope of a fast time, only to find the turn gives way to a wall of wind; all souplesse disappears as riders slip down through the cogs, trying to get over the three lumpy bits (including the mythical Col de Gossington Bridge) and somehow make it across the line without hæmorrhaging too much time.
Last year I won the event, but this year I was under no illusion that the feat might be repeated. Several extraordinarily fast men had decided to make the pilgrimage to the West’s fifth fastest 10 course, including Kieron Davies, Jon Wynn, Ben Anstie and Robin Coomber, all of whom have hefty 19s to their name and a clutch of 49 minute 25s. I decided that the best strategy was one i occasionally employ: PLF.
About fifteen minutes prior to the start, the wind dropped almost completely and a heartwarming stillness descended. I felt good, and continued to feel good all the way to the turn, scratching out a 29mph average. I took the roundabout at a decent pace, trying not to think about rolling a tub and grateful for the absence of any cars, then headed back for the home leg. It took me about 400 metres to realise that the return leg was going to be equally fast. As soon as i’d got over the three short climbs i whacked it into the 11 and completely mullered it, turning over the big gear with a sense of rhythm and circularity. I scraped home in 20.43, slicing a marginal 3 seconds from my PB on this course, set on a balmy and warm September morning last year. I was also only 5 and 8 seconds respectively behind two fellow competitors who normally eke out much larger margins.
It’s quite pleasing to set a PB. It means that whatever else happens – or whatever times other people turn in – you can rest assured that you have produced the best ride you could. It’s sometimes interesting on fast days (and it was clearly a fast day) to see how other people cope. I find it surprising that other riders don’t always put in a rapid time, but you never can tell what sort of form or fatigue people have brought with them. My form seems to be on an upward trend, I’ve been relatively focused and working hard and my weight has dropped to around the magical 67kg mark. This is important, the last 2 or so kilos of weight loss take time and come with the right kind of riding and structure. I place quite a lot of stock on the idea of ‘racing weight’, partly because i know that when i’m just a bit lighter i climb with much more freedom and pace. I did a couple of very hilly rides at the weekend and assaulted several climbs in and around the Mendips, enjoying them rather than toiling to the top. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is always important in the early part of the season; hard work pays off in the long run.
The social side of time trials was very much in evidence today, it was great to catch up with others and talk at random. In the white heat of the post-race endorphin and caffeine mania i heard myself saying, ‘there was a distinct absence of inclemental impedance’. The person on the receiving end of this slab of pseudogibber looked at me and edged slowly away towards the results board.
It’s always good to lambast a few triantelopes as well. I met a rider I hadn’t seen for some time who had been spending some time amongst the triathlopeds. He seemed happy to pile in with the general ribbing of the tritard world and their shonky bike handling skills. I recounted a story of how i passed a group doing a 4up at a Castle Combe TT one evening last year. I found the experience unsettling; they were doing a 4up and yet still contrived to be riding at around 5mph slower than me. And i wasn’t going very fast. I think that same evening i saw one of the tripods do his 5 laps at around 19mph, then drop his bike and start running around the edge of the track in his sleeveless top and armwarmers. I resolved never to return.
Recently I ended up having to overtake a triaptoplod on a full TT bike, head down, going across the downs the other morning. I held off for ages but in the end had no choice. His pace was fluctuating oddly, occasionally going up about a mile per hour or so, then dropping two. I was on a 65″ gear with a carradice saddlebag full of heavy things like fruit and sandwiches and books and shoes. I gave him a puzzled look and as i came through asked what he was doing. He said, through stuttered breaths and out of the salt-stained corner of his mouth;
I was rendered speechless. Tritards: the turducken of cycling.
Tomorrow is the Westbury Hilly. I shall have to see what the legs feel like.