Team Time Trials!

Today was a first for me – riding the race of truth, the solitary endeavour, the lonely ride – except unusually with two clubmates at the Chippenham and District 3up. it was really peculiar, and a total blast. the course was that used for the swindon hardrider, a circuit visited back in april. this time i was riding with andy and dan, two big chaps with a lot of power, but a few minor issues when it comes to putting out that kind of power when the road suddenly, and violently, crests upwards.

there were a few composite teams in evidence, which was great, it’s people from different clubs banding together to get a ride. one of them was particularly fast, a sort of hardriders dreamteam of alec baskaya, rob pears and derek smetham. there were also what seemed to be more triathletes than you could shake a sleeveless jersey at. two of the ‘tri’ teams were a bit late getting back. this was the cause for much mirth, along the lines of… ‘maybe they’re still swimming in the kennet and avon canal’, or ‘maybe they got confused in avebury and thought it was a transfer’. one thing was for sure, they had expensive bicycles, shoes and gear, and even more expensive cars. but then again, they can afford to do three sports, so it’s to be expected.

we did a quick warmup, practised our changes, then lined up for the start. it was very exciting, with three minute intervals between teams. i don’t have a photo, but we did look resplendent in our matching red and gold skinsuits, and we even had matching red prendras overshoes, more by luck than judgement, but it looked very lovely and if there was a prize for the most co-oordinated, 1980s throwback, garish but matching team kit, then we would have won by a mile.

there were two big hills on the circuit, these did for the others. there was no point in me putting the hammer down, i simply would have had to wait at the top. in a TTT, it’s all about working together and keeping it going, helping each other, staying tight and taking turns on the front. i paced the climbs, trying to keep the three of us together, even though it was quite tricky, insofar as it was the first time i’ve ridden a hill below threshold in a race effort for some time – what with being in the midst of a serious hillclimbing block of training.  once we got to the far side of the course a fierce headwind really whipped up, it was very tough, and amplified by a section of road which had been scored in preparation for resurfacing. it all got a bit paris-roubaix and destroyed both rhythm and speed. at one point though we were in an echelon formation, riding diagonally and to the side. this is quite possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me on a bicycle. i felt like a continental pro, albeit a very very slow continental pro. maybe a really old one. with one leg.

the second climb – near the finish – was really tough, and Dan, to my considerable admiration, turned himself absolutely inside out to get up it. I was really impressed. we blasted across the line to clock 58. 10, or thereabouts. we were behind two of the composite teams, but came 2nd overall for clubs, which is where the prize money and kudos were contained. at least in my myopic field of vision. above all else, the event was a real blast, i’ve not enjoyed a time trial as much in ages. the riding together was great, it felt good to be part of the club and i enjoyed the camaraderie. i shall ignore the fact that i rode it in 55.10 on April 17th and rejoice in the club colours. andy’s data is quite interesting, looking at the heart rate graph at the bottom you can clearly see the effect of riding on the front, it’s a spiky profile.

incidentally it was the last competitive outing for the stealth, which is now heading off to pastures new, to be replaced my a younger, more lithesome and erotic model, replete with slippery curves and secret recesses. more on this smutty little creature later.

Winning a Time Trial (and setting a course record)

I imagine some cyclists go their whole cycling lives without winning an open event. Crossing the line first in a club event is great, but it’s not quite the same as that elusive Open win. however, there are so many mitigating factors that conspire, and quarrel, and ultimately stop so many of us from reaching the top step of the podium.

Wanting to win something can be a bit of an albatross, 2nd and 3rd is great, but bagging that 1st place, even if you only do it once, is a real game-changer. I’ve come second quite a few times; normally to Tejvan, but also to other super-quick chaps on expensive bikes. it’s something i’m used to, and i don’t bemoan it, in fact, it’s brilliant. i also come 10th or 11th often in flat events where the field is very very strong, and find real comfort in that. like in the man-with-no-pants race, where i came 10th. i count that as right up there with numerous second places.

setting a course record is another thing altogether; and it’s not often that you get the chance. it requires a relatively new course that hasn’t been ridden by someone like rob pears or chris boardman. last year i came within 45 seconds of the course record on the Black Mountain. In short, whatever the context, a new course record means you have ridden that race quicker than anyone else ever.

yesterday, i rode the Minehead Hilly, it’s a 26 mile course that undulates and rolls over the exmoor countryside. there is a whopping great big climb at the beginning and the end of a 12 mile lap. the course record was 1.13 or so, around 21mph average, and set by Andy Winterbottom, a 20 minute man on a 10 course. I thought a few others would enter; alec and steve no less, but they turned their attention to other races. the field didn’t look terrifically strong on paper, maybe three or four pretty handy timetriallists and a lot of club riders from Minehead. I began to harbour thoughts of the win, and also quietly hoped that i might be in with a shout of the course record.

I took the TT bike with full disc, the lot, but began to fear i had made a terrible mistake; no-one else was riding a TT machine. there were some tribars, but that was about it. a few aero helmets, shoe covers, things like that, but no proper pyscho stuff. i also saw a guy on  cervelo r3SL, a veritable hill-climbers bike if ever i saw one, and felt more anxious. one of the officials pointed at my disc wheel and tittered, looked at the weather and made comments about ‘wind speed’ and ‘gates’. i remained unconvinced though, my experience of hardrider events this year has taught me that TT bikes are nearly always quicker, unless the course is absolutely ridiculously hilly and hard. this one – the u26 – was very hilly, but the far side was essentially a 7 mile blast down a valley through winsford with a tailwind.even on the startline i made a joke; about how i felt like i’d turned up in fancy dress to a wedding, or something like that, and a chap said ‘that’s ‘cos it’s a hilly event’, with extra emphasis on the hilly bit, as though i was making a catastrophic error of judgement. maybe this put a bit of wind in my sails, i’m not sure. it’s not like a had choice, although i did take some lighter wheels with me.

i went off quite conservatively, caught three people by the top of the first climb, then proceeded to tear past the rest of the field in a most ungainly fashion. it felt fast, really really fast in fact. my legs were working and seemingly free of lactic build-up, i paced the climbs perfectly. i tore down the valley at around 35mph, sometimes more, rarely less than 32mph, then took the final climb in the big ring, riding at a remorseless pace and rhythm. i felt so good that i was almost certain the course record was there for the taking; i didn’t check the average speed because i knew i was up on 21mph. i prayed for no mechanical catastrophes. I was the 18th rider off, and suspect quite strongly that by the end i had caught pretty much every single rider ahead of me. it was that kind of day.there were two behind me, the scratch rider and one other.

both the second and third placed riders beat the course record, with 1.13.27  and a 1.12.36. i came 1st with a 1.05.30, a full 7 minutes ahead of the second placed rider and over 8 minutes inside the course record at around a 24mph average speed. the promoting club members were a bit gobsmacked, as was I. the finish line was busy, a crowd of supporters had turned out and it really was a fantastic event to ride – and win.

peter whitfield’s race report:

“It was quite a memorable day: great weather, a very safe but very challenging course, and everyone talking about Paul Jones’s amazing new course and event record, smashing the old record by more than 8 minutes. He came past me going uphill about 5 mph faster than I was, sitting down, on the tri-bars, smooth as silk, and he vanished from sight in about 20 seconds – something special. But Leigh Pinchen and Michael Waterjohns were both inside the old record too: pity we can’t give new-record prizes to all three.”

i shall now cease blowing my own trumpet.

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