As much as I’d like to think otherwise, time trialling is a resolutely amateur sport. I don’t mean that I favour the professional set up per se, in fact, i’m a fervent believer in the noble ideals of amateurism and ideologically opposed to the apotheosis (or nadir) of professional sport. I sometimes like to think that my racing victories somehow have some sort of national context and represent an elite level of competition. In truth, there are a handful of competing riders within each district who could hold their own within the higher echelons of elite and professional racing. Matt Bottrill is one, Jeff Jones another, I am not one of them. Occasionally I come up against a professional, and occasionally I even finish within the same time zone, but generally, i compete amongst the ranks of equals, those tying down a full-time job and wrestling with the demands of life; trying to compete, but only competing with an array of competing interests. I settle for half, and I like it better.
Generally i ride anything between 40 and 70 races a year, sometimes more. I rode 40 opens in 2011 and probably a similar number of club events. In order for this to happen an army of willing volunteers have to be mobilised, giving up their free time entirely willingly to organise the events for people to race. For the past three seasons I’ve also been organising races, with varying degress of success. I can’t say i ever willingly chose to take on the promotion of an open time trial; someone asked because no-one else wanted to do it and I said yes. Had I known the level of hard work and the time frame involved, I might have said no, and most years when up to my eyeballs in race entries and struggling to work out how many marshalls i need I tend to say ‘never again’. I’m silently envious of those who organise a 10 or a hill climb, with their one marshall, a couple of signs, balmy afternoon starts and a time frame of about half an hour.
Bristol South CC organises several events including opens at 10, 25 and 50 miles, a mega-hilly in the Cotswolds and a season-ending hill climb at Burrington. The chairman organises a road race, and several other club members also organise events for the WTTA. In addition, like most clubs in the country we run a weekly time trial series on Wednesday nights; this is often the first introduction for racing for many people and leads to bigger, scarier, faster things. In short, the club actively promotes cycling at a grass roots level.
Last weekend I organised the club 50 for the third year. I’ve learnt several things: riders are very appreciative of a well-marshalled course; the quality of the cakes is important and a degree of (legitmate) flexibility within the often heavily intransigent CTT regulations can go a long way. I’ve been plotting and planning it for ages. There are several deadlines you have to adhere to and all sorts of risk assessments to be done. the hardest thing is probably the marshalling – it involves convincing people to get up at about 4am on a Sunday morning to make their way down the badlands of north somerset in order to stand at a roundabout for 3 hours.
I am indebted to the support of those who made the trek. In many ways, it’s what club life is about. Being a member of the South offers the opportunity to race and ride with peers, to socialise and share stories, become a part of the wider narrative arc of cycling and experience what it means to find unsullied heroes like George Keene or Chris Holloway, or Jon Kempe, rather than placing your faith in the endless loop of betrayal represented by those corrupted and in turn betrayed by the professional sphere. It also offers the chance to give something back, by putting on events for other people to enjoy and to make the arrangements so that they can ride, unencumbered by thoughts of anything other than riding as fast as possible and experiencing the untrammelled joy of racing on the road.
I don’t ride the 50; it’s a little bit too complicated and it’s not really my sort of event. I did ride the mega-hilly – that would be a bit like organising your birthday party then watching everyone else eat the cake and take the plaudits. Not riding gave me a bit more time to take a few pictures, until the starved competitors returned and I had to man the catering stand and make infinite cups of tea. A picture probably tells a thousand words, so I’ll stop writing.
Thank you to everyone who helped and everyone who raced. See you up the road.