Reviewing Progress

Reviewing your season is an important element of bike racing. Like many other cyclists I set a series of goals at the start of the year, usually not that far into the off-season. It helps keep me focused on what I want to achieve.

At the end of last year i had PBs of 20.47, 52.15, 1.58 and 4.11.30 for the 10, 25, 50 and 100 respectively. I came 4th in the WTTA hardriders series with 705 points.

My targets for 2012 were as follows:

sub 20.19 for a 10 (club record)
sub 51.30 for a 25 (club record is 50.53, might be out of reach, but we shall see)
new PB in a 50 than this year
sub 1.05.12 in a 30 (club record)

I was also aiming for an improvement in the WTTA series in terms of placings and times. In essence, i spent the first half of the season not really troubling these lofty ambitions, apart from the WTTA, where i seemed to be absolutely flying. These are events which are untroubled by the need for a fast day or course, they are hilly and challenging time trials in scenic areas of the countryside. I came 3rd at Chippenham in the most brutal conditions imaginable, then 2nd at Gillingham, 2nd at Severn, 2nd at Bath, 2nd at Cheltenham, I won at Westbury, came 2nd at Minehead and won at Burrington. In the first 6 events I found i was consistently around 2 minutes faster than a year ago. It was good enough for 717 points and second behind the evergreen Rob Pears. The Westbury win was a cracking weekend because I won the BSCC Open 10 the day before.

I then dabbled around doing a few different events and tried my best not to crash in road races. Doing a bit of massed start was not on the agenda at the start of the year, but it was worth a punt and I ended up getting my 3rd Cat licence pretty quickly and entirely down to the fact that one of the races had a team trial at the beginning so i sat on the front for most of it and we annihilated the opposition. The opening road stage was slightly different, i sat on the front for a bit and was annihilated by the opposition. I am undecided as to whether i will be taking the road races more seriously next year. If i do it will be hilly ones only.

In about August time things suddenly started to happen really quickly. I lined up a tilt at a few fast courses and tried to make sure I had the form to go with it. This meant travelling up north for the V718, a sheltered and quick strip of tarmac near Hull. It was one of those days where everything suddenly seemed to be in alignment and I bagged a 30mph ride. 4 weeks later i repeated the trick and turned in a 19.42, taking a minute off my PB and nearly a minute from the club record.

I also hit the U7b which is my favourite course but notoriously slow. i somehow managed to scrape under 21 minutes out in the graveyard (twice) with a 20.46 being about as fast as last year’s PB on any course. The same weekend I made the trek over to South Wales for a last crack at a quick 25 – my PB had been elusive all season. The conditions and the headwind were finally in the right place and I managed a 50.21, which was also good enough to shave 30 seconds from the club record. During the event I was passed by Michael Hutchinson who was en route to competition record of 45.46. Jeff Jones also managed a super fast 47.40.

Hill climb season wasn’t in my aims because i felt the Rake didn’t suit me. I rode it anyway, and managed 35th place. I should probably have made it a goal and tried harder, or ridden a smaller gear. I’m not sure I could have tried harder, unless i went as far as Jack Pullar who spent 25 minutes puking violently into a bucket after his effort. The real goal was Burrington, and despite it being a slower day I managed to win the event. It was my 5th open win of the season, along with the Westbury Hilly, Severn 10, BSCC 10 and the Haytor HC.

And that’s it. Since last Sunday I’ve eaten an significant amount of Cadbury’s Chocolate.

we went to cadbury’s world and bought the contents of the factory. we then celebrated in subway.

It’s been an extraordinarily successful season on a personal level. I made progress i didn’t imagine was possible. I also got married in March, which outdoes even a short 19 in terms of amazingness. I have no idea what happens next season. I am going to give it some thought over the next few weeks and then come up with some aims. Having just said that I have no idea what happens next season, i do know a couple of things: the Stang will be featuring quite heavily in my end of year plans, it climbs 800 feet in a little over 2 miles; and it’s likely that my early season may be preoccupied with an exciting new arrival that unusually doesn’t come from the local bike shop.

V718: fast fast fast

I went to see my mum this weekend and used the opportunity to recce the hill climbs in preparation for the season. The visit also coincided, miraculously, with an open time trial run on the super fast v718 course near South Cave. What are the chances? My Mum got wind of the race and wanted to come and watch. She sometimes comes to see the hillclimbs which can be great for spectators, all that gurning and pain. I pointed out that in this case there really wouldn’t be a lot to see, at all. She’d have to stand on a bridge over the dual carriageway just to watch the riders go round a big roundabout. It’s not that edifying a spectacle. She thought better of it.

The event was run by Team Swift with no prizes and all the money going to the charity. Last week, one of their longstanding club members, Lenny Grayson, was killed by a car whilst taking part in a 100 mile trial. I spoke to Allen of Team Swift after the event to offer my condolences. By all accounts, there is a Lenny in every club, someone relentlessly chipper and enthusiastic, keen to do anything and everything for the sport and for their peers, someone committed to the simple art and pleasure that can be derived from riding and racing bicycles. The event was a fitting tribute.

Last time i rode the course, a couple of weeks ago, i managed a 19.49. The experience was a bit of a novelty. Rolling down onto the main road i kept thinking ‘holy shit it’s fast, this course is fast, i’m going really fast here’, and then when i crossed the line i remember thinking ‘oh my god that was so fast i’ve done a 19, holy shit’. It was all a bit of a rush of excitement. This time there was a form of pressure because i knew the course, even on a non-float day, had the capacity to be pretty kind.

There’s a shared understanding that the course is at its fastest with a tailwind on the way back (apart from floatilicious days). Yesterday there was a definite headwind back which dented times a bit. I say ‘dented’, the times being recorded were absolutely ridiculous. This has more to do with the calibre of the field. Every single rider on a 5 or 10 in a field of 120 – so that’s the 24 fastest riders – had a PB of under 20 minutes. The event closed on a 21.30. On the way to the start i saw a rider on a ‘9’ and got to thinking what his normal number would be in a typical race, run without some of the fastest guns in all the land; probably a 2 or even a 1. By some quirk of fate, i was allocated a ‘O’, making me one of the faster riders on paper. I definitely felt the pressure, but also felt quite chuffed to be wearing a 10 in such a prestigious event.

My legs were still feeling the effects of the week’s exertions, but I was confident that once racing i’d be ok and aspired to set a PB, which would mean also lowering the club record. I went off pretty hard, possibly too hard, making it to the turn in about 9.30 or thereabouts which suggested a 19 was definitely on. The way back was hard. In fact, it was much harder than I would have liked, with my speed dropping into the wind and up the draggy sections. I still crossed the line in 19.42, taking 7 seconds off my previous effort, which is nice. One thing was apparent: sustaining 30 miles per hour for 20 minutes is very hard work, regardless of how quick the course appears to be.

Klaatu Barada Nikto (says Rob Pears)

Back at the HQ the times were being put up on the board. It was a chastening experience, i’ve never ridden in an event with such a startling array of fast people. Rob Pears carded an 18.44, amongst 4 other 18s, one of which was an 18.16. There were around 10 or so other 19s. I think i might have just scraped into the top 20. But that’s only a part of the narrative. This chap rode:

a cheeky smile from Dr Hutch

Michael Hutchinson has just been called up to the Northern Ireland team to race the World Championships in September. I think he’s pretty much established as the greatest time triallist the sport has ever seen in this country and if there was any doubt, he probably buried that today. ‘Hutch’ won the event with a 17.45, a new national competition record by about 7 seconds. Bradley Wiggins’ PB is a 17.57 i think. It was a phenomenal ride.

Legs of iron girders, glam rock shoes, shonky number-pinning = competition record

Sub 20 Minutes for a 10 Mile Time Trial

It’s quite an inelegant title. I had other ideas, perhaps ‘Hallelujah’, which was running through my head as i soft-pedalled to try and get off the main road as quickly as possible.

I haven’t posted about the event as an upcoming target because I’ve been wary of tempting fate and generally keeping my cards quite close to my chest. This weekend I made the epic trek to the frozen tundra of the North to see my Dad who lives at Withernsea. Coincidentally, there happened to be a 10 mile time trial on at South Cave, also in The East Riding of Yorkshire. Coincidentally I had got my entry in some 6 weeks ago.


The V718 at South Cave is almost universally seen as the fastest in the country. If you’re chasing a fast-time then it’s in the same league as the R25/3L. On a good day you stand to obliterate your PB and therefore spend the rest of your cycling life locked in a fruitless battle to regain those lofty heights. On a bad day you still stand to beat your PB, but more destroy than annihilate. The startsheet suggested it was going to be a bit of a humdinger. I was off on a ‘2’, which is some way down the list of seeds. There were a frightening number of quick people on the sheet, or if you look at it another way, people who had set times on one of the super quick days in Hull over the past 18 months. It’s hard to escape the fact that this course, like the Welsh ski slope, attracts the fastest riders in the whole country, making it quite difficult to get a start even with the large field. I think there were three events running with180 riders and a lot of reserves. Top of the pile was 55 (!) times national champion Michael Hutchinson, who also came 4th at the last two Commonwealth Games. A quick glance at the startsheet suggests that the event closed on a 22.30. This means if you haven’t ridden a 10 mile time trial at an average speed of above 26.7mph then you wouldn’t make the cut.

I drove the course beforehand to check out the route, especially the turn. There’s nothing remotely romantic or scenic about it. Neither does it look like a classic drag strip course.  The road surface in places is appalling with lines of potholes, but in others it’s been resurfaced and is billiard-table smooth. The inkling that it might be quick comes from the trees and raised sides that give the course a considerable amount of shelter from the wind – with the exception of the last 3 miles where it’s suddenly much more exposed. The turn is fast, 2 roundabouts with a long sliproad either side. The finish is on the main road rather than requiring a turn, meaning you can hit the line at full pelt.

On arriving at the HQ it took me a full 30 minutes to find somewhere to park. The village of Newport was inundated with men and women in lycra with strange bikes. They seemed to take it with a healthy degree of tolerance. The Wiggins factor is helpful in this respect, you don’t feel quite so anomalous when riding some piece of crabon fibre bongo. I could see the trees swaying fairly ominously in the breeze, and i was angry. If it hadn’t been entirely coincidental that I was doing the race in the first place I would have been even more vexed that I’d embarked upon a 500 mile round trip simply to experience the debilitating effect on progress riding into a headwind can have. The chance element meant that i could afford to be vaguely circumspect. I adopted my usual goal-setting method that i tend to use for a big event. It’s a way of managing disappointment, as much as anything.

Goal 1: Go under 20 minutes, achieving a 30mph average. Jeff Jones told me I could do it. He should know, he recorded the 3rd fastest time of 18.09 (ever, anywhere, 11 seconds behind Saint Bradley of Wiggins) on this course in April. If it went wrong, i could blame Jeff’s duff gen, with all his uber-fancy crabon blingblong skinsuit and windtunnelbike combo.

Goal 2: Get the Bristol South club record. It was set in 2007 by Steve Downs, he put in a sterling 20.19.

Goal 3: Improve upon my PB of 20.42.

I felt the middle one of these was the most likely and I would probably turn in a 20.15 or thereabouts, with the conditions and the course probably good for about 30 seconds. Just getting under 20.40 would have left me feeling vaguely happy. Going under 20 was a bit of fantastical whimsicality on my part, but you have to aim high.

On the start line i said to the pusher that ‘the boss was starting in a moment’, referring to Hutchinson. They said he was a ‘dns’, to which I replied, ‘that’s because he heard I was riding.’ They went really really quiet and didn’t say another word. The pushed looked at me askance. I was tempted to say ‘it was a joke’, but i kept schtum, having already offended their sensibilities with my slightly undetectable and dry humour. They seemed like nice chaps though and the start was organised with a military efficiency. You were held on the path until your turn, then called forward by your first name. It was all very exciting, in an ‘I better not mess this up, these chaps are going to tell me off’ kind of way. I didn’t get the telling off, but i did get ‘the look’. Another chap got a warning for performing a u-turn near the start (before racing).

At the start i opted to go off fairly conservatively. I dropped down onto the dual carriageway and started turning over the big gear. Within a short space of time i was doing around 32mph and it felt ok, not effortless, but i was on top of the 11 sprocket. I kept it steady and held it on the outward leg, making it to the 5 mile mark in 9 minutes 31 seconds, with a 32.5mph average. I had to gird my loins for the return, anticipating a steady hemorrhaging of seconds with my average speed slipping away. My aim was simple – keep it above 30mph. I knew the very last bit was quick, it crests up and then has a relatively fast finish, but was anxious that the return leg would be somewhat slower. And so it proved. Even with the turn out of the way my speed did begin to dip. I was under no illusions though, holding 32.5mph would have seen me return an 18.30 or thereabouts and put me next to Graeme Obree on the 10 fastest rides ever list.

By about the 7th mile i knew that a PB was in the bag, the club record was almost certainly on and there was a distinct possibility i’d squeak in under 20 minutes. Moments later the shelter at the side of the road disappeared and the headwind increased substantially. I had to dig deep into the suitcase of courage and had a horrible feeling that it all might slip away. For the first time my speed noticeably dropped, as low as 23mph on the steady drag. I redoubled my efforts, crested it out and picked it up for the slight downhill to the finish. The wind was unpleasant and I had no semblance of souplesse, I was completely on the rivet and relieved to get across the line. I then had to stay on the main road for about 4 miles to get back to the HQ. By my reckoning and the generally accurate science of the Garmin, I had managed a 19.49. This is within the margin of error and I knew I’d done it. I just needed confirmation from the results board which came in due course. I think i may have got into the top 15, probably just outside the top ten, which is creditable given the strength in depth of the field. The winning time was around a 19.20 or thereabouts with a whole host of riders in the 19.40s.


One of my season’s aims was to take the club 10 mile time trial record. I managed it – beating the existing mark by 30 seconds. This is a whopping chunk. More significantly, I’m the first Bristol South rider to record a 30mph ride at 10 miles. I feel proud and privileged, not to mention a bit lucky and bit strange. It feels really weird to have managed a sub-20 minute ride. In fact, it doesn’t feel real, as though there has been an error somewhere and it will all come crashing down at some point. Rob Pears congratulated me this morning on the ride. It’s surreal; I can’t really work out how I’ve come from where i was two and a bit years ago, to where I am now. I’m happy though.

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