Archive for the ‘Time Trial’ Category

Evening 10

Preparing for the corner

I’d missed the first evening 10 of the year, the one that the club guys race on fixed gear bike in memory of a departed club member but I managed to get to the next one. I like to do at least one short time trial a year and this was to be the one. It also helped that Pete, my neighbour was going too. It would mean that I would have someone to compete against. I’m not sure if he has forgiven me for taking the minutes back in the evening ten that we did last year.

I took Gracie the Trike along for a number of reasons, firstly I like riding a trike and the thought of doing a time trail on one has an air of silliness about it. It also gives me an excuse for when I come last, my Trike is a lot heavier and a good deal less sleek that all of the other bikes. Finally no one else does the time trail on a trike so even if I come last I will be first in my (completely made up) category.

We signed up and were issued a number, Pete would be departing a minute after me. Now the game was to make sure that he didn’t come past. He could easily make up that minute.

The course is two loops and many corners. It’s not flat either. There are no brutal hill but the undulations are telling. I always feel that I’m at another disadvantage at the beginning of the trial. The starter holds bike and gives them a push start. In my case I don’t need to be held so I just end up having a chat with the starter. He doesn’t push me off. I don’t know if the extra boost would be helpful but I would like to find out.

Even though I’d cycled to the event I was gasping for breath by the first corner. My warming up wasn’t quite as through than I had thought. I made it round the corner without tipping over, my constant fear is to fall off early in the race, and headed up the road. I needed to make as much of that minute gap as I could. A few of the faster bikes that were starting their second lap came past at speed. They would be much slower if they were on Trikes I thought. The second corner leads to an upward slope so there is plenty of potential to loose speed here. Then followed the long undulating section. More bikes passed but none of them were Pete, I didn’t expect Pete to be one of them until the second lap.

I got to the start of the second lap reasonably unscathed but not feeling that fresh. This would be the lap when Pete would come past. I put my head down, grabbed the drops and peddled hard. I was going to make it hard for him, I was convinced that he was breathing down my neck. I got to the long straight and was waiting for it to happen, but it never came. Either I was on a flyer or Pete was having a bad day. By the time I got to the finishing straight it was obvious that Pete was not behind me. I still didn’t let up. As I passed the line I saw Pete standing at the finish. How had he passed me without me noticing?

I looked at my time, it wasn’t evens, I’d wanted evens. I might make that a goal for the year, to ride evens on a Trike in a 10 mile time trial.


Italian Job 1

The Fixed Wheel Heros and their high speed start

It had taken over a year and last year it had been thwarted by a storm but we had finally made it. Here we where it Italy about to compete in a four up time trial. I use the term compete advisedly. We were riding single speed steel bikes of a certain vintage. They looked almost antique against the carbon and exotic materials of the other competitors. Ours was a glimpse into a different age and there was a question mark over actually getting round the course without one of the bikes failing.

The team had gathered over the last few days and had jump the last official hurdle, registration. There was a lot of paperwork that had to be submitted and some of it was a little suspect. The fact that only one of us had a basic grasp of Italian and the rest just hoped he actually did know Italian didn’t bode well. After a lot of waiting and coffee all that was left was a finial signature and we were in. The relief gained from jumping all the hoops was tempered by all of the very fit looking people swanning about on very expensive machines. I really felt out of place here.

We cycled from the hotel to the start, it was our idea of a warm up. There were all kinds of static trainers at the start that were being used by other teams to warm the muscles but it was doubtful that our machines would even fit on them. The bikes cause a little bit of consternation. People on modern machines were interested in them, photographers wanted photos and others just wanted a chat. At one point John tried to explain that his and Peter’s father would be on the course with us. Some of his ashes have been encased in a marble that was inserted under the saddle. I don’t think the bemused bystanders really understood. I that that was probably a good thing.

It suddenly got serious. We were on the start line, the bikes being held by commissaries. A voice on the PA introduced each of us in turn and then did a little chat which included the word “historic” far too much. Hopefully he was referring to the cycles. Then the countdown.

Peter led us out, this whole adventure was his idea so it seemed fitting that he should be the one to lead us off the line. Somewhere up ahead a motorbike appeared to lead us round the course. We settled into the rhythm each of us taking a turn on the front and then peeling off and drifting to the back, pulling in behind the last rider and then taking a rest in the slipstream.

The road was long and flat with only a few obstacles, first came the bridge, a small hump that was probably the highest point on the course. Things were going well and even next team passing us like a train didn’t put us off our stride.

Next came the tricky turn around point, a bend in the road followed by a roundabout and then another turn. We knew that it would be very easy to drop someone here and that we had to keep together. The line lengthened but by the time we had negotiated the twists and turns we were back together as a line. We started this thing together and barring mechanical failure, pestilence or disease we were going to finish this together.

We had to pass the start, we knew it was coming up and we knew that there would be some spectators there. Even though we had been passed by a few teams and their team cars by now we were still intent on putting on a show for anyone watching. This meant being in a tight line and giving it everything. Paul hit the front and he wasn’t going to relinquish the place until we had sped though the cheering crowd.

Italian Job 2

Round and round the wicked rascal went

As we headed up the coast and into the sun the road surface started to deteriorate. John was on the front and steered us all into the middle of the road. The team behind us weren’t too happy about this as it put them on a collision course with a team coming the other way. We just kept our heads down and kept peddling, we had no choice, we were all riding fixed.

The third “quarter” of the course was hard, the excitement of start had faded, we had settled down into a rhythm, navigated round a few obstacles and put on a show past the start. Now it was just hard work and grinding out the kilometers. It was obvious that the pace had dropped slightly too. All of a sudden the turn around point loomed complete with a series of people waving red flags. We whipped round the turn and the change of direction injected some enthusiasm and pace back into the line. We were on the way home, barring flood and famine we were going to do this thing. The pace picked up as we counted off the distance.

The 2 km to go sign acted like a boost of power into the team. Suddenly the end was in sight and our tails were up, at one kilometer to go we were motoring at 500 meters the line broke and it was every one for themselves as we sprinted for the line.

Just beyond the line we collapsed into a heap of deep breathing, gasping, coughing and giggles. We’d done it. Later, looking at the results we found we had come “not last” the position that we had geared all our training to, we had only ever aimed to “blow the bloody doors off”

Italian Job 3

The exhausted feeling of a team time trial done


Waiting for the start

There was a lot of nervous chatter hanging in the air at the start. I was just as guilty as everyone else. This was my first 12 hour and I was doing it on Gracie the Trike. There were three other trikes taking part but they were all at the front end of the starting order, I was near the back. Normally on a time trial the slower ones are started first, why was I near the back with the fast boys on two wheels? This was just a little unnerving. Every minute another competitor took off down the road and the line advanced forward until I was sitting there poised and ready to go. I had no doubt that I wouldn’t catch my minute man, but when the start marshal casually mentioned that he had completed the Tour de France any vague hope I had evaporated into the wind.

The first part of the course consisted of some long stretches of road and a few “double backs” which would eventually lead to the meat of the day, the Rye and Camber circuits. It wasn’t a case of if the riders behind me would come past, it was a case of when. It took a lot longer than I expected but once the tap was opened they seemed to come flying past at regular intervals, although surprisingly not in numerical order. There were some really fast cyclists out on the course today.

Something that really bugs me is when someone overtakes and then seems to slow down. In my furtive imagination I think that they have seen me in the far distance and have put in a little extra effort to reel in the Trike. As they come past the purpose for the extra little effort goes and they slow down a little. At this point I hit a dilemma, should I now reel them in? this is probably an unrealistic task, but seems possible as I am slowly gaining, or should I slow slightly until they are on their way. Usually the slight difference in speed takes its toll and before long there is a sizable gap between us and all thoughts of a heroic yet pointless chase are gone.

There were signs and marshals everywhere. This was good as it left very little for me to get wrong. I habitually don’t read the route notes as they make very little sense to me. This meant that I had no clue about where I was going. This would be resolved on the second lap, but the first circuit would be an adventure. I came to a roundabout with no signs or marshals. Panic! What to do? In the absence of being told anything straight on seemed the right thing to do. I carried on but felt uneasy about it. What if I’d gone wrong. I was only a few hours in, it would just be embarrassing to mess it up so early when tiredness and exhaustion are no excuse. After a while I saw a cyclist ahead. Was this another competitor or someone out for a Sunday ride? Slowly I got nearer, close enough to see their number. This was a good sign, at least two of us had made the same mistake. More importantly there was someone on two wheels that I could overtake. This was unexpected and lifted my spirts. A few miles later there were marshals and signs galore, I was going in the right direction. Life was good.

I was doing this unsupported, most other riders had people. They were dotted around the course handing out food, water and encouragement to their riders. All I had was a crate that had been deposited somewhere on the course. I was hoping that I would spot it at some point or else I would be in real trouble later on. I passed a layby packed with people waiting for their riders to pass. It was nice to receive the cheers and congratulations when I passed, it made me feel a part of the event. A few moments later, at the roundabout I saw my crate, next time round I’ll be stopping there to take on food and water.


The box of sugary delights

I was now on the second loop and a familiar set of  roads. I could sneer at the roundabout that had caused the consternation the first time round. I could look round a bit more rather than worry about if I was going the right way. I could admire the sandstone outcrop at the side of the road and wonder if anyone had climbed it. I could be a bit more careful on the junctions around Rye and keep all the wheels on the ground. Heading up past the wind farm I saw others coming down the other way, The Rye circuit must have closed and we were now on the Camber circuit. More significantly, I saw trikes. Not that I’m competitive or anything but they were not that far ahead. I started doing “possibility maths”. How big was the gap? Was it getting bigger or smaller? Was it possible to catch them? Most of this had more to do with possibility than maths and most of my calculations were based firmly in fantasy. This furtive thinking was halted when I reached my crate at the roundabout.

My “Nutrition and Hydration Plan” was a little haphazard to say the least. My only experience of feeding on long time trails is doing two 24 hour trials both of which I’d got it horribly wrong, on the first I’d ended up buying sandwiches from a service station on the course and on the second I didn’t finish due to dehydration and stupidity. This time I’d put a little thought into it, but not much. There was plenty of water with added science stuff to stop me dehydrating and feeling bloated at the same time. There were bottles of Coca Cola, normally I detest the stuff but after riding for miles on end it suddenly becomes the drink of choice. There was lots of sweet stuff including small packets of Haribo, for something sweet and non-chocolate. I’d also put in some savoury things as the relentless eating of jellies and chocolate leaves I hideous cloying taste in my mouth and a stomach ache reminiscent of childhood. The savoury selection may have been a mistake, two pork pies and two Cornish Pasties.

The art of doing long time trials I’ve been told comes down to two things:

  1. Keep moving forward
  2. Don’t go slowly

Which means stop as little as possible and if you can do it on the bike, don’t do it standing at the side of the road. This is why I was trying to stuff a pork pie into my face whilst peddling into the wind on the start of the Camber Circuit. Now a pork pie, fresh from the fridge, cut into slices and served as part of a meal is a wondrous thing and completely different to a whole pork pie that has been stood at the side of the road in the sun for a few hours. The pastry was gooey and soft, it attached its self to my gums and teeth like super strong glue. The meat was warm and fatty. What should have been a joyous savoury moment had become a torment. I wasn’t unhappy when I hit a bump and the hateful little thing jumped out of my hand and into the verge. I won’t be eating another that was for sure.

I was prepared for the wind by the second circuit. It didn’t make it easier and I’m sure that my cursing would have offended anyone who was listening. It wasn’t only the wind, my legs hurt, my back hurt and my bum was getting sore. Having to struggle against the wind just made it all so much worse. The torment ended just past Camber. I’d like to think that I’d suddenly become a stronger cyclist but it was probably more to do with the wind pushing me along.

The second peak of the day happened between Camber and Lydd. I saw someone ahead. This could be another chance to overtake someone. After a while I it dawned on me that it was a Trike ahead. This felt good, it meant that I was going faster than at least one other Trike and that if this carried on I would be in my favourite position of “Not Last”. The Trike category was only in my head, but for me that was a very real and tangible category. Up ahead was a direct competitor and I was gaining. My ego was doing somersaults of delight. I may have had a big grin on my face as well. “Not Last”, my target position for this event, was one step closer. If only I had a clue about the other Trikes.

I was told at the when I stopped at the crate for more sustenance (my nutrition and hydration plan had degraded to Coca Cola and Haribo, supplemented with lots of water) that this would be my last Camber loop. That felt good. The marshal did qualify that with “unless you can do the next loop in under 40 minutes”. Not a chance! One more battle with the wind, one more passing the white sand shoe in the middle of the road, one more being blow towards Lydd one more rattling over the rubbish road surface by the airport and then sweet relief as a marshal directed me North instead of South at the roundabout. I was heading for the finishing circuit.

There was something strange on the way to the finishing circuit; a hill. It wasn’t big or long or steep but after being out on the Romney Marsh for hours it seemed like a mountain. I had to change down a gear and even then it was a struggle. It wasn’t made any better by the rider with dreadlocks and tattooed legs coming past me like a speeding train.


Gracie, cleaned and ready to go

Whist going round and round the finishing circuit I contemplated quite how lonely doing this sort of thing is. There must have been between 30 and 40 riders on the circuit but the chances of actually seeing them were slim. Every now and again someone would come flashing past, not slow enough to chat to though, and that would be that. Of course passing someone was always a bit of an ego booster. It happened twice for me on the finishing circuit, first it was past the cyclist I’d passed much earlier and then it was the one that counted. I passed another Trike. This was in my league, this had consequences. At that moment I was “Not Last” and potentially “Top Half”, better than I had expected. I had a celebratory stretch and a mouthful of Haribo. Little victories need celebrations.

After what seemed like an eternity of going round and round the finishing circuit, time started to run out. I calculated that I was on my last and it was now just a matter of where I would run out of time. I don’t know why but I really wanted to stop by the time keeper with the portable oxygen supply and tubes in her nose, after the pub and the climb. As the clock ticked its way to the twelve hours it became more obvious that that was going to be where I stopped. They were in sight…

And Stop.

I don’t do many short time trials, in fact I can count the number of ten mile time trials I’ve done on the fingers of one hand. I was persuaded by Pete to have a go at the EGCC evening 10. For some reason the first one of the season is traditionally done on a fixed but Pete assured me that no one would complain if I turned up on Gracie.

We took a slow ride to the start where Gracie was soon surrounded by a small group of admirers whilst one or two made disparaging remarks. I doubted that I would be that fast, if fact I would have been happy with anything under forty minutes (previously, on two wheels, I’d never managed to break 30 minutes). I was given number 2, Pete had number 3, and he would be chasing me down.

The starter was amused that he didn’t have to hold the bike up but he gave me a decent push off all the same. The first corner came startling quickly but was negotiated with the minimum of fuss and a lot of leaning over the inside wheel. Up ahead I saw my minute man. This was good; I was catching him which meant that I would be “not last”. This is my favourite finishing position. I swung round the second left hander and put in a burst of acceleration to overhaul my minute man. Not last was in the bag. Now the game had changed, now it was staying ahead of Pete.

Pete caught me half way round the second loop, in the same place I’d overtaken my minute man on the first time round. Well that’s the minute gone, but I had no intention of letting him take too much more time. He slowly pulled away but after the corner on the slight hill he slowed. I started gaining. This was good, from the brow of the hill to was all downhill to the finish. I took that minute back and was determined to keep it. I imagined that he was breathing down my neck ready to pounce. I was an all-out effort to the finish, no looking behind, no hesitation; he was not taking the minute.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Faster than a speeding bullet

Gracie and I now hold the course record for a Trike, which is impressive until you find that we are the only Trike and rider on this course in living memory.