This is my first season in the time trial world, I entered my first Open time trial a month or two ago, set a PB and came 47th of 71 riders on the day. This would be my second go at an Open time trial.
The Open time trial is an event usually run by a local club for riders from anywhere to sign-up and ride. As such, they’re the equivalent of a road race where everyone competes against each other. Some riders are affiliated to their clubs, others will be part of commercial teams (e.g. bike shops) and others will be domestic pros or even the odd international star like Bradley Wiggins or Alex Dowsett.
As I’m still new to time trials, almost every ride involves a PB of some sort. Whether that’s an overall PB or a course PB, each time trial (including club ones) has been done on a different circuit so every ride has been a case of setting a record for myself. This was to be no different. The route was along a busy road a few miles outside of Stafford, an area completely new to me from a bike perspective. With a decent lump of a hill in the middle, the course isn’t a flat one so it would be hard to beat my overall PB. Especially as the lump gets up to around 6%, a definite disadvantage for me.
There was also a solid wind blowing, it would be a cross-tail on the way out and then would be in my face the whole way back. I’d made it to the start with only a couple of minutes to spare having realised that I’d set off from the HQ with my jersey on over my skin-suit. I had to rush back, put it on a peg inside the village hall HQ and then make my way to the start line. I had the fun of narrowly avoiding a cat which ran out of a field and stopped in the road, it wasn’t black so does that count as good omen? I had time for a brief chat with the guy starting a minute after me and then it was time to roll up. I’m still not used to having someone hold my bike up for me and clipping in relying entirely on them to hold me up, one day it might feel natural. The countdown began, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then Go!
The short sprint to get up to speed and then the tucking down onto the aero(ish) bars. With the tailwind it felt easy, 25-26mph without too much effort. I tried to keep some in reserve, knowing that I’d have to put in an effort up the hills, especially on the way back into the wind. I flew through Sandon, was given a shout of encouragement and then tackled the steepest part of the lump. I pushed hard and the legs told me they were on their limit but luckily it was short and a short descent gave the chance for a short rest of sorts.
I realise at this point that I wasn’t really taking much in, I was vaguely aware of a garage and a couple of road signs, but I think I was properly zoned out. I was on the look out for the sign that a roundabout was coming up – this was the halfway point of the course and therefore the point when things would get harder. After going round a bend, finally I saw it, luckily no traffic was coming so I didn’t have to brake and I managed to come off at the correct exit to begin the blast to the finish line.
Shortly after the roundabout, I was caught by the guy who started a minute behind me, always an ominous sign. It turned out he’s the 26th best time trial rider in the Midland district (out of close to 700, my 1 TT puts me around 460). The long drag back up the hill from this side wasn’t particularly efficient, I was messing around with gears trying to find one I was happy with, all the while not being tucked in. I had to resort to standing up at one point, definitely not aero, not particularly quick but the legs were burning and complaining.
Having crested that, I began chasing down a farm vehicle ahead that was going slowly. I ended up catching up behind it on the second part of the hill, stuck behind it but being able to go quick enough to overtake. Once it flattened slightly I was able to but a bollard prevented me and I was now held up briefly. With the start of the downhill back into Sandon, I was able to breeze past, only to then be overtaken by the rider who started two minutes behind me. Very ominous.
I tried to hunt him down on the final stretch to the finish and managed to keep the gap stable for awhile but eventually he began to open it up a touch as gaps in the hedge meant the full force of the wind took effect. With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything before coasting back to the HQ for a slice of very nice Victoria sponge.
Overall I came 21st of 40 riders with a time of 25:26.