As we fast approach the National Road Race Championships, there was time to put the training and racing from the first half of the season to the test with a double header of Time Trials on two local courses in Cheshire.
Here in the north-west of the UK we are blessed with a whole host of amazing local clubs who organise local races every weekend and quite often there are two different courses used at either end of a Saturday afternoon. With the Janus Road Club organising a 25 mile Time Trial at 1pm and then the Manchester and District Ladies organising their popular invitation 10 mile Time Trial at 4pm, the afternoon of Saturday 16th June looked set to be a tough one in the saddle of my Time Trial bike.
With Barney in the middle of a strong endurance phase prior to the next track phase on the tandem, he was the perfect person to invite to do the 10 mile Time Trial with me. The Manchester and District Ladies hold a few invitation events during the racing season and they are popular eventd and always conclude with some great people to chat with over a cup of tea and a slice of cake back at the headquarters after the race.
Saturday morning started brightly enough and with the clouds looking lighter than expected the optimistic amongst us thought the weather man could have been wrong, but indeed he was proved right and the heavens opened as I was warming up.
The patchy downpours continued throughout the first ride of the afternoon on the 25 mile Time Trial course that starts outside Jodrell Bank and heads towards Knutsford before cutting across to the A50 and heading south towards Holmes Chapel before taking another lane back across to the A535 and another circuit to finish on the A50. The wind direction was from the south and so the A50 section particularly close to Holmes Chapel was something of a grind and I was struggling to hold 25mph!
Finishing with a time of 56.37, just over a minute down on my best ever on that course didn’t seem too bad given that every corner had been a virtual dead stop and Chelford Island was busy on both passings.
Drying off with the car heaters going full blast, I quickly changed into a dry set of kit before sheltering under a porch at the headquarters for a brief leg loosener before we headed across to headquarters number two and the Ladies event.
Barney had his bike and kit ready and we were greeted by Claire Rutherford and Nicola Butler who looked equally as drenched as I did, with them having driven down from a circuit race they’d done that morning in Blackpool. It would seem no one could escape the rain!
The 10 course used part of the same stretch of road as the 25 course, so I knew where the standing water was going to be and with a strong tailwind out, knew that if I was going to back up the first ride with a solid second ride, I would need to be well-controlled on the pace going out to the turn. Encircling the roundabout just outside of Knutsford the headwind hit me and I ground my way back up the hill, avoiding some crazy people in big vehicles who didn’t seem to want to drive in the blustery and wet conditions very well.
Finishing with a 22.17, it certainly wasn’t going to break any course records, but as news was filtering through that I had actually been second overall in the field at the 25-mile event, I had also done enough to win the 10 mile event, with Barney producing a great ride to come second overall and giving us the overall “team” prize, where the Ladies times are added to the time of the man they invited.
The effort had caused Barney to be sick at the finish, but he was happy to have been close to his best for the course, especially given the uphill home in that horrendous headwind would be far more damaging for his heavier sprinter body!
Speaking after the event and a very steady ride back to the headquarters [I have to admit I thought he had got lost!] Barney said, “That was the hardest time trial I have ever done!”
“I tried not to go out too hard because I knew the return leg would be extra tough in the very strong headwind and although I tried to pour on the effort after the turn, I obviously went too hard and almost ground to a complete stop as I climbed up towards the pub with about 3km to go! The headwind at this point was ridiculous and I was convinced everyone would come flying past!”
Wringing out another set of kit back at the headquarters it was good to get warm and dry for the second time that day and compare stories of pain with the other riders. Although no one ever consciously orders those kinds of conditions it did cross my mind that having such horrendous weather was great practice, because you never know when you might get faced with such conditions at a major championships.
Of course there is a chance we will “enjoy” conditions like that in London with the summer not really threatening to appear any time soon!
Talking of London 2012, this week sees me head to Brands Hatch for the UCI test day on the circuit we will be using for the Road Time Trial and Road Race and the Paralympic Games and then it’s straight up to Yorkshire for the National Road Race Championships next weekend.