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  • 10/05/2022 Every second counts

    I went out to eat with a group of my old school buddies. Nice gastro pub meal, then heading home I was asked “Why aren’t you on your bike, Dave?” Normally I am, pretty much all the time. “I was training hard yesterday and today, so I needed a break,” I explained. Then I got the look. The look that says are you completely mad: “Training? Training for what?” “Erm, I have race on Sunday.” Still I get that look and realise that training and racing is something that only very few people in their late fifties care to do and fewer care to understand. In which case, maybe I am technically completely mad. I change the subject and head off to the Tube.

    That was Thursday. Sunday comes. It’s the VTTA 10 London and Home Counties time trial, to give it its full title. Put more simply, a 10-mile bike race for vets. As you’ll know from my blog, I’m competing with +RichardM on a tandem again and he reliably informs me that the other two pairs entered in the tandem category are superfast and we haven’t got a hope of beating them. Put it out of your mind, David, he urges me.

    But this is the F11/10 course. It’s a fast course and we are both keen to improve our best time at this distance. That’s 23:35 set at the ICC Open 10, in fact, on the F15/10 course at Brogborough. That’s a fast course, but I reckon this one is faster. Still, I mustn’t think about winning. On the way there we go through all the process goals and dedicate our thoughts to a PB. Memories of being stuck on the start line for almost 2 minutes while one of us (not me, by the way) fails to clip in, owing to a worn-out cleat, haunt us. The more he tried, the harder it got. OK, so new cleats all round. Richard talks (chiefly to himself) about how he’ll tackle the roundabouts and we move on from the cleat debacle. We even did a proper warm up on a turbo. Yes, tandem on a turbo (see photo for proof). I wrote out the classic British Cycling 20-minute warm up and then, as I am wont to do, made a schedule:
    9.30am set up turbo
    9.40am warm up
    10.00am take tandem off turbo and put in car
    10.05am ride to start
    10.15am arrive at start
    10.23am start

    Despite what it said in the organiser’s comprehensive 14-page instruction booklet (or should that be novella), it took us half of the 10 mins he states to get to the start from the HQ. Consequently, we have 15 mins on the start line plutzing. Suboptimal. We see the second tandem pair who are riding an elegant blue classic-looking Harry Quinn steel machine. It looks like no slouch with a 65mm front wheel and a disc at the rear. We just get a glimpse of the third pair, dressed in black and looking very pro. Think process, I remind myself. I do, but keep worrying about the strange way the gears keep wanting to shift to the small ring at random moments. It’d done this several times today and clouds my meditation somewhat.

    10.23 and we’re off! I feel like I’m in the groove. It feels like I’m going hard, but not at too destructive a pace. I worry my watts are down five from the TT practice session we did last week. First roundabout and we have to give way. I worry this will set us back and that we’ll hit more traffic at the other roundabouts. When we hit the faster sections I get into a kind of courier position with my hands either side of the stem. I worry I don’t hold this long enough.

    Somewhere around the 6-mile point, I see our average speed is creeping up. By the time we are at 8 miles it’s 28.3mph. I like it, but I worry about what the finishers have all said to us that “the last 2 miles are brutal and into a headwind.” The last 2 miles are always brutal. I worry our 28.3mph will wither away in the headwind. We crack on after the last turn and I see the second pair approaching the turn. I worry they are catching us. They don’t and finish with what looks like 21.48 on my computer. This would certainly be a PB and a club record.

    I’m wrung out. We head back the HQ and I sign back in. I don’t even look at the board. I assume we’ve been beaten. Richard must have looked though, because he comes over beaming and informs me that we’ve won. We’ve won by one second. Wow. In disbelief, I check the board for myself. 21.51 official time and our best rivals 21.52. Now I could start worrying about what could have gone wrong and cost us a few seconds, but I don’t. I grab a cup of tea and slice up some chocolate cake and enjoy the moment. My inner Muttley is thrilled that we’ll be sent medals in the post.

    So, there were three tandems, also there was one trike and 110 solo riders, no less. A huge field. This might be the fastest course in the Home Counties and I’d recommend anyone you looking for a PB. You can get to the HQ in Tring by train from Euston or it’s less than an hour by car. There are three more races on the F11/10 this year. Details on the Cycling Time Trials website, but the dates are 18 June, 17 July, 10 Sept. Why not give it a go?


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  • Thanks for an interesting write up and well done. What's the traffic like on that road? I like the sound of a course that's even faster than the one used for our Open (I've only ridden the proper course once and its still my PB). However, having driven past cyclists doing TTs on dual carriageways I find that side of things a bit scary.

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