Why do I still do it? Ride time trials, that is, not just ride a bike. It’s not so much that they are lonely and painful (if done properly… ) but that, for several years now, I have found myself inexorably sliding down the result board. Last year it got so bad I found myself tucked away by a rampant David Arthur…
Advancing years are presumably to blame and there’s not a lot that can be done to hold them back. Or is there? This year I have wintered well, with not one proper dose of man-flu, no long period spent off the bike and a few pounds lost by not wolfing down the usual quantities of food, wine and beer.
Regular riding has been going sweetly, with plenty of miles in the bank and a bit of climbing speed there for the using when needed during recent reliability trials. This wondering about how well one is going is surely why I still ride time trials and, occasionally, road races. Otherwise, what’s the point of good form? You might as well ease off the gas and feel comfortable at a lower speed.
So, my first number-on-back outing of 2011 was the Redhill CC Sporting 18, run on a lumpy course south of Dorking. It’s a personal favourite, not least because I once won it. The early date is another attraction, allowing it to be used as a reminder of what to do, a sharpener before the local main event of the East Surrey Hardriders’ in early March.
A solid field for the event meant I could hope for little more than a top-half finish and a possible beating of a couple of regular opponents who operate in my ball park. This personal battle within an event is often held up as one of the highlights of “testing” and there is definitely something in it even if the opposition is unaware of its status.
So, with the possibility of a half-decent ride on offer from my legs, I do the whole thing properly: early arrival, warm up on rollers, ride out to start with plenty of clothing to avoid getting cold again… Start fast. Damn, it hurts. Like many cyclists, I rarely push as hard on the pedals and certainly not for as long outside of competition. Which means I rarely breathe as hard either.
I know I should do more but motivation is hard to find without that number. Which is why it is worth riding a season-opener earlier rather than later.
Ride done – with a long downhill finish ridden in 53×11 – I return to the HQ, hand in my number for a cup of tea and find myself chatting to RCUK forum contributor Scarlett Parker, who has ridden on 90″ fixed. Times come in, often after the rider, and as the result board fills up I begin to sense I may have done a reasonable ride.
This is confirmed with the arrival by email of the full result sheet. Sure, I conceded over seven minutes to winner Wouter Sybrandy, but 10th place overall and the beating of several of those “ball park operatives” is an improvement over the form of recent years.
Of course, the half-century also marks the point when the Standard Times for Veterans start getting a bit more favourable; third place “on standard” is my best individual vet’s result. For this year, at least, thoughts of packing it all in have been dispelled. Maybe I can get even with Shiny Boy Arthur.