Like most British cyclists I started racing in time trials. The Wednesday night tens on the A46 at Six Hills were a ritual for most of my riding friends and I. The days long before disc wheels and tri-bars. When the sign of a fast rider was a pair of Oakley Factory Pilots…
Well although the roads seem to be getting busier nowadays, local Clubs still put on evening weekday time trials as they are relatively easy to organise and only require a few riders to make the whole thing worthwhile. It’s a great way to get the bug for racing.
In the UK, time trialling is governed by CTT (Cycling Time Trials – formerly known as the RTTC). They have about 2,000 events being held under their watchful eye each year with a further 2,000 or so being club events that are not advertised. There are events held year round but the majority are concentrated into the spring and summer months when there is more daylight about.
Back in the mists of time, racing on the open road was banned in the UK so clubs would organise secretive individual time trials very early in the morning where the riders would wear all black outfits. Must have been amusing. To keep the authorities at bay, when the race was being publicised the course being used for the event would be referred to by a special code, e.g. K6/25, L241, which are still used to this day.
These codes refer to the area (or district) for example A is in the midlands and E is in Essex. There is a list of these in the back of the handbook. They usually suggest an HQ location village or town too. However the organiser may have to alter the start or HQ location so often this is only know once the start sheet is posted, usually a week before the event date. More on entering events later.
The basic facts and figures
The main distanaces are over 10, 25, 50 and 100 miles. These are measured distances. After that there are 12 hour and 24 hour events – but you won’t be doing one of these as a first event! Riders are set off at 1 minute intervals and there are time keepers at the start and finish. All you have to do is remember where to go – there are usually marshalls set out on the course to point you the right way.
The ‘blue ribband’ event is the 25. Chris Boardman holds the National competition record of 45 mins 57secs (incidentally, he did this on a fixed wheel) which he acheived in 1993 prior to his successful hour record. For the women look no further than previous women’s world hour record holder Yvonne McGregor who set 51.50 in 1996.
The ten mile record is Stuart Dangerfield’s rapid 18.19 which he did in 2001. Maxine Johnson did a 20.38 in 1993.
Kevin Dawson’s fifty miles in 1hr 37mins 21secs has stood since 1997. But most remarkable is his 100 mile record of 3 hours 22mins 45secs which he set in 2003. Jill Reames recorded a female best 1.47.48 in 1997
As for the all day distances Andy Wilkinson acheived 300.27 miles for 12 hours in 1996 and the following year managed an incredible 525.07 miles in 24 hours. Must have had porridge for breakfast.
But the most remarkable record is held by cycling legend, the late Beryl Burton O.B.E., probably the greatest ever female athlete that this country has produced. She still holds the 12 hour record for women of 277.25 miles which was set in 1967, this mark wasn’t beaten by a man until 1969! Christine Roberts holds the 24 hour record in 461.45 miles.
What I find unusual is sometimes to reach the desired distance the race will take twists and turns it doesn’t really need to just to reach the target distance. The main reason for this obsession with set distances is so that riders can record a time and perhaps a Personal Best (PB), however this will not consider traffic conditions, road quality, hills and the weather.
Spoco – the sporting choice
Sporting courses (often referred to as SPOCO’s) are not set distances and vary according to a circuit or point to point. Races like the time trial series and national championships now take on this format. They pitch rider against rider and many of these events are part of a season long local series. The SPOCO series will allocate points accoring to 120 for first down to 1 for 120th. Then the rider with the most points wins at the end of the season. These are popular because they are usually on more exciting terrain and there are usually less cars on the circuit.
Under the hour
This is the first target for time trial riders. Going under the hour for a 25 mile test means (somewhat obviously) you can break 25mph. One of the reasons many riders travel miles to reach faster courses.
Entering an ‘open’ event
OK so this is where it gets a little complicated. Although TTs require no special equipment to enter and only third party racing insurance which you can get via CTC or BC membership. To explain why the entry rules are so exact you have to know a little history (see intro) but also understand that the reason there are set distance is to work out the starting order of the riders. Usually the fastest on paper will be off last, then there will be another seeded rider on every 5 or 10 minutes. The rest fill in the gaps, well at least that’s the theory.
So what if you don’t have any previous times? You should try to get into a local club event to record a time or contact the organiser of the event, they may well let you ride on a “come and try” basis. You don’t have to be in a club to do this, but it’s better in the long run as the time trial community expects support from other clubs and it’s best to support this.
what it all means…
Deciphering the codes
The handbook listings are split according to the categories. In this case there are several events within the one event held on the same course on the same day etc. The tandem event has a separate listing as do Women, juniors and the slowest 60 men. The entry fee should be a cheque made out to the organiser and the start time is the start of the first rider off. Most fields are limited to 120 riders although they rarely get this many.
These are also available from the CTT. There is obvious information but the basic time information from your previous events needs to be entered and then signed. Under 18s need parental consent forms signed too. Usually you have to get your entry form in 2 weeks before the event date, however some races will specify an early closing date so look out for this when planning your season.
Over 40’s can enter all races and those classed for veterans only. Veteran racing can be either scratch or handicaped according to a standard, which is reflected by age and ability.
Closed circuits (like Hillingdon and Eastway in London) have evening time trials during the summer and if you’re at all nervous about plugging up and down a busy main road then look out for one of these for starters.
Your local club will have a TT secretary and he or she will be able to point you in the right direction for all the local events and courses. The CTT website and our events system will hold many of the events in the UK but to get the full information you have to buy the handbook.
SPOCO South East and National – Bill Norris – 01268 775721