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National 24 Hr TT: Preparation


Bars set as high as they will go

The night time cockpit

Shimano R700 compact is good

Course diagram goes in pocket

Back at the start of the year, with a full programme of long-distance sportives pencilled in and a vague memory of feeling pretty good around the end of July ’07, I decided to have a crack for the first time at riding twice around the clock, against the clock. These days there is only one ‘24’ on the UK calendar, the remainder having fallen by the wayside as the number of cyclists willing to have a go at this daunting challenge has diminished.

Promoted by the Mersey Roads Club since 1937, it doubles as the UK national championship. Former winners include such 24 hour greats as Nim Carline, Mick Potts, John Woodburn, Andy Wilkinson, Gethin Butler and Nik Gardiner. The route runs south of Chester and comprises a long leg along the A41 between Whitchurch and Telford, a circuit along a back lane that turns at a hamlet called Quina Brook and a finishing circuit that passes the HQ at Farndon.

First priority is the make sure you have a support crew; RCUK publisher Simon Ormesher and staff writer David Arthur pledged their help, so in went the entry. Next up comes nutritional strategy; a phone call to Science in Sport produced a box of Nocte, a big canister of GO electrolyte powder and a plentiful supply of a new and top-secret gel apparently designed specifically for the task in hand, plus Smart-1 caffeine gels for the night session.

Finally comes the choice of weapon. Finally because, well, you can ride anything at a pinch, can’t you? The last long TT I rode was the 2004 national 12 hour champs, which I tackled on a road bike. 238 miles later I prised myself off promising that, should I ever do such a thing again, it would be on a lo-pro. Not because a lo-pro is more comfortable, although with most of the ride spent on the drops my shoulders were pretty drained, but because you can go so much faster for so much less effort, especially on a day when, as it did then, the wind blew with a steady ferocity from dawn to dusk.

The trusty Scott it would be, then, albeit with a few adjustments and modifications. Assuming a cruising speed of 20mph, I fitted a compact chainset and 13-up cassette to ensure I would mostly be riding with the chain in the middle of the cassette for a straight, efficient chain line. The same low cruising speed (for a time trial) meant that rolling resistance would be an important consideration. Out came a pair of Vittoria Open Corsa CX Evo clincher tyres in 25c section, which a quick roll-down test indicated to be marginally quicker than the alternative Conti Forces. Flipping the stem put the tri-bars a good 30mm higher to ease the anticipated strain on my arms and shoulders. Finally, I installed a San Marco Regal saddle. ‘Nuf said.

Given the complex, spread-out nature of long distance TT courses, I have found it useful to carry a ‘schematic’ in a pocket, both as a reminder of the course directions in case of a missing marshal and as a morale booster. Not knowing where you are in relation to your helper can be a real downer… A set of written instructions as to time, place and nature of each food and drink hand-up is useful for the helpers.

Clothing was easily decided; Sydenham Wheelers short-sleeved road jersey with rear pockets, BioRacer shorts proven on previous rides and a mesh undervest would take care of daytime duties, accessorised with cloth road cap and Prendas Ciclismo oversocks, while a thin BioRacer gilet and choice of thin or thick Lycra knee- and arm-warmers would be donned for the night part of the ride. Spare wheels equipped with the same tyres as the primary pair were backed up by a supply of inner tubes and a comprehensive toolkit, while the bike itself would carry a small saddle pack with one tube, one lever and a gas canister…

To answer the night time challenge I turned to Exposure lights and chucked a Joystick MaXx in the box. With a clip-on bracket secured by a reuseable zip-tie, three power settings and a claimed eight-hour run time on the middle of them, this lightweight baby would be my saviour. Mini back up lights front and rear plus a proper back light clipped to the saddle pack, and I was ready. For anything…

To be continued…

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