National 24 Hr TT: The ride - Road Cycling UK

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National 24 Hr TT: The ride

My helper

Spectators at the start

How long?

Three hours to go for these riders

The hoped-for glorious debut at 24 hour time trialling this was not; I packed after about 15 ½ hours with a mere 266 miles under my wheels going by the distances on the start sheet. Oddly enough, although I did not finish I was credited with a finish total of 237 miles on the CTT website; maybe each Prees Island circuit had to be completed to register the mileage…

Ignoring club president and 24 hour veteran Bob Loader’s advice to travel on the previous day and stay overnight, I calculated that, with my start at 13:41hrs, I would have plenty of time to get there on the Saturday morning in the comfort of publisher Simon Ormesher’s BMW X5… As Friday dawned I put the finishing touches to the Scott, including the all-important computer that would tell me whether or not I was averaging 20mph…

The best-laid plans, as they say, go oft awry. Sometime around midday I got a call from Simon O, who had been knocked off his bike on the way into work and was too badly bashed about to be able to help as planned. Emergency calls to various potential helpers elicited offers of an hour here and an hour there from several kind souls. However, the difficulty of co-ordinating such a band would have proven too much of a hurdle to a good ride, so as a last resort I called the organiser. ‘Come up tomorrow anyway and I’ll see if I can find someone in the meantime.’ Can’t ask for more than that.

On arrival at Farndon Sports and Social Club, I found that organiser Jon Williams had indeed managed to find me a helper in the willing shape of Ian Kellaway of the Coventry CC, who was at the event with his mum. Ian had originally planned to help a friend who did not enter in time and instead was preparing to marshal. With a 403 mile ride in the 2006 event under his belt, he knew exactly what I had coming. ‘If you feel like packing, at least sit down for a bit and have a cup of tea to give yourself time to change you mind,’ he said. ‘I don’t usually pack’, said I, failing miserably to find a bit of wood on which to knock. Bob Loader arrived with less than half an hour to go…

The first four hours went swimmingly at an easy 22mph, although the stretch down to Telford was ominously tedious. On the way back for the second time, it became clear that the Scott, which was fine for a couple of hours, was not going to be fine for 24 of them. Resting on the tribars was exceedingly uncomfortable, partly because they were still too low and partly because the elbow rest plates were too sharply curved for my forearms and dug into the sides. The start bar grips, not set up to be held for long periods, were neither a comfortable nor very aero alternative. Given that flogging on for another 20 hours on the start bars was not a realistic proposition, I decided to abandon the event but, on reaching Ian at Espley roundabout, was persuaded to carry on. Apart from anything, I didn’t want to spoil his fun… Before doing so, I put the spacer formerly above the stem beneath it for a slight increase in bar height, and tilted the extension upwards.

The difference was incredible, that change of bar angle immediately easing the stress on my shoulders and allowing me to find a better placing for my forearms. Game on – again. We were sent onto the Quina Brook circuit after two trips to Telford and 95 miles. Halfway round there was a stiff climb around the village of Prees. Ian set up camp and settled in as I tapped out the 12 mile laps. This section was very enjoyable until my knees, which had been rubbing the sides of the top tube, eventually chafed through the skin thanks to the Scott’s rough surface finish. Salty sweat ran onto the raw patches. Each time the skin touched the top tube I got a sharp stab of pain. Reaching Ian, I asked for sticking plaster on the next round. Instead, I got some from a bunch helping another rider. Within a couple of miles the plasters had fallen off, but by now I had found a slightly bandy-legged way to ride that avoided knee contact with the top tube. Besides, I would soon be wearing protective knee warmers. Fortified with a meal of cold pasta and wearing my warm gear, I set off for the night leg.

This was supposed to comprise four repetitions of the Prees Island to Shawbirch and back leg, each covering more than 39miles. Riding the leg twice early on I was struck by how tedious it was, with roundabouts at Tern Hill and Espley, where Ian was waiting, to break the monotony. In the falling darkness, the sense of having no stimulus was even more intense and, as I turned at Shawbirch for the first time, I began to contemplate the awful prospect ahead. It was not helped by the return of pains felt whenever I lowered myself onto the tribars. At least the Joystick MaXx was doing a good job.

Back at Espley I had another crack at abandoning, only to be told by Ian he would wait at Prees Island for me to make up my mind. Over the next 10 miles I pondered my options: pack and do – what? It was one o’clock in the morning. Or, simply plod on. I rode straight around Prees Island and headed back towards Tern Hill. Three hours later the first glimmer of dawn touched the underside of clouds high above. Mist lay everywhere, and as Ian drove past to a suitable hand-up point a badger ran in front of my wheel, nearly bringing me down. This would have been almost welcome, for my right knee was beginning to hurt – or, more precisely, the lateral collateral ligament. Odd, this, since my knees never normally give trouble. Had there been perhaps an hour to go I might have pressed on to the finish, but the remaining nine were too many to ride without risking serious injury to the knee. Just as I had resigned myself to continuing to the end, I was presented with the perfect reason to stop. I thought of the scorn I would endure from Mike Bloom, husband of multiple women’s champion Marina, whom I had seen riding well during the night. However, when I reached Ian he told me she had climbed off. I could read Mike’s note, given to Ian earlier on the understanding I would only get to see it if I finished…

In retrospect, the knee problem was surely caused by riding knees out to avoid rubbing the top tube, and could not reasonably have been foreseen. Bike comfort can only be tested over the same ride time as the proposed event; I’ll know better next time. The night riding issue, however, was ridiculous considering I have ridden Paris-Brest-Paris and numerous other night events. Riding a night time trial is, I discovered, very different; you are alone with no reason to stop and nothing to do but ponder whatever comes to mind. Maybe a light shining on the computer would help… now, there’s an idea for next year!


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