Last week was my first road race of the season. I’d been pretending to look forward to it but without knowing my form I was actually dreading it. I didn’t even try and disguise my dread of this week’s event, my first Time Trial of the season.
This was not only to be my first TT of the season, it would only be my second TT ever. It’ll be years before I reach double figures in TTs.
I hate TTs. There are no points on offer. I don’t have a TT bike. I don’t like TT bikes. I hate those riders who get totally caught up in the science of time trialling without ever trying to be good at riding a bike. What on earth am I doing entering this world?
The TT I’m doing is the Buxton Mountain Time Trial. It’s a prestigious one, apparently. I don’t recognize many of the names in the men’s race but the women’s race includes Sarah Storey and Katie Archibald. There’ll be at least one team bus at the event. I’m driving down in the Seicento.
I’m only entering because some of my new cycling mates up here in the Peak District are doing it. They’re old school and they do TTs and Hill Climbs rather than Crits and Road Races. I’m working on changing them. They seem to be having more success in changing me.
There’s another reason that I’m riding this TT. The clue’s in the name. Not Buxton. Buxton is lovely but it’s no reason to put myself through more than an hour and a half of pain. Mountain is the reason. This TT is around 55km with over 1200m of climbing. These TTers probably measure it in miles and feet. All that matters is that it goes up a lot and so I can do it on a road bike and still hope to do ok. No tri bars. I’m not wearing one of those helmets that make you look like you live on a planet that the cast of Star Trek have beamed down to.
Despite the Mountain element I’m dreading this. Did I mention that?
TTs scare me more than any road race. I hate individual sports. There’s no one else to blame. I gave up playing Tennis after too many smashed racquets. Bowling I can only do because playing on the arcades afterwards soothes the pain. I’m not allowed to try golf.
There’s also the suffering. I like suffering in a road race as there’s probably someone suffering more than you. Look around and you can probably see them. In a TT you’re just suffering alone. You want to improve your placing? Suffer more. It’s either an endless cycle of increasing pain or you chuck the towel in.
I’m starting 4th. The first 3 riders don’t turn up. If I’m not the first to finish this TT then I’ve gone badly. I’m the hare for the next rider to chase. I don’t have a hare.
I’ve not recce’d the course. I’ve been told to go steady on the first lap and then dig in for the other two. I won’t do that, apparently.
At the start line and a guy is holding me up while I clip in. This is another thing about TTs that I hate. I have to trust this guy to keep me upright. I’m not even sure I’m in the right gear to move off. I unclip. I’m starting this in with one foot on the ground like in a proper bike race. Who cares if I lose a couple of seconds.
Almost immediately I hit the first climb. This is steep. I’m smashing up it in the big ring. I’ve looked at the course profile and I think this is a short climb before a descent and then onto the proper climb. Nope. This is the proper climb. I taste blood and worry that I’ve blown it in the first 2kms.
I’ve worked out that if I can average about 33kmh then I’ll have gone well. About 8km in and I’m still below 30kmh. This is embarrassing. The descent better be bloody fast to make up for this.
After a rolling stretch in a cross wind I’m onto said descent. Blimey. I almost throw up a gel as I go over a slight ridge at 70kmh. My stomach is in my mouth.
First lap is done. 32 minutes. 33 minutes is a good time on a road bike. I might have actually put myself in this race. I’ve made my bed and now I better suffer in it.
Lap 2 and I use the inner ring on the climb. I’m learning. I reel in a rider up the road. I’ve made up a minute on him at least and he’s only on his first lap. He’s annoyed when I can’t fly past him. I’m on my second lap, mate. I’m dying here.
We yo-yo for the rest of the lap. He goes past me on the flat. I drop him on the climbs. Before the descent I think I’ve finally got rid of him. I actually want to be alone now. Nope. He flies past me on the descent. We’re sick of each other.
Lap 3 and I finally leave my new friend behind on the climb. By my calculations I’ve done the second lap in around the same time as the first. I’ve gone all in. On the second lap I didn’t taste blood on the climb. I’ll use the inner ring again on lap 3.
I catch a couple more riders on road bikes. A couple of TT bikes fly past me on the flat. I know what race I’m in. There’s money on the line for the top 3 finishers on non-TT equipment. I’ve decided that I’m in contention.
On the final descent I hit a pot hole at about 75kph. It takes me a few seconds to realize I’m still alive and moving.
Across the line and it’s all over. 01:37:48 is the time I’m given. I’m definitely interested in that prize money. I head over to the timing board. Every rider gets individual lap times. This is more sophisticated than I thought. There are 3 riders out on the course, on road bikes, who might beat me. Their lap times for the first lap are close to mine. One of them did it faster.
The times are updated. 2 of them have faded. One of them hasn’t. I hope he really blows up on the last lap. I wait. One of my mates has been called to doping control. Glad it’s not me. I’ve gone so deep that I don’t think I’ll piss for a week.
My nemesis out on the course smashes his final lap and beats me by a good minute. Chapeau. I hate you but chapeau.
I’ve finished second in the athlete’s category and won £20. I’ve also finished pretty high up in the overall. 27th. I’ve had a really good day. My wife came with me. She enjoyed it too. I tell myself I’m not going to get seriously into time trials. Please remind me of that before I buy a pointy helmet.