Time Trialing for Beginners by Luke Van Lincoln
Several years ago, when my hair was a natural colour, my waist still fitted into 30 inch trousers and I had time on my hands, I heard of the PETTS series of 10 mile time trials. Powered by memories of Graeme Obree and Greg Lemond, of David Millar and also, come to think of it, of having watched the 2002 Commonwealth Games time trials, I really rather fancied giving testing a go. I even saved up for a road bike and trained for it.
But did I actually enter? Did I 'eck as like! I promised myself that one day I would be fast enough, I'd enter when I could manage ten miles in half an hour or less, I'd wait until I was fitter. On such vacillations is my life built.
In the meantime, I discovered that running can be rather pleasant. I ran over 50 parkruns, several half marathons, a couple of 10 mile races and even a marathon, before deciding to retire from marathon running on the entirely wise grounds that if God had intended us to travel such stupid distances he would have given us the wheel.
I digress. I did once manage a sub-30 minute 10 mile time trial but as it took place on a circular route that I spotted somewhere near the Loire and there were no witnesses other than my Garmin, you'll just have to take my word for it.
Tonight, however, I finally stopped procrastinating and drove straight from work to Bilsborrow Village Hall (via the Spar for a spot of tea) where I met the friendly organisers of this week's TT, members of Preston CC. I announced that this would be my first effort and was given some sage advice: don't go off too fast; watch out for the wind; the road surface on the stretch to Myerscough is a shocker. And apparently I might shave a second or few off my time by ditching the mudguards. Quite true. Ditching the several kilogrammes of fat might be more beneficial though, I thought.
Shortly before six o'clock, it was decided that someone really should ring the person in charge of unlocking the village hall. And then it was time to sign on. Top tip: bring a fiver. Everyone tonight seemed to have brought a tenner so change was hard to find.
I noted that arm warmers and knee warmers were very much in evidence. I relaxed a little and set off down the road to Barton Grange to warm up. It was further than I thought but I had plenty of time.
I was rider number 7. Thirty seconds to go. It's a curious feeling when arriving at the start to be held up by someone else as my feet clip into the pedals and as I hear the countdown. Ten seconds. I start my Garmin. Five. I consider that it might be an idea to stop gripping the brakes quite so tightly. Three. No. Really let go of the brakes. Two. But what if I fall off? One. Zero. I don't fall off.
I rather expect to be overtaken in rapid succession by the other competitors who are setting off, one a minute. There is an unreasonably strong headwind and I recall that I've to contend with this for the best part of four miles. After the first mile, my average speed is showing as 17 mph. I'm happy with this. I've done no real training for this sort of effort in a long time but I know that I can hold a heart rate of 170 bpm for half an hour without too much difficulty and that's currently what my ticker is doing.
Around this point, I am overtaken by the first rider, hurtling along at an impressive speed. This is fine. The French call this "contre le montre", against the watch, and I'm entirely expecting to get the highest time of the evening anyway.
After four miles of not quite pan flat cycling, I see two high-viz clad marshals urging me to turn left. The wind eases significantly. I up my speed a little. The road snakes gently through the landscape. Traffic is light. I notice that other competitors are generally turning a big gear slowly while I'm turning smaller gears fast. If my legs weren't already suggesting they were about to complain then I might give that a go. As it is, my lungs are now operating at maximum effort and I'm remembering that feeling of being almost at the point of collapse that I used routinely to experience when running a 5k race,
There's a very sharp left turn to Myerscough. I take the opportunity to breathe again as I point my front wheel round the bend. Barely three miles to go, the wind picks up a little. A tractor driver pulls out a couple of hundred yards ahead. He is travelling at slightly less than 17.8 mph. I'm catching him. It would be nice if he accelerated a little. Instead, he slows then stops to take a right hand turn. "Fucking knob'ead," yells the charmer who is just overtaking me. This seems harsh. We all have to share this road and we cannot reasonably expect everyone else to wait while tonight's testing on the L105 takes place.
After nine miles, I try to turn my effort up again. I'm now barely able to find any more speed. I'd rather like to see the finish line soon. The road straightens out a little. I see a chair and a photographer. One final extra burst of effort brings almost exactly no more speed.
And then it's done.
I cycle back to the village hall. Have a cup of tea, a tasty Bakewell slice, a chat,
I think I averaged 17.9 mph over the 10 miles. I think I managed just over 34 minutes. It won't set the world on fire but I'm happy with my effort and plan to be back next week for more.