Ely Hardriders 25 – (40km) 10th Feb
Partly through blind optimism but mainly through sheer stupidity, I allowed James to persuade me, against my better judgement, to enter the Ely Hardriders 25 mile TT. Despite my cycling heritage I have to admit that I have never done a 25 or even entered an Open TT before. At least it might stop Len hassling me, I thought – one way or the other!
Forty-two or not, my naivety is such that it was only when the entry confirmation dropped through the door that I wondered why it was called the “Hardriders” event (something to do with being for hard riders perhaps?). Spotting Lee Bark’s name on the list it occurred to me that I may have made a grave error. Still, in for a penny in for a pound is one of my many mottos. So I promptly added to my problems by returning the enclosed entry form for the whole 2008 season of Spoco events – quickly before I lost heart – which was to be shortly after we arrived in Ely. On a very cold but windless morning, newly appointed Team Manager, Rog talked the talk but as we drove the course, it finally dawned on me that this was 40km – almost all up hill (!?) – with no tail wind – it was cold – I didn’t have Ken’s wheel to sit on – I shouldn’t have gone to the pub last night – I was alone – and I was scared!
With due reason too. It was bloody hard. I set off like it was only a 10 (as 10s were my sole experience of time trialling up ‘til now) and quickly passed not my minute man but my third minute man! The fact that he was standing on the verge crouched over a flat tyre didn’t dampen my enthusiasm – I wouldn’t be last! In my far from faultless preparation, I put new batteries in my heart rate monitor, tested it out – on the right bike, and then left it at home on the kitchen unit. I didn’t need it though, to tell me that my heart was about to jump out of my throat if I didn’t slow down. That was about as long as my enthusiasm lasted. 25 miles! At this rate I wasn’t sure I’d mange 10! I pulled out onto the A road and ahead of me there was a long line of traffic held up behind a tractor. My roadie instincts told me “if I could just get to the rear car…” But this was a time trial – that’s not allowed is it? So am I supposed to slow down? (Per chance!) I always did think this was a silly sport. Luckily for me my dilemma was resolved when the cars all passed the tractor on a long straight leaving me to catch it and pass it – wide on the other side of the road. I may come in last (or second from last) but no-one will accuse me of cheating. From here on it just continued to be hard
Between 25 and 35km two or three riders passed me. Clearly quicker – but their legs were barely rotating, such was the size of the gears they were pushing. Just watching them made my legs hurt more as it was only my pride preventing me from switching to the little chainring! After what seemed like another hundred miles on the bleak fens, I saw ahead of me a large group of riders. Now either they were all cheating or it was the local club run. It must be a club run so I’ll soon whizz past them! But I couldn’t even catch them. Eventually we turned back towards home onto what must be the bumpiest stretch of road in the fens. My legs were already burning but at least now the club run guys started to split up and one by one I eventually passed them all – wide mind.
I tried to muster a smile for TM Rog who I spotted lurking with his camera but almost immediately past him I was aware that the bumpy ride wasn’t only due to the poor state of the road. My rim was hitting tarmac. Oh! and wasn’t I on for a course record? – Well by definition, it must be a personal best and I didn’t want to keep putting “42 year old novice” on my entry forms so I pressed on to at least get a finishing time, doing the last 5km on a flat tyre. I felt like crying when I eventually hobbled past the chequered flag. I did cry when I realised the finish was another mile or two from the HQ and I had no team car to get a lift back in. I stopped to examine the tyre but my brain was as flat as the tyre was so I just rode back gingerly on the already ruined tyre. 1hr 13mins 26secs. Joint 26th out of 32 finishers. So at least I wasn’t last – even discounting the DNFs. James was 12th with a very respectably 1:05:47, but he was wearing Lee Bark’s overshoes. Lee did 58:27 in his other overshoes. A full quarter of an hour ahead of me. I decided I must be planning to peak later in the season – and to borrow Lee’s overshoes myself next time!