Getting back onto the mountain bike for the first time this year definitely gave me some fire – fire to burn five TT’s with…
Back-in-the-day, as they say, we used to race at Eastway Cycle Circuit before the Olympic development changed the whole area forever. The mountain bike race was known as Beastway and was well loved for its grass roots approach and laid-back rules – you could basically turn up on any bike and race. For the last few years Russ Jones, Bruce Mackie and Michael Humphreys have been working at establishing Redbridge as the new home of the Beast – www.beastwaymtb.com
So amongst several different age/ability groups and various different bikes we headed quickly into the first of a million tight switchbacks. A bit like a ‘cross race the course was constantly changing – fast tarmac, then a tight corner, slow sticky mud, sharp climb, fast downhill, another tight switchback… it was hard work on the big Scott Scale 29er as you were not able to get into a rhythm – a real test of the rider, plenty were complaining, but I was loving it! I measured my strength quite well and even though everything was hurting by the fourth lap I was still able to run the same lap time, catching up valuable places on the final push to the line to finish 4th in the Expert/Elite race but probably more importantly 8th overall.
Then for the first of five TT races – Our club runs a series of evening TT races all the way through the summer and the first evening event was a course that takes in one of the most brutal climbs around – the 9.8 mile course starts on flat roads suited to a TT bike and then gets progressively more road bike orientated toward the end. The main hill is punctuated by a short flat section before your head begins to thump on the final rise. Then less than two minutes later you’re climbing again on a slope that seems shallow but really gets you into the red before the courses final stinging uphill. My brain was telling my body to stand up and work, but my body was screaming back at it, begging for mercy! I came home in 6th, one minute and thirty seconds after the fastest TT bike – first on a road bike.
Next came an open 25 mile TT run by Addiscombe CC on the G25/54. Pretty much everyone here was running a TT bike but I really want to see what’s possible this year in a standard road bike position. The freezing cold temperatures and interesting course played to my strengths and whilst pre-driving the course I realised this morning I had to work hard for a fast time. Once a third of the course had gone I was caught by my minute man and I was down on my target, but I was also catching a few riders too, especially on the short rises and roundabouts. I kept the rider that had caught me pretty much in sight the whole way to the line to finish just over the hour – I still reckon I can break an hour on the road bike this year, but this course had taught me a lot about pacing and speed.
Back to the evening club TT’s and this week we were racing Ladies mile – probably the most even test out of all of our courses between the road and TT bikes…I reckon the TT bike is worth only 15 or 30 seconds advantage around here, so I always have a chance to do well here. Lap one for me was strong, two was steady, but three nearly started with a bang! Unfortunately someone not quite used to racing had stopped, then decided to restart by pulling straight out in front of me whilst I was setting up for a really tricky left hander complete with pot-hole. I tried twice to warn her that I was overtaking before being forced to duck underneath her losing all my speed in the process – really frustrating as I know how much time I always make up through the corners and technical bits. Not a disaster to finish fourth, but a second place finish like last time plays on my mind as I know that it was possible. Is only a cub TT so I guess you can’t sit around and cry about it?
I had two chances then to get my head back in TT mode – ESCA run their spring 10 and 25 on the same weekend and on the same stretch of road. The road in question is a forever snakes it’s way through the Sussex countryside via a series of small rises and falls on fairly mediocre tarmac. Fast times are unlikely by even the best riders, but as a few of us noted after the race the fastest guys seemed to suffer the least. On the 10 I set a time about 2 and a half minutes slower than my best but I hadn’t done a great recce of the course and I know I can go faster.
On the 25 I was feeling a lot better after some good prep and plenty of food and sleep, however from the word go I was in trouble – well technically I wasn’t around to hear the word go as I was still warming up with my computer telling me the wrong time! When I rolled up to the start to casually take my leg warmers off with five minutes to go I was informed that I was half a minute late and that, “you’d better just get on with it mate”, so off I set! Then down at the first roundabout there were two marshals, one was pointing left (for another event) and one pointing right – confused I rode out straight in front of a red Hyundai. I know it was a Hyundai because I was about six inches away from its bumper – to my amazement and relief the driver was far more switched on than me and took the unusual approach of actively not trying to kill me. If he reads this I’d genuinely like to buy him or her a beer ‘cos it was bloody close.
After all that drama I decided I better just get on with getting round the course which I managed in a thoroughly average time. I hadn’t been able to start my computer after messing up my start and I really struggled to pace my run. I still beat a load of other road bikes but my later start time had allowed the wind and the traffic to pick up. My time was slow, but I’ve really learned a lot from this block of TT’s. I’ve got more confident in the courses that I know well and I’ve got lots of good ideas to work on the things where I’m lacking. And, thanks to a car driver who was awake, I’m not dead!
Cheers to Upgrade for loan of the Reynolds wheels. Photos by David Johnston, John Mullineaux, Mabel Mackie and Glen Whittington
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse