Last Saturday 8th August, saw the Nova Raiders put on the Shropshire 10 mile TT championship as part of the Shropshire Cycling Clubs Association (SCCA) much abridged summer series. Whilst a little earlier in the year it looked like we faced a season with no racing at all, the local clubs in conjunction with the SCCA have pulled out the stops and got some Covid secure racing happening. Kudos, once again, to the tireless organisers, marshals, time keepers and helpers – as is so often with these things, it’s the same faces putting the work in to allow others (me included) to race. Thanks.
The race was on the flat out and back D10/23r Waters Upton course, once famed as the only time trial course in the country that included a section of Paris-Roubaix style pavè. However, in an act of unbridled genius, the Highway's Authority recently resurfaced it with the blackest, smoothest tarmac you could wish for only to cover it with loose stone chippings.
It was hot and humid by the time the first rider set off a 2pm. In fact, the temperature gauge in my 1600 Ford Wicked registered 30 degrees at one point, and there was a relatively gentle breeze giving the riders a bit of help on the return leg.
With the field limited to 60 riders and preference given to local lads, it was good to see some big names in the time trial game show up, notably Dan Bigham of Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling who smashed the course record by 1min and 11 seconds, winning the event by recording an 18:27. A truly outstanding time. I had the privilege of witnessing this at first had as I was off 3 minutes in front of him. He caught me at the halfway point and I had a vague idea I might keep him in sight for a few seconds coming off the roundabout to help psychologically pull me along. By the time I got back in to aero position and looked up, he’d gone! For my part, I recorded a middle marking 23:30 which, after a summer of ‘hello trees, hello flowers’ rides was as fast as I could go. Getting in the to the 22s on that course means well-structured training and less visits to the biscuit barrel. Just to prove it was no fluke, young Mr Bigham recorded 17:52 the day after for another 10 at Levens, a faster course sure, but, you know, damn...
It's great when the pros turn up to local events, last year Steve Cummings did a local 25 and blew the course record there by 4 mins too. I think everybody gets a buzz out of it, even when they glide past you like you’re standing still. Whilst these guys are blessed with the right genetics, that can only be levered to it’s full benefit with thoughtful training and attention to aerodynamic detail. Great to witness.
Sadly, no tea and cake at the lovely Ellerdine Village Hall (refurbished toilets though!) due to Covid restrictions but it was a top afternoon out all the same. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, time trialling is the most accessible form of cycle sport in my view and whilst there will always be people who are faster and slower than you on the day, fundamentally, you are racing against yourself. Whilst the winner on Saturday recorded 18 mins, you can add nearly 20 minutes to that for the time of the last rider. Nobody is inconvenienced, you’re not getting in anybody’s way and, fast or slow, we all get changed under a towel in a field. Maybe give it a go?
Big thanks have to go to the Nova Raiders and the SCCA for flawless, safe organisation again – it’s wonderful to have some racing on. Full results for the Shropshire 10 are here.
Rich Smith has hit the biscuit barrel too hard over lockdown and now regrets his actions. He has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
Yes, UCI stuff like the Strada Bianchi and the Tour of Poland are back and there may even be, say it quietly, a Tour de France in 2020, but more relevantly for us mortals, that stalwart of the British club scene, the time trial is back! In England at least, I have riders in Scotland who are waiting with bated breath to see what Nicola has to say on the subject and we keep our fingers firmly crossed.
Only a few weeks ago it looked like we were facing a season with no grass roots competitive racing at all and, although it’s not of much consolation to my clients who’s focus is on sportives or road racing, it represents a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.
In my patch, we’re fortunate to have a rich cycling club scene and, with Cycling Time Trials lot on the ball, when the announcement was made on Monday 12th July, my club were sufficiently prepared to launch the first ‘10’ on the following Wednesday. There is a detailed risk assessment to ensure Covid safety, the practical upshot of which is pre-registration, social distancing, no held starts and no hanging around at the start of the end of the event. Remembering to bring a pen and being prepared to contort yourself to pin your own number on is a small price to pay. Frankly, I've felt a lot safer at the time trials I've done this year than I have in a supermarket. Although, it's fair to say that might be true with or without Covid-19...
It’s been interesting to see the times for those who’ve followed a training program over lockdown, most of them are flying. Their feedback to me has been the accountability a coach brings to the process means, even in the absence of definite dates in the racing calendar, they’ve been able to keep their training on track. I’ve struggled with that personally – I’ve got 'me' holding 'me' to account and that doesn’t always work so great! It's not that coaches are generally either too tough or too easy on themselves. it's just hard to be objective with your own data. Objective analysis is an absolutely critical part of the coaching process.
I had two principal concerns about the possibility of no racing this season for my riders. First, the prospect of a coming winter with no racing or events under our belts was daunting. Post-Christmas until the start of the season is critical training time, much of it done in a combination of lousy weather and dark nights on the turbo in the UK. Going straight in to that following a blank season would be physiologically and psychologically tough.
Secondly, for some older riders (me included) missing a complete season means missing race level efforts, those ones where you’re turning yourself inside out partly because you’ve got a number on your back and partly because somebody has a stopwatch on you. Often, this is unrepeatable in training. In my mind you need both the effort and the data. The chewing the handlebars stuff is hard won and it’s important to know it’s still there and helps to set some parameters for the next season.
Irrespective of our form or times, I think most of us who time trial are just grateful for something, anything, this year. Even dyed in the wool roadies are showing up - resentfully obviously, but they are showing up. Time trialling remains the most accessible cycle sport so if your club are doing some, get stuck in. You don’t have to be an aero-geek or super fit to get something out of a time trial as ultimately you're racing against yourself, you just need a bike and fiver. Oh, and your own pen.
Rich Smith has hit the biscuit barrel too hard over lockdown and now regrets his actions. He has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...