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...