Its 17:45, I look across the production lines over to my mate and then gesture with my head and eyes towards the door “let’s go”. We change out of our work kit and both briskly walk down the roadway between the two big production plants to our cars in the car park. Engines running, we head out through the site security gate and make our 15 minute journey to the ‘start’. I have my fabulous Cannondale R1000 TT bike in the back of the car and already to go.
We are both riding an evening, club individual 10 mile time trial, and the first rider goes off at 18:30. There are about 1200 time trial events held in the UK every year, and there’s a National Championship as well. Its a nice June evening in North Wales.
Arriving at the roughly surfaced car park in the village hall, I turn off the engine, which switches off the radio half way through The Smiths song, ‘This Charming Man’. I pick up my honey sandwich, which had been made at home 12 hours earlier and rush over to the ‘official’ signing-on point, which is a man with a clipboard that’s resting on the bonnet of his car. I sign on at one of the last empty spaces and at number 18. Number 19, who goes off 1 minute after me, is the fastest rider in the club at tonights time trial. He’ll probably catch me before I’ve managed to get my biggest gear spinning (Doh!) and I’ll watch him blast away like he’s on a small motorbike. I get changed in my car.
The course that we’ll be riding is a squarish 5 mile route and we do 2 laps. It is flattish and in a rural setting. The starters assistant holds my bike steady as my feet are clipped into the pedals and I get a countdown from 10 seconds and then my bike is released and off I go. For a car, the road surface is fine. On a fast Cannondale time trial bike with 20mm tyres pumped up to eleventy-million PSI, it is not smooth. It is ‘character building rough’. I spend all of the time in a position which has me staring at the front wheel through my thumbs, which are stretched out in front of me and gripping my aero handlebars. All of the corners are left hand turns and there is a Marshall (usually someone’s Dad/Mum or a rider who isn’t/can’t ride tonight for some reason) on every junction to make sure that I can take the corner flat out, without slowing down and speeding up again, or by getting hit by another vehicle. He/she will also provide encouragement, feedback and advice, because they know how well/bad I’m doing against the clock, and in comparison to everyone else that’s passed them with a number pinned to their jerseys.
At the half way point, I look down at my computer. Hmmmm, must do a better second lap, and this is exactly what the starter man, now turned coach, shouts over to me as I blast past to start my next lap. My mate passes me at the three quarter point. Bugger! As usual, he’d complained about a bad knee or something that day and predictably, he does his best time ever. I’m nearly at the finish line and I’m tired. I pass the starter man, who is now the finisher man, and my time is noted on the official clipboard. When the last rider has gone through the finish, the time sheet is removed from the official clipboard and posted up for all to see, which means its taped to the outside of a car window. If it’s raining, its taped to the inside of the car window.
My time is 21 and a half-ish minutes for the 10 miles. I’m mid-field in the results, which is my usual ‘average’ place. After a tough 10 hour work day, the result isn’t too bad really. I should’ve left work earlier and warmed up like the fast riders do, rather than just jumping on the bike, still chewing the honey sandwich and hoping for the best.
The fastest rider walks over (after warming down) to the timesheet to check his own time and he smiles as he’s beaten his personal best time by a few hundredths of a second. He then talks to the youngest rider taking part tonight, who’s only 13. Fast man gives him some tips on ‘how to improve’ and then lets the youngster try on his latest aero shaped, latest fashion, carbon fibre helmet, which is probably a bit sweaty inside. It makes the young rider look like some insect which has just crawled out of the pond due to the dark integrated visor in the helmet, and which reflects wildly in the sunset. The youngster feels good and special. Another rider has done a good time and is proclaiming the advantages of his new aero handlebars.
I put my fabulous and trusty Cannondale in the car and drive home in my sticky cycling kit. It takes 35 minutes to drive home. Great music is on the car radio and it’s the first time I’ve been relaxed all day. I get home, put the bike in its usual resting place, my club jersey and shorts go in the wash basket to await their ’40 degree man made fibre’ wash.
I’ll never be good enough to pay the mortgage with my time trialling results, but thats not the point is it?…..
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Village hall photo by Jodie Wallace-Hill
All other photos by the author