King’s Cliffe Flyers ‘Winter Warmer’ 12 mile TT
Excitement has been building – let me tell you – in this corner of Northern Cambridgeshire, for the opening race of my 2015 season. I’ve been working away, consistently training, and producing comparatively good numbers. So hopes were high for a decent performance. I was ill on Wednesday and Thursday this week, a tuna sandwich from the train’s buffet trolley the most likely suspect, but by today I was fighting fit and ready to go.
If you can’t be bothered to read to the bottom, the executive summary is: raced, cold, didn’t win. Pretty much like all other races, with added cold.
Now the long version. Having looked at the start sheet, I knew I wasn’t going to feature at the very top of the result board, but maybe I could produce a decent performance? I’d never raced on the course before, but I have ridden it quite a lot lately. The course is two laps of the Southwick race circuit, a six mile course used for local road races and TTs. It’s probably the hilliest course I have raced on, and quite technical, with 3 left turns (for 2 of which you don’t have right of way), and a couple of tight right handers. The most noticeable feature, though, is the hill at the start and end of the lap. There’s no mountains round here, but this is about as close as we get – about half a mile at an average of 5%. You notice!
This hill has been worrying me. The old timetrialling adage “the secret to going fast is not going slow” springs to mind. In training I was struggling to ride the hill on my road bike at much over 13mph. It takes just under 2 mins for me to climb the hill, so going significantly slower than another rider up the climb is going to cost serious time. Especially since you have to do it twice. At those speeds, aerodynamics don’t play a huge part. It’s mostly about power to weight. I’ve got not much of one, and rather a lot of the other, and sadly not in the right order. I was more concerned about the first lap, how hard to attack the hill given you’re only half way through the race? Second time around I thought I’d be ok, there’s always some power left at the end.
It was cold this morning, but thankfully dry. It was still a bit frosty when I drove round the circuit, and about 1 degree above zero. The forecast was for around 4 degrees for the race, and no rain until this afternoon. There was a light breeze, but strengthening. If it had been raining, it’d have been properly unpleasant and I’d probably have DNS. I don’t like the cold as it is! I arrived in plenty of time, got my number and set off for the start with about 40 minutes spare. The start was around a 5 mile ride from the HQ, so I used that to do the warmup routine that my coach Matt Bottrill recommends. I wasn’t suffering too much with the temperature, except my toes. I have a Skins A200 thermal compression base layer. I really recommend it for cold races. It’s very, very tight. Hard to get on, in fact and even harder to get off. But once on, there are no wrinkles to ruck up your skinsuit. It’s so warm that I can’t really wear it in the house, I get too hot within a few minutes. But for a freezing day, when you’ve just a thin lycra suit on top, it’s just the job.
Arriving at the start line with 3 minutes to spare, I ditched the outer jacket I was wearing and lined up. I was set off at 11:35. You’re almost instantly into a steep downhill. Quickly into the mid-30s MPH. Down to the bottom of the hill and you have to scrub off a lot of that speed for a 90 degree left turn. The first half of the course is pretty fast. With a SW breeze you have the wind mostly behind you, and it’s largely downhill or flat. After a mile, again scrub speed for a left hander. Luckily the marshals were watching for traffic and I got through no drama. Then another mile and a half to another left turn marking approximately the half way point. So far so good. Now it changes to net uphill. You can notice it straight away. It’s just a gentle upslope, but the speed dropped from 29-30mph to low 20s. There’s yet another left turn where you have to yield – fortunately no traffic again, a nasty sharp little hill and then a quick run down to my least favourite corner. It’s a sharp right next to a farm. You arrive at high speed, but the surface on the corner is terrible. Stones and mud all over the road. Shortly afterwards is another unsighted sharp right, and then you’re on the run towards the hill that marks the end of the lap. I managed to get up it averaging 14.0mph and 340w. Probably should have pedalled a little harder really. Onto lap two!
It was just like lap one really, but I was more puffed out.
On the approach to the corner before the final hill, I could see rider 33 in front of me. I was 35, so he’d started 2 minutes ahead. He was just far enough away to make a decent target for the hill. I hammered it as hard as I dared and just held on. I didn’t manage to catch him, but we crossed the line almost together. I messed up a couple of gear changes at the top and just ended up standing and sprinting over the line. But I did average 15.0mph up the hill and 361w. I’d have taken that.
After I got my breath back I rode back to the HQ the long way around, as hard as I could, to get a bit more effort in. After changing and putting the bike in the van, I popped into the HQ to have a hot drink and slice of cake. The results were not posted yet, waiting for the timekeeper to return. Normally they are phoned through, but I don’t think there’s much mobile coverage in King’s Cliffe. Zero Vodafone signal anyway.
Soon he turned up, and I positioned myself nonchalantly with my back to the result board. This was counter-productive, quickly had neck ache from turning 180 degrees to see the results as they went up. 28:40 I did. But George Fox did 26:46! Beaten by nearly two minutes. This is the 3rd time I’ve raced against George. I somehow beat him in the St. Ives 10 in April last year. I think he was coming back from injury, I remember chatting to his Mum after the race. And then in the National 10 in August, where he beat me by 38 seconds. And now almost 2 minutes. One of us is on the up, and it ain’t ol’ Whitters! To be fair though, the Good Lord has gifted me 20 more years to carry around the course, and, by the looks of things, about 20 more kilograms too. You gotta rage against it though, don’tcha? You can’t give in to it.
Peter Cocker was 2nd with 27:39, a minute ahead. And I was beaten for 3rd place by Stuart Wright by 1 second. In terms of relative results, this is probably the worst I have had. I did win a prize, “fastest vet”, but on further inspection I noticed that I wasn’t actually fastest vet. The rules were “one rider, one prize”, and Stuart was fastest vet but since he won the prize for 3rd place, the fastest
coffin-avoider vet went to yours truly.
So following all that, as you can imagine I wasn’t in the sprightliest of moods. I rarely get disappointed after races, but I was today. It’s not the type of course to get the best out of me, but to lose by 2 minutes stings a bit. Next up for me is likely to be the ECCA 10 on E2/10 on March 21st. More my type of course. Head down and pedal. Doesn’t matter if you’re a bit fat, or if you can’t go round corners fast, because there’s only one corner and it’s a nice wide roundabout. Hope for no traffic at the turn and plenty everywhere else.
Onwards, friends 🙂
Strava data is here.