Wednesday 8 September 2004

My first time trial

I'm not really a club sort of person - I'm much too shy and solitary in real life - and I'm certainly not a competitive person. So I've never
been in a cycle club before, and I've certainly never cycled
competitively. But a few weeks ago a cycling friend dropped by and told
me about a proposal for a new local cycling club, and a few days later
Janet at my LBS told me about it as well, so this time last week I went
along to an inaugural meeting at which about twenty people turned up.

At that meeting we agreed that to kick things off we'd do a club run
every Sunday, and a time trial every Wednesday evening as long as the
light held - which won't be long with the equinox approaching. On Sunday about twenty people turned up for a very pleasant run up round Balmaghie and Laurieston.

And tonight was the time trial. Juliette and I left the house together,
she on her Juliana and my on my Dolan. Juliette wasn't going to time
trial - she's even more unclubable than me - but we rode together out
to Douganhill through the most gorgeous evening, sun blazing through
every gap in the ridge, sky clear deep blue, wind more or less still.
At Douganhill Juliette pealed off, and I carried on. Within a few
hundred yards I saw another rider ahead, and so I started to chase -
not too seriously, because I didn't want to use up my legs too soon.
But coming past Barlochan I caught him, and it turned out to be someone
I'd met on Sunday whose name I don't yet know and we rode on together to
Craignair, where we found cyclists gathering in the quarry yard.

There was a wee bit of joshing and banter and a few photos taken, and
the Kelly Anne marshalled us all down to Butterhole road end for the
start. I was assigned to start eleventh out of thirteen. I watched
people start, learning the technique. Most people got clipped in at the
thirty second count, with Marcus holding the bike upright as Kelly Anne
counted down. I didn't feel confident about that... Then the tenth man was gone and it was my turn to go up to the line.

I said I'd just go from a standing start. To my surprise the adrenaline
was definitely going as Kelly Anne counted down 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... And we were rolling.

Typically I made a horrible start, missing my cleat not once but twice. But then I quickly wound up to a good roll, not pushing too hard because I didn't want to blow my legs up early. I don't yet have instrumentation on the Dolan so I couldn't tell my speed, but my aim was to settle at about 17 miles per hour, wait for the man behind me to
come past, and try to grab his wheel. Down the level leafy avenue past Munches and on towards Kirkennan everything felt to be going well. I felt I was making a reasonable speed, one I could sustain. And no-one had passed me yet.

By Kirkennan the road twists away up through a rocky defile to avoid the garden of the Big Hoose; and just as I clicked down a gear to climb through the defile there was a whoosh and a blur... Shit. Absolutely no way could I catch that wheel. Within two or three hundred yards he was a bend ahead of me and I knew wouldn't see him again. Never mind, I was expecting to be passed. Now there was only big Dougie behind me.

I knew big Dougie when we were lads; I wouldn't say I knew him that well, although I fancied his sister something rotten... but we're not that different in age, and he doesn't look like an athlete. However, he had turned up with the one bike which made my Dolan look second rate:
all carbon, all aero, Mavic carbon disk wheel, aggressively aero-rimmed front wheel.

Down past Barlochan, past Palnackie, and by then there was definitely a
rider behind me. Coming through the dips past Lochhill a vicious
whirring came up behind and I dropped two cogs and got out of the
saddle to sprint.

Some chance!

Dougie must have had at least five miles per hour on me, probably more.
He was pushing an impossibly tall gear with a cadence no more than two
thirds mine but he was belting along. But then we were into the long
Douganhill straights, over the flat coastal plain from Douganhill past
Potterland to the Gelston road end. I was keeping a good roll on, my
legs were feeling OK, breathing was OK, and Dougie was still visible
ahead. I started to pass riders coming the other way. Then the rise up
past Fred's, down past Screel Farm and the turning mark - Orchardton
road end. And there's big Dougie apparently chatting to the marshal!

I made my turn and accelerated back up the gentle rise to Fred's. As I
crested it that vicious whirring came by again, this time with less of
a speed advantage but I still didn't have the legs to stay with him.
And then there was - shall we say - a bit of a morale gap. I was now
last man on the road, and I'd burned my legs a bit trying to hold
Dougie's wheel. But fortunately I was on the long flat Douganhill
straights and I built my rhythm back. Coming through past Kirkennan
again, through the twisty lumpy section round the garden wall, my legs
were definitely hurting, and the Marshal's car coming past rubbed in
the fact that there was no-one else behind me. Still, my lungs were
working fine - I wasn't even breathing hard - and the bike was running
well. I used the downhill out of Kirkennan to get the speed back up to
a decent roll and pushed on down the last two miles. Now it didn't feel
too bad - my legs were working smoothly, they could do it, and the end
was in sight. My head stayed down for longer and longer periods, just
watching the chain pour through the front deraileur, my glances up less
frequent and shorter. The group on the road ahead started to resolve
into individual figures and there was still some left in my legs so it
was out of the saddle again and sprint, changing up a couple of gears
as the speed built. And then the awful feeling that I'd started the
sprint too early and my legs just couldn't do it and then I was across
the line, braking, doing a figure of eight turn across the road back to the finish line.

Later, in the quarry yard, Kelly Anne read out the results. There was a thirty five, some thirty twos, a couple of thirties, one twenty seven, and then...

"S Brooke, thirty one fifty one"

Wow! I was really surprised. I hadn't expected to come last, but I hadn't expected to average better than seventeen miles per hour, and 31:51 must be nearer nineteen. It's a lot faster than I knew I could
do, and makes a sub-thirty minute run an achievable target, which I didn't really think it ever would be. And what's even more surprising is I actually enjoyed it. Next Wednesday we're to wear light coloured
jerseys and have tail lights on our bikes. And next Wednesday I shall be there, in my light coloured jersey and with my tail light, seeing if I can edge a second or two faster.

And big Dougie? He did twenty five minutes. Despite a slow puncture and having stopped at the turn to check he wasn't knackering that beautiful disk wheel.

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The fool on the hill by Simon Brooke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License