Saturday – The Time Trial
Purchased late in 2014; and built up gradually over the next couple of months, last week saw the final piece being placed in the jigsaw that was the latest addition to my cycling stable, a full blown time trial bike.
After dabbling with a few time trials over the last few years on a variety of normal road bikes, it was suddenly all looking much more serious. I was even feeling a little nervous; would I be able to do the new bike justice?
The Cold Hatton to Hodnet and back course is one I'd ridden a few times before, and always seems to be windy. Today was no exception, and a strong cross/tailwind was making its presence felt. I’m still finding my way on the tri bars and so this was sure to add to the test.
The rituals of signing on, paying the entry fee, and collecting a number(33 this time) were completed, and after a warm up I was being called to the start. 3..2..1..Go, and I’m off; the strong crosswind is immediately apparent, and I’m really struggling on the tri bars. Soon though I settled into a good pace, and before too long I can make out the rider ahead. Spirits lifted, it’s as if a giant magnet is acting to pull me up the road.
In no time at all though the roles are reversed, and the catcher became the caught, as my minute man comes past. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the eventual winner of the event on his way to a ‘long 22’. Very impressive given the windy conditions. Past halfway, and the wind was still strong. I pushed on though in the knowledge that the series champion from 2013 would be closing in on me. My target was to hold him off. With a mile to go there was still no sign of sign of him, and I was hopeful I could make it stick. One last effort and I crossed the line; a glance behind to see number 35 about fifty metres back. I’d held him off, which was small personal victory on a tough day.
I crossed the line in 25:06, which was a personal best on that course, and given the conditions was a time which I was pleased with. A solid start to the 2015 season!
|The Toothpaste Signage|
Sunday - The Telford Toothpaste
It’s scarcely possible to imagine a ride more different to the previous day’s effort, but less than 24 hours after I’d completed my first ‘10’ of the year , it was Toothpaste time. Now in its fourth year, this is a special event, and is Telford’s very own homage to the greatest one day cycle on earth, Paris-Roubaix, otherwise known as ‘The Hell of the North’. At 0830 we rolled out from the start, and the atmosphere was lively as we made our way along the old railway line towards the Ironbridge.
With the shortest of warm ups, all too soon we turned right away from the River Severn to begin the climb out of the Gorge and up towards Little Wenlock. The group was split apart as the gradient, and rough terrain took their toll. After we regrouped in the shadow of the Wrekin, it was time to enjoy the quiet lanes and tracks which define cycling in Shropshire.
The group was working well together and we were maintaining a good pace. As the ‘Sandy Secteur’ approached, I was just telling myself to stay relaxed, and perhaps more importantly to try and keep the rubber side down. It all got a little sketchy at times, but we all made it through in one piece. Charles wasn’t so lucky on one of the next off road sections, and he did his best impression of Geraint Thomas at this year’s Gent-Wevelgem race, as he parted company with his bike and ended up in a ditch. Fortunately no harm was done, and he was back up and on the bike in no time.
A stop at the feed station coincided with our first puncture of the day; this would not be our last. Coffee and cake consumed, puncture fixed, it was time to press on. As we swept through our home town, it was all too tempting to head straight for HQ, but there would be plenty of time for that later in the day. ‘The Belgian Road’ was next on the agenda, to my mind the Toothpaste’s very own ‘Le Carrefour de l’Arbre’. Windy on the stillest of days, today it was something else. Just brutal!
Brignorth came and went, and it was time for by far the longest off road section of the day. Fortunately the surface was good, and we kept up a good pace, the thought of the well-earned post ride beer driving us all on. As we pulled up to the Black Swan, the verdict was a unanimous one. A fantastic ride all round, and a truly unique event.
Beer and chips were served, and it was time to watch the finale of the race which had inspired our efforts. Riding the Toothpaste only serves to underline the efforts of the men who ride Paris-Roubaix; they are the hardest men, in the world’s hardest sport.
Vive la Velo