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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 8:07 pm 
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Following on from Munky's Tri exploits...

“Steve, you ought to come to one of our beginner’s sessions and have a go at a time trial.” So said one of the project managers at work about nine months ago. Only having a mountain bike was, apparently, not an excuse. So I had a look at the website. Yeovil CC hold regular time-trials over the summer. These are usually ten miles along the main A303 dual carriageway, but, at the beginning and end of the season, they have a couple of five-milers on a quieter road. This would be much more suitable for a beginner and people do occasionally use mountain bikes. However, despite not usually being busy on Thursday evenings, last September the dates just didn’t work out. John, the project manager, didn’t forget however. This time there was a spare date. I spoke to my wife and her comment was ‘as long as I get my tea on time, I don’t mind’, although she obviously thought I was mad! Then she found she had to be away for work and wouldn’t be home until after the event had finished anyway. Must be an omen.

So, on the last Thursday in April, I find myself at a service station on the A303. There are some very thin people with very expensive bikes around. My mate is nowhere to be seen (he had warned me he’d be late, and advised me not to be). I wandered up to the next car, where someone in lycra was putting the back wheel onto their bike. I explained who’d ‘sent’ me and asked what I needed to do. I was pointed in the direction of the chap in charge. He seemed friendly enough, explaining what I needed to do, how to sign up, how things were organised and so on. So I paid my £2-50 (£1-50 for the event and another quid to join the club for the day) and got my number. Maybe ‘2’ was a little optimistic, but at least it meant I would be hanging around.

The start was a couple of miles from the service area. I got some directions and set off, although there didn’t seem to be much urgency from anyone else. I like to be early for things anyway, but being the first one there was probably a mistake! Eventually someone else turned up. He wasn’t racing himself, but had volunteered to help at the start.

I had wondered how the start was managed. The ‘helper’ held the bike, while the rider was safely clipped in. The starter, from the comfort of his car, gave a count down, then, with a push from the helper, you were off. Of course, having signed up as number 2, I only got one chance to see this in action before it was my turn. As I accelerated away, there was an almighty crunch as the chain slipped. I’ve got the replacement at home, just haven’t got round to changing it yet. Other than the shock it didn’t do too much harm, so I just kept going. Head down, legs pumping away. Something else is not right. I use SPDs but have them set on a very loose float. But not now. There’s no float at all on either pedal. My feet are completely attached. So I’m now hurtling along trying to twist my feet to free them up, without dropping the cadence rate or speed.

Although I’ve never ridden this bit of road before, I know it quite well as it’s the back way from the A303 to the village we used to live in. I’m trying to remember exactly where the inclines are and how far I have to go before the turn. Through the Naval Air Station, up a slight hill, gentle right-hander at the top, then down to the turn. Half way and I’ve still not been overtaken. Keep going. Start going back up the incline and Number 3 shoots past with a cheery shout of encouragement. Then my colleague shouts from the other side of the road, his distinctive Yorkshire accent cutting through my ever heavier panting. (It turns out later that he’s just doing the route as a warm up). Back through the Navy base and Number 3 is still the only one to have overtaken me. It can’t be much further, can it? Then, the start comes into view, but the finish is beyond it and there’s one more slight incline to cope with. It’s probably the sort of bump you wouldn’t notice normally, but it’s seems horribly unfair by this stage.

Then, the flag and a man with a stopwatch. One last burst of energy and...sit up in the saddle, stop pedalling and try to breath properly again.

By the time I get back to the start, I don’t feel too bad. I can talk. The breathing is under control. It’s a nice evening. So what happens now? I hang around watching the later riders start. Have a quick chat with John. Just enjoy the post-adrenaline feeling.

Then we go back to the service area. I change my shoes and put the bike back into the car. Then, wishing I’d brought a jumper as it’s still only April and it’s getting chilly, I wonder across towards the results table. I have a quick chat to another chap who’s also packing up. He’s complaining about wrecking a tubeless tyre on the warm up, resulting in a slower time (as he couldn’t use his best wheel) and a £50 bill for a new tyre. There are advantages to mountain bikes.

So the results get posted. I’m not last, but they do explain why I was only overtaken once. The rider who did come last went off at number 4, so wasn’t going to overtake me, and I wasn’t THAT far behind the field. I posted 15’18” for the five miles – a shade under 20mph. Not bad for a first time and on a mountain bike.

Would I do it again? Probably. I’m not going to try the 10 miler on the mountain bike on the A303! If there’s a suitably evening at the end of the season, I might be persuadable. It would be nice to break the 20mph mark. And, at the moment, I can’t afford another bike. But, as one of the other riders said, ‘you’ll find it moving up your priority list’…and he’s probably right.

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PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2006 11:46 am 
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Good work, that man. Makes me tempted to find a couple to do as benchmarks myself. Just think how fast you could have gone on the right bike...

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