I’d been meaning to enter a 25 mile TT for ages. Reading the Palmarès of other riders made it sound quite romantic. This was especially so when I read a tribute to the late Peter Baird on the Gravesend CC website which mentions that he rode 25 under the hour 18 times. Of course it’s even more impressive for the older generation given the equipment they had available. Riding 25 under the hour held a certain mystique for me and was something I wanted to give a try.
I was quite used to riding 25 miles quickly. My commute was 25 each way for 2 years. I’d managed to do it in 1:05 once, albeit with a tailwind, but also through rush hour traffic and over the hills. I had also been racing crits, which are around this distance and speed. I thought I might be able to make it under the hour on clear roads. I’d also been entering more 10 mile TTs this year, and I managed to average over 40kmh / 25mph on the two courses near me. All signs looked positive.
So, I thought I’d take the plunge and enter a 25. I had a look on the Cycling Time Trials website and saw Gravesend CC were holding one in my area in a few weeks time. I remembered Peter Baird and thought it was fitting that my first 25 TT would be organised by his club. Done. When I got the email with the start times I was horrified to read that I was due to start at 7:34am. I mean, TTs are pretty much a form of self inflicted torture anyway, what sort of perverse human being would opt to get up at 5am in order to put themself through such an ordeal whilst normal people are still dead to the world? Me, I guess…
The week before the TT I rode out to the course to check it out. I also looked on Strava at how other people had ridden it. I worked out how fast I should be aiming to go at certain points. I also group emailed the Bigfoot Testers asking for advice and Steve Avery, who was also riding, was very helpful. I found out that Mark from Bigfoot was also racing. Homework done.
The night before was pretty restless, and between my nerves and being woken by number 1 son a couple of times I probably only got 3 or 4 hours of sleep. Then in the morning I faffed a bit and didn’t manage to leave the house on time which was compounded by the boys both waking up and wanting daddy huggles. On the way there was a road closure, which added 10 minutes to the journey. My warm up was going to have to be a short one.
I actually had just enough time when I arrived. The start times had been put back 5 minutes due to the road closure. I warmed up a bit, not enough really, and rolled up to the start with about a minute to spare. My minute man hadn’t turned up, which I was a bit unhappy about as I was hoping to maybe pass somebody. Seems my start time was in the middle of a bunch of faster guys though.
The start of the Q25/8 course is mostly downhill, and Steve had told me to go for it a bit. So I blasted down the hill and on to the first turnaround. Happily I was feeling good and my average speed was on target. I had anticipated that the first leg had a tailwind and would be fast, then the second leg was all about damage limitation, trying to keep the average speed above 40kmh. After the first turnaround I saw the two riders behind me, who were coming the other way, had made ground on me. I’d not thought that I would actually be quickest on the day, and wasn’t really surprised they were both quicker as they had proper TT bikes and pointy helmets, but still I wasn’t happy about it! After the turnaround the going got tough. As predicted the wind was now blowing into my face, and the road went up more than down. The first of the two riders I’d seen catching me caught me just before the first climb just before the halfway point. I had been anticipating the climb and had been recovering a bit, so I powered up it and made back 100m or so on the guy who’d just gone past me. I then used him as a pace keeper and held the distance between the two of us until the next turnaround. I was expecting a nice tailwind after the second turnaround, but it was more of a crosswind really. This was most perturbing. After 1o miles into a headwind my average speed had just dropped below my target and there was still the final uphill drag to the finish to deal with also. I upped my effort just as the second of my pursuers went past me. As he did so he slowed slightly just as I quickened. It now looked like I was trying to get a tow off him, which is cheating. So I moved to the middle of the road and thought about passing him back. As I contemplated this he recovered and pulled away from me. But very soon after this he hit a hill and again I started reeling him back in. On the other side I continued to close the gap on the descent, but at this point there was a junction and he managed to get through without slowing but I had to slow to give way to a car. Then it was the final drag up to the finish line. I had no idea how far it was, so I used my pace keeper as a guide and went as fast as I dared. Before I knew it I saw the finish, it wasn’t all that far, I should’ve gone harder. I powered over the finish line and looked down at the computer – under the hour, woo hoo! What a great feeling.
I then changed down into my lowest gear and span up the 6km of climb to the HQ. Steve and Mark were there. Steve and I went for our complimentary hot drink and saw the presentation to the fastest man and team on the day. The course record had been broken, so I really shouldn’t blame the wind too much. My official time was 58:41 – happy with that! I chatted to a couple of guys there and everyone was really complimentary about my first effort at the 25. I really can’t recommend 25 mile TTs enough. Rachel from Bigfoot had told me at the last club 10 that she prefers 25s and I can see why – 10 mile TTs are an all out effort and hurt. I had been worrying that a 25 mile TT would be like a 10 but two and a half times as long but it seems to me that 25 mile TTs are more about measuring ones effort and trying not to hurt yourself too much. Or maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough?!?!
I just have to repeat it 17 times to equal Peter Baird now! Oh, and try 50 mile, 100 mile and 12h TTs too.
Distance 25 miles
Average speed 41kmh