Second of my series of 4 races in June was the Silverstone 9-up Team Time Trial. It was on the actual Silverstone race track, how cool is that?
It was 3 laps of the full F1 Grand Prix circuit, meaning 11 miles. 9-up = a team of 9 riders. The time of your team is taken as the time of your 5th rider, so you could drop 4 riders, but if everyone sprints for the end and the 5th is left behind, that’s no use!
Silverstone is one of the highlights of the club cycling calendar, and people were talking about it for months beforehand. Due to demand, clubs were allowed only 3 teams, and the Condors decided to enter 2 men’s teams and 1 women’s team, and if we got a reserve space for a 4th team, it would be another women’s team.
As this was my first year of road cycling, I didn’t think I had much of a shot of making the team, but turned up to the try-outs to put myself forward. No harm in trying, eh?
In a move reflective of the team-spirit of the Condors, some of the more experienced ladies stepped aside to allow newer riders onto the team who had been making good efforts turning up to the training (in sometimes less-than-pleasant weather), to give them some experience. That included me!
As it turned out, we did get a 4th team, which meant some re-jigging of riders. I was now on the B (for Brilliant) team, which suited my experience slightly better. 9 riders is quite a feat to organise, so we only actually got 1 practice session with all 9 ladies, but it went surprisingly well.
Fast forward to the big day, and I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. Despite triple-checking my bike the day before I still worried it would spontaneously develop an unfixable mechanical overnight and my race would be over. All this fuss for about half an hour of cycling.
To complete our team kit, we all had pink Velotoze – basically swim caps for your feet. Sure, they were areo, and we looked good, but my feet were sweating before we even got on the turbos. Those things do not breathe.
We squeezed in 3 practice laps of the course before the first teams started, which meant we could find the lines through the corners and find the headwind sections. And also grin at how cool it was to cycle on the Silverstone race track.
Just before our start time we rolled out to the pit lane to line up. We pulled up to the right of the ladies A team, and then the 2 men’s teams came up behind. I was 2nd rider from the front, and looking back down the pit lane to find a sea of pink and black was quite special. The roars of encouragement from the Condors as the teams sped off were the loudest all evening.
The 3 laps seemed to go by in a flash. The feeling when a team time trial just works is amazing – the smoothness of a rider coming off the front and the team train easing past them, the flow of the line leaning round corners, and the trust you have to place in the wheel in front of you. Unlike an individual time trial where I find it hard to keep focus for the whole distance, in a team time trial you are constantly on alert for the slightest movements of the rider in front – are they easing up, changing gear, moving off? How are the riders behind doing – is everyone on, anyone close to dropping, got fire left in the tank? Shut up legs. And when the rider in front peals off – what speed were you going before, don’t surge, don’t slow, can the team go faster, can I go faster? Shut up legs. Noting how long the rider on front has been there – are they staying on too long, burning themselves out, are they feeling strong today, are they pacing themselves, did they get the headwind section again? Shut up legs.
With teams going off every minute, there were a fair few teams out on the track at the same time, so the race was filled with shouts of “Keep right!” to avoid crashes or cut-ups.
You only needed 5 riders to finish, but our goal as a team had been to finish with all 9 – we might not get the fastest time, but we’d see it out together. We stayed as a 9 until the last corner, and with a yell of SPRINT from behind, 5 of us at the front legged it to the end – although we weren’t completely sure where the finish line actually was, so we carried on a bit further than necessary.
As we wheeled back to the team garages my legs were shaking, and we all had massive grins. Which turned into groans on the floor as we wrestled with getting the Velotoze off.
I’m looking forward to next year already.