This was the first event of 4 weekends in a row of racing in June: the ToC TT Chrono. I’d entered on a whim late one night after a race meeting with the Condor ladies, followed by a debrief with the Broken Spoke ladies on our Women & Bikes event. I was on a bit of a cycling high, and had had a little to drink.
The next morning I got an email:
I can confirm that you have been placed, for definite, on the Chrono start/entry list for Tour of Cambridgeshire 2016.
The ToC Chrono is an individual time trial, open to anyone, but done in a really professional way – with dedicated warm up turbos, big start ramp and lights, commentators and big screens. Slightly intimidating, but also super cool.
Some other Condor ladies had entered, which made the event much more fun. It did, however, highlight my lack of attention-to-detail when I was adamant it was a 10 mile course, when it turned out to be 16 miles.
The Chrono also happened to be the qualifying event for the UCI TT World Championships in Australia. I was under no preconceptions that I would qualify, and that wasn’t my reason for entering. I was there to ride my bike.
I’d found a video of last year’s event, and was slightly put-at-ease that in-between all the skinsuited-diskwheeled-aerohelmeted machines there were some ordinary-looking people. I don’t know
where they all went though; I saw about 5 normal road bikes in the whole event.
After signing in and browsing around the expo – where I was suddenly convinced I needed 3 new jerseys and 2 new pairs of gloves – we had some lunch then thought about warming up.
My friends had an earlier start time so I fiddled with my bike some more as they went off to the arena. I was putting electrical tape over the zip ties that hold my (ancient) garmin on, when someone walked past and commented on how I was really going for those aero gains.
“Er, actually it falls off if I don’t…”
About an hour before my start time, I queued up to go onto the turbos. It was very well run; someone attached my timing chip to the bike, then installed my bike onto the turbo, and when it was time to queue up for the start ramp they took the bike off again. Whilst on the turbo I caught the eye of a woman next to me who had the same ‘oh-god-why-am-I-here’ expression and we shared a grin.
Soon enough I was on the start ramp being held by the seatpost by a holder who wouldn’t believe my accent was English (which I get quite a lot), clipped in, lights flashing, and numbers counting down.
“Are they my numbers? Oh, right, er, thanks!” I garbled as someone else shouted GO.
To get from the start ramp in the arena out onto the roads we were corralled by winding barriers, and I saw my heart rate jump to 170 – I think as much from the excitement as from the sudden exertion.
Two things became immediately clear: it was significantly windier and hillier than we’d been expecting. Who said Cambridgeshire was flat?
I had been the last in my category to start, which meant I had the 19-34 aged men on my tail. Needless to say, I got familiar with the whumpwhuUMPWHUMPwhump sound like an on-coming train as the disc wheels rocketed past me.
Several times around the course I caught myself just riding rather than racing. This is where you have to train yourself mentally to keep pushing with every pedal stroke, something I obviously hadn’t quite mastered.
There seemed to be a headwind after every corner we turned, and as I got closer to the end (which turned out to be 16.9 miles rather than 16) all I could think about was the sooner I finished the sooner I could lie down for a long time.
After what felt like far too long, I turned into the arena runway with the barriers guiding me to the finish. On my right I heard a cowbell and some shouts and knew some Condors were nearby. As I crossed the line my timing chip got taken off, and a bottle of water thrust into my hand. Which suddenly looked very appealing as I realised I hadn’t drunk anything on the course.
My time was a fair bit slower than what I’d been aiming for, but it was good fun and good experience. And now I’ve got a time to beat next year!
We stayed over to support clubmates doing the Gran Fondo the next day, and sneaked onto the closed roads before they started to get our own private mini-fondo to the pub about 25 miles in to cheer as they rode passed.