Sunday, 19 May 2013

Trial and terror

I turned 33 last weekend. A youngster to some but old enough to be aware of a few changes: like having more patience but more prominent frown lines; like drinking less but taking up to 48 hours to get over a hangover; like shouldering the rising cost of participating in races but becoming less and less motivated by whether there's a medal at the end (unless it's longer than a marathon, in which case I fully expect a diamond-encrusted unicorn testicle hanging from a platinum rope chain).

"Robocake"- @lazygirlrunning
This month, I've ventured back into a sport I haven't competed in since my mid-20s: cycling time trials. Known in the cycling world as the "race of truth", time trials commonly form part of a stage race, where riders leave the shelter and tactics of the bunch to ride as hard as they can against the clock; except, that is, in the UK where a curious breed of cyclists make this an event in itself and chase courses around the country to improve on their PBs.

Time trialling bucks the trend in escalating race costs and you can enter an event for just £8.50: there's no memento but, instead, you trade in your number at the end for a hot cup of tea to enjoy as you make excuses for the day's performance with fellow competitors.

The PB-chasing means that many of the most popular races are held on flat, straight pieces of road and the presence of traffic is considered, by many, a bonus. In my 5 year absence, the slower courses have become so unpopular that it has become hard to find an event in our local area than doesn't take in a dual carriageway, and, this morning, I found myself preparing to race along the A40 Witney bypass. Waiting in a lay-by on a piece of carbon fibre as trucks rumbled past at 70 mph, I noticed an alarming difference in 33-year old me: I was utterly terrified.

"Is this worth it?" I thought, as the timer counted back from 10. A car surged past, much too close for comfort, as he reached 5.

"Go careful!", yelled lovely boyfriend, waiting to start a few minutes behind me.

3... 2... 1... Go!

Fifteen pedals strokes in, I was safely on my aerobars, breathing deeply and listening carefully for approaching traffic behind me.

2nd "women"
Funny things start to happen when you're racing, don't they? The harder my legs pushed, the more my fears were being replaced by the adrenaline surge of competition; a self-preserving respect of traffic was being accompanied by a childish urge to pretend I was racing on my own little motorbike. The halfway turn circled a roundabout and sent me back into a tailwind. A quick glimpse of my GPS showed 29 mph at one point: maybe not quite a motorbike, but a pretty nifty pizza delivery scooter.

I returned to the race HQ to find my ride had secured some unexpected silverware. In the interests of full disclosure, there were 3 women in the race: a podium place was guaranteed from the start, even if survival wasn't.

Of more interest to me than this, however, was that the winner was at least 15 years older than me and fear was most certainly not standing in her way. There is definitely hope for me yet.

 I don't think I'll be making a habit of riding along a dual carriageway every week. That doesn't mean I'm growing up though. I mean, seriously, how many real grown-ups get to dress up as a bicycle-riding robot on a Sunday morning?


  1. WEEEEEEE!!!! Great day for 50% of Team Rainbow! And a friggin' medal. So, so, so, so impressed!!! Well done you. Now go and enjoy those custard creams and feel free to eat my share instead of sending some over. ;) xx
    p.s. Maybe one day you can give me some insight into all that 'proper' racing as I feel like a total novice still. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, JJ. One day, if I ever have insight into racing, I will share it with you. In the meantime, I haven't the foggiest either.

  2. You're my hero! 29mph! Hang on...were you hanging on to the back windscreen wiper of a Ford Focus?

    1. Almost certainly a momentary blip on my GPS. As you were.

  3. Congrats on your podium place - awesome medal. You're made of aerobars and carbon fibre - this is proper super-cyclist stuff!

  4. WOWEEEEE sounds hair-raising, you'll be base jumping for kicks next. Lovely velvet lined box for you bling - makes it even more special! Well done

  5. Nice work King :) There isn't a big downhill on that route either so 29mph is super cool. I think, maybe, I might like the chance to dress up as a cycling robot one day. Probably need to learn to ride a little faster in a straight line first (I cheat and set my speedo to kmh to make me feel better!) xxx


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