MRCC TTT, East Saltoun
7 March 2015
One of the best things about the first race of the season is the chance to get back on the carbon bike which had been gathering dust, and a few cobwebs, since the Isle of Bute races last year. So it got a good clean, oiled and a shiny new set of pedals attached along with my training bike. On one of the club rides recently someone described the transition to summer bike as taking off your wellies and putting on your trainers. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
When I arrived at East Saltoun before the race I found I was struggling to get my drivers door open. Oh dear, was it the same weather as last year? In fact, no, it was worse. Certainly a stronger, and gustier, breeze. On the plus side it was mild so - also for the first time this year - shorts! Walking to sign on I couldn’t help coveting some of the impressive TT machines on view. Disc wheels though? I was worried enough about deep sections.
At the village hall I met up with Ross, Marcus and, birthday boy, Pete who were all brimming with excitement and laughed uncertainly about the winds. Soon we were joined by Sandy and John who’d managed a recce of the course. We celebrated Pete’s birthday with a jelly baby each. Kit on, numbers on and time for a warm up. I climbed onto the bike and…er, no click! No amount of pushing could press me into the pedals. After much tinkering with a multi-tool and some good support work (literally) from Alex I managed to get some kind of connection. We high tailed it off to the start line and were told to get straight on to the start with less than 30 seconds to go. As I listened to the countdown I could hear that well known phrase running through my mind: “fail to prepare and prepare to fail!"
The course is roughly akin to a rectangle. Straight off into the wind but quickly turning (turn 1), up a short steepish ramp through the village then (turn 2) left onto the Gifford Road and whoosh! What an assist from the wind! As we tore along the road I sneaked a quick look at the garmin. 56kph. Either we’re going well or we’re going to pay for this later. We hadn’t managed any practise this year but we’re quite used to working together now and I thought we slipped into a rhythm very quickly. Time trialling is all about keeping your formation and working together; more important, even, than going as fast as you can so we kept checking fore and aft. Turn 3 takes us down a long descent with some very fast corners - one featuring burning rubber from John - and then turn 4 is the sore one; right into that headwind. From here it’s a long slow drag into the wind for about 5km. When John dropped back from his spell he shouted “treat it like a long hill” which is exactly how it felt. One section of this road takes us up a small incline past a farm and as you round the farm buildings back into the full force of the wind it felt like I had opened a parachute. OK, yes, there’s that payback for the 56kph.
We slogged it out past the finish line for lap 1 and, checking the time (23m), felt that we were on track to beat last years time. Back up through the village. This time we could see our fellow Rondeurs and Rondettes at the roadside shouting encouragement and it really gives you a lift to see friendly faces and hear your name. Down the fast descent, the fastest part of the course at 68kph, we lost our formation to some hard braking - lucky for me I was on the front but poor Sandy took the brunt. We soon got it together and battled back up the 5km “hill”. By now it was all feeling familiar so it was time to concentrate hard on getting the changes right and controlling the bike in the side swipes and gusts. Starting the last lap felt good, only another 13km to go. We’d been passed by at least one other team but the lap times were still showing us up on last year and that was the main aim. The final lap was a bit of a blur, eyes fixed on Sandy watching for the flick of the elbow, then counting out my spell trying to eek out as much as I could before pulling off to let John through. As we approached the finish line I could swear they’d inserted another stretch of road; “Don’t remember this bit!”. OK one more spell and we’re done. Our clubmates were at the finish line to deliver a final cheer - thanks guys! I checked the garmin again and, unofficially, we were a few minutes up on last year. Gingerly I tried to get out of the pedals and line up with the guys for a team photo from Charlie and Alex. The elation of finishing soon turned into pain as my hamstrings siezed up as a result of the constant grinding. Ouch it was going to be a painful drive home!
Words by Leo Friel, photos courtesy of Alex Sanderson (incl banner) & Katie Newlands