I thought I would give it a go as I was working in Slough on Thursday. So I rushed home from work pumped up my tires to 120psi, dug out my clip-on aero bars (the wife is still disappointed that there is no chocolate in them) a quick fitting session had them in about the right position. I booted up the laptop for a map of the course to find out where the race was (I knew it was on Drift road somewhere). Just as well I looked because they have at least two 10 mile routes. I had looked at the one Darren had posted on the cycling site some time ago, but this is the long route, today’s route was a shorter two circuit affair out towards Shurlock Row. (See link below for course details).
I grabbed a banana and a gel and headed off to where I thought the start was. 22km later I had seen loads of guys on very flash TT bikes with the full-on slipstream helmets and one piece race suits, but couldn’t find the start. The ride out must have muddled my brain because I had ridden almost all the way around the course trying to find the start, turning around just before I got to it, only to retrace my steps all the way back around the course before I eventually overcoming my natural (male) instinct and asked one of the other riders where the bloody start was. I felt somewhat foolish when he told me it was about 300 yards away. I just had to ride over the bridge over the M4. I had gotten to this point twice before but had turned back as I was sure the start was on the south side of the bridge (Duh).
I was surprised by the number of racers and the type of kit some of them had. To be fair there was a good mix of riders and bikes from the young guys in full on racing suits to fat old blokes (me) and at least five girls giving it a go, some of them looked very fit!! Sorry that’s not very PC is it? You know what I mean. This was my first go at this type of event and I found all the organizers’ and racers to be very friendly and helpful.
Back to the race, after my ride out and hunt for the start I was a little bit late and the first racers were already away. I signed in and thought I had bagged the last start No 42. This was great in my book, I knew no one was going to overtake me. Objective one already achieved and I hadn’t even started the race yet (or so I thought). At this point I met up with the other BTS guys Barry, Tom, Michael, Chris, and Ian LE a good turnout for the club. I did feel a bit like the poor relation though, how many bikes have you guys got? One’s enough for me (well that’s what the wife says). Tom knocked my confidence a bit when he asked in a very disparaging voice “are you racing in that top“;-) just before he stripped down to his race suit. It’s the only top I’ve got I thought. A trip to Swim Bike Run could be called for or I could just get the BTS kit.
I chose to check out who was starting just in front of me and trying to work out if I could catch them. Things were looking up, an old bloke, (even older than me) riding what looked like a butchers bike with the basket removed and it was painted pink with pink wheels. Looks can be deceptive though, needless to say I was convinced I could make up the gap in the first half mile or so. (The only problem was, the next time I saw the pink bike was after the finish line). As the pink butchers bike disappeared down the road the starter called my number. I was surprised to find another rider standing just behind me. This can’t be right I thought, I was supposed to be the last rider. It was a Bradley Wiggins look-e-like, sporting number 43, bugger and double bugger, objective No1 has just left the planet. This guy was young, had a better bike than Barry, a full one-piece suit, slipstream helmet and slipstream overshoes. I had read that the overshoes on their own can nearly half your time in a TT.
Back to the start, the starter called me to the line and grabbed my bars and saddle stem claiming that he had me. Never having done this before I tried to get my clip in the clip less pedal?? (How does that work? clip in a clip less pedal, English is a strange language and if you’ve read this far you will know that I have not yet fully grasped it). After a few wobbles the clip was in and the starter was complaining of a bad back (must be due to my low aero riding position) but he assured me he would give me a good push off. It was at this point that I thought it might have been helpful to have eaten the banana and consumed the gel I had in my back pocket, about half an hour ago, I didn‘t need them anyway I‘d had a cheese roll and a cup of coffee at 10am. They would make a good post ride recovery meal (third or fourth bugger of the evening). 30 second 10 second 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go. A fine push-off from the starter (thanks very much), I had even remembered to get the bike in the right gear for a reasonable start.
At this point I wondered what the Bradders Look-e-like was thinking behind me, probably that the fat old bloke in front of him, on a bike that looked like I had just cut off the basket, was in his back pocket already. (Which was completely true of course, I was to be easy meat to the young up start).
Anyway I gunned away from the start convinced that the pink butcher’s bike was just around the bend in front. The only problem was that instead of going down the gears and building up speed, I had to keep changing up and seemed to be going slower, my legs were on fire already and I seemed to have a collapsed left lung, my V02 max was way down (as if I know what that means!!). No problem I though keep my cadence high and save it for the second lap. Of course a quick look at the course profile would have told me that the first 3 miles of the course was slightly uphill (see link above) and I should be keeping my cadence high anyway so that when I reached the top I would be able to gun it down the other side and keep my speed high on the flat. At the high point with my legs on fire and lungs not being able to process oxygen. I remembered that I had my Garmin on. This is a useful bit of kit as is shows your heart rate and average speed etc. I remembered that I had a plan (before the race started that was) get my heart rate up to 155/60ish and keep it there until the last two miles and go for broke my heart rate was 180 at this point. I had just about recovered from the climb up the hill when I reached the flat part of the course. Too late to build up the speed I should have gotten on the downhill bit.
This is when the inevitable happened (yes it was Bradders) I could hear him but didn’t want to look over my shoulder to confirm it. Fast approaching was a tight 90 degree bend, the turn into Howe Lane. Bradders was right alongside, not enough time for him to get past before the bend we took it side by side. Now if I had of a more aggressive nature I could have swung wide and pushed him into the oncoming car. At the time I wondered how much damage you could do to a £4k bike if you hit a car head on (just for a nano-second I though go for it Booker push that young upstart out there) Sanity returned and I keep tight in giving him about 10cm to get past without hitting the car, well if he has got all that kit 10cm should be more than enough. OK he had about 10feet but it felt like 10cm. Off he went into the distance with a shout of encouragement from me (well f-off you bugger is a term of endearment where I grew up). This is the flat straight part of the course and I could see him about 500m ahead passing another rider. The old bloke on the pink butcher’s bike I was thinking (No such luck) It was the very nice young girl I had been talking to at the start. She had race no 40 and told me that this was her first time out and she hadn’t been riding all that long. Still a small victory to me, as I passed her I wondered if she was thinking about swinging out and pushing me into the ditch alongside the road. Probably not, it’s just me that thinks like that, or is it?
Where was I? oh yes on the flat and coming up to the roundabout at Drift Road where I had to turn sharp left. A lack of concentration meant that I was going far to fast and nearly crashed into the bollard just missing it and swinging onto the other side of the road. Up and over the M4 bridge and past the start line for my second lap.
Second time around was much better with me keeping my cadence high up the hill and pedalling hard from the top of the small hill and carrying my speed along the flat. Just about a mile to go now and I felt strong and pushed my heart rate up to 175 with speed over 26mph for the last mile. I felt great at the finish and was happy to have got round in just over 27mins with an average speed of 22mph. I carried on past the finish line to spin out and get my breath back, it was then that I saw the pink bike for the last time the guy looked like he had not broken sweat and managed to keep well in front of me. I turned around and cycled back to the start line to catch up with the other BTS guys before heading back to Burnham.
I must say I had a great time and would recommend these events to everybody. It’s great fun and a good way of tracking your fitness throughout the year. Oh yes I just remembered the best bit, the cost, having raced a few times last year I am used to the £35+ for small triathlons and £70+ for Windsor and London. I was asked to pay the princely sum of £2, what a barging.
I checked the results the next day and found that I was the slowest BTS rider.
I was twentieth
Which is OK with me, It gives me something to aim for, and if I get a pair of them overshoes I’m sure I could take few minutes off my time next time out.