The unlikely time triallist

By 27th April 2021General, Sport

Legs pumping, heart pounding – I see a small colourful group of people clustered around a lady with a clip board. Quick glance behind me and I free-wheel across the road and with a loud screech I arrive in front of the timekeeper.

Breathlessly, ‘I’d like to come and try the time-trial please.’

She frowned, ‘You are a bit late; you need to be here 15 minutes before the start at 7:00 pm at the very latest.’

Crestfallen, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t realise, it’s my first time.’

‘You see we need to write down the order of riders on the start list and get to the start up there.’ she waved vaguely up the road. She must have taken pity on me. ‘Okay, this time you can ride as I’ve just started writing out the list, will number 5 be okay for you?’

‘Yes, please!’ I’m in.

Before I know it, I hold a yellow plastic square with a black number 5 on it and some safety pins attached. I look around; there are cyclists in skinsuits, bikes with aero bars, flimsy handlebars and solid wheels. Some cyclists are racing up and down the road and someone is warming up on stationary rollers. There are others in normal jerseys and shorts, pinning numbers on to each other. Some are chatting or just standing pensively. Amongst all these people are a few women of various ages, shapes and sizes – I am not the odd one out at all. I smile and a friendly woman offers to pin the number on the back of my jersey.

‘Is this your first time?’ she asks.

I nod enthusiastically and she continues, ‘Well the start is just up this road and the first rider, number 1 will go off at 7:00pm, in about 5 minutes time. Then the riders go off at one-minute intervals after that.’ She looks at her watch, ‘In fact I’m number 1 and there is five minutes to the start, so we’d better get going.’

Most people had drifted away. We ride up the road and I find my place in the line. The lady with the clipboard is there with a stopwatch and the number 1 rider I’d just met had her front wheel on a faint mark on the road. A man is crouched down holding her bike up, whilst she clips her shoes into her pedals. 30, 15, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! Off she flies amidst cries of ‘Good luck!’, ‘Go for it!’ and so it goes on, like pigeons being released. Then it is my turn. Would I like to be held up? Well yes, I would if it helps me save a few seconds, which I guess it would. This requires a degree of trust from me and I feel slightly off-centre, but its bearable. I try to calm down and slow my breathing; I hope I’m not in a hard gear. It is too late to check.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – I am off. I stand up on my pedals and launch myself off, then I sit down, move my hands onto the dropbars to reduce air resistance and for the second time that day pump my legs. I try to settle down, after all this will be 10 miles, more than 30 minutes riding for me. I look for the sweet spot of working hard, breathing deeply but in a rhythm. Suddenly whoosh, I start! A skin-suited clad rider sweeps past me and then another. I decide to count how many people overtake me before I reach the turn. It was four in that first ride. Not so hard for the rider who followed me, but the person with number 10 on his back had covered four miles, five minutes faster than me!

Looking down at my Garmin I’d nearly completed five miles and I start to think about turning around. I’d already seen people homeward bound, some raising a hand in acknowledgement, a ‘well done’, others head down intent. Soon I see a man standing in the middle of the road pointing to a spot in front of him.

He shouts ‘Have you time for a cuppa! Seriously you are doing great, take your time!’

I slow down, unclip, put one foot down just behind the friendly man and scooter my bike so that it is facing in the other direction. At the same time another rider shoots up and deftly steers his bike and himself around the small mark that the man is pointing too, flying off ahead of me.

‘That’s how it’s done!’ I think.

Luckily there is a slight downhill slope and it’s not long before I gather speed; I’m on my way back. I start to grin broadly; I am loving riding my bike like this. My heart soars and I am ten years old again, chasing my pals around the block on my bike, pretending to be a police motor cyclist.

‘I’m so lucky I can do this.’ I think.

Legs pumping, heart pounding – I can see a small colourful group of people clustered around a lady with a clip board… I finished.

How did I do? I’ve just looked it up on Strava. The date of my first Walford TT was 30th July 2015 and my time was 32 minutes and 22 seconds. I hope I was delighted at that. I don’t know what my position was, but in the race of truth it doesn’t matter; you are only racing against yourself.

Six years ago, I desperately wanted to meet friendly female riders and I was curious about Ross on Wye District Cycling Club. However, I was very worried about turning up for a Sunday ride. How far? How fast? Would I keep up? There was only one ride then and the route wasn’t publicised. But with the time trials I knew how far and where they went. How fast was up to me. I wasn’t going to hold anyone up. That’s why I turned up on that Thursday evening.

There are many other reasons to consider time trialling and helping with them.

  • Meet cyclists who are not in the group you normally ride with.
  • Have a chance to get to know people off the bike.
  • Learn new techniques.
  • You will become faster.
  • See your progress over the season.
  • Enjoy a summers evening riding your bike.
  • Help and give something back to the club, you will get to know people even better.
  • Oh yes and there are trophies to be had!!

Word of warning! Don’t be late. You probably won’t be allowed to ride if you arrive later than 15 minutes before the start. Also, rider order is now organised on a first come, first off basis.

Hope to see you there!!