What a fantastic result yesterday - Wiggo smashed the field and Froome took a bronze. It was with this in mind my lad Charlie and I entered the local 2 up team time trial yesterday evening )he baggsied it first and got to be Brad- typical). Anyway, it got me to thinking…
Time trials remain the backbone of competitive cycle sport in Britain. They have an historical anchor as the sport’s governing body, the forward thinking and imaginative National Cycling Union (NCU), banned mass start road racing before WW2 forcing riders to compete individually against the clock. No really, they did. Honestly…
Despite this, British riders took the discipline to their hearts and now, during the summer months, many cycling clubs will run a mid-week 10 mile time trial supplemented with much posher ‘open’ events over the weekends. A look a recent British cycling heritage will reveal many of the current crop of professional riders come from a time trialling background. Certainly Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree but also David Millar, Wiggo, Alex Dowsett et al.
You’d expect there to be certain differences between the Olympic time trial and the club TT starting at 7pm up the A442 wouldn’t you? You’d be right. Here are a few of them.
1. The Olympic TT started at Hampton Court Palace – the ancestral home of Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty, hugely influential in the development of English political and religious institutions and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. In contrast, club event start at the car park of the ‘Mucky Duck’ where you can get sausage, egg and chips for £2.00 (£1.25 in week if you are on OAP) and you have to keep moving so you don’t stick to the carpet. Oh, and remember to park at the back – in case any ‘proper’ customers turn up.
2. The riders taking part in the Olympic TT are the fastest cyclists in the world. They could cover 10 miles in around 18 minutes, riding at well over 30 mph emitting a massive amount of power whilst retaining a perfectly flat back and a smooth, graceful and efficient style. The club time trial will be won by the one guy who manages to dip below 24 minutes with his club mates coming in 3 to 10 minutes behind him. The final rider will get back as it gets dark. These riders will have a range of ‘styles’ ranging from text book to ‘gorilla engaged in wrestling match with lawn mower’.
3. None of the smoothed legged lean Olympians came face to face with a tractor towing a combine harvester during their race today although this often befalls club riders, evidenced from the look of abject terror on their faces and the amount of straw sticking out of their aero helmets as they return to the finish. Similarly, I don’t recall any of the pro’s reporting being hit square in face with a half-eaten McDonalds hurled from a passing car accompanied by a hearty cry of ‘w*nker!’ and a single finger salute.
4. You’d expect the equipment used by amateurs thrashing up the A442 and the professionals gliding around London to be different and, again, you’d be right. Top of the range carbon framed, wind tunnel tested, disc wheel and power metered equipped steeds costing thousands will be present at the evening club time trial whereas many of the pro’s will be riding stuff their governing bodies have forced upon them. One of the joys of our sport is that you can (just) ride the same equipment as your heroes in the Tour de France. If you follow F1 you have no, repeat, no chance of driving an F1 car but you can (if you’ve got 6 grand to spare) ride the same bike as Brad.
5. Enjoyment? Surprisingly equal. In their professional careers the fleeting joy of victory (that 15 minutes before they find the next target) is tempered by the enormous pressure to perform in a vanishingly small time window before becoming too old, knackered and disillusioned. For the amateur of any age or ability, nothing compares with the unmitigated ecstasy of knocking 2 seconds off your PB or beating ‘Fast’ Eddie, your time trialling nemesis, gaining bragging rights at the post mortem in the Mucky Duck.
If you’re between 12 and 112 and fancy a lash at time trialling, contact your local club and see when and where they are held. If you’re 12, you might be the next Brad. If your 112 you might be the next ‘Fast’ Eddie. Either way, it’s a great accessible way to get into competitive cycle sport.