A couple of weeks ago a dear friend and clubmate mentioned they had entered the Buxton CC mountain time trial and wouldn’t it be a good idea if I entered as well as it is so much friendlier with 2. The event offers two distances; 33 miles over 3 laps and 22 miles over 2 laps. I duly entered the 3 lap race only to get a swift email back from the organiser advising me that old people like me didn’t really enter the 3 lap and would I like my entry moving. I took his advice and moved to the shorter distance.
I recced the course last Sunday and was impressed by just how nasty it is; I got to thinking that it would be a good idea to ride it on a club run some time with a café stop at Flash Bar Stores. I hope everyone likes the idea of that? This last week has been just about the worst preparation I could have had for racing. Monday and Tuesday I was away at a conference and the rest of the week I didn’t finish work before 7.00pm so consequently I didn’t touch my bike all week. Plus a delightful bit of news came on Thursday, my erstwhile racing companion had a cold or something and would not be accompanying me. It was me that was supposed to be doing the accompanying, not the other way around!!
Anyway, Saturday arrived, I realised I had not even cleaned my bike from the week before, too late now. I looked on BBC weather and it showed that Flash was in a massive puddle of blue at 8 degrees and with 20+ mph wind. Oh joy. On arriving in Flash I could see the weather forecast was indeed completely accurate, what it didn’t account for was the huge windchill which probably took the effective temperature to just above freezing.
I parked on the lane from Gradbach to Flash, it is something of a slope. A guy was walking towards me and he dropped one of his gloves as he got them out of his pocket. The glove fell in to the gushing stream that had developed at the side of the road and was swept away downhill, the man having to run at least 50 yards before catching his soaking clothing.
My start time was 13.26. Sitting in the car with it rocking in the wind, I pinned my number on, put my skinsuit on and massaged my legs deeply with some hot embrocation. Socks, shoes, overshoes, helmet, glasses, all ready, 35 minutes to off, let’s go and warm up. At this point 2 riders in quick succession returned to their cars and, having carried out their warm up, were just binning the day and not starting. Hhhmm, maybe I will sit in the car just a little longer.
The time ticked by, the rain and wind continued, I’ll go in a minute. Just another minute. Tick tock, tick tock. Who needs a warm up anyway? Vastly overrated things. So it was that at 14 minutes past 1 I put my leg over my bike for the first time in a week and rode the mile or so to the start and stood out of the wind as much as I could watching not many riders starting in front of me.
In the 5 minutes I stood waiting for my start I developed a full body shiver – standing in the rain and wind at that temperature in nothing but a skinsuit was challenging to say the least. As the event progressed it was noticeable the number of riders that were actually in full winter gear with their numbers pinned to their rain jackets, not me, I’d left all that stuff in the car. My turn to start now. there was no pusher on the start line, ‘well you are going downhill anyway’, the timekeeper helpfully pointed out. She was right, the first 20 yards did go downhill.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I was off. The first 3 ½ miles or so were on the main road from Buxton to Leek. This part of the course was ‘rolling’ and more or less directly in to the headwind meaning that I was at points in a tiny gear doing no more than 15 mph just trying to battle my way forward, my legs screaming at me, ‘what are you doing, I thought you had stopped all of this nonsense’. Shut up legs. The higher parts of the course were up in the clouds or the clouds were really low, either way visibility was 75 yards at best in places & with that, the wind, the rain, the cold, the legs and having to ride in the middle of the road to avoid Noah ship building in the floods at the side, the first 10 minutes were right down there with broken bones as one of this year’s low points.
What’s that in the distance? A flashing red light? Minute man? You must be joking! Indeed it was though and with that extra motivation fuelling my effort I reeled the individual in just after the sharp left turn which took us to Longnor. A bonus at this point was I actually felt a warm too.
The road down to Longnor on a dry day and without the hurricane sidewind is a joyful 50mph descent. On this occasion with the hurricane gusting me across the road I just hunkered down on my bike, making myself as small as I could and hoped for the best. The soaked roads had earlier been enhanced by helpful tractors which has covered a couple of sharp bends in thick mud. The few minutes of fast descent with little pedalling had seen my own temperature drop rapidly so I was shivering again, freezing cold and soaked to the skin.
Miraculously I saw another light in the distance and just hoped I would stay upright long enough to catch it. This I did a bit before the rise to Longnor. ‘Well done’, we both grunted.
Left uphill in Longnor and immediately left uphill again before another left which took us on to the 3rd leg of the course. An initial sharp, potholed descent bounces uphill straight in to a short 20% section before a couple of miles of just 5% – 10%. The relief here was that there was now a helpful tailwind so the climb wasn’t quite as miserable as it could have been. The climb starts out as a little ring, bottom gear fight but then you can go up the gears a bit and even put it in the big ring for some sections. No problems with my body temperature now, but the sweat that was running in to my eyes was being washed away by the rain so every cloud and all that. After the long, draggy climb, the lane levels out before going sharp down, then sharp up (15%), down and up again (10% perhaps) before a false flat and the finish line, the timekeeper sensibly monitoring things from the relative warmth of the inside of a car.
Oh bugger, I have to do all of that again…
The second lap was remarkably similar to the first, a living hell. The first leg again a ridiculous headwind, the second leg a hang on and hope freezing descent before a final time up the leg breaking third leg.
I rolled down in to the Flash village HQ, handed my number in and had a quick chat with a couple of other survivors, sorry, riders, before again rolling down the lane to my car. In the 15 minutes since I finished I had already got so cold that it took the whole journey home before I stopped shivering completely.
My time split for the 2 laps was near enough identical, that might have something to do with me spending part of the first lap just getting warmed up and getting the legs going after a week off. There were 15 DNS on the day and 17 finishers. I ended up 7thoverall and 3rd of the over 50s so not as terrible as it could have been. There is an inevitable internal review after any race; what could be different, what could be improved and I do know that next time some things can be altered for a better result but in any case I am happy that I emptied myself and did everything I could under the circumstances.
Oh, my erstwhile friend? Spent the day under a blanket, drinking tea, eating Hobnobs and watching TV. Which one of us got the day right?