I drove up early on Sunday morning for the Dooleys 10 mile time trial. The cycle event termed by some in a jingoistic stylee as ‘the race of truth’ . The event had a capacity field of 120 riders. It was over-subscribed and I had initially failed to get in, but a little cajoling of the event organiser by email coupled with a few drop-outs saw me secure number 87. I was off at 10:27am. It was a two and a half hour drive and the roads were empty. It was grey and overcast, but dry. I scanned the car radio for something other than religious programmes, all organs and reverential hushed tones. I settled for a cd by Canada's best kept secret rock band; back to the 80’s: Saga. I rocked past Ecclefechan. The range of toms, snares and cymbals the dashboard has to offer were surprisingly extensive. It began to rain. By the time I got to Bishopton, it was wet. Thankfully the wind wasn’t too bad.
The community centre car park, race HQ, was quite busy with much to-ing and fro-ing. There were several riders on their rollers, doing the warming up thing. I got my number and after driving the course, I still had an hour to wait. I sauntered to the coffee van and ordered an Americano. Wandering back to the car in the cool drizzle, I realised I had entered the land of funny fashions. Strange Gandalph-esque pointy helmets, solid disc wheels, unfeasibly narrow tyres inflated to an inch of their lives and half of them so pumped up, they should be licenced and require deflating by the bomb squad. Let’s not mention the one piece skin-suits, so tight that the riders can’t stand up straight without breaking into a Bee Gees number.
As I supped my coffee, I noticed a new arrival. He was regaled in the livery from the Perth United Club. He walked briskly into race HQ and shortly afterwards came out with his number attached…number 86. So he was one minute in front of me. He looked the part; young, lithe, fancy matt black canyon frame, Zipp wheels and all the bells and whistles. He just looked fast. He mounted the bike and took off for his warm up. The start was 2 miles from HQ so after digging out the new time trial bike, I adjusted the saddle and fitted my rear red light (obligatory), I pedalled out to the start.
The course is a 5 mile out and back dual carriageway affair along a flattish stretch between Bishopton and Port Glasgow. Some early competitors were already finishing. They looked tired and wet. They all looked faster than me. A few riders had punctured in the wet conditions, the rainwater washing fresh sharp gravel onto the road.
I sat behind number 85. He was counted down and set off, winding up a big gear. The starters who comprised two old crusty lads sitting below the railway bridge then turned and shouted ‘number 86’…..’number 86’…..It was a ferris bueller moment……’number 86’ ….anyone... anyone: number 86 wasn’t there. I sat on the top tube astride the bike listening to this and thinking ‘well, I know he’s here; I’ve seen him with his fast wheels and stealth frameset. But there was no sign and after 30 seconds they gave up and began the clarion call….’number 87’….’number 87’. That was me.
I was held up by the starter and readied myself. Then, at 30 seconds to go, number 86 appeared on my shoulder. A staccato conversation with the starters revealed he’d missed his slot. ‘Not my problem’ I mused as the countdown was nearing completion. I gripped the bars and turned on the Garmin with 5 to go…. ‘3,2,1,Go’ . I was off. Cutting left at the roundabout, I adopted the familiar ‘tuck’ position.
The new machine was going well. The time trial handlebars, brake levers and gear levers cost a good few quid to buy and can be fiddly to put on your road bike, so I decided to fish around for a second hand time trial bike, rather than buy the separate components. It is (so far) my only concession to joining the fashionistas in the race of truth, the race to shave seconds off your P.B.s.
My feet were wet after 2 minutes as the spray shot up from the front wheel and the rain continued to fall. I nearly lost control up a short and rough pot-holed drag at Finlaystone, but recovered and punched the pedals hard, rhythmically with little piston thighs. At 3 miles I heard the whoosh, whoosh sound of a disc wheel behind me and Lynsey Curran came past. At 6 miles just after I avoided the broken down Audi on the road, I had a bad case of déjà vu as another rider came past. He looked like number 86. He was number 86. The starters must have relented and let him take number 89’s place, presumably after number 89 failed to appear. Saps.
I buried myself to the end and my thighs were creaking down the slip road where a small gazebo and 3 other marshals sat with clipboards. ‘Not a great spectator sport’ I thought as I caught my breath around the bottom roundabout. My quads were like rock. I made my way back to the HQ and changed before handing my number in and looking at the results board where they already had all the results up. 26m:11secs. 71st out of 83 starters. An average of 23 mph. ‘Not too bad, considering’ I thought, but definitely some work to do to match the winning time of Adam Wild in 19:40. Ridiculously fast.
It was scones and tea back at Glasgow Harbour where I met up with speedy Joe and boyfriend, and then it was home down the A74 in the rain. This weekend, I have a 30 miler at Stirling. I’ve made more concessions dropping in ‘on-line’ to buy some new go faster tyres and latex tubes, a smooth black stealth helmet, without the spikey bit, mind, and some velotoze, which are tight overshoes. That should buy me a few more seconds! Likely to leave me bankrupt at this rate. Bankrupt and exhausted....!!