A superfast course, except when there’s a gale – F11/10 2013

At the weekend was two 10 mile time trials. The first one was the Hemel Hempstead 10 mile on the ‘super fast’ F11/10. The event had attracted a large entry, with the hope that the course would produce some fast times. The entry field look more like a national championship than a ‘fish and chipper’ the qualifying time for the fastest 120 men was something like 21.19 or something crazy. In the morning I was down in London marshalling a 10km running race, so I arrived in plenty of time – a couple of hours before my start. My warm up mainly consisted of sitting in the car, glad that I wasn’t an early starter and riding in the freezing rain. I was putting my number on in the hq and overheard a rider who had just come back from the race saying something along the lines of ‘well that was crazy a big 14 stone guy like me and shivering to death – I’ve never been so cold in June. But, it’s quick. Be careful of slippy turns though‘ – That didn’t bode well, if a short stock 14 stone guy is getting cold, that’s bad news for my 62kg, 187cm frame. I get cold when it’s warm and sunny. So I went back to car and put on several layers of clothes and a couple of thermal socks. After messing around for so long, I only had a warm up of about 20 minutes. Fortunately, as I got on the rollers, the sun came out, and it warmed up quite a lot. The only problem is that now I was sweating like anything, and I had to take one of my thermal vests off. I was spending more time messing around with clothes than actually warming up – so much for arriving 2 hours before the start. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take off my thick pair of thermal socks. More than anything, they spoilt the ‘aero’ look. Before the race, I’d cleaned and stripped down the bike to make it as aero as possible. I was also wearing some (ridiculously expensive i.e. £80) Smart Aero socks. So it looked a bit incongruous with these fuzzy socks appearing around these sleak lycra oversocks. Anyway off to the start and up for the race. The only hill of the day is getting to the start.


You start on a slip road. For the first 2 miles you pass over a very lumpy and bumpy surface, you vainly try to find a pothole free route, but it’s not happening because the bumps go across the carriageway. Then you have 2 roundabouts to negotiate. I took it a little cautious given I’d already seen someone fall off back at the hq. The turn was helped by enthusiastic marshalling which gave an indication over coming traffic. Then there is the long return leg. Initially it felt relatively sheltered from the wind, and then you hit the famous F11/10 descent a long downhill section, where you have people reporting being able to spin out at 50mph. Someone I chatted to after the race said he was dissappointed he couldn’t really use his 62 chain ring like usual, the wind was taking the edge off.


Even though the descent may not have been as fast as usual, you still had a pretty good speed coming off the descent. But, then there is a drag to the last turn. Here the wind was really in your face, gusting really strong. The headwind was a like a great block and you felt you were pedalling squares. On this section, I overtook 2 riders who seemed to be struggling even more. That was good for morale, but it seemed strange on this super-fast course to be going so slow. I toyed with the idea of putting it in the little ring, but resisted and churned away mashing the gears until the roundabout finally came into view. The last two miles was super fast. With the same gale blowing you back. I couldn’t decide between using 56*11 or 56*12 and was switching between the two. It was probably faster here, than down the slope. I finished in a time of 20.19 and 25th place. I never seem to go so well on this course (relatively) I was over a minute faster when riding the V718 (19.07), and I’ve been faster on local Bentley courses. Many said that on that day, it was up to a minute slower than ideal conditions, which made the superfast rides of the day look even more impressive – Rob Pear 19.19, Matt Clinton 19.21, Adam Topham 19.29. (results)

The bad news is Matt Bottrill crashed going over a pothole on the way back, nothing broken but quite a bit of road rash. I also noticed quite a few riders had the dreaded F11/10 handlebar droop. 3 miles of potholes and your aerobars come lose – it happened to me last year. Torque past and torque wrench highly advised pre racing F11/10!


I’m not enamoured of the F11/10. It’s a bit of a cheat course because of the drop. It’s hard to get into a rhythm and aero tuck, because you really have to concentrate on the road surface. But, mainly I don’t like it because it gives no advantage to being a super-light-weight like me.  It’s not a course I would have designed. But, I’ll probably come back because it’s close to Oxford, and even though I’m not keen on the course, I still like getting the odd fast times.

Sunday, was a different kind of race and course. The Chris Hart memorial 10 mile TT promoted by West London C.A. on the H10/2 Knowl Hill course. After yesterday’s gales it was nice weather so I decided to ride down to the event from Oxford. A good 27 mile warm up through Henley on Thames. The race was good. I did 21.16 which was 10 seconds slower than last year. A bit disappointing, but that’s time trialling you can never always go in the direction you want. Sometimes, you’re just not as fast as you’d like to be.

Anyway, the race was very good and a nice prize presentation after. Gordon Wright (supreme interval training coach) handed out the prize and Ann Hart (Chris’ late wife) was present to hand out the trophies. I like to do the event because it’s a good friendly atmosphere, plus I was quite fond of Chris Hart, who was very helpful in setting up my own event. I also enjoyed chatting to Brain James (Brighton Mitre CC) it was one day before his 83rd birthday, but he still did a very creditable 31 minute 10.


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