Racing Against the Cold

Sunday was the second race of the season – Banbury Star 24 mile hilly time trial.

After a great week of weather (for early March), the weather forecast for Sunday morning promised a big blue blob of rain over the whole of England. It looked suspiciously omnious, but curiously I felt no inclination to dns (did not start). I thought it would be a good challenge to race in any weather.

On Sunday morning, I praised the accuracy of the weather forecasters and drove off to Banbury through the rain. I was nervous about the cold rain so wore several base layers including a few thermal layers. Some of the more sensible riders rode with rain jackets, but many were wearing less than me.

I warmed up on a turbo, holding an umbrella over my head. It was an unsatisfactory warm up, but better than getting wet on the road. With 10 minutes to go I cycled over to start line, and stripped off my jacket (which I inevitably later forgot and left at the HQ!). The first half of the race wasn’t too bad. Though the road was waterlogged at one point. making every part of me soaked. It seemed my feet were extra heavy, sodden with water. When you ride through a vast puddle, there is no waterproofing that stops you getting wet..

After a few miles, there is the descent of sunrise hill. This is quite a steep switch back. There were marshalls at top of the hill signalling to slow down and take it easy. Probably just as well, as the switch back is quite a sharp left turn;  and in the wet, you can’t leave it to the last minute. It was headwind all the way to the turn, on the way back, it started to get progressively wetter and colder. It’s surprising how quickly you can get cold and wet. All the way back, the only thing I was dreaming off was getting back to car and putting on the heater.

I was  relieved to finally get to the bottom of the major climb (Sunrise hill). It meant the end was in sight. Very slightly my body warmed up on the ascent, but I realised how cold I was because my arms and fingers could barely grip the bike. I had to climb the hill (about 16%) seated down because it was too much to climb out of the saddle. It was also on the hill that the rain turned to snow – the rain had got colder. At the top of the climb, I spent quite a bit of time trying to get some heat into my extremities.  I almost forgot I was in a race. It was funny when I got to the finish line because it felt an irrelevance, my only finish line was my car back at HQ. Fortunately, it wasn’t too far at all.

When I got back to car, my hands couldn’t work the car key so I had to bite the open button. I turned on the engine and thank God, it worked. It was really painful warming up certain extremities which had got very cold. I shuddered for quite a while. But, what a relief to get back!

Looking back it seems a great adventure, but it was a real eye opener how quickly your body can get very cold when wet and cold.

Back at the HQ there were quite a few other riders who had similar experiences. If we were beginner cyclists we’d never dream of riding in a cold rain / snow shower with minimal clothing and no waterproof, but you get so used to wearing racing clothes, we’re too slow to adapt.

I finished 2nd in a time of 56.15, 14 seconds behind the winner Roy Chamberlain, Team Corley Cycles.

Banbury Star Hilly Time Trial

1 Roy Chamberlain Team Corley Cycles   56:01
2 Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy C T   56:15
3 Tim Davies Ickneild RC   57:02
4 Cameron Foster Team Zappi CC   59:01
5 Chris Morris Wyre Forest CRC 01:00:22
6 Mathilde Matthijssee (W) Ferryhill Wheelers 01:00:45
7 Dan Bill Rapid Performance Coaching 01:01:13

p.s. extra thanks to marshalls and organisers for standing in the cold, and also the organiser Nick Bullen who very kindly offered to post my forgotten jacket.

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