Another cold March morning and another hilly time trial. This time 30.8 miles around the lanes of Marlow, Stokenchurch and Henley, in a race organised by Maidenhead & District CC. I know these roads very well from training rides. There’s plenty of hills and drags around this part of the Chilterns, which is why I like it so much. Though this particular 30 mile route manages to find a relatively ‘flat’ courses for this part of the world. Maybe not hilly enough for a mountain goat like me, but back at the HQ, I couldn’t hear any rider complaining about a lack of 16% gradients. For many it was the first race of the season – not exactly a gentle introduction back into the sport. I did hear the odd mutter about this being the first and last race!
The biggest problem for me was the cold, with temperatures struggling to rise above freezing, at the end of the race I even noticed a very light flurry of snow. Despite 3 pairs of gloves, I had to blow on them a few times because my fingers were freezing. I should have worn a proper thick pair of ‘ski style’ gloves. Three thin layers is not actually great at keeping warm when it gets down to 1-2 degrees. I’m reluctant to race in ski gloves because of diminished handling ability and diminished aerodynamics. It proved a false economy in the end.
When racing, you never know whether to take a spare tub and pump. For this race, I decided to take on the grounds that it was too cold to be standing around waiting for someone to pick you up. Though how much use it would have been is questionable. At the bottom of the results sheet, I saw a note:
D.N.F. Number 20. Punctured at Nettlebed and fingers too cold to change a tub.
that is one drawback to these early season hillies.
I did wear 4 thermal layers under an old baggy skinsuit, I definitely didn’t regret that decision. But, if I can stop complaining about the cold and being a soft southerner for a moment, it was a pretty good race. You start with a long drag to Stokenchurch before riding along the top of the Chiltern ridge past Christmas Common and then left down the slope towards Henley. At Henley, you’ve reached the valley floor and there was quite a hard stretch into the headwind. To finish off there’s a nice little climb up to Frieth. It’s good fun, after a fashion, the constant variations in gradient, wind direction and challenging road surface mean you are constantly working on trying to maintain a rhythm and picking a good line in the road. In some places, it’s nice and fast, in others it’s very hard work. I noticed some enthusiastic marshalling from Maidenhead’s Danuta Tinn on one corner, although it may just have been a case of the old - dance up and down on the spot to keep warm whilst marshalling routine.
I finished 2nd in a time of 1.10.49 Over 1 minute slower than 2010, but I think it was OK given the cold. I felt fairly strong at the end of the race, though the knees are tired this morning. Jonathan Schubert of High Wycombe is going very well this year, and he won in a time of 1.09.33 Jonathan’s racing season is ending in April, when he’s cycling off to Singapore – or somewhere suitably exotic. It puts a tough 30 mile time trial into perspective. Good luck is all I can say!
First lady was Hayley Gamble (W) Eton Triathlon Club in her first ever time trial (they aren’t always as much fun as this one) First junior was Will Houghton Hillingdon CC (who gets an honourable mentioning for saying good things about this blog.)