Roads more akin to paths from the Somme, a howling wind scraping at your flesh, the mercury freezing in the thermometer… all these things have come to represent the gruelling Ely Hardriders start-of-season event, the 2008 edition of which was held on Sunday 10 February. Imagine my disappointment when I woke up to a magnificent sunrise, a vast blue sky and not a breath of wind! I was even able to ride in a skinsuit, rather than a parka and scarf.
It is nearly five months since I last rode a bike in anger, and my winter training involved more pints than pedal strokes. I was therefore a little nervous at the start in the picturesque village of Little Downham – I had never gone faster than 1:10 around the 25.2 mile sporting course before, and wanted to show a definite improvement to kick off the year, given the vast number of time trials I’d ridden last year and the experience I’d gained from this. Gill Reynolds was also riding, so the Willesden was well represented, and Derek shouted his usual encouragement from various vantage points around the course.
Set off at a reasonable pace, but within a few corners found myself losing control and slipping out towards a car approaching on the other side of the road … I managed to regain vertical positioning, but was wary from that point onwards. On balance, backing off was probably sensible – another rider came a cropper on the ice and messed both himself and his bike up.
Rode well within myself, trying to get back in the swing of riding TTs again. I’m not great on sporting courses, owing to my lack of bike handling skills – far better to put me on a dual carriageway where I just have to worry about turning my legs fast, and only changing direction at the occasional roundabout.
Also experienced the usual rude awakening as to the gulf in class between myself and proper TT riders when Tony Stott effortlessly passed me at halfway (he’d started 4 minutes behind me) and vanished into the distance. I’d wanted to finish between 1:06 and 1:08 and so I was reasonably pleased with 1:06:13, which was good enough for 15th place out of 32. I’d knocked over four minutes off my previous best on this course, and finished 5 places higher than I did last year.
Still, I was left with a nagging feeling that I could have gone a bit quicker had I not been so focused on a specific time. I was nonetheless happy with my rhythm and potential to go faster as the year progresses, and am looking forward to the hardriders ’10’ I have entered for next weekend.
Gill did a 1:17:05 and was, thus, I think, fastest lady. I think she enjoyed her first Ely Hardriders, especially the notorious hundred foot drain.
Full results are here:http://www.elycyclingclub.com/hrresults08.htm
Pictures of the Willesden contingent-
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