Over the years I've never ridden a fast 25 course on a fast day - many times on a fast course on a slow day, and occasionally a fast day on a slow course, but a combination of a fast day and a fast course has always proved elusive. For that reason my 25 mile PB was perhaps my weakest PB, and most achievable for this year.
Of course you have to enter events on a fast course to get the chance of a fast day on them, so with that in mind Martin Rasmussen and I entered the Adept Cycling 25 on the T252/2 course on the A19 in North Yorkshire. There wasn't much course information available in advance of entering, so I wasn't too sure which variant of the course was going to be used, but it turned out to be the fastest Teesside course on the A19. It was then slightly disappointing to arrive at the event HQ on the day to find the course had been switched to a slower course, the T252/3, due to temporary traffic lights at the junction where the turn is.
We signed on and decided to drive the 5 miles to near the start where most of the other riders had chosen to do the same. We had loads of time before our start, possibly a bit too much time. Martin was starting 3 minutes ahead of me, meaning that if he got under the hour (his aim for the day) and I caught him on the line I would almost certainly get a new PB under my current 56:57 which was set way back in 1998.
My warm up showed that there was quite a Northeast breeze. Strangely then the first mile from the start line was quite slow and needed a lot of effort to get the pace up. Once onto the A19 it was pretty quick though, with my pace often over 30 mph but dipping on each uphill drag. My start number was 87, reflecting my three year best time of 58:59 not being anywhere near the times that riders set on the A19 courses, but also meaning that the rider in front of me was most likely catchable. Indeed, he was in sight from the start (there being very long sight-lines on this course) and I slowly reeled him in. I was getting close to him at Clack Bank, the steepest climb on the course.
Before passing him though I thought I should take a quick drink. I had tried taking my aero-bottle from the frame during my warm up and had found it too hard to do whilst on the tri-bars, so it made sense to take a few seconds for a drink before overtaking. It was then that I found my hands were too sweaty to grip the bottle sufficiently to remove it from the mount, so I was left thirsty as I resumed my race and wondering how I was going to resolve that problem.
The first half to the turn proved to be very fast, my average speed at the turn being 28.5 mph. Not knowing the road at all well I hadn't realised I was approaching the turn until I saw a marshal on the slip road. In fact it wasn't the junction I was expecting to turn at. The last time I had ridden a similar course the slip road dropped down from the A19 and there was a fairly fast turn back onto the northbound carriageway; this slip road was short and turned vary sharply back on itself up to a bridge over the A19. On the bridge over the top I found time to make a grab for my water bottle, and found success at the last moment only my gripping the top rather than the main part of the bottle. One very quick swig and I was turning left and dropping back down and sharply left to head back North.
The next few miles were uphill and into a headwind. I had been expecting this and knew this was the point to work flat out. I had got another rider in sight and assumed this must be Martin. I hadn't gone far before i myself was caught for 3 minutes by number 90, who steadily disappeared up the road ahead. Whilst my speed had dropped to 27 mph by the time I reached the top, that seemed a good position to be in - I needed 26.4 mph at the finish to set a new PB and there was now everything to play for.
The headwind on the return leg proved not be as bad as I feared. There are a few small drags up and down before dropping down Clack Bank, and each uphill noticeably closed the distance to martin who I eventually caught with 5 miles to go, just after descending Clack Bank. From there I had the luxury of knowing I just needed 25 mph to the finish to set a PB, but knowing Martin would also need something close to that to get under the hour, so I had my fingers crossed for him as I overtook. As it happened the last few miles were surprisingly fast and my computer was still showing 27 mph as I crossed the finish line, although my distance showed 25.1 miles so my average speed for 25 miles is rounded down to 26.9 mph.
So, my finishing time was a new PB of 55:43, placing me 32nd of the 116 riders on the start sheet, way better than my seeding on a 7 would have suggested. The happy news is that Martin finished in 59:26 and thereby got his first ride under the hour. It also means that this is the first time I have caught a rider who has got under the hour. Now we are just left wondering what our times would have been on the faster course which is rumoured to be up to two minutes faster!
This result gives me my best ranking points of any event so far this year. It also gives me a useful vets standard result of +11:43 towards the various VTTA North BAR competitions.National Ranking 20th June 2018