A beautiful morning for a 50 mile time trial around an undulating course in Northumberland.
It isn't often you get a perfect day for time trialling in Northumberland, but this was about as good as it gets - a warm morning with little wind, occasionally sunny. It is quite a few years since I've ridden a 50 in Northumberland and I haven't raced this course at all over any distance. If anything I've got better at longer distances with age so i was looking forward to this race.
Setting off number 48 of 73 riders (who could have imagined such a large field for a 50 in the North East 20 years ago!) from Pegswood I was quickly up to a good speed along the Pegswood bypass towards Ashington. Passing Jack Earl on a long straight I could see number 47 a long way ahead. Through the pedestrian crossing without any problems and turned north towards the coastal route at Linton roundabout and on past Ellington. I wasn't too surprised at Tom Hutchinson catching me for 2 minutes after 7.5 miles, and I managed to avoid the large chunk of malt loaf that he dropped at Widdrington roundabout (strangely it had gone by the second lap). I wasn't expecting number 51 to come past for 3 minutes what seemed like not much later.
Through 10 miles in about 23:30 at an average speed of 25.5 mph was a quick start, especially as I was looking at a 24 mph average for a very good time. Turning left through Red Row marks the start of a prolonged spell of climbing; nothing too serious but a long draggy section of road all the way through to Acklington. At Acklington I had to pretty much stop at the traffic calming to give way to an oncoming tractor, fortunately my only hold up during the race. Almost immediately after I was passed by number 49 who I watched ride into the distance past number 47 who I had closed down to about 30 seconds.
If anything there was a slight southerly wind, making the leg down through Ulgham and Longhirst the hardest section of the course. Passing through Longhirst village brought up half distance, 25 miles in 1:02! I hoped I hadn't gone out too hard on the first lap.
The climb past Longhirst Hall is thankfully only undertaken on the first lap and with relief I was back on the Pegswood bypass trying to bring my average speed back up again. Approaching Jack for the second time I wasn't expecting to be caught by number 53 - it turned out later that I had four of the top ten riders starting in the 5 minutes behind me!
Through Ashington I was starting to make headway on catching number 47. I was willing him to ride faster as I didn't want to get sucked into a race, but after he was held up by traffic on a roundabout it became inevitable that I had to overtake him before the turn to Red Row. All too predictably he came back past me on the uphill stretch and then we yo-yo'd with the ups and downs over the next few miles before I finally got ahead of him for good on the road towards Widdrington Station.
Turning for Ulgham I finally started to catch some of the slower early starters, three of them in just a couple of miles. Ulgham brought cramp in my left foot. It was quite a warm day and I could have done with a little more to drink. There was no option but to plough on as best I could, and I managed to get it under control to a certain degree knowing there were only a couple of miles to go. My average speed was still at 24.2 mph so it was looking good for a sub 2:05, but I hadn't bargained on the course being 0.4 miles long!
I made it across the line in 2:04:44, an excellent time for me on a non-dual carriageway course, and good enough for a comfortable win in the club 50 mile championship ahead of Martin and Don. Also 19th placed overall! I really enjoyed the race, which is just as well as the 100 at the start of September is 4 laps of this circuit.
Particularly pleased to win the Peter Quince trophy (which I last held in 2003) following Peter's passing earlier this year.