My 26th consecutive ride in the Mountain TT - back on the full course!
With the worst of the potholes that shortened last year's event repaired the Mountain TT was back to the full version of the course starting and finishing in Belsay. That's not to say that the road surfaces on the course were generally that good!
The weather conditions were good though, with a light-ish westerly wind making for good going to Rothbury before a headwind to Bilsmoor and finally a tailwind off the Gibbett and along the A696 to finish. I had decided to take my video camera around with me this year to capture the event from a rider' perspective. It wouldn't make much difference to my time but with only about an hour's battery life I would have to keep remembering to switch it on and off and hope I kept enough battery to record the finish.
I was starting number 10, and with the first rider being number 6 that didn't leave many riders to be caught. In the end I caught just one and was caught by three.
The journey out to Rothbury was pretty uneventful. I passed Chris Thompson for two minutes just after Middleton Bank and got a brief glimpse of another rider in front on Ewesley Fell, but was otherwise on my own. The hills aren't getting any easier and it is just a grind to get up them before making as much time as I can on the descents. The road surface was dodgy through the old railway bridge at Fontburn, and again on the right hand bend at the bottom of the descent from Coldrife, but the worst was on the off camber left hand bend descending from Garleigh. Fortunately I had ridden round the course a week earlier and knew there was a line through the holes! The descent into Rothbury is also a bit hairy with some badly repaired trenches across the road.
Having made it safely past the church in Rothbury it was my bad luck to turn out onto the main road just behind an old, slow tractor towing a trailer. I had to put in a big effort to get past him or face being stuck behind him for some distance. The next section to the foot of Bilsmoor was hard work into the headwind, but there was the joy of some big stretches of resurfaced road once past Hepple.
I encountered a piece of motoring insanity at the foot of Bilsmoor. Having just passed Peter Schultz timekeeping at the bottom, I heard a car clearly intending to overtake despite having no visibility of what might be coming the other way - which resulted in the oncoming car having to stop to avoid hitting him. Madness!
There was a big crowd on the top of Bilsmoor, as well as Jack Earl taking photos as ever. The descent was very fast and for once I managed to hold off braking until required for the bridge in Elsdon. Through the village, keeping tight to the left on the hump back bridge to avoid oncoming motorcyclists. The Gibbett road is in a terrible condition and the only sensible line was pretty much down the centre of the road.
Once on the main road it was a quick return to Belsay. Turning in to the finishing lane I was confronted by a mass of vehicles, two of which were cars towing horse boxes and I was lucky to be able to squeeze through to the finishing line.
Finished with a time of 2:23:40 for 44th place. Not quite the 20 mph ride I had hoped for but nonetheless a fairly quick time for me.