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2013 Season

Roger Scott reviews the 2013 TT season

The importance of “The Race of Truth” remains as great as ever. The outcomes of so many major stage races are still determined by time trials. True that the ability to climb well and strong team support are also extremely important but in the final analysis it is so often the time trial performance that is the key differentiator. Bradley Wiggins won this year’s Tour of Britain through his brilliant time trial performance just as it underpinned his 2012 Tour de France Yellow Jersey. In this year’s Tour de France Chris Froome had the benefit of a great team and he is a superb climber but his brilliant ability to ride against the clock played a big part in his wonderful overall victory.

Bradley Wiggins ride to win the silver medal in the TT in the World Championships was outstanding. What a brilliant example of a perfectly timed and judged effort which enabled him to beat the physically stronger Fabian Cancellara. Rather like our own Lara, he has that classic flat back stylish riding position, he looks at one with his bike, pedals so smoothly and is a delight to watch. A real class act.

Against this background and with such wonderful British time trial role models as Wiggins, Froome, Alex Dowsett, Matt Bottrill etc it is not surprising that more and more of us in VCGH are committed to this branch of our sport. 2013 saw a record number of our members taking part in this very accessible form of racing. There may well be even more, but to my knowledge there are at least twenty one of us in VCGH who have competed this year.

Just as we have our national heroes we also have our local heroes and for many time triallists in the South East our very own Steve Williamson is the top of our list. After a bit of a slow start, 2013 turned out to be a fabulous year for the big man. He was the outright winner of several of the Farnham RC and Alton CC evening 10’s and came third or fourth in several open events. His best 25 time for the season was a very rapid 54.58. However the highlight of big Steve’s year came late in the season when he rode a very high class open 10 on a course near Oxford. The event was so high class that only people with a PB of faster than 21.30 were allowed to ride. The event attracted almost all the very top riders in the country and in this extremely high quality field Steve finished 13th with a new PB time of 20.16. Yes, 20.16 – that’s an average speed of 29.6mph!!! Steve must now be up there among the fastest twenty or so riders over 10 miles in the UK. No wonder he is a local hero!

As ever, Rob Marcus had an excellent season. Now follows an amazing story. Until this year Rob’s PB for 10 miles was set in a ride he did 35 years ago (yes, THIRTY FIVE YEARS AGO!) when he recorded a very impressive 22.38 (particularly impressive given the equipment we used in those days). This year, thirty five years later, Rob beat that time for the first time when he recorded a new all time PB of 21.59. Just shows the truth in the old saying “try, try until you succeed”!! On the strength of this, Rob is now saying that as far as 10’s are concerned “my work here is now done”. Not sure he really means it – don’t be surprised to see him on the start line on Tuesday nights at Bentley next year. Rob also improved his 25 Miles PB this year. Having gone under the hour last year he shaved off a further 10 seconds this season. Of course Rob is not just a “drag strip” time trialler, he also does lots of events on sporting courses. In this year’s early season Tour of the Lod Valley, an event that is a true test of all-round bike riding ability, there was a big entry from VCGH riders and Rob had the distinction of recording the fastest time of anyone from our club. But now something that those of you who know Rob well will find very amusing! Those of us who went to Lucca on Charlie’s brilliant trip, will recall Rob with his endless fastidious attention to the most minute detail messing about every morning making infinite tiny adjustments to the height of his handlebars on his hire bike. Is there anyone who is more keen to ensure he has every last detail exactly right? Well, believe it or not, this very same Rob, at the end of the season discovered that the smallest sprocket on his cassette was a 12 and not an 11 as he had thought all season long was the case! Rob, mate, you need to spend more time checking your bike!! Imagine how much faster still you would have gone if you had had an eleven! No doubt an 11 sprocket will be your new weapon for 2014!

Someone else who had a brilliant season was the ever stylish Peter Phipps. Peter is one of those guys who looks pure class on his TT bike, everything looks just right. But he not only looks good he also has the ability to go seriously fast and this year he went faster than ever recording new PBs at both 10 and 25 miles. Let Peter tell you about his year in his own words:

I have had a great year racing.  I had my first race on 2nd March at Bentley (H10/8) in very cold conditions but the first significant race was the Tour of The Lod Valley on 14th April. As you know this is a proper sporting course, I was second on Vet Standard (15th overall) behind Rob Marcus who was going exceptionally well, my time 1:08:18 with Rob at 1:04:15.  At this point in the season I was still building form. I set myself two targets at the beginning of the year.  I wanted a 21 for ten and a 57 for 25.  My first indication of form was on 15th June in the Hounslow & District Wheelers open again at Bentley.  It was a very windy day and any thoughts of fast times were out.  However I did a 22:56 which was good enough for 2nd on Vet standard and 6th overall.  I was £30 better off and 2nd to Nick Stag so I was Happy.  On 13th July I did 57:47 in the FRC Open on H25/8, so my first target had been hit.  A new PB for 25.  Then on 13th July I went to Tring near Aylesbury to ride the fast F11/10 course.  This was a Hounslow club evening 10.  On a very bumpy course (they have re-surfaced the road now) I got my 21 with 21:33, a new PB for 10.

On 4th August I rode with Steve, Lara and Rob M in a 4 up TTT at Bentley on the H25/8.  We had a fantastic ride, great fun and got a respectable 57:50.

I then had the Duo de Normand to get ready for.  This year Rob couldn't make it so I  teamed up with Keith Downie from the Charlotteville club.  In preparation we rode the HCC001 sporting course near Maidenhead as a 2-up.  We clocked 1:02:47 which was six seconds quicker than a pairing from Charlottville who were also preparing for the Duo, so we were set for a close race at least between our two pairings.  We had a great ride in France, I was stronger that Keith on the hills but we rode well together and clocked a respectable 1:27:38 for 20th in the Vets class and easily beat the Charlottville pairing.

I moved house on 6th September and that threw everything into a tail spin, I hurt my back (moving a tumble dryer) so finished my season at the Duo.

I am close to being organised in our new house now, and have started thinking about new targets for next year. Its been a great season and I am looking forward to next.

Peter, with your new PBs of 21.33 and 57.47 you are now up there with the seriously fast guys, many congratulations indeed on a brilliant year. Great to make dreams come true!.

Now, what to say about the incredible Keith Webster. Star racing car driver, star motor bike racer and now a star time triallist. This was Keith’s first year riding time trials and he is now well and truly addicted! Riding his flash Cervelo P5 (Keith has all the gear and EVERY idea!) and after a late start to the year he rode eleven 10’s and one 25. His fastest 10 time was a very rapid 22.43 on the A3 and for his one (late season) 25 he did 59.52. People try for years and years to get under the hour and many never achieve it – the talented and highly focused Keith amazingly did it at his first attempt. Furthermore it was on a tough day on the A31. Keith, congratulations on a brilliant first year – you have set the bar very high but we have enormous expectations of you for 2014!

Someone else who had a good year was Charlie Fletcher. Always an elegant stylish bike rider (he could be mistaken for a top Italian pro!), Charlie applied himself to time trialling more seriously this year and was a frequent starter in the a3crg 10’s at Greatham on Wednesday nights. He was significantly faster this year than in previous seasons and consistently got under 24 mins and achieved a PB of 23.15. A “22” looks definitely on the cards for 2014!

Chris Parker’s prime sporting objective for 2013 was the UK Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in June. As part of his preparation for this he rode the early season Tour of the Lod Valley finishing a very creditable 21st. He did not resume time trialling until after doing the Ironman Triathlon but then made quite frequent appearances at the evening time trials at Bentley. Riding his road bike with clip on tri bars Chris steadily improved his times with his best for the year being 24.05. Tantalisingly this was just two seconds short of his all time PB of 24.03 which he set no less than twenty years ago in 1993! In 2014 Chris plans to continue as a triathlete but also do some road races as well as time trials. However, his commitment to time trials is obviously very strong as he has already started a determined persuasion programme to convince his wife of the huge importance of him acquiring a specialist TT bike!!

Mike Boyce, our former Road Captain now rides under the A3CRG banner but is a life member of VCGH and we still very much regard him as one of our own. Mike had a big year riding lots of events and continuing his steady improvement. He achieved a major ambition when he went sub 24 minutes for a ten with a new all time PB of 23.53. He rode quite a few 25’s with his best being 1.04.45. Mike was also a counting rider in helping A3CRG win two team prizes including the 2013 Wessex VTTA 25 miles Team Championship. Mike’s main ambitions for next year are to improve his 25 time and to start riding 50’s.

As far as your reporter, Roger, is concerned I have had another consistent year and was quietly pleased with my form. Because I did not get back from Australia until early June, then went off on Charlie’s Lucca trip, followed by a big ride up the Loire Valley with Marco and then later in the year the fabulous Pyrenees Coast to Coast adventure, my TT season was rather curtailed. In all I rode nine evening 10’s all on the P881 or H10/8 courses. There is always a lot of discussion about which of these two courses is the faster. For me there does not seem to be much difference. My fastest this year on the Greatham A3 course was 23.46 and on the Bentley A31 course it was just one second faster at 23.45. My target for the year was to do 23.29 so I failed to achieve that but had the consolation that in all the events I rode apart from one I was fastest on age standard.

Due to various setbacks and other commitments 2013 was something of a quiet year for the highly talented and stylish Lara but the good news is that she plans to be fit and raring to go for the 2014 season. Watch out everyone, we are once again going to have to get used to seeing her riding away from us! Look out for her once again challenging and beating many of the country’s leading elite female riders.

Quite a few of our members rode their first TTs this year. Adrian Waddy rode the Spring Tour of the Lod Valley and thought the entry fee incredible value as to his surprise it got him a cup of tea and a piece of cake afterwards! The same event was also Elliot Brown’s first ever TT  - Elliot succeed in being the event’s lantern rouge but how he has improved since then. With his beautiful high cadence pedalling and impressive power and fitness he can now show most of us a very clean pair of heels! Ben Baxter also tried time trialling for the first time this year and after the early season Lod Valley event rode a couple of 10’s after the first of which he said he couldn’t walk the next day!  Others who rode their first TT’s in 2013 include John Warren, Chris Harrison and Alastair Blowers – in Alastair’s case it was a 2-up with Rob Marcus, guess that must have been something of a baptism of fire!! Brian Waters rode just one event, an evening 10 on the A3, he did it on his road bike with no tri-bars and did a very impressive 26.00 – we hope to see you back riding regularly again next year Brian, we miss you.

Great TT attempts were also made this year by Adrian Cockle who was seen a couple of times at Bentley, and managed to smash the PB he'd set 20 years before; Mark Herbert who set a new PB by going under 25 minutes (on his road bike); and Mike Hopkins who in his first TT season managed a PB of 24:18 (also on a road bike). Impressive stuff!

As Peter has already told us, towards the end of the season, our best four time triallists (Steve, Lara, Peter and Rob) rode an open 4-up 25 on the A31 course. Despite the four of them never having ridden together as a team before they recorded 57.50 and finished well up the field. Great work Guys, you all bring great credit to VCGH.

So, those were some of the highlights of 2013, what will 2014 bring? It seems certain that even more members of our great club will be riding TTs. Each year the numbers increase and the standard gets ever higher. These trends looks firmly set to continue.

Having been the first VCGH guy to go sub 22mins, then the first to go sub 21mins, will 2014 see Steve be the first to go sub 20mins – he will have to average over 30mph to do so but don’t put it past the big man! And what about the fast improving Keith? There are those of us who can see him going under 22mins and under 57mins. For Charlie a sub 23min 10 looks a certainty. Peter has now set the bar very high for himself but don’t rule out even faster times from him. Now that Rob has discovered he has an 11 sprocket, he too is someone else we might see going even faster. But those are the stars of our club, we lesser mortals all have our own objectives that are just as important for each of us and don’t rule out the possibility of next year throwing up new stars. One of the great joys of time trials is that we ride against the clock and most of us compete against our own personal objectives much more than against other riders. No matter at what level we ride we all have our personal disappointments and triumphs.

However, the big news about next season is that our Road Captain, Lara, is planning to run a series of six or seven 10miles TTs on a local sporting course (non-dual-carriageway) for members of VCGH. This would be a fantastic route into time trialling for those who have not done it before as well as providing great racing for those who are more experienced at this type of riding. It would be a brilliant way of attracting new riders and spreading knowledge and experience among members. Lara would need lots of help and support with all this – guys, let’s all be there for her and do everything we can to help her make it happen. 2013 has been a wonderful year for time trialling in VCGH – 2014 already shows strong signs of being even bigger and better!

Roger Scott.

25th October 2013.

Roger Scott
Roger Scott
Time Trial Secretary