The Race of Truth
Roger Scott's review of the 2011 season
For many years in the world of competitive cycling, time trials have been referred to as ― the race of truth. It is a very pure type of racing. There is no hiding place, no bunch to hide in and get shelter from, no one to pace you – you are out there on your own, just you versus the clock.
As many of you will know, time trials are included in big stage races such as the Tour de France, the Giro and the Vuelta. It is no coincidence that the great all-time champions of these races such as Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Lance Armstrong have all been exceptionally brilliant time trialists and their time trial performances were often key elements of their overall tour victories.
Time trialling performance is very precisely measurable. You get an accurate time (rounded up to the next second) so you can monitor your progress very accurately both against your own previous performances and against those of other competitors. Most riders have no chance of actually winning the event i.e. recording the overall fastest time but everyone has the opportunity and wants to do a personal best time, beat their time for the previous week and of course go faster than their mates!
During the past summer a group of us from VCGH have regularly ridden time trial series run either on Tuesday nights at Bentley by Farnham Road Club, or on Wednesday nights on the A3 by a cycling club called ...a3crg. Both clubs run events ten miles long on out-and-back courses. Most weeks there were in all around sixty riders at Greatham near Liphook, where the ...a3crg series took place; typically about fifty men and around ten or so women. Ages ranged from teenagers to old timers well into their seventies. There was also a huge range of abilities from novices to nationally ranked riders. But the best thing was that there was a lovely friendly atmosphere and everyone was made equally welcome irrespective of their sex, age or ability. The first rider always started at 7.00pm and then everyone else followed, one by one, at 30 second intervals.
Peter Phipps awaits the off at a local club TT
Just as the riders were very varied so were their bikes. Some people, like me, have highly specialised aerodynamic time trial bikes with tri –bars (gear levers on the ends) and disc wheels while other riders use their ordinary road bikes with no special time trialling adaptations. Similarly some riders, again like me, have special aero helmets and skin suits while other people simply ride in their normal cycling gear.
I always aimed to arrive at the race HQ at Greatham Village Hall at around 6.10pm where I would meet up with the other VCGH guys. The group of us would then all sign in together so we would get similar start times, get changed, put our numbers on and then go off together to warm up for about twenty minutes – not on the course itself (strictly not allowed) but on neighbouring roads. We would then return to race HQ, have a few last gulps of our energy drinks, give each other a few words of encouragement and set off for the start line.
Time trialling is tough. Every second counts. Good results require measured, consistently high physical output and strong mental focus and application over every single yard of the ten miles. It has to be an even effort – no good going absolutely flat out from the start and then blowing up but by the time you finish you should feel you have nothing left to give. Whenever I compete I always give it everything I have and often when I am riding I am really suffering and sometimes get to be wondering why I am choosing to put myself through it.
On the other hand there are times when you are going well, zooming along with a nice tail wind, tyres singing on the road, watching the speedo get up to 35mph, overtaking the guy who set off 30 secs before you and at such times all seems wonderfully well with the world! One thing is certain, when you have finished and you know you have done your very best and gone well, you get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction at a job well done.
There is of course a bit of friendly rivalry between we VCGH riders but most of all there is a really brilliant and very strong sense of companionship between us all. We share each others’ highs and lows and do whatever we can to help one another. Fantastic to have such great like-minded mates.
Why not give it a go and find out for yourself the challenges and satisfactions of ― the race of truth!
The last couple of years has seen a big surge in interest in time trialling in VCGH. We now have at least nine or ten members keenly competing in club and open events on a regular basis. This section exists as a facility for those riders and to help and encourage other members to take up time trialling.