Time trialling east of Knaresborough

This is the second ‘diary’ post – the first one was Starting again. The hope is that others might offer their own diary entries in due course. This has been quite an active weekend for me with a ride round my 7.5 mile training circuit on Friday, the 15 mile LCAG social ride on Saturday followed by a 14 mile ride in the lovely rolling Yorkshire countryside east of Knaresborough on Sunday morning. My friend David was competing in the last Yorkshire Road Club time trial of the year, a 15 mile event run on the V221 Grafton – Cowthorpe course. This is an out and back course on the A168 that runs along side the A1. It’s about 30 years since I’ve been out to a time trial so I drove out to the start to see how things have changed, if at all, and join Dave’s wife Chris for a gentle ride round the neighboring lanes. It was a beautiful day for a ride, sunny and crisp with almost no breeze, but a bit cold for racing. The temperature was about 2 degrees in the car parking and changing area behind the Royal Oak pub at Staveley, headquarters for the event, and a deep frost on the ground. Chris and I set off for our ride as Dave set off to the start, about 2 miles away. Over the next hour and a bit we meandered through the quiet lanes around Farnham, Arkendale and Coneythorpe. The morning gradually warmed up, reaching 10 degrees, as we rode through the delightful rolling countryside. I had to stop once on the longest hill we encountered to get my breathing back under control before continuing but it was obvious this would be fantastic and relatively undemanding terrain for cycling for anyone reasonably fit. There seemed to be dozens of cyclist out in the area, several small groups and at least two substantial club runs of 20 or more riders.We were cheerfully greeted by nearly all of them although on the hills I had to leave the responses to Chris.

1930’s time trial competitor dressed all in black including tights and alpaca jacket. Thanks to Classic Lightweight Reminiscences.

When we got back to Staveley the race had finished and I got a chance to talk to some of the riders. One thing I found surprising is that of the 14 entrants only two were under 40. All the others were veteran riders ranging in age from 43 to 74. One rider I spoke to claimed that this seemed to be normal now for club time trials. I assume the younger riders were more interested in mountain biking, BMX, track and road racing. Time trialing is a peculiarly old fashioned and very British form of cycle racing that dates back to the times when road racing was not allowed in this country. Racing on open roads was banned by the National Cycling Union in 1890 and ‘massed start’ road racing did not return fully until the 1940s. The ban was self-imposed to forestall a move to ban cycling altogether. There seemed to be a class and political element to the hostility to cycling expressed by the wealthy and influential as it was predominantly a working class mode of transport and leisure activity. A great deal of concern was expressed about the increasing mobility of the working classes! Consequently time trialling, invented in England, started as a clandestine activity and act of resistance, taking place in the early hours of the morning wearing black clothing that covered the entire body and with no race numbers. The first time trial was run by the North Road Cycling Club in north London, over 50 miles, in October 1895.  A brief history of the beginnings of cycle sport in this country can be found on the British Cycling web site – 50 Years of British Cycling – How the BCF Was Formed. The Wikipedia article on Cycle Time Trials is also worth a read for a bit of the background. It has never been a major part of cycle racing elsewhere in Europe where track and road racing have always been the dominant forms of racing.

The other thing I noticed was the exotic and expensive bikes in evidence. The 60 plus year old getting ready to race a couple of cars down from where I was parked gave my a full rundown on his bike – carbon wheels, aluminium frame, etc and told me that he had got a bargain for £2,500! Dave’s bike was rather more modest with conventional wheels and less expensive equipment generally. He ruefully surmised that the other chap’s bike was probably worth about a minute advantage over the undulating 15 mile course. Certainly Teams GB and Sky, for instance, look for minor advantages in their bikes and equipment that could save even 1 second a kilometre. In fact 1 second over an entire race can win it.

In other respects, for this modest club time trial, nothing much has changed. No one had ridden out to the the event, but this was normal back in the 80s too. Riders were still getting changed in their cars. Helpers still pinned race numbers on the back of jerseys and shorts. There was the same bonhomie and banter, tall stories and excuses. I felt quite at home!

[The photo of the 1930s rider above is from an article Time Trials 1940’s/1950′ or the Men in Black by Peter Underwood].

3 thoughts on “Time trialling east of Knaresborough

  1. A good summary of a pleasant morning spoiled by riding 15 miles as fast as I could. As I turned up at the wrong start point (don’t ask), I’d already done a pre-time trial time trial to get to the start. Just time to pull off my leg warmers and gilet with ten seconds to spare. Couldn’t even set my computer!.

    The first half mile was up a gradual incline. At the top I was in serious oxygen-debt. But aided by a tail-wind and warm sunshine I felt good on the outward leg. Even better when my minute man came into my sights.

    Up the slip road, round the roundabout and it was time to head for home. This was a slightly different story with a nagging head-wind that made 22mph look good. I caught my minute man and was, perhaps guilty of thinking ‘job done’. It wasn’t. There were another 3 miles to be covered.

    My finishing time was 42.39. Which meant that I wasn’t last. Not quite. But on very little specific training and a basic road bike with tri-bars bolted on, perhaps not too bad. I certainly tried. But, the trouble with all this marginal gains stuff is: you’re always left to ponder whether a state of the art, lo-profile, time trial specific bike would catupult me up the leader board. Or is it simply an ageing body not doing enough specific training?

    The beer, black pudding, roast pork and Yorkshire Puddings in the pub afterwards tasted good. Hmmm . . . Maybe that’s another part of the problem.

  2. Might have seen you as I was cycling in that area on Sunday morning. The LCAG Sunday ride was a tad too hilly for my old legs, so I opted to do a billy no mates and go out by myself. I look forward to seeing you on one of the LCAG intermediate rides before long.

    • That’s the plan Brian! I’m hoping to do an intermediate ride before the end of the year but I will have to choose it carefully. Hopefully the proposed routes for these rides will be posted somewhere. I’ll check the web site and the Facebook group.

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