2015 has been a good year. I did a record annual mileage – despite tailing off in November and December. I won quite a few races, though missed my pre-season goal and didn’t get on any podiums at the National championships.
In some ways, the highlight of the year was an unexpected 7th place at the British Time Trial Championship – which is ironic because I always doubted whether I would be able to actually ride until about 10 minutes before my start. It was a really great experience, with closed roads, racing on the motor circuit, but whether I will do it again I don’t know. Perhaps the best thing was getting on telly for seven seconds as the commentators talked about Alex Dowsett’s great form.
I trained a lot for the national 100 mile TT, but came 7th – compared to 3rd the previous year. I wasn’t far off a medal, but it wasn’t to be.
More than ever, I feel that sporting courses are much more fun that blasts along dual carriageways. Other season highlights were racing the Circuit of Ingleborough and Little Mountain time trial. Even if you have to do it in bad weather, when you’re not particularly fit, they feel more like the essence of the sport to me. (plus, I do better on the hills – which is another personal reason to like them). Still mid summer, you don’t have much choice in timetrialling.
The low point of the season was spending all season waiting for a Bioracer skinsuit and when it finally came, it was wrong size and I had to send it back twice. Probably takes the record for both the worst service and the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever bought. I’m sure it would have helped to save a few seconds in big races. That’s the trouble with timetrialling, it’s more than ever a sport of marginal gains and aerodynamics. If you want to go faster, spend a lot of money in aero testing. I’d rather just ride the bike and I’d be quite happy to ride Japanese Kieren style (everyone on the same bike) but I may have to bite the bullet next year and get some more ‘free’ i.e. ‘very expensive’ speed next year.
The hill climb season was quite good, though I didn’t win as many races as previous seasons, and I had to get used to more 2nd places than usual. I made a big effort for the national on Jackson Bridge, but again was a couple of seconds off the podium. It was a good event though.
Paul Jones’ book A Corinthian Endeavour was also great to read – a reminder of the great history of the hill climb championship.
With young and faster riders marginally edging ahead, it made me think of racing in a slightly more philosophical point of view. Essentially, it is the amateur ideal which attracts me to the sport. If you do it with this mindset, you can enjoy the race, even if you don’t quite get the position you would like. (Not everyone can be Eddy Merckx)
Recently there have been a few revelations of doping in amateur cycling – from under 18s to masters. I find it a little shocking and very disappointing. To me, it is summed up by a guy who won a junior national championship, but didn’t want to stay for the medal ceremony, instead he slinked off home early because he knew he was under investigation. That’s the thing about winning under false premises – there is no joy – only the opposite. You just hope these cases, act as a stark reminder and warning – what a terrible choice it is to cheat.