Archive | timetrials

Circuit of the Dales 2014

The Circuit of the Dales, promoted by Nelson Wheelers, is an early season classic around the roads of the Yorkshire Dales. Starting off in Ingleton, the course heads West towards Kirby Lonsdale, then north up to Sedbergh. From Sedbergh, it climbs up towards Gardsale, before the descent into Hawes. At Hawes, there is the hardest climb of the race, as you go up onto the exposed moors around Ribblehead. This moor road takes you past Ribblehead Viaduct before finishing just outside Ingleton. This year there was a full field with 153 entrants. This entry included quite a few road riders, and a big turnout from Velosure-Giordana Racing Team. There was a good prize list to celebrate Nelson Wheeler’s Centenary anniversary; and the 66th running of the Circuit of the Dales.

With Rapha Condor JLT racing in Japan / Asia, last year’s winner Richard Handley was absent. The organiser mentioned the only previous winner in the race was Martin Brass (1991).This year James Gullen of Velosure-Giordana Racing Team won in a very good time of 2.02.37.   I finished second in 2.03.33. 3rd was Pete Williams (Haribo Beacon) 2:05:19

  • 1st lady was Nina Benson Ilkley (CC) with  2-46-56.
  • 1st Tricycle: Geoff Booker (Oxonians CC) 2-58
  • 1st Vet: Simon Bridge Manchester Wheelers 2-06


My Race

In the past 8 days, I’ve ridden over 400 miles in an unusual burst of getting the miles in. It was helped by finishing teaching and a period of good weather. With so many miles in the legs (including a 120 mile TDF stage on Tues) I wasn’t sure whether I would come to race with great fitness – or tiredness and overtraining. I think it was a bit of both, but riding a lot does seem to make you fitter.

I spent quite a bit of time in the preceding days nervously checking the weather forecast. I always get cold doing the Circuit of the Dales, and that’s with dry weather! With the predicted rain, I spent a lot of time trying to weigh up how much clothes I should take. Should I take a spare rain jacket in case of puncture? Is the aerodynamic cost worth the greater piece of mind? In the end, the weather was much better than predicted. Apart from a few showers, it mercifully stayed dry. Continue Reading →


Planning for the BBAR

The BBAR is the Best British All Rounder Competition. It was created in 1930 as a way of ranking riders for the three most popular distances of the time – 50 miles, 100 miles and 12 hour. The idea was that it would enable a national competition by allowing riders to race local events and then compare the average speeds of the riders in a national table. I believe it was the brainchild of ‘Cycling’ the forerunner to ‘Cycling Weekly’.  For many years, Cycling Weekly would publish the latest BBAR tables and give big features on the winning riders.


Martyn Roach won BBAR in 1968

Over the years, time trials have evolved, but the basic concept is the same, the ranking is determined by the average of the average speed of those three distance.

For a long time from 1930 until the 1970s, the BBAR was one of the premier domestic cycling competitions, with many of the top amateurs of the day trying to win it. Looking at the list of winners gives a great roll call of famous names including – Frank Southall, Charles Holland, Arthur Metcalfe, Ray Booty, Martyn Roach, Phil Griffiths, Ian Cammish. Beryl Burton won it every consecutive year from 1959 to 1983 (25 years on the trott). See list of BBAR winners

In the past couple of decades, the competition has suffered from less domestic interest. Fewer riders are interested in doing 12 hour time trials. It is the shorter distances – 10 and 25 miles which gain the most interest. You may get a few professionals trying to ride the national 10 or national 25, but the days of a pro road rider trying to win the BBAR are long over.

Although, it’s glory days are over, it still has the attraction of a lustrous history.  It also appeals to those riders wanting to do the longer events. It probably keeps interest in 12 hours alive.

The BBAR competition has quite a few drawbacks, but it’s had these drawbacks for the past 30 years or so. Despite all attempts to change it’s format, the format has remains unchanged for a long time, and in my opinion it would be a shame if it did change.

Ever since I’ve got into cycling in my teenage years at Otley CC, I’ve been thinking about the BBAR and thinking about doing a 12 hour time trial. Since I got back into racing in 2005, I’ve done the odd 100 mile TT, but despite getting close to thinking about  a 12 hour time trial, I’ve never got round to it. To be honest, I’ve found it’s very easy to think of a reason not to do a 12 hour time trial. Last year, I may well have done the National 12 hour in August, but with the National Hill Climb in October, it made no sense to risk dead legs when I needed to be concentrating on short sharp sprints up a hill. Continue Reading →


Circuit of Ingleborough

Saturday was the Circuit of Ingleborough organised by Pendle Forest CRC. It is a tough hilly circuit, on a triangle of roads between Ingleton, Settle and Horton in Ribblesdale. There are plenty of long drags, changes of gradient and some very fast descents – where you quickly lose any hard-won altitude gain. The course record is 1.01, set by Gethin Butler in very good weather conditions. In 2014, in more difficult conditions, Hugh Carthy of Rapha CC set a very good time of 1.03.24, just pipping his Rapha team-mate Richard Handley 1.03.44. Third was Ian Bibby (Madison Genesis 1.07.07) First women was Rebecca Rimmington 1.17.40 (Trainsharp) and first junior was Tom Cullen 1.21.55 of Otley CC. map-circuit-ingleborough My race. I actually thought I was entering the Tour of Pendle (because it is organised by Pendle Forest CRC), and expected to be racing around Barnoldswick and Pendle hill. I was surprised when I got the start sheet and saw the HQ was Ingleton – the same as the Circuit of the Dales. I didn’t mind though, it looked suitably hilly and the roads around Horton in Ribblesdale are amongst by favourite. Recently, I’d had problems with front mech, so yesterday took it into a bike shop to get fixed. There seemed to be a miscommunication problem because when I looked 30 mins before driving off to the race, they hadn’t done anything. It meant I had to rely on my very limited bike maintenance skills to try and get my bike ready. There’s no way you can do the Circuit of Ingleborough stuck on your 56 chainring. By dint of trial and error and pushing something very hard and hoping for the best, I got a solution of sorts. In the race it later slipped a little so there was a rubbing of chain, but in the wind and effort, I could barely hear.


It wasn’t sunny. This is from Circuit of Dales, which uses same road from Horton to Ingleton.

The car thermometer said 9 degrees, but if I my sound unscientific, it felt a very cold 9 degrees. There was also a strong westerly wind, definitely a day to leave the Zipp 808 in the loft. The start is quite hilly, but with a strong tailwind I was making good progress. There was then a fast (and muddy) descent  into the village of Clapham. Unfortunately, I had to go through the streets of Clapham free wheeling behind a slow moving car. It took a while to get back on A65 and get back up to speed. After undulating terrain, there is a fast descent into Settle down Bucker Brow. Bucker Brow brought back memories from 30 years ago, before the Settle bypass when we used to drive to Morecambe in my Mum’s old mini (the classic old mini used to really struggle going up Bucker Brow at about 25mph) Anyway, before you knew it you were in Settle. Generally I took the descents fairly cautiously because there was a lot of farmyard muck on the road, and also my tribars worked a bit loose on the bumpy road surface, so I kept having to move them back up. At Settle, the nature of the course changes as you begin the long slog up the valley to Horton. The helpful tailwind also evaporated. The road runs parallel to the Settle-Carlisle line, but its definitely not engineered to be as smooth a gradient as the railway. There are numerous false tops, where you keep climbing, followed by a short fast descent. You were needing frequent gear changes. I’ve decided I’d really like Shimano Dura Ace Di2 (electronic shifters). It has to save time on a hilly time trial circuit like this. It was hard to get into a rhythm with all the changing gradients and dodgy bike equipment not quite working. Continue Reading →


Maidenhead & District hilly 30

Today was a 30 mile hilly time trial around Christmas Common, Frieth and Henley. They are roads that I know quite well because I do a lot of training around here. Since the weather was surprisingly good, I decided to ride out to the event. A good 20 miles as the crow flies. Although the weather was near perfect, the recent rains are still in evidence. Water was flooding off the mono-cultured farmland and some lanes are still reduced to puddles and potholes. I nearly came a cropper on one lane near Turville. I was lucky to get nothing more than a jarring action on my brakes.

I’ve done the 30 mile hilly a couple of times, my best time is 1:10. But that was done in temperatures of just above freezing. Today, they were nudging into the mid teens. Unfortunately, road works meant we couldn’t use original course. But, last minute changes by Maidenhead found a course, just as good.

In fact, it was a brilliant start because the first 5 miles was a long gentle drag to the top of Stokenchurch. With a nice tailwind it exaggerated your speed. At Stokenchurch you turn left along the top of the Chiltern Ridge towards Christmas Common and Nettlebed. It was quite fast, though bumpy and you had to keep your eyes open for potholes. From Nettlebed, there is a long descent towards Henley. Here the traffic was starting to build up, and on quite a few occasions I got held up behind cars, who were stuck behind cyclists. The sun seemed to have brought every fair weather cyclist out on to the roads. For a cycling advocist it was a great sight. For a time triallist in race mode, it was a little frustrating waiting for big landrovers to overtake the tricycles and riders. Fortunately, I wasn’t too pumped up or impatient, I kind of expected it on this roads.

One mistakes was probably having a 19mm front wheel tyre blown up to 120psi. I always blow my tubulars up really hard out of habit. But, I really felt every bump on the very bumpy roads. Continue Reading →


Banbury Star Hilly 23

Today was second race of the season, Banbury Star Hilly 23 mile TT. I’ve done this early season race on quite a few occasions. One year was run off in a snow storm, leaving strong impressions of near hypothermia. This year, may be exceptionally wet, but it’s been mercifully mild, with very few frosts. Today, there was a stiff crosswind, but for early March conditions were relatively good.


at the startline in 2013

My pre-race routine was fairly relaxed. I ended up not doing very much of a warm up. I took my rollers, but the ground was too muddy and uneven to make it worth it. In the end I just rode rather aimlessly up and down a few different lanes. There’s probably a more scientific way to warm up, but that’s the good thing about early season races – there doesn’t feel much pressure. I made a last minute decision to get rid of  my leg warmers, though I still had three thermal undervests and two layers of gloves. Rain was forecast for later, and one thing I’ve learnt from doing Banbury star hardriders – you rarely regret being too warm in early season races.

I have a power meter on my bike this year. I only looked at it once or twice. It’s on my stem and requires considerable effort to look at it. After five minutes I looked at the power and it said 270 watts, I thought this was too low, so increased the effort.

The main attraction of Banbury Star Hilly is Sunrising hill half way along. On the way out you descend the hill. On the way back after 15 miles or so, you go up. It’s quite steep and there’s a sharp hairpin. This year, the council are mid way through resurfacing – so it was a very lumpy and bumpy surface. I had to take it quite steady going down as it was hard to hold on to tribars with all the shaking. On the way back, it was difficult in a different way. It would make a good hill climb course, but when you’ve been racing at threshold for 30 minutes, it’s a different proposition to do a steep climb. I grovelled up in my lowest gear, mostly seated in the saddle to improve traction – vainly trying to find a smooth bit of road.  There were a few local Banbury members out to give a shout. Once at the top, there is a final 4 miles. This was relatively fast. I was able to keep a reasonable power to the end, and finished in a time of 53.27. This was 5 seconds quicker than 2013, so a course PB by 5 seconds.

Given the slow descent, I was quite happy with the time. With W.Sybrandy and M.Clinton DNS, I thought that might be good enough to retain the trophy. But, a young rider Dan Bigham from Oxford Brookes riding for AW Cycles, did a storming ride to win in a time of 52.34 – close to the course record. I spoke to Dan after the race, he is aiming for elite triathlon events later in the year. So I will make no more sarcastic comments about triathletes on my blog! 3rd was D.Axford with a mid 54.12 Fourth was Joshua Jones, Cambridge University CC 54.57. It was a record entry, with 60 people entering this tough early season opener. It’s rather nice to see sporting time trials increase in popularity.

Overall, it was a good early season opener. Well organised as usual by Luke Souter and the Banbury Star CC. And for me a second. 2nd place of 2014.

Fastest lady was Marina Bloom of Rugby CC, who in the past has won the women’s 24 hour TT championship with 424 miles – so just a short warm up today.

My weighted power average for the  race was 280watts. In one sense, this looks disappointing (though I don’t have much data to go on.) One observation is that it seems much easier to keep a high average when you’re riding on your rollers. On a course like today, you’re always going up and down, being blown around by the wind. It’s hard to get into a rhythm.  But,  I suppose that’s why racing on the road is more fun, than riding on the rollers.




Kingston Wheelers 14 mile hilly

In a rush of blood I entered my first race of season this weekend. It’s only a few weeks since getting back on bike, but I still felt keen to get out on the race bike and get back in the rhythm of racing. The Gil Jessop memorial – 13.56 mile TT was promoted by the Kingston Wheelers near Ripley, Surrey, and involves two laps around East Clandon and West Horsley. It begins with a steady climb up ‘Hungry hill’ a 200 ft ascent at a gradient of nothing more than 4-5%. Traditionalists in the ‘Hill Climb Union’ may take issue with the title hilly TT – it’s certainly not the most mountainous time trial. But, on the day, with a stiff S.W wind it was plenty hard enough – I certainly didn’t hear anyone complaining there weren’t a few more hills. I did see quite a few  riders getting punctures, probably a consequence of all the debris on the road.


A bigger test than the gradient was the pools of water streaming off the Surrey hills. The south of England is currently seeing rain and flooding of Biblical proportions. The organisers had a difficult dilemma about whether to proceed with event, but after pointing out the hazards of the course they said it would be go ahead.


I’ve used this photo a lot recently. But, it sums up the state of British roads quite well.

Unusually, I woke at 4am, rattled by the gusts of wind sweeping around Oxford. At that point, I was pretty tempted to turn off the alarm clock and do some thing more comfortable on this supposed day of rest  – like a rollers session in the conservatory. At 4am there seemed many good reasons not to do a cold, wet hilly time trial in early Feb – especially when I’m still trying to get back to form. I could think of very few reasons to go, but fortunately or unfortunately – I wasn’t in the mood for thinking so just got in the car and drove to Ripley.

First impressions of the circuit were wet, cold and windy. Reminded me a bit of my last race up the Stang. I was grateful to be able to warm up on the rollers. At least I didn’t freeze with my back to wind.

I was wearing 2 pairs thermal socks, 4 thermal underlayers, overshoes, legwarmers, and my northern friends would say it wasn't even properly cold!

I was wearing 2 pairs thermal socks, 4 thermal underlayers, overshoes, legwarmers – and my northern friends would say it wasn’t even properly cold!

I didn’t ride to my power meter. But, looking at data later, I seemed to have paced it reasonably well. Average power for the ride said 305 Watts.

On some sections of the course, there was heavy flooding – so on the first lap, I took most bends and corners with considerable circumspection. By the second lap, my legs were tired, but more mentally confident about the course, so wasn’t quite such a tourist going around the bends. Though the second time through the large puddle, I probably arrived a little too fast, and felt the water act as a mini brake on the momentum of the TT bike.

(As they would say on Childrens’ BBC – don’t try this at home. You have to be very careful cycling through puddles, when you don’t know the potholes that might exist below.)

The course record was 30.50, set by Wouter Sybrandy (26.4mph) I was pleased with my time of 31.50ish. (25.6mph) But, Robert Sharland of Kingston Wheelers went even faster with a very good time of 31.24 ish. If Rob keeps improving, he will be one to watch in the time trials this year. I haven’t seen the full results yet.

Thanks to all the (many) Kingston Wheelers marshals and timekeepers who stood by all the large puddles on the road to help make event go ahead. It would have been easy to cancel. But, I’m kind of glad to get the first 13 miles racing out of the way.

I have two weeks of training before my next race – North Road Hardriders, which I believe the Hill Climb Union say is compulsory for any hill climber to do at some time in your career.

Thanks to Thomas Jenkins of the Kingston Wheelers for photos



Difference between road bike and time trial bike

Last Sunday, I was out on my winter training hack. I averaged 16.8 mph for 70 miles and that was by sitting on Baines’ wheel for most of the ride  Yesterday I went out on time trial bike (with non-aero helmet and wheels) and averaged 21mph for 50 miles over similar terrain. In an incredibly unscientific method of deduction, that’s about 4mph faster on time trial bike.  It’s probably not quite that much. My legs felt better yesterday, and there was a little less climbing. But, as a rule of thumb, if you go from a road bike to good time trial set up, you should be able to go 1-3 mph for the same power effort.

It depends on many variables. My summer road bike stripped down is a good 1-2 mph faster than a winter training bike with mudguards, creaking gears and heavy road tyres. Maybe there is a psychological benefit that when you get on a time trial bike, which makes you want to pedal faster.

How much faster is a TT bike?

One of the great debates in cycling is how much faster would an old school time-triallist like Alf Engers have gone on a full time trial bike with dischwheel e.t.c? It’s impossible to say. Some of the 1970s time triallists had their position down to a fine art. It was only really the arm positions which could have been improved on with tribars. Though discwheels and skinsuits would add quite a bit too.  In 1978 Alf Engers did a 49.24 for a 25 mile time trial ( 30.3mph / 48.8g km/h). That was before TT bikes, aerobars, discwheels and aero-helmets – to say nothing of wind tunnels and modern nutrition methods.

The current 25 mile time trial record is 45-46, set by Michael Hutchinson in 2012. (32.5mph / 52.7 km/h) – nearly 4km/h faster


Alf Engers in TT mode. The main benefit of a modern TT set up would have been moving his arms out of the wind-flow.

UCI athlete hour record and UCI Ultimate record


One interesting comparison is Chris Boardman’s hour records. Boardman set hour records of 52.270km and later 56.375 km. This 56.3km stands as the ultimate hour record – using an extreme ‘superman’ position – Boardman was literally flying through the air.

Then the UCI changed the rules so basically you had to use 1970s equipment. In 2000, Boardman just beat Merckx to set a new athlete’s hour record of 49.441 km

That suggests a 7km/h difference between the fastest time-trial position and an ordinary road bike.

In practise, the superman position has been banned from most competitions. The average time trial position is somewhere between the Superman and road bike. Continue Reading →