An unexpected journey

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A final tune-up event before the first A-priority race of the season (aka judgement day) at the end of this week. How hard could a 25 mile TT turn out to be? As it turned out the answer to that question is very – though perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

Inspite of much searching I could only find one event at the right time, the downside being that getting to the start line would involve a long drive. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have presented a major problem. Yet with the TT starting relatively early in the morning it would mean a 5:30 AM start. Fortunately my father had also entered the event, one thing we have in common is a deep hatred of having to wake up early. A decision was made to go up the night before.

It was all going well. For once I didn’t have the nagging feeling that I’d forgotten something, the drive had been mercifully uneventful and the accommodation was very pleasant. Before going down to eat I decided to make one final check that everything was ready for the morning. Shoes? Check. Skinsuit? Check. Gels? Check. Food? Check. Helmet? Oh dear. The most critical piece of equipment had indeed been left behind. I won’t repeat the phrase that went through my head at that moment.

Sadly there was only one solution, namely driving all the way back home to collect the aforementioned helmet. This is one of those incidents that family and friends will probably never allow me to forget. The masterful plan to get a decent nights sleep immediately went out of the window. The pair of us got back to the hotel just after midnight. There was at least one positive that I could draw from this misadventure, a high level of emotional investment in the TT the following day. Having gone to such trouble to get there doing badly was unthinkable.

Race day dawned, characterised by that familiar sound of the alarm going off at some god-awful time of the morning. Normally I wouldn’t be phased by a 7AM start yet the events of the previous night made it a real struggle. Red-eyed and groggy I forced down a truly disgusting cup of instant coffee followed by lukewarm porridge. Next it was time to collect the bikes from the disused function room where they had been stored overnight, I’m now very glad we didn’t leave them in the car. Some drunken idiot must have thought it a great idea to take a key to the paintwork of our vehicle at some point in the small hours of the morning.

My mood was gradually going from bad to worse. What was supposed to have been a bit of fun was turning into a complete and utter disaster. By the time I arrived on the start line my teeth were chattering, a thin skinsuit may be aerodynamic but doesn’t offer much in the way of warmth on a cold spring morning. On the plus side my legs felt surprisingly fresh – perhaps this wouldn’t turn out to be a complete flop after all.

Five miles into the event the first hitch presented itself, I failed to notice a conveniently placed drain cover. Fortunately I managed not to lose control of the bike when going over it, my water bottle was however a casualty. That meant covering the rest of the distance with no available fuel, I wasn’t convinced I’d need to take energy on board in the first place but having the option would have been reassuring. Fortunately I was distracted by the sight of my minute man a few meters ahead, catching someone in a TT always provides a massive moral boost.

As it turned out these catches would continue throughout the ride, six in total. There are few things as satisfying as going past someone riding a bike worth at least 3x as much as your own. However it wasn’t all smooth going. Half way through the effort I noticed some pain in the saddle area, pain that very soon turned to near agony. I’d never been in the TT position for that long before and with hindsight it’s something I really, really, really should have practiced.

That second lap of the course proved to be a mental battle. Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to stop or at the very least get out of the aero tuck. I was genuinely grateful to be briefly held up by a slow moving tractor. Rarely have I been so relieved to see a finish line. Let’s just say that if the course had been any longer I may well have had to explain to my parents that they had no hope of grandchildren. Upon getting home I removed the saddle immediately, a bare seat post would probably have been more comfortable.

Inspite of all the disaster the event yielded a good result. A time of 1:01:10 doesn’t sound like much over 40k but on a hilly course it was better than I would have expected. Enough for 4th place overall, back at the beginning of the season I’d have laughed if someone had told me I’d end up finishing in the top five in an open TT. I will admit to being slightly gutted though, five seconds faster and I would have been on the podium. I’m convinced that with a correctly fitting saddle that would have been easily achievable. Such is life as they say.

Anyway. Overall I’m pleased, it’s reassuring to have come away with a good result inspite of so many problems in the run up to and during the event. I’m still feeling the effects. Aching legs, sore neck and the need to walk as if suffering with rickets oweing to my saddle mistake. Writing this is providing a very welcome distraction from the nagging thought that this really isn’t the ideal state to be in with the most important race of the season a mere six days away. I’ll leave it there for today – time to frantically search eBay for a new saddle.

As ever, thanks for reading.

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