Its the night before the race. By now minds were turning to the serious business of the race, and the wind ups and mind games got going in earnest. I maintained a stance that I was there to get a personal best and how others did was not a major concern. I was of course lying through my teeth. The stakes were raised when Oz suggested a sweep stake where we had to nail our colours to the mast, stating our predicted finish time. Iain and I know our objective, beat 1 hour 30, so we put down 1.29.30 and quietly digested was others expected. Bashers, playing his cards close to his chest ducked and dived to avoid having to name his price.
When the debutantes Jon and Julian said they were aiming for 1hr 50 nobody suggested they were underselling themselves.
Most of us had ridden plenty of TT’s before, but riding on this bigger occasion, with a proper pro start ramp, with following cars, with a grandstand and people cheers added just a little to the apprehension. Arriving in the village, when Jon asked the question ‘Has anyone seen my wheel?’ I guess apprehension was something of an understatement. Now it was not a fatal loss as somebody would have been able to lend them something, but not quite how you would want to start your first race.
Once again we were saved by a combination of good fortune and honesty. Jon has left his wheel in the car park the previous day and we had all been scrambling to sort things in the wet. Somebody had found it and handed it in.
Riding in the veterans category Iain and I set about warming up, wishing our team mates, and the guys from Bigfoot well. The event is such a pull for British Testers it is like going to a kind of Time Trialists Glastonbury. Well without the mud, or the music or (hopefully) the drugs (maybe). We had a game plan; I would put in an extra shift on the flat bits while Iain would pace me up the climbs and lead into the more technical bits. Having ridden with Iain a good few times in team TT’s we felt well placed to make the most of it. We got a reminder that it is not without risks after 10km when we passed the team from Welwyn. One of their riders was standing beside the road, but his teammate was down.
The weather turned out to be near perfect, with damp roads drying out. As we came pasted the Grandstand with 6 km to go we knew we would be there or there about on our objective.
Kev and Dave caught us with 2 km to go, given their form this was a decent outcome. In the final 500m’s we skipped around Northern Jon who had been driving their support van and crossed the line. My Garmin said 1.32.04 by the time we came to a halt. Knock off a minute for the start, and a few seconds at the end, we had done a long 1.30. Iain was not convinced, but I knew we had just missed it. It was a good ride, a personal best but just a few seconds shy of our goal. Good but….
I went off to get changed; the other guys came in, Paul and Steve, and Gary and Paul C putting in strong rides. Peter and Bash doing a cracking time, Bash looking like Peter’s ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’ at the finish. You could tell he had tried.
Walking back via the event HQ I picked up the Vets results sheet that had just come out. I scanned the results I Hawthorn and A Green 1.29.52!!!! Yessss! I only then remembered that I had started my clock two minutes for we went, not just one. Iain was already in the know when I came towards him beaming.
Jon and Julian despite being debutantes had by some whim of the organisors been placed in the 3rd Cat Riders, due to go off three hours after us. In France, the 3rd Cats are young, lean superfast racings snakes on top class carbon TT bikes with all the gear. And Jon and Julian. For both this was unbroken ground. Iain drove the support car for them, with Paul K and me on board to offer insults and encouragement. We got a grandstand view of their ride. We had been in their shoes a few hours earlier and knew what they would be putting in. We also knew what lay in store. But the kept it together, riding strongly for each other. They looked a good combo and as we followed them into the final few KM’s we knew they were going to smash their 1.50 target to bits. By the final Km we were shouting and cheering and banging. The came through in 1.44, a time that was well inside the respectable category, and for two newbies on road bikes was absolutely cracking.
Back at the ranch we ate, drank and were merry, having about as much fun as it is possible for 14 middle aged men to have without breaking any laws or marriage vows.
Great trip – Middle Aged Men in Lycra 1-0 Dying of the light