Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cycling for the Purist

I suppose that I am somewhat typical of the average cyclist.  Start out doing a little cycling, meet some friends who light my enthusiasm, become a bit more proficient and start to desire better kit,. With some people, and this includes me,  this then leads on to a growing appreciation of the history of the sport and the classic engineering which distinguishes the celebrated marques from the mass produced items.  An even smaller subset of these people are keen enough that they enter the realm of the competitive cyclist, and it is at this point that our ways part as I arrived too late and too unfit to ever contemplate racing.
The purest form of cycle racing is the Time Trial. From watching on TV and following threads on the web I was aware of both the Individual Time Trial and the Team Time Trial. The distances chosen for these events vary between short, medium and long, but even within these categories there is much variation as the nature of the local topography and road structure makes each course unique and so times for even the same distance cannot really be safely compared.

Talking to some local cyclists I discovered that Derby Mercury is a local club which holds Time Trials close to where I live and so I determined to go along and watch. When I retired I bought both a bike and a camera, never having been involved in either cycling or photography before, so this presented an opportunity to combine both my newly acquired interests.

Last Tuesday’s event was billed as a 2UP TT over 12.5miles with an elevation gain of 711ft. Whilst not a formal Open Event, there were a number of guest riders and in total over 50 cyclists took part.

The pairs of riders were set on their way at 2 minute intervals and I gathered that the aim was to keep swapping the lead in order to share the pain of the headwind and enable the rear rider of the pair to be towed along in the slp stream for an easier ride.

Having witnessed the initial gathering and start of the first few pairs, I moved position to place myself at the top of Long lane Hill where I hoped to capture a few pained faces as the riders climbed the first hill

As I understood it, the tactics were to remain in close formation to maximize the benefit of the wind shield but despite the hill being fairly close to the start it was severe enough to break up some formations and leave the leader looking behind desperately for his partner.

The race itself was open to both men and women, young and old, using a wide range of kit though the majority of the frames were carbon and I did not spot a Mercian all evening. The most noticeable difference amongst the bikes was in the choice of wheels ranging from “ordinary “ wheels to deep rims to full blown disc wheels. The noise coming from these machines as they sped past was like a music symphony.

As the light faded I hurried back to the finishing area to see some of the competitors arrive back. Many of the pairs were by now in ragged formations but to my eyes all still seemed to be going strong.  The finishing times ranged from 27 minutes to 43 minutes and to put this into comparison it would take me about 60 minutes; the difference between a racer and a pedal pusher!

I really enjoyed my evening out and thank yo to both Derby Mercury and all the riders for letting me stand around, ask stupid questions and capture both their pain and glory.

( If you click on any image then you will see it in a larger version and can easily navigate between the various pictures )

1 comment:

  1. Great piece, you really should give a TT a go. In reckon you'd surprise yourself!