Monday, 4 January 2010

Bad cycling: New Years Day '10'

Not so much bad science, as bad cycling. Last year I returned to bike racing after more than 10 years away, riding a few club events organised by my club, Stockport Clarion. The triumph of my season was my not-too-bad performance in the club hill climb up the Cat and Fiddle. Since then, I've not really been on the bike too much, because it's dark and cold and I'm a bit of a wuss like that. I did have an ill-fated ride before Christmas, where I fell on a patch of ice just before the Great Stone Road roundabout in Stretford, and then almost got run over by the gritter that was following me. But Stockport Clarion traditionally organises a 10-mile time trial on New Years Day, and I thought it would be a good way to kick-start 2010.

It was an 11am start at Chelford, so I reckoned I had to leave about 9:30. This seemed less and less like a good idea as I headed off into the -4 weather, wearing pretty much every piece of bike kit I own. At least the roads were quiet. There was virtually no wind, but riding at about 15 mph was enough to freeze my hands within a few miles, despite my winter gloves. There was a bloke staggering about and yelling as I went through the edge of Didsbury. Hopefully he was on his way home. There was hardly anyone else about. I rattled through a deserted Alderley Edge and made it to the sign-on about 10:45, just as light snow began to fall. Dunc, the timekeeper, had a good story about the previous year's race, when it had also snowed. Apparently a rider behind him noticed that he was leaving two tyre tracks instead of one: he'd twisted his forks in a crash a few days before.

By the time 11:00 came around, there were still only two riders. It was now -3, and the news was that both Snake Pass and the Cat and Fiddle were closed because of drifting snow. One rider from Poynton had taken one look at the thermometer (-6) and decided to go back to bed. Having come this far, I thought we might as well have a ride anyway. Then the perenially late Will arrived, on a full time-trial machine, to make it three riders.

The Chelford course is a bit of a horror, as time trial courses go. But there are just too many traffic lights around Manchester for a selection of courses, so Chelford is what you get. It's hardly a dragstrip, but not really a sporting course either. It's flattish, narrow and typically busy with fast traffic, but being New Years Day it was relatively quiet. The road surface is pretty heavy and there's a couple of lumps to keep you honest, the main one being the railway bridge in Chelford. That probably doesn't sound too bad, but it's amazing how much effort it costs to maintain speed over the damned thing, with only about a mile to go to the finish.

I started number 2, and within a few hundred yards my feet were frozen. There's a roundabout after about a mile, where Ric the marshal was shivering and pacing about to keep warm, and then the turn is just outside Knutsford. By then I'd already been passed by Will at number 3, and was clearly losing time to Dan at number 1. By the time I got to the turn, I was starting to warm up, but my legs just wouldn't have it over the last 4 miles and I finished in 32:53. That's the slowest '10' I've ever done, a minute slower than the first one I ever did riding as a schoolboy under the banner of Penistone Grammar School. I rode back to the timekeeper's car, and took a drink from my bottle: there was ice in it.

Still, the winning time was 28:39, from a rider who would be doing 24 minute rides in summer, so I couldn't feel too bad. In any case, I didn't have time: to avoid hypothermia, I jumped back on the bike and set off home ASAP.

Hopefully there'll be more bad science in the year ahead (there's certainly no shortage of it about), and perhaps even some good science of my own. Whatever else happens, though, I'm certain that there'll be more bad cycling.

8 comments:

Grumpy Bob said...

The North Bucks Road Club managed 5 riders at their NYD '10', but only two of them were from the NBRC!
http://tinyurl.com/ybhmssf
Very cold, and not very fast...

Robert

Paul Wilson said...

Ha, it's good to know that we weren't the only people out playing silly buggers in the traffic.

You say "not very fast", but I note that all the riders in your event went faster than any of us...

Grumpy Bob said...

Well, it wasn't snowing, and in the sunshine, it was almost pleasant!

Dr Aust said...

By 'eck...

Paul, I think even attempting to cycle in the New Yrs's Day cold counts as completely barking British stiff-upper-lip-pery. Reminds me of my mate the mad runner from Marple who runs 10 ks cross-country over the hills through snow and mud, typically returning mud-brown from head to toe and covered with icicles. You are an enthusiast, sir!

Think you should treat yourself to a congratulatory saucepan of simmering Gluhwein.

Paul Wilson said...

"You are an enthusiast, sir!"

That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me for ages...

It's actually not as bad as it probably sounds: you're making an effort, so that tends to warm you up. It's just hands and feet that get really cold, and you can dress for that to an extent.

Now, if you were going out today, that would be nuts...

Neuroskeptic said...

You're a braver man than I... you won't catch me doing any exercise outside the nice warm gym until the snow is gone and the temperature's in double figures.

Paul Wilson said...

Oh, I don't think there was much in the way of bravery involved. In fact, what with the icy conditions and me having slicks on the road bike, I've not been out since the race. I'm attempting to maintain some level of fitness by swimming.

If you have the right gear, riding in snow is not particularly dangerous. I thought there was some good advice from Matt Seaton in the Guardian here.

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