Redhill Cycling Club hosts a Time Trail season where the 9 mile races on the Horne circuit are opened up to mountain bikers. This usually attracts a handful of mountain bikers where the competition is very intense.
A mountain bike with knobbly tyres is the necessary criteria, so I fit the smoothest knobblies I have with the highest pressures they will take. The suspension is locked out to provide a fast running rig for the tarmac. The road cyclists with their skinny tyres, aero bars and pointy helmets ridicule us on our hefty machines. The smile is sometimes wiped of their faces when we match or beat a few of their times.
Alex Bottomely, Gareth Ashton and I line up for the staggered start. We are probably the fastest mountain bikers in the club and the gloves were off for the coveted trophy. Alex sets off at a blistering pace 30 seconds before me, where Gareth starts a minute behind us. On the long straights I can just see Alex’s rear light in the distance, he was certainly applying the pressure while I was doing my utmost not to lose sight of him.
Completing the first 3 mile lap in 8:32 minutes, I calculate that I’m 8 seconds ahead of my 26 minute target time. Riding into the headwind, I tuck my arms in adopting an aerodynamic position as possible. My heart rate is pounding at around 165bpm which is just over 90% of my maximum. I need to sustain this intensity for nearly 2 more laps.
Passing the Start/Finish point, I completed lap 2 in 8:35, giving me 13 seconds in the bag for a 26 minute time. It was then the pain set in. The intense pressure was taking its toll as my body ached and I watched the digits on the speedo descend. Pushing hard and focusing on my posture and technique, I battled on through the pain barrier. Catching glimpses of Alex in the distance, I knew I wasn’t doing too badly. Applying the power on the penultimate straight I reel in some of the distance between us.
Rounding the last corner I tuck my head down and give it all I’ve got. There is a long gradual incline to the finish where the headwind was prolific as ever. My heart rate nearly touches its maximum as I cross the line at 26:08 minutes.
I had missed my 26 minute target, but more importantly how had I fared against Alex and Gareth? In the previous week Gareth had achieved 26:11 so I waited with bated breath for him to finish.
The results are calculated where Gareth made it in 26:12, Alex finished in 26:10 while I claimed the 1st MTB place with my 26:08. With just 4 seconds separating the 3 of us, it couldn’t have been much closer.