While the Shen1200 riders were struggling along in the heat and humidity of the mid-Atlantic, I hired a car to join some triathlon-oriented friends for a mere 50-mile time trial on the roads of Essex. No heat and humidity here. The day dawned bright and sunny in London, but heading east the clouds thickened and the winds strengthened.
The options were a single loop of 25 miles or two loops for a total of 50 miles. My carpool buddy and I went out with the intention of logging the full 50. Starting near Chelmsford, the course ran west to Leaden Roding and up to Great Dunmow before turning around and heading back to the start. Simple course: Bear right at the first roundabout, turn all the way around the second roundabout. Bear left at the third roundabout, all the way around the fourth roundabout. Then do it all again.
The course was what you might call lumpy: Shallow grades of 3% or less, with hedged roads snaking through open fields. The big challenge for me was my brand new PlanetX Pro Carbon 101 front wheel, slightly slow handling in light winds but twitchy in moderate winds, particularly in crosswinds through villages, where gaps between houses turn into wind tunnels.
My goal was 2:30, a steady 20 miles per hour. The first outbound leg was headwinds and hindering crosswinds. I slipped below 20 mph on many of the uphill stretches and was beginning to doubt whether the goal was achievable. I got to the first turnaround in around 37 minutes, dead on pace but without any allowance for slowdown on the second lap. After the first turnaround, however, the tailwind was pushing me uphill at above 20 mph and it became clear I would make it. At the halfway point, I was at roughly 1:08 and I knew I had lots of time in the bank to make my goal if I managed to get through the second outbound leg. I did. Toward the end, my neck began to really complain, signalling to me that I need a lot more mileage.
As a side note, our barely organized race follows a strong tradition in Great Britain. For decades, the government banned racing on open roads, forcing into velodromes all people of a racing bent. However, the cycling time trial persisted underground, usually among riders in the know who showed up at appointed locations designated by a code (like the hobo code). In our case, the course was called the E9/25. To this day, cycling time trials are sanctioned by an organization separate from British Cycling, an artefact of the bad old days, along with the Brits’ excellence at time trialling and track cycling and tendency toward lesser performance at other aspects of the sport.