Friday, 18 April 2014

Crawley Wheelers Sporting 41.59 - Back to sparrow's fart

With British Summer time now locked in, its goodbye to post 9am start times for us Testers, and a return to leaving home while loved ones are still tucked up in bed. I recall a TT in Horsham a few years back when during my warm up I found myself racing an owl. In truth I didn't mind the early get away today, it meant I would be safely on my way before my fellow City dwellers started storming towards the coast for bank holiday fun and games.

Anyway, this course, the GS/196 was a new one on me. When I mentioned it to James Stone of Brighton Excelsior (something of a Guru on all things cycling as far as  I am concerned) I got a laugh and a wry smile. The main benefit of doing a 41 mile time trial is that it makes 25 mile TT's feel shorter, and 'sporting' designation for this one told me I was not in for a moral boosting fast time. Despite the sun, it was a chilly start, with envious glances being cast towards those with the foresight to pack full finger gloves and knee warmers.

Starting from Handcross it opens with a long section with a fast downhill bias, building lots of baseless confidence. It levels out, but while there a few sections where on can push a big gear and get a nice rhythm this are the exception. Lots of short rises to stop you getting to comfortable. But the real sting is in the tail, and the tail is about 8 miles long and very stingy. As Dave Churchill of Bigfoot said, 'I was on hour pace after 40km.' Erm yes. Because all that lovely fast descent at the start has to be paid for with a long drag uphill into a headwind at the end. That chequered flag just never seemed to what to appear and time ticked by.

I came in with at 1.57.48, which I was pretty happy with as had been able to go the distance without dropping off in the final 10 . Dave C wasn't thrilled with his 1.50.09, noting dryly that if he had done a personal best he'd have an excuse to never come back. But as he as entered a lumpy little TT around Devil's Dyke on Monday, I suspect he is made of sterner stuff.

The winner was the ever marvellous Steve Dennis with a 1.37.12, an excellent performance on genuinely testing sporting course. Have to say a big that you to Stuart Nisbett and his team from Crawley Wheelers for putting on a fine event. It is a tricky course and the marshalling was universally excellent. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Weather Forcasts and the Redmon 25

In my way of dividing up the racing season, the Redmon 25 is the start of Time Trialing proper. January and Feb kicks things off with the Reliabilty Trials (that didn't really happen this year tbh), March is all about the sporting courses, Hardriders and the like.

Today was also the 3rd round of SEWTTS, with another strong field of women riders. They enjoyed the dubious pleasure of going off first. Rebecca Slack, the mastermind behind SEWTTS earned the Michael Fish award for optimistic and inaccurate weather forecasts, with an early tweet suggesting that the women riders would miss the rain. Hmmm, as I arrived the first salvo of women riders were on their way. Their grim faces, and the work my windscreen wipers were having to do, suggested that whatever she turns her hand to a glittering career in the met office doesn't await.

The course was a new one on me, and a change from previous years, the G25/46. On a first acquaintance I can't say I liked it much. But the combo of wet, nagging cross winds, and headwinds probably did not let me see it at its best. I was the only Old Port in this one. The other Testers either in deepest Kent or applying salvon to their cobbled parts in Flanders. It was a day to get through, and I managed a less than sparkling 1.08.09

For the Men, it was Conal Yates who I think came out on top, with a 54.44.  At the start he was my minute man, at the end, my 15 minute man. With the outstanding rider of SEWTTS round 1, Natalie Cresswick a DNS, there was a well fought battle for the women's prize.  However looked like Jasmijn Muller had good minute on the rest to finish with a 1.01.06 . Great rides by both the winners on a tough morning.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Home wins butter no parsnips at SCCU Sporting 25

'Scoring goals for Palace, John Terry, John Terry' ah heady celebrations in the Palace world.
It was only after the third pint of Guinness at the windmill on Saturday that it occurred to me I was meant to be racing in the morning. It had been emotionally draining enough without the beer and by the time I got home the arrival of the British summer and the loss of an hours kip was a growing cause for concern.
The G25/44 is the lumpy part of the 45 twice, and a course you need to attack with a bit of vim, something I was decidedly lacking. Also today we were treated to two sets of traffic lights. Two laps meant 4 potential stops. Nice.
The organisers were full of apology for something way outside their control. When my already unwilling body can across the first red on the A24 the motivation went a bit flat and never really returned.
Three ports had entred but Mr Warne decided he had other things to do, so it was me and Bash on parade, for what was weather wise a perfect morning, or as near to it as you can get in March.
Bash, by his own standards had a poor ride on the Bletchingly course last Sunday but put this behind him today. He had already laid to rest any doubts about his form with a PB for the sporting 10 on Saturday. Despite road works he came through the 25 in a commendable 1.02.43
I, lethargic and unwilling added a minor off course in the closing 2 miles to do a very humble 1.09.56
The young gun from Rapha JLT, Elliot Porter, took the win with a blinding 53.50
Great to see James Stone from Brighton racing today. Been too long.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Few thoughts on Tony Benn

A great deal of what Tony Benn stood for were the very things that made Labour unelectable, and what the party led by Neil Kinnock sought to remove in the 80's. For most of the 80's, 90's and noughties he was at best seen as an elder statesman of something long since passed. I recall a debate on blasphemy, where the debate revolved around whether the law should be repealed or extended to include other faiths such as Islam. His case was that his belief in socialism was as deep and profound as any Christian or Muslims faith, and nobody felt the need to protect socialists from ridicule. Why should religions be given special treatment. It was a well made point but at the time somebody talking about believing in socialism in that way felt as bronze age as the religions present.

The recession, loss of faith in the Thatcher/Blair capitalism and the Iraq war gave Benn's profile as bounce late in life, often from a generation who were too young to remember him as a potential party leader.

In the mid 80's I heard him speak a few times, when the tide was already against him. Looking back, its hard to imagine him as a politician in the modern world. Largely because when he spoke he spoke to our best intentions not our meanest fears and prejudice. The spiteful debates around immigration or hard working families, where the Party leaders compete to appeal to our worst instincts are so far from Benn's relentless optimism about people. A friend posted on facebook an inscription Benn had written in one of his books. It read 'The best is yet to be.' In the mouth of Cameron, Clegg or Milliband this would sound like an  election slogan to go down with all the other words they devalue. From Benn it was a sincere statement of belief in all of us. And for that, whatever his political weaknesses, I mourn his passing.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A Revolution in a start sheet - SCCU spoco 23rd March

It is a small revolution, but in the world of cycle time trials as seismic one. Go to the CTT website and click on a start sheet, just about any start sheet. Count the number of women riders. Three, four, five, maybe seven if there is a big field? Rubbish isn't it, between 5 and 10% of the field on a good day. Now click on the start sheet for SCCU 21 mile TT on 23rd March being run in tribute to the late Don Glover. Now count them, yes 49 women riders, and still more on a reserve sheet who could not get in.

Fifty odd women have put their money down to race a tough little TT around Bletchingly. What's changed? Everything and nothing. This is not a new event, it has been run for years over a course designed by the aforementioned Don Glover. The rules haven't changed. But this race, organised by Tony Alston is the first in the new South East Women's Time Trial Series founded by Rebbecca Slack, and a huge well of women, interested in the race of truth has been tapped. Well over 100 riders have registered for the series.

Time trialling is a great way to get into competitive cycling. All you need basically is a bike (the pointy hats and scaffolding come later). Events are cheap to enter, and as you are basically racing against yourself. Even if your first ride is a stinker you have laid down a personal best to beat next time out. Many women have been testing for years, as part of triathlon, but never entered CTT events. Now finally with the arrival of a competition specifically for women across the season, TTing seems to a captured their imagination, at least in the South East.

What is particularly exciting is that of the 49 women starting the race next Sunday for a huge number this will be their first ever race. This new blood could if the idea spreads galvanise this branch of the sport in so many ways.

SEWTTS have done a great job of working with the clay that already exists but moulding it meet their needs. A traditional hurdle was that to TT you had to be a member of an affiliated club. Some clubs are great, but not all have a great track record in welcoming and developing women riders. By creating 'Newcomers CC' for all unattached riders SEWTTS have removed this obstacle at a stroke. Having a points based series based on placings, rather than fastest times and  complex vet standards creates a sense of direct competition. It also removes the advantage of targeting events on 'fast' courses. Rather than run new events they are breathing life into the existing calendar by getting organisers to commit a certain %age of places to women. The size of the field for the 23rd has pretty much doubled at a stroke.

The result is a massive win win, and the chance for the sport to reach out to the missing 51% of the population.

Not quite the storming of the Winter Palace but hopefully that start of something special in TTing

Sunday, 9 March 2014

East Surrey Hardriders (Just not so hard as last year)

This event has two particular features, one, at a tad under 30 miles its a bit longer than one would choose. Secondly about halfway round there is a dispiriting climb on a grotty road at Rusper. Apart from that it's great. Maybe. In truth it is a Sporting Course but not quite as sporting as the SCA Hardriders last week or that toad of a course at Bletchingly we have to look forward to in a couple of weeks.

Well this year mother nature gave, and mother nature taketh away. Due to the beating the Flanchford Bridge had enjoyed over the winter it was closed to traffic. The result, the course was trimmed to 27.1 miles (hooray) missing out a crappy lumpy section to Reigate Heath (hooray) and as Dave Warne noted (I think getting his own back for last week) making the parcour one for Bashers (boooo!)

Four Ports plus our adopted Port, Dave Churchill lined up for this brute. slightly crisp to begin with it turned into a lovely morning for racing. Bash and Paul King were early starters. The Daves and me towards the back end.  Coming out of Beare Green I was forced to pick my way through a long tailback of traffic. On this single carriageway section with double unbroken lines, a horse box had stopped halfway up the hill. Thanks guys. While last week I lost a bit of heart this time I was able get back into it and crack on.  After last weeks mishaps, I felt I was going a lot better this time out, though still some way short of where I would want to be. But those with the strength to take advantage came away with some creditable times for March. In order of appearance

Bash - 1.10.42
Paul - 1.14.01 ( I will leave it to Mr King to explain his views on this time.)
Dave C - 1.07.55
Dave W - 1.09.44
Andy - 1.21.55

The Daves' and Ian's times were v impressive on a day when one sees that the winning time by Liam Maybank was 1.01.18

I am not racing next weekend, returning to the fray on 23rd with the SCCU Bletchingly event.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

These Things Take Time - 30 years on from 'The Smiths'

I read that The Smiths debut album is 30 years old, the article said that it emerged as a classic. As a huge fan of The Smiths at the time I was actually disappointed. The singles and the John Peel sessions had been brilliant. By then I had also seen their incendiary live show three or four times. Compared to that the album sounded a bit damp, well in fact very damp. I recall a few reviews at the time saying the same. It wasn't until The Queen is Dead that for me they produced an album that was worthy of the description 'classic'. They still banged out great singles ( and b sides) but Morrissey's huge presence can't disguise the fact that Meat is Murder is short of their best. Hatful of Hollow was great but it was what it said it was, a compilation of Radio 1 sessions and out takes. 

The Queen is Dead was something of a relief, they had finally managed to capture their essence on a studio album. But seeing them live on the tour that supported it kind of closed the book for me. They were no longer the band I had seem at North East London Poly or the Electric Ballroom ( a wonderful gig that I will write about sometime). They had been a shared secret, they were now stars and the audience worshiped at their feet. Morrissey was a celebrity and that arch faux controversial character we see now had emerged and taken shape.  Some of us called for Handsome Devil to be dismissed us with 'we haven't played that for years.' They were no longer my band and I was no longer their crowd.