Women’s Time Trialling for Novices – My First Year
The first club time trial
My first time trial took place on a cold and murky New Year’s Day 2018. It was the K7/5 between Stafford and Cannock that promised to be ‘downhill overall’ – there’s a lot of this in time trialling. A course promises to be downhill, but it’s invariably the most uphill way to get downhill!
A splash of tinsel on the road bike and some basic clip-on TT bars set me up for my first time trialling experience. I managed to catch my minute-man (riders start one minute apart) but I can honestly say that was the hardest I’d worked on a bike up to that point.
The first open time trials
I dove fully into time trialling from there on, entering an Open TT – the Coalville Wheelers A10/34 hilly – in February. I admit, when I got there, I felt massively out of my depth. Seeing everyone on their thousands of pounds worth of bikes with every added extra known to man…I bailed out.
It meant a DNS, not for the last time this season. I was still on my unmodified (save for clip-on bars) road bike, still in regular club kit and felt like a sore thumb.
I’d absolutely recommend going to watch an Open TT first for anyone thinking of giving it ago. It can be intimidating compared to club time trials as there are so many riders and so much talent on display. But, it need not be a frightening experience.
I positioned myself on the final gruelling climb of the race to watch Mat come through. I saw all sorts; road bikes, novices, full aero set-ups, all different shapes and sizes of riders. I quickly discovered that I didn’t have anything to worry about. There was so much support for the riders from spectators and other riders that I soon got my confidence back and entered more club rides and Open TTs.
The time trial season progresses
Over the next few months I took on club TTs of 5,10, 21 and 25 miles and Open 10 mile TTs in Warwickshire, the West Midlands, Staffordshire and further afield. I found that the time trial scene is a very friendly one; seeing the same faces and establishing friendly rivalries at each event.
Stafford Road Club racers started to see me make progress and offered assistance in the form of advice, kit and bike modifications. I amassed better clip on bars, a tilting race seat post, a TT saddle, helmet, skin suit, disc wheel and deep front wheel over the course of this season.
I’m not a very experienced rider generally – I’ve only been riding since April 2017 – so I still have a crisis of confidence every now and then. Most time trials take place on fast, busy roads rather than picturesque roads so sometimes the traffic or road layout gets the better of me. The K11/10T on the A45 looked a step too far – a very busy dual carriageway and poor visibility at islands due to unmown grass meant another DNS for me in May. I was also due to be bib number 1 which didn’t help.
I conquered my fear of that course this month though, taking on the K11/10T as part of the West Midlands Women’s TT series – finishing 23rd of 30 riders on the day.
The things I’ve learned
My love of time trialling has only grown over the season. I’ve taken on a total of 9 Open TTs and 14 club TTs so far. The beauty of time trials is that even when your minute-man overtakes you inside of 3 minutes (it happened once on the K33/10D) it only serves as encouragement not disappointment.
The race is only between you and the clock. Sometimes you will get a PB, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you’ll be followed by an epic rider who overtakes you sounding like a car; sometimes you’ll overtake 4 people in a race (that also happened once on the K33/10D). It’s guaranteed that you’ll always work hard and have a great sense of achievement by the end.
Race tactics are the hardest thing to master for the novice. Working out where to expend or save your energy is difficult, especially with the variable British weather. I expect this is something that will take years to perfect though and I’m enjoying the practice. The weather is a big factor for the novice as well – wind can take minutes off a PB attempt. But, overall you will see improvements over the season. The best training for time trials is racing in time trials!
My first year’s achievements
So far this season I’ve taken 2 minutes off my 10 mile PB which now sits at 26:45, set on the B10/3B in Norfolk. I’m currently leading the women’s club points competition and I’m third in the overall club TT handicap competition at Stafford Road Club. I’m in the lead of the Novices competition in the West Midlands Women’s TT series with one event in September left .
Finally, I also won the Civil Service National Women’s TT in July; so I think I deserve that new TT bike I’ve just purchased…