I usually like to work in threes, but of late the number 2 is clearly omnipresent for some reason or other.
Last week I did two ten mile time trials achieving two course records (one with a time of 20:04) and last Sunday for the only the second time ever I rode a 100 mile TT, once again the Scottish National doing two laps of the A90 course used in the national 50m TT last month. Last year’s colour of medal was silver, this year’s was gold, with a course and Scottish record to boot posting 3:46:10 taking more than 3 (phew the number three’s back) and a half minutes off the previous record that I believe has stood for ten years.
This time I was little more apprehensive than my usual calm yet internally excited demeanour prior to the race. TT extraordinaire that is Phil Kelman seem to pick up on it as we entered the start line at some silly early hour on the fairly quiet A90 dual carriageway that links Dundee with Aberdeen. I don’t know what it was but something wasn’t quite right. Was it down to the instinctive gamble of riding a hundred miles in an aggressive aero position that’s fine for 10 miles (or twenty minutes), but for 4 hours? I had decided to sacrifice power for position yet again with the aim of going faster. I was unsure though if it was going to pay off. Well, there’s only one way to find out I guess?
Last year I nearly mentally and physically died (in a racing sense) on the last 10 mile stretch going from the Stracathro flyover northward back to the start/finish at Fordoun. I made so many errors (no chamois cream, no adaption for long distance riding, eating when I shouldn’t have, gel stuffed up shorts – still have the scar), so perhaps that was niggling away at my psyche?
But wisdom is the daughter of experience and the race itself totally went to plan. Negative splits with the power (10W more on the second lap), I didn’t bother with eating and only drank half a bottle of water as an insurance policy for the final time as I approached the Stracathro flyover for the final time, feeling in excellent shape, ready to light the afterburners for the last ten miles with an extra 20W and with the wind having switched from a NW to a SW, a new Scottish record seemed more of a formality than a stretch target.
I don’t get time checks on my rivals, it doesn’t work for me. My method is to design a very good Plan A so that you don’t need a Plan B, then stick to it and let fate determine the rest. But I was aware I was being watched as I kept seeing the same cars and vans parked in laybys as I bombed past. It was only at the Stracathro turn that I knew I was on for the win as I’d passed the majority of riders in the field and my main rivals started behind me. So as the tail wind pushed me back to the finish I had a look over the A90 onto the southbound carriageway and realised there was plenty of daylight between myself and former 100m TT champions in the form of Callum Finlayson, Phil Kelman and defending champion Steve Williamson, which just motivated me even more to click through the gears. As I stormed northwards for one last hurrah, I started to think about my Aunty Vera. I think a lot about her, particularly when racing. She’s a real source of motivation. She was a no-nonsense, fun-loving working-class family person who lived and loved most of her life in her Horwich council house - which still brings back so many fond memories. She who looked up to no-one and had no time for those who looked down on her. A true egalitarian. Well grounded. No airs and graces. She said something to my older sister before her funeral when she knew her time had come and it has stuck with me ever since…
”Don’t settle for the ordinary and don’t forget your roots”. Damn right Aunty V. This one’s for you!
Prior to the presentations I got chatting to last year’s winner, Steve Williamson (who took silver). I realised that he too had broken the Scottish record with a 3:49:18 and that was after suffering two punctures! With only 3 minutes between us, perhaps I had dodged a bullet? Steve, being the true champion that he is was having none of it, but given the huge distances he travels to challenge for national honours, and given the recent postponement of the original race two weeks ago, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe he’d been a little short changed?
But as Steve said himself, that’s racing. No ifs and buts, first past the post or the one with the quickest time is the winner. Regardless of this and that. My day with mechanicals, punctures, DNFs and DNSs, this and that, will come and I too will suck it up and move on. No excuses. Just reasons. Learn from the experience and take out the positives. There’s always another day to try, try, try, again.
Back to the number two. I won’t go too far into the details about an albeit fair telling off I got from Isobel Smith (who reminds me of my Aunty Vera in many ways) for using the disabled ladies loo at race HQ. Well it was that or a DNS, so I opted for the wrath of Isobel. There was also a noticeable absence of 2016 double Scottish TT champion Chris Smart, despite my best attempts to get him to sign up, from the race. He had his eye on the local 10m TT and after a series of messages between us on lead up to last weekend I quickly realised why.
And so it was a combination of relief and double celebration when he messaged me on Sunday afternoon to confirm that he too had gone sub 20 with a 19:50, only the 11th individual in history to achieve this on a Scottish 10m TT course. That’s two people in the same week!
Chris later reminded me, that’s now 2-2 in the national TT championship, he won the Olympic and 10m, me the 50m and now the 100m. Just the 25m TT to play for. Sudden death? I think there are plenty of riders who will want to spoil that party and fancy their chances. Damn right!
But even is this season ends in a score drawer, looking forward into the future it bodes well for the two of us and I hope many more will enter the fray, because that’s the biggest thrill, not the winning, or the podiums, medals etc. Granted they are most welcome and appreciated, but I simply get my kicks from competing and having rivals who are better than you or want to beat you is the easiest way to improve and progress. Free motivation. We all want to go faster. Well I do.
Long may that continue.