- Published: 13 October 2017
2017 has been my most successful racing season so far and I wanted to do a short write up now that it has finally come to a close.
I had a fairly successful 2016 season in which I achieved multiple podium places in local open events, broke the Club 10 course record and came 10th at the 25 mile BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) championships. I decided it was time to become a pure tester and focus wholly on time trials in 2017. I spent most of the winter riding my TT bike on the lonely and windswept East Lothian coast roads, squeezing in training around my studies at the University of Edinburgh. The rest of the time I was squeezing in my studies around training.
I opened my season in Scotland at the Lang Whang Hilly TT; a course similar to the club 25 course only hillier. On a typical March day I battled through strong winds and rain to 3rd place, only beaten by Harry Tanfield and John Archibald. Not a bad podium to be on. One week later came my 2017 debut in the North East at the Cramlington CC 18. I recorded my first ever open TT win by nearly a minute. I knew I was on for a good year.
April started off with a bang: a puncture after 1 mile of the Gordon Arms MTT. I rectified my misfortune during my two week Easter break placing 8th at the BUCS 10, breaking the club 10 record with a 19:00 (project 18 would have to wait) and claiming 4th place at the Teesdale MTT fewer than 24hrs after suffering for 55 minutes round my now least favourite course in the country at the BUCS 25 mile championship in Cambridgeshire.
After the Teesdale MTT I had 3 weeks to bring my legs back into condition for my favourite TT of the year: our own Mountain Time Trial. Having beaten the club record by nearly 8 minutes in 2016, I had no idea how well I would go this year. There was a tough Westerly wind which made for some exciting descents on the way to Rothbury and a hard slog round to Elsdon. I knew I was having a good day when I finally reached the main road with plenty of time in hand. I stopped the clock at 1 hour 56 minutes and 33 seconds for 3rd overall, chopping five and a half minutes off my own club record and being the first Vag to break the two hour barrier.
Through the end of May and into the start of June I had 3 weeks to recuperate and get another training block in, culminating with a family-holiday-come-training-week in the South of France. I came back with strong legs and even stronger tan lines. My first outing in June was a wet day at the Alnwick CC 13, a fun little course around Embleton. I won the event and set a new course record (another first for me). Soon the TTs were coming thick and fast. I rode mostly in the North East throughout June and July, steadily clocking up points in the N&DCA BAR competition. Before August I managed to net four 2nd places and a 4th place. I was also part of a Tyneside Vagabonds CC team win at the Blaydon CC 14 along with Simon Gibbs and Tom Hutchinson. As well as this, I set new club course records at 10 and 25 miles, bringing them down to 21:34 and 54:23 respectively.
Towards the end of June I rode in my first 50 mile time trial, it just happened to be the national championships on the A19 (the first national championship I’ve ridden since being a junior). Conscious not to blow up, I cautiously covered the first 25 miles in 53 and a half minutes. Once past the halfway point I decided it was time to push on and knocked out a mid-51 to cover the entire course in 1 hour 45 minutes and 10 seconds, another new Vags record. This was enough to give me 24th place. Not bad for my first ever 50.
August brought another family holiday and another chance to put in a big training block in Cornwall. 13 days and 35 training hours later I was back and ready to take on our own 100 mile time trial, another new distance for me. I was excited about the new course as it used most of my TT training roads that I use at home. I knew it like the back of my hand. I woke up even earlier than planned on the day of the hundred and decided to fuel myself on huge amounts of porridge and rice pudding at 4am. It seemed to work well as I got faster with each lap, eventually overhauling Eddie Addis on the final lap to take the win by about 50 seconds. Seeing my clubmates marshalling and rooting for me on the way round certainly made the 100 miles a lot less lonely than it would otherwise have been.
After a week of dragging my heavy legs around I was back in action at the Cramlington CC Hilly 21. I managed to win there as well despite being stuck behind a tractor on the ‘fast’ run in to Belsay. That made it 2 wins in 2 weekends, thus securing me a win in the N&DCA BAR competition. Having never even been on the podium in the BAR before I was chuffed to have won.
With no more time trials left in the North East, I had to start travelling further afield to race. This allowed me to have a good go at PB chasing in Hull and South Wales. My hunt for an 18 was eventually successful on the A63 outside Hull where I recorded an 18:46 in average conditions. Wales was less successful. After a long drive South I arrived in Wales at the same time as storm Aileen. Under the toughest conditions I have faced all year I still managed to knock 1 second off my personal best and trim it down to a 50:25. I left Wales with unfinished business. The organiser said it was the worst conditions he’d seen and that times were 2-3 minutes slower than usual. My onslaught of the National 10 didn’t go entirely to plan either. I came in 28th place on a marginally less wet and windy day than Wales but was lacking power. I was ill for a few days afterwards; I knew I’d been misfiring at the 10.
That was the end of the summer. The weather and my motivation were starting to wane heading into September however I had entered the Tour of the Trossachs MTT at the start of October and wanted to hang onto some form. I had 4 weeks in which to do so and succeeded, placing 3rd. The event has previously been won by Robert Millar and Graeme Obree. I thought it was quite fitting that I opened and closed my season with a 3rd place on a damp Scottish morning.