I have always ridden the Junior Nationals however since I never thought I’d be able to jump up to the level needed to be competitive at the Senior Nationals for quite a few years, I never made them a major season goal. Instead, I’d focused much of my training efforts on the road for 2017 and after obtaining my first category license last month, I wanted a change so I decided to aim for the National 10.
After my 18 minute 10 a few weeks ago, I was feeling confident and my struggles on the hills at the Victor Berlemont RR last weekend shouldn’t come into play.
I traveled up the day before to Cockermouth in the Lake District. My grandparents live not too far away in West Cumbria so I had a lot of family support on the day! My first impressions of the course were good: the tarmac was fresh and very smooth and the turn was a simple roundabout. The course was either heading up or downhill but a majority of the gradient was no more than five percent or so. I certainly wouldn’t be expecting any PBs here with Steve Lampier holding the course record with a very short 20 set earlier in the year.
I wasn’t off until half three so I got an hour or so in on Sunday morning on the course feeling the wind. The wind was going to play a big part with it picking up as the juniors set out in the morning. I caught a glimpse of the junior times when I signed on and no one had gone sub-20.
I did my usual short warm up as my legs were still fresh from my ride earlier that morning. In National events, all the riders are seeded such that the riders in front and behind are going to be of a very similar ability rather than the usual ‘ten number and five number’ seeding in open events. This means it’s possible to get an idea on how well the TT is going during the race if you catch your minute man or get caught.
I started hard as the course dragged up for the first half of the out leg. I was sitting above my ten pace but I knew I needed to as I could ‘rest’ on the descent to the turn. I was on a good day and caught the flash of my minute man’s rear light as I crested the first drag, about five minutes in. The rain was heavy now and the wind was gusting from my left pushing me around a bit. I knew it was the same for everyone and I was heavy so probably more stable which made me dig a little deeper. I spun out the 58 coming into the turn and with the tarmac slick with water, I nervously took the turn and started the climb out of the roundabout. It was tough now with the wind a cross-head: the grimmest type. I passed my minute man on the climb and pushed on catching the sight of my two minute man in the distance and I set my target on him. I knew it was downhill to the finish just a few miles away now but the headwind was making it feel like an alpine pass! I could barely hold a straight line and caught sight of the checkerboard in the far distance. I passed my two minute man and gave it everything for the last few hundred meters crossing the line empty. I looked down and saw a mid-19 and thought it was alright but I knew there were some quick guys here who would be knocking on the door of 18 minutes. My power numbers were on par with PB efforts this season and I’d been telling myself to stay aero all race so I just had to hope for the best.
Last year I’d finished 18th. I was aiming for a top ten but I certainly didn’t expect the 3rd that I got. Bigham took the win as expected and Perry 2nd and I rounded off the podium just 32 seconds off the pace; something I wouldn’t have believed a year ago.
I have to say a massive thank you to Mid-Devon CC for supporting me for this event. Without their support I wouldn’t have been able to get that result. Also a huge thank you to Ian Cullen who lent me his tri-spoke and helmet and to my mum for sharing the six hour drive each way! It’s all time trials for the rest of the season now and it’s back to training this week with the final goal of the season being the Duo Normand in northern France on the 24th September.
Photos: Alex Law and VeloUK