Race Report – Exeter Wheelers – 4 Firs TT

Conrad Moss reports on his second win of 2017

Mothering Sunday ‘A day when historically, the people of Devon, take their mums out for a nice slow drive around Topsham and Woodbury Common’

I love this event. I first rode in 2014, when I took 2nd place to Pete Vincent. The following year I rode it on a wild wet and windy morning, and took a big chunk off the course record, thanks mainly to a tailwind up the climb and across the common, and last year I missed it due to injury.
The 4 firs course is ace. It starts outside of Topsham, goes out to Darts Farm, before heading out over the heath towards Budleigh, before climbing up to 4 firs, turning left over Woodbury Common; to halfway house, before returning rapidly, past Crealy and Westpoint to finish. I’d estimate 65% of the event is uphill, so it’s a real power course.

I’d taken a cheeky glance at the forecast on Sat night, and it suggested a rapid run out of Topsham, and a proper slog up the climb and over the common. At this point I was rueing my current gear set up of 58/46 up front and 11-21 at the back. Ordinarily not a problem, but the forecasted headwind just got me thinking a bit.
I’d planned a 0530 alarm call, to get up, eat, drive up and do at least an hours training before the event, and was a bit gutted when I remembered that the clocks go forward meaning (technically) getting up at 0430, but nevermind.

Sunday morning arrived and we were blessed with a stunning morning for a bike race. It was bloody cold, no doubt, it was windy as promised, but it was amazingly sunny, and not a cloud in the sky.

I got out and did an hour, with a few efforts to get ready, before the off. Heading out of Topsham it was fairly quick, and so I used the wind and conserved my power a bit. The run out past Darts was actually quite sketchy in places with the wind catching the front wheel on the bends, before the drag up to the roundabout.

Turning right, the effort changed. The road is bumpy, climbs gradually (almost 9 miles to Halfway House), and the wind was strong. I pushed on, and caught my minute man at Budleigh. Onto the climb to 4 firs, and it was full effort. Pushing hard into the wind I caught 3 riders before the junction, and had just 1 gear change left, which I needed, as turning onto the exposed common, the wind really bit hard. From here to halfway house was a case of maximum effort into the wind, and on the climb, whilst taking minimal recovery on the brief downhill sections.

The Halfway house (not actually halfway on the course) junction saw me have to come to a halt, as I was stopped by the marshal, due to heavy traffic. It seemed like forever, but in reality was probably only a couple of seconds, and I was on my way again. The run in to the finish is quick, but very short, in comparison to the amount of climbing you do. I was on the brakes constantly, as I caught up the traffic in front, that was struggling to get past some slower riders, and I peaked at 46 mph, and averaged just shy of 38 mph for the 4 miles to the finish. 58×11 @ over 110 rpm simply wasn’t ‘big enough’ but 46×21 earlier on was only just ‘small enough’.

I stopped the clock on 33.20. 40 seconds shy of my CR, but on a totally different day ‘wind wise’, and pretty happy that I’d given a good account of myself, with what was the 2nd best time done on the course.

I span back to HQ, where the results board later showed that I’d won by 51 seconds from Matt Slater of Revo Racing, in what was the 2nd best time done on the course.
There was a strong MDCC contingent, and we had other riders in the prizes. Ruth Burrows was 2nd fastest woman, Lee Sanderson fastest in his vets category, and Tony Foster was the 3rd counter in the winning MDCC team. There was also a consistently good ride from Mark Sanders, and a good performance on a road bike from Owen Messenger.