Rudy Project TT Series National Round - 25th March

Opening the curtains on race day had me immediately scanning the weather and taking in the conditions - is it raining? How strong is the wind? Which way is it blowing etc? How do my legs feel? So I was pleased to be greeted by a clear, bright, mostly windless day, rare and welcome early season conditions.

In my earlier racing days the RUDY PROJECT time trial series was a big series run alongside the national championships but favouring more sporting courses and steering away from the faster dual carriageway courses favoured at the time. This still holds true today and the series has grown and is now very hotly contested by the country’s top time trialists.

I had earmarked this first national round of the 2012 season as my return to a proper time trial race and a true gauge of my state of fitness and current speed. Armed with my new Giant time trial bike complete with rear disc wheel I knew that at least I’d be on a level playing field unlike the previous duathlon in Kent.

Arriving in Towcester near Northampton at the HQ and assembling the bike I took a quick glance around the car park and thanked my lucky stars I had the bike as the level of machinery on display was nothing short of top level TT kit, so this was clearly an important race.

After signing on I made my way to the start where I began the long process of warming up and beginning some short sprints and focusing my mind for the coming 19 mile race. I felt much more nervous than the previous race - I don’t know why - maybe it was because it was a national or maybe because it felt odd to be doing a proper TT again. Anyway as I saw number 30 go off I made him my target to try and catch - I was number 32.

It all felt so familiar: the timekeepers holding the bike, someone saying 30 seconds, everything going quiet, the final adjustments, and then 5,4,3,2,1, GO and bang I was gone  going hard through the gears - not too hard - 30mph - hold back a bit: then settling down.

31 came up fast, past I went and then a few more, the course bumpy and twisty then fast and open, breathing hard now and coming up to the 11 mile turn I see number 30 going well but I’m gaining, round the turn and I’m on him, always wait a second then pass hard: a good TT tip, stops people hanging on.

A few more miles and some more riders caught and my legs are burning big time, must focus. Some long drags are a real test both physically but more mentally. All you really want to do at times like this is stop but you don’t!

And then in the distance about a mile away I see the finish flag and the time keepers and I bury it, putting everything I have into that last piece of tarmac, my legs feel like they’re on fire - and then I’m past shouting out my number and trying to regain my breathing. It’s not lost on me why this discipline is called "the race of truth".

Back to the HQ and an anxious wait for the results; I’m the early leader on 46.31 for 19 miles, though I know this won’t last and sure enough some good times start to filter in, 45 minutes and a 44, but still not bad. In the end I’m 8th in the vets (actual) and 20th overall out of 92 entries with an average speed of 24+ mph so I’m fairly pleased.

The winner is the current series defending champion Matt Bottrill, who wins in 40.12 at an average speed of 27.9 mph which is phenomenal on this course. The fastest vet was Julian Ramsbottom on 42.22 at 26.4 mph so I’m not a million miles off, more races to come yet though and hopefully some more speed yet.

Richard Hancock