Team Time Trial

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“There’s no ‘I’ in team … but there is a ‘me’ if you look hard enough”. Words of wisdom from the sage of Slough (David Brent) that popped into my head recently as I found myself being introduced to the concept of teamwork on a bicycle for the first time.

Last Sunday saw the second running of The Cog Cafe (Tring) Gentleman’s Team Time Trial. On account of a tenuous connection via a work colleage SW Rouleurs wangled an invitation for a couple of strings and in one easy movement managed to bring a whole new category of internal bragging rights and competition to the club. Since most of us (myself included) hadn’t even done a Time Trial before the club round earlier this year, the idea of trying to do it over 4 times the distance, on public roads while riding a few inches off the wheel of the rider in front was probably asking for trouble but in the end it was an ultimately safe learning experience that ended up with smiles plastered all over the tired faces of the finishers.

Team selection was fairly straight forward since the first 4 finishers in the club time trial were all available and they went straight into the A string thereafter named Team Deep Dish on account of their deep section carbon wheels that they were all desperate to get out for the occasion. Everyone else (including your scribe) was bundled into the B string thereafter named Team Thin & Crispy on account of our unique high performance diet! We also extended temporary membership of SWR to ‘Rob the Ringer’ from my office who was looking for a ride and which happily co-incided with one of our team having to cry off. The route was circulated beforehand via the wonders of Strava and everyone was given strict instruction to make sure they downloaded it prior to the event since there was no signage on the route.

The format was simple – 4 riders per team setting off from The Cog cafe at 3 minute intervals to ride just over 40 miles in a circle around the Chilterns on a Sunday morning. The time of the third team member over the finish line being the one that sets the time for the whole team. For those even more unfamiliar with the concept of  a team time trial (or TTT) than myself the basic idea is that you ride around in a tight group aiming to shelter each other from the wind and taking turns riding at the front to keep the overall pace as high as possible. Riding in the slip stream of other riders is supposed to require less than half the effort of riding on the front if done correctly and when done by professionals it’s quite a sight to behold as the lead man changes every thirty seconds or so and drifts to the back of the line for a couple of minutes of rest before finding himself back on the front. So that was the theory.

The reality of the matter was slightly less clinical. We were given the last two time slots of the morning with Deep Dish heading off first. The good news for those of us in Thin & Crispy was that we would therefore definitely be saved from any humiliation as another team came past us. But before we could even count our blessings on this front we had a rather more pressing issue to worry about …. like where the hell were we going? 4 riders in the team with 3 Garmin devices between us. But not one of these expensively educated and highly intelligent individuals had managed to get the route downloaded from the link provided. With no signage out on the course it was going to be impossible to find our way around. Fortunately (for us) our SWR brethren in Deep Dish had technology to spare and so we swapped one of our Garmins for one of theirs that had the route pre-loaded. So at least we now had a route to follow although it was going to mean a lot of shouting up and down the line as we relied exclusively on a single map. But hey, at least we were getting a ride! So with expectations suitably managed we set off into the wide open spaces of the Chilterns to hunt down any stragglers that might have set off before us.

The route was just over 60km/ 40 miles and we set off at a punchy pace – something that was billed as a ‘fast training ride’ seemed to be a bit more than that and it wasn’t long before the physiological differences in our quartet were starting to become apparent, particularly on the hillier sections where Fergus and I would wheeze our way up hauling our  above average bulk before barreling our way down the other side having to dab the brakes in order to maintain some sort of formation. Suffice to say that if we ever find a 2 man 40 mile downhill time trial event we’ll be a serious threat! Looking back over the Strava stats though and we were very much on the pace among the better teams (excluding the semi-pro 1st cat teams that showed up).

Unfortunately, somewhere around the half way mark a couple of things started to go against us. The first of these was navigation. The problem with having only one satnav device is that there’s no back up to disagree if you wander off-route and so we ended up taking a rather scenic tour of the areas manor houses on one particular section that took us about 15 minutes rather than the 7 odd minutes that the others managed it in.

The second problem we faced was that the pace was beginning to tell and having taken a few weeks off the bike in the run up to the event, Fergus was finding himself somewhat ‘over tapered’ to use a technical phrase! Consequently our pace was now suffering as we tried to keep the string together. In theory we could have left him to his own devices since it was the third bike over the line that determined the overall team time – so you can afford to drop one team member. In practice, without any way of finding his way home he might still be there if we hadn’t stuck together. So we slowed up to a more social pace until, with about 10km to go, Fergus felt reasonably confident of finding his own way home and the rest of us wound things up for the final run in to the finish.

So without wishing to dwell on the actual detail of who came where (ahem!) suffice to say that Deep Dish beat Thin & Crispy quite soundly. But considering that there was only a few seconds between us at the half way point (as far as I can make out) there is definitely some unfinished business for next year if The Cog Cafe would be kind enough to host the event. They put on a very well organised and exceptionally friendly event that re-convened for coffee and cake at HQ with big smiles on the faces of everyone that took part.

SWR Thin & Crispy (from rear) Mamilontour, Rob Attreed, Fergus Graham, James Denholm

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SWR Deep Dish (apparantly finding the art of riding nose to tail a little beyond them). Will Greig (left) and Rick Gradidge.

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