West Pennines 14 Mile Cycling Time Trial

A cycling time-trial in the West Pennines ran by Olympic cyclist, Joanna Rowsell Shand.

Going into this weekend I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but then nobody can predict racing can they!

A 14 mile Time Trial was the challenge. I’d been riding between 25 and 30 miles regularly, so 14 shouldn’t be a problem right? Those rides weren’t that slow, but I certainly wasn’t going full effort for an hour like I would be for the TT. The only time I’d pushed myself for an hour and above was a Duathlon last October and I remember that that hurt a lot!

Rocking up to the West Penine Road Club’s TT the skies were grey and rain was falling down. On a drive around the 14 mile loop, the roads were riddles with puddles and water running off the fields.

How on earth was I going to get around this? On a bike we’d built the night before. I say we because I ended up requiring help off Ryan when I decided to have a complete mind blank on how to build a bike. I’d not done it as a job for a year or anything…

The rain kept falling and I was trying to figure out how I could pin a number to an expensive waterproof jacket without putting holes in it. Luckily I’d chucked in a £10 Endura jacket that was going cheap online. I like to support my local bike shop as much as I can, but that £10 jacket has now become the jacket I’ll use for TT’s where rain is causing chaos. I’d also put my Mavic gloves last minute, which I’m now incredibly glad I did!

TT tip number one? Packed for all kinds of weather as you never know what you’ll end up dealing with even if the Weather app on your phone tells you you’re going to dodge the rain….

One thing I noticed fairly soon after arriving was how nice everyone was. I told all the other girls I met good luck and then it was time for me to get changed. And get a certain bike to fit me! Seat and bar adjustments needed to be made…all minutes before a race but hey ho…ha!

I’d heard about the TT after Joanna Rowsell had posted it on Twitter encouraging more girls to enter. The part that shocked me the most was that she was the one to ensure there was equal prize money for both men and women, even if she had to put some money in herself. With the large start list with plenty of girls in the mix, there wasn’t actually a problem funding the equal prize money.

Since meeting Ryan, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying a TT. Road cycling had become a much bigger part of my life whilst I tried to find job and build a career. It was easy to get out on the road bike straight out of my back door, where as mountain biking would rarely end up materialising. I just wanted to go out and pedal, and road cycling offered that even if it was on my brother’s bike which was two sizes too big!

When a message popped up on my phone off Ryan asking if I’d checked the start list, I was getting worried! I was expecting a jam packed field of pro’s I’d be at the back of, however the surprise was much more pleasant than that. Ryan’s start time was a minute behind my start time meaning we could start together pretty much. It also meant he could brief me on what on earth was going on!

Clipped in and held upright until it was time for me to go, I was given a bit of a push to get going and off I went to experience my first ever Time Trial.

The first part was a bit of a mess for me if I’m honest, I’d find myself in the completely wrong gear going up 10% gradients or not knowing how my bike would hold its line on the descents. The roads were like rivers and roads I didn’t know either with the TT being up in Clitheroe near Preston. However, passing a speed checkers that brought up 20mph I started to feel a little bit more confident on the bike. I was expecting to be going much slower!

When they called it a hilly time trial they weren’t kidding! From the TT’s I’d been to watch Ryan compete in they were dual-carriageways or flat roads. This TT was the opposite, especially with it finishing with a 10% uphill gradient toward the finish! Wind and rain battering me through every pedal stroke I somehow found myself caught unawares at the finish. So TT tip No. two? Find a few landmarks you can use to gauge how far you’ve got to go! Or a fancy Garmin to sit on your bars, but I’ll stick to the less expensive landmarks option for now!

Ryan with his 4th place!!!

Rolling back to the race HQ after attempting to shout my number to the guy on the finish line, I was soaked! My Mavic gloves were dripping wet, yet I had the biggest smile on my face. My first Time Trial had given me such a buzz. To some the thought of hurting yourself for an hour sounds like hell, but for me it was pushing past limits I’d not stretched before. Putting my everything into every pedal stroke. Beating my target of a sub-hour time by 7 minutes. So many good things came from doing that race in the pouring rain. I was so close to not doing it because of the weather, but sometimes switching off your brain to do something outside of your comfort zone can be the most uplifting thing you’ll ever do.

Let’s not forget we got to meet one of Britain’s most successful female cyclists, Joanna Rowsell, who’s recently announced her retirement and is going on to study at University. I still can’t get over how down-to-earth and genuine she was. She didn’t just put her name against the event, she stood outside in the pouring rain to marshal and helped organise tand alongside her husband, Daniel Shand.

A big thank you to them both and of course the West Pennine’s Cycling Club. Everyone involved in the event can’t be thanked enough! I’ll look forward to seeing everyone somewhere on the TT circuit in the future!

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