MacRide at Silverstone 2010

[I've retro-posted this because I've been ill and distracted since coming back from a week ‘down south']

Time for more family visits over the coming week…

I set off from Hebden Bridge this morning with a large rucksack on my back and I walked to HB station for an uneventful train journey to Manchester. There was an hour to kill before I needed to catch my train to Milton Keynes so I walked across Manchester city centre to Piccadilly station rather than catching the Metro tram. It's not that far but the bag was pretty heavy so it felt like fairly hard work.

My sister picked me up in Milton Keynes and drove me to her home in Towcester where I wolfed down a couple of cheese salad sandwiches before fettling my singlespeed bike which had been brought down for me to use on this evening's MacRide at Silverstone. It is an annual event which raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK.

I timed the visit to allow me to tackle this year's ride and I'd been looking forward to trying to do 40 miles round the motor racing circuit in the 2 hours available. I've never done a time trial and this would be a good opportunity to see how I might feel tackling one.

The sun was shining but I'd noticed a stiff breeze picking up through the afternoon and I realised that it was going to a big factor on the exposed race track. But first, I rode from Towcester to Silverstone as a warm-up.

Yes, it was windy! My 40 mile target was definitely going to be hard work…

I got to the circuit and rode straight past the entrance I needed. I reckon that the event signposting could have been better – it was not obvious which gate to enter by. (I suppose I should have actually read the event information that was sent to me!). Eventually, I doubled back and made my way to event HQ. That was 6.5 miles under my belt already.

There was a good turnout for the event. From families with small children, to groups of hardened time triallists, and people like me in between. I think about 600 people took part.

I set off at a brisk pace, aiming to average 20 mph for lap 1 and see how that felt. The answer was soon clear – quite tough! My 39/15 gear only really perfectly suited to a few points on the circuit. I hadn't counted on there being significant undulations on the track but in fact there were a couple of 30-35 feet climbs and dips per lap. It doesn't sound a lot but climbing 35 feet into a strong headwind had me feeling overgeared, and later in the lap I'd be descending with a tailwind and spinning out. It was hard to maintain a comfortable cadence. I'd already calculated that 20 mph would need a cadence of 100 rpm which I'd be okay with. The trouble was, I was doing nearly 150 rpm in places and shortly afterwards I'd be down to less than 50 rpm. It was hard to maintain a good rhythm.

I clocked the lap as being about 3.6 miles and managed to do the first one at 20.2 mph but it was hard work and I knew that my speed would drop as the 2 hours progressed. I thought about slowing down and saving some strength for later but decided to just keep going as fast as I could and let my speed drop naturally as I tired.

My lap tally started to build, as did the fatigue. I haven't been doing much riding this year and my legs could feel the lack of miles in them. This was hard work!

Most of my attention was focussed on my own ride, but I did take some notice of what was going on around me. Faster riders were supposed to keep to the right hand side of the track, and slower riders to the left. Most people obeyed that suggestion but some of the time triallists were taking things a bit too seriously, considering the huge number of children and inexperienced adults doing the ride. They'd shoot past me and then cut across on the ‘racing line', sometimes getting a bit too close to slower riders. The opposite happened too – young kids, freed from the dangers of motor traffic, seemed to be unaware of the dangers of high-speed cyclists! I had a few children suddenly meander in front of me but it was a family event – I was expecting that kind of thing and was prepared for it.

One boy was standing on a skateboard and was being towed round by his mum – a big effort from her and zero effort from him. Funny to watch, though… 🙂

One little girl was being accompanied by a jogging dad. I don't suppose that she did much more than 1 lap.

There were one or two tandems going round. Lots of mountain bikes. As I mentioned before, there were some serious time triallists with some serious TT bikes, aero helmets and so on. One guy overtook me at least twice, maybe 3 times. The TT riders certainly were shifting, especially given the windy conditions. Pretty impressive.

Oh, I measured the wind speed to be 18 mph and it was consistent for the entire ride. I know the speed because every time I accelerated out of the bend after the start/finish straight, I had a tailwind and could hear the wind noise drop away at 17 mph, vanish at 18 mph, and start to pick up again as I went faster and started to outpace the wind.

I was averaging 18 mph, equivalent to 12 minutes a lap. I finished lap 9 at 19:50 and we were under strict instructions to be off the circuit by 20:00 so I didn't attempt a tenth lap. It was getting cold as the sun was setting, and pretty murky too. To be honest, my legs thanked me for finishing a few minutes early.

If I'd had the extra 2 minutes I would have done 36 miles rather than the 32.4 I actually managed. Still, I wasn't unhappy with the distance. When I'm fitter, perhaps I'll have a go at a proper TT up in Yorkshire? There is a hilly TT up the Cragg Vale climb every October and I'd like to try and do it in 20 minutes. My fastest time ever on that climb was about 23 minutes but I wasn't in peak shape, nor pushing myself to my limits so I reckon 20 minutes is potentially doable by me in still conditions. (To put that time in perspective, the course record is 16 mins 9 secs.)

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