For a couple of minutes and a few moments I thought I’d broken another course record and become a National champion for the third successive race. The lady in charge of the race licenses seemed to think so. Dancer!
I had “that feeling” again, the stars felt aligned again – the usual guff. After my Haute Route episode I felt pretty good. I got a message from one of the trilogy of people (I look up to and hold in highest esteem in my world of time trialling) to give it “laldie“. Another was standing on a roundabout just outside Kilmarnock in a hi-viz jacket. Yes the legend and my all time cycling hero Graeme Obree was marshalling the Scottish National 25m TT yesterday! The remainder of my drive to recce another typically crazy Scottish TT course left me shellshocked and visibly riddled with goosebumps. The 44 year old had been reduced to a 4 year old and it felt like what Christmas Day use to feel like before I discovered beer.
The second time I saw Graeme Obree on that roundabout was probably the first time I’d found my rhythm. But was it too late with only 7km remaining? Up to that point I’d started, stuttered and even stopped (dead) at one of the eleven roundabouts this course throws at you. I wasn’t the only who would be forced to stop I told myself and I’m wise enough to know to keep going and don’t give in. Not when your cycling hero is standing five miles up the road. He wouldn’t let these little things get to him. He’s defeated adversity every time it’s called his name. Crack on and stop being such a mard!
And so I did and the power went up as the head went down and I buried myself for the final fling, finally giving it laldie spurred on by Obree‘s encouragement as I whizzed around the umpteenth roundabout just about hanging onto my bike in the process.
My sporting rival on the bike and buddy off it, Chris Smart, confirmed after the race that he was off my pace but I could tell from his tone that the new kid on the TT block, John Archibald, who had started the race two minutes behind Chris and seemingly has been posting near sub 50 minutes for 25 miles on Scottish courses for fun in recent weeks looked on course for another consistently uber-short 50 minute ride.
And so it proved, 50:03. I was 25 seconds back in second place with Chris third. Lots of positives to take away, a PB (by nearly three minutes) and my I’ve been on the podium at every National TT this year. That’s one bronze, two silvers, two golds (and therefore two national titles).
I always race in hope and not expectation. Folk were saying I’d had a good race, but I was up against the new kid that is Katie Archibald‘s brother, the latest wunderkind who certainly doesn’t seem to lack confidence (and rightly so). I totally agree – to an extent. Simply beaten by a faster rider in one race on one day in a given month and year. That’s all. I may never win a race again, but it won’t deter me from racing as I just LOVE the competition, particularly with a new kid in town.
There was also an uncharacteristic whiff of resignation from Chris (who has also beaten me twice this year) regarding our new National champion. I maybe barking up the wrong tree, but I put it down to a long season. Some of us are understandably tired. Last year I did too many TTs and could wait to hang up last year’s “Old Gregg” TT bike, whereas this year, I’ve been more selective about my races and with this bright young man entering the fray I have never been so determined to make the extra sacrifices I will have to forego (mainly in the form of crisps and red wine) just to keep up with the likes of Chris and our new national champion.
On the podium we had someone in his 20s, another in his 30s and me in my 40s (hilariously diminishing in height with age). Three guys who all posted sub 20 minute times in Scottish 10 mile TTs this year, all within the space of 10 days – and only 12 have ever managed it in the history of Scottish time trialling on Scottish 10 mile courses! Scottish TT is is rude health and I hope more will take up this awesome sport and the rest get faster. It’s what competition is all about.
It also proves that age is just a number. Consistency is the key. That was primary objective this year and I got way more than I bargained for (I’m already a year ahead of my own schedule), so I’m delighted with my efforts not disconsolate about not winning yesterday. Yes it ended a 9 race winning streak but after basically breaking, fracturing, rupturing, chipping or dislocating body parts on my (curiously) right side over the years, it’s a privilege just to ride a bike – and as proved this year, riding faster and faster as I get older.
But once again all the proverbial backslapping and achievements pale into complete insignificance when I discovered that on the day of the Scottish National 25m TT the third person in my TT trilogy passed away after a short illness.
The evergreen Derek Stewart. The 80 year old who at 78 years young set a national VTTA record and posted 22:35 for 10 miles – no I’m not kidding! He was the very person who made me realise that there is nothing to fear in getting old. He’s the very reason I joined the SVTTA. The very Mr Consistent. He was always the man to beat in the DTCC evening league Veterans category (Leili Clarke trophy), and as I found out last year, no matter how good you think you may be or how many watts you generate, you were always fighting for second place.
Derek (Dick) Stewart. A true TT ambassador. Time to reflect and allow thoughts to take over. No more words…