Traditionally the Shaftsbury E2/50 is taking place on the hottest Saturday of the year, and this year is probably no exception. The usual 27 degrees might not have been reached, but we were not much below that. Still, this year there we had more or less no wind according to the forecast – it didn’t always feel like this out on the road, but even a wimp like me could handle an Enve 8.9 front wheel – so it must have been very calm.
Ever since starting to TT three years ago I wanted to go sub 2 h for 50 miles, ideally sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list. So far the heat on the E2/50 and me often being unable to ride the few other fast 50 courses for a variety of reasons has left me stuck with a 2 h 2 minutes PB for a long time, and seeing today’s heat made me wonder if I could gather the willpower to break that time. Plus seeing that until last weekend my legs were just not doing as told, I was not quite sure what to expect. Yes, I felt a lot better during the week, and hoped to have finally recovered from the 12 h Championship – but you never know until you are out on the road, do you? At least I know the course ‘inside out’, seeing that the E2 was the first dual carriageway course I ever rode, and I just love the E2 courses. I feel you can get into a proper rhythm there, not being interrupted by roundabouts and turns like you are on Etwall, but you just stay on the inside lane and pedal on.
Chris Melia had the great idea to meet up on Friday night and stay close to the course – her drive from Sheffield was a bit longer than mine, so that made sense and was a perfect excuse to have some fun. We drove the course and I tried to pass on my ‘expert knowledge’ where to expect things to be hard just due to the tarmac of a false flat which actually is an incline etc – and I was glad to hear that I did not overload her with information, but that it actually helped her not to be discouraged when it felt especially hard exactly at the predicted spots. Combining fun times and TTs is just the perfect way – thanks a lot, Chris!!!
The supersized cooked breakfast I had must have been digested by the time we raced, even though Chris’ option for porridge made for a faster ride (but to be honest, I don’t think it was down to the breakfast – Chris is just amazingly fast and way faster than I am. My conclusion is that it must be the age – speed comes with age right? At least I am getting faster every year, so that MUST be true 🙂 ). For the first time ever I did not get into any stomach problems when riding in the heat – those OTE products do honestly agree with me very much, and helped to make this ride much more comfortable than any E2/50 I did before (and those are usually the hottest rides I do …).
The true muppet moment came when looking for my skinsuit at the HQ – and realising that I left the bag with my most aero skinsuit in Chris’ car at the B&B. Luckily I had already decided to not bother with trip socks and overshoes due to the temperature (also in that bag), and had a spare pair of gloves in the car. And thanks to the amazing generosity of Nopinz I do actually have a ‘spare’ BtB skinsuit – so disaster was prevented, but I think I am keeping the mug for being the team’s biggest muppet for a while longer …
So all was well and not eventful before the start, pouring water over ourselves made the heat bearable for a few minutes. For BtB, Clare was off as number 1, then Chris number 11 and me the lucky number 13. I spotted Clare when she was coming back from Four Wentways, with Hayley Simmonds and Clarice Chuang already being close. Chris was also well on her way past the roundabout before I got to the turn, but that was not expected any other way. The start felt good, but I did already see the power not being as high as hoped and aimed for. But seeing my recent performances I rather kept to the lower power and hoped to keep it going – which I didn’t, but at least I was mentally able to push right until the end. I realised once more how comfortable I feel on this course, knowing my way around. Closing in to my minute woman Jody when getting to the Red Lodge turn was satisfying, as our times have usually been very close, with either of us being faster at different events. I lost her again due to more traffic at the roundabouts, and because I once more struggled at the dog leg. Going slower there allowed me to refuel on two gels, which gave me much needed energy. Karen Ledger passed me for 2 minutes around 25 miles, which I felt wasn’t too bad seeing her recent performances. Chris was doing an amazing approximately 53 minutes at the 25 miles split, and I was only hoping to keep myself together at that point. 56 minutes for me at the 25 mile mark, but from experience I know that I always have a negative split and slower second half in this race. Still – the sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list was not out of reach, even if I slowed down a bit, and that was a big motivation. More motivation was gathered by the fact that I kept both Karen and Jody in sight after rejoining the A11 and the A14. It took me a long time to finally pass Jody – and once more I managed to pass someone on ‘a climb’ – OK, a drag. Maybe I am not that bad at going up the drags? And as a positive surprise going up the drag didn’t feel as hard as it did sometimes before (certainly going up it for the 3rd time in the E2/100 was painful), so another piece in the puzzle of keeping me motivated was found, despite seeing a continuous drop in power. I had a mental blank trying to remember the average speed to get on the list, but 25.9 mph still sounded like I am on target. Another slow stretch of road going from the A14 onto the A11 allowed for another gel – weight reduction, right? The road until the start of the final 10 miles stretched itself, as usual – but I was pleased to feel that the legs did take some encouragement to keep on pushing. I never had to tell them to shut up, as they never complained. They were just utter silent, and refused to put out more power, but worked on an OK level. Strange …
When I started the final 10 miles I saw Hayley coming towards the finish, and did actually take the time to consider whether she got the competition record, and was fairly certain she did before telling myself off for not focussing on my own ride … So on I went, round and round. Time and average speed looked good at the final turn, a final gel was gulped and the legs were finally told to shut up, even though they still didn’t really complain … They were told that they can fall off after the finish and shall finally work hard to earn that status … If they would not hurt properly after the ride I might just hit them until they hurt – I wanted that list, and wanted it badly. Maybe I should have started to work for it earlier? Easier said than done, but maybe I could have given the legs a serious telling off earlier? Then again, they did not let me down as they did in the last races, so one ought to be nice to ones legs, right? And they honestly did work hard for those final miles.
It all still looked good going past the penultimate sliproad, and the legs continued to help, and even though I don’t trust my Garmin time to be accurate, if it’s showing a 1 h 56 minutes finish, I should be on the list
A cool down spin was necessary before joining Chris at the car and finding her as happy as myself, or probably even happier. She finished in 1:52:24 – which not only was a PB by 5 minutes, 5 seconds, but also got her the National Age Group Record. Luckily my legs were OK at that point, as some Tiggerish bouncing by the two of us had to happen – we were both just over the moon with happiness J Clare suffered more from the heat than we did and finished in 2:06:25 – still clearly well done for finishing in the heat.
For the riders who coped with the heat it was clearly a fast day – Hayley Simmonds broke the competition record by over 4 minutes with a 1:42:20, and plenty of women managed to get onto the All Times Fastest list. And I was pleased to hear that Chris shares my love for this course – I see more joint mischief coming up.
So I think we can clearly call this race another success for BtB – racing in a team is just fabulous!!! And my amazement goes to the BtB’ers who started racing today earlier than I did, and will go on until tomorrow afternoon. You 24 h girls are the real stars!!!