Today’s post is going to be something out of the ordinary. It’s a full race report, but for two wheels rather than two feet!
Today we’ve been at Blenheim Palace for the internationally celebrated Brompton World Championship. Those of you who know me well will know I’ve been a Brompton owner for a few months now and am very fond of my quirky little blue bike. When I heard about the BWC I decided it would be an essential event to attend and would make for a fun blog post too.
Let me remind you of the rules…
Ride a Brompton
Wear a cycle helmet
Wear a suit jacket, collar and tie
Refrain from the ‘intolerable’ Lycra sportswear
I went with a Dinner Jacket (purchased from a charity shop for the princely sum of £8 just yesterday), a white shirt, black bow tie and some black shorts. Oh, and a random Bowler hat which I was given a week or so ago by a very good friend of mine and promised to wear. It’s random, I know, but look at everyone else! (And it got a few laughs out on the track!)
The course comprises two laps of a rather hilly 6.5k route. (That’s a little over 8 miles for those of you whom, like me, prefer your distances in real money.) You line your folded Brompton up on the grid and competitors are released in groups of 100 at a time. I was number 48, in the first group to go off. As the start horn sounds, the tape drops to the ground and 100 besuited individuals sprint to their steeds, a la ‘Le Mans’ start rules!
There’s no great advantage to getting on the road first as the chip timing mat is at the start gantry, though the excitement of the event means everyone goes as fast as they can anyway!
As we hit the road hundreds of cleated shoes click into place, including my own. Coat tails flapping in the wind, suddenly the realisation that my terrible £8 charity shop DJ is as far removed as it could be from the well ventilated and comfortable cycling attire I’m used to, dawns on me. My totally out of place (but donated by a good friend for the event) bowler serves two purposes. Firstly it drastically reduces the ventilation in my helmet. Not good! Second, it works as a terribly effective drag factor (clearly the bowler was not designed to be aerodynamic cycling equipment), thus my chances of storming to the finish were clearly scuppered by this mistake alone 😉 My three days of ‘training’ in advance of the event were somewhat futile. This event is actually serious(!), despite initial appearances! Into the first bend it’s clear that people this close to the front aren’t messing about. We speed off down the hill and I remember to finally start the Garmin (oops). As we fly off downhill, I remember what one of the guys told me at the start, carry as much speed from the downhill sections as you can, the steep ups always follow. Sure enough, a relatively steep climb follows, complete with a tactically placed photographer to catch the grimaces from those of us powering up the hill. Down, up, down, up, up some more and then a fast downhill where I break the 30mph barrier. Scary when your wheels are the size of dinner plates! I soon realise that the appropriate action on the downhill sections is to adopt the road cyclist’s favourite downhill posture, the racing tuck, with your chin as close to the handlebars as possible. The oversize DJ doesn’t help me here, I can feel it working like a bloomin’ sail and slowing me down!
Other notable tactics spotted on the way round are some very ‘Le Tour’-esque slip-streaming going on and I spy some serious modifications to one or two bikes, from tri bars and shifters to heavily modified gear ranges and incredibly slick tyres. Given all the posh equipment around here, I’m feeling very proud of my effort and performance thus far with a standard S2L and it’s whole TWO gears!
Climbing the big hill a guy passes by me and shouts “here comes the peloton”. Moments later a group of four or five guys literally whizz past in formation. I feel like I’m standing still at this point!
As I come round for the second lap, the field thins out and slows down noticeably and I begin to make back a few places, especially on the hills where a minority can be found walking, begging for more gears! Hill climbs I can do at a pace and this served me very well today.
Approaching the finish, the road has a line of cones down the centre. Those in for their second lap bear left whilst those of us sprinting to the finish take the right funnel. As I head down towards the cones, a guy tries to overtake on my left, I push on to give him a run for his money and as we fly along neck and neck, point out how narrow it’s getting. Thankfully he backs down just enough to let us both get through to the finish without incident.
I arrived, tired and sweaty and promptly hopped off the bike to collect my well-deserved medal.
Participants deserving of a mention include; the guy dressed as Jim Carrey’s Mask character (complete with green face and yellow suit and hat), Mr Union Jack (the appropriate patterned red, white and blue from head to toe), the gent dressed as a fairy who sprinkled fairy dust on everyone all the way round the course(!), the gent and his son on the tandem Brompton and the young bloke in a Big Ben costume (yet still successfully sporting the obligatory collar and tie)!
Have a look at the photos. They include the Trials guys and their modified Brompton Trials rig.
Out of a field of 800 riders, I came 112 in a time of 27:01. Not bad for a first timer I reckon!
Oh, and I ran three more miles today too.
Today’s shoes: Blue/White Kayano 17s
Miles today: 3.00
Miles to date: 1479.89
“There ain’t no shame looking at a good runner’s back. Now, if the runner sucks, that’s something else entirely…”
The Rage, Training Tips “Comeback”