2021 started as 2020 ended: Covid, lockdown and wondering when we’ll be able to race again. Well guess what, races are back! Being the most naturally social-distanced events you can have, April saw the return of time trials—a pre-set bike course of just you against the clock. I decided to enter 3 to get back into the swing of racing and to see whether a winter of turbo sessions could help me improve on my previous two attempts in 2020.

With lockdown being slowly eased, the first race of the north east calendar was Barnesbury’s 21M Hilly TT starting just outside Belsay village. I’ve never rode round Scots Gap before but I have cycled round a lot of Northumberland and through the North Pennines before, my carbon rims have been fixed, I event have a fancy new helmet! So I figured how hard can it be?

Well, dear reader, pretty hard! You start with a nice twisty road with some ups and downs, dodging potholes. The road past Bolam Lake Country Park has been relaid which is nice for getting the power down. For people who were out the week before, you’ll remember the insane winds! Thankfully it had died down for the race, making my tractor overtake at 40mph downhill on that pothole road leading into Scots Gap a little less terrifying! I managed to not get disqualified turning north into the real hill stage of the race (I’d been specifically told that three DQs had happened already). And by God it’s hilly! Checking my Garmin as I climbed, I was grinding as low as 6mph at 60rpm. Good thing I usually ride a 52/36 😂

More hills and a lovely descent back past Bolam Lake and I crossed the finish line at 57:49. Not too shabby for my first attempt.

The second race was the North Tyneside Riders 10M TT on the A192. To avoid being late, I set off a bit earlier than I needed to get to my 9:02 start time. That meant setting off riding before 8am at about 3ºC 🥶. Yes, I set off in my race kit. Signing in is hard when you can’t move your fingers! This course is a lot less technical: you start with a 40+mph north on Fisher lane, race to the Three Horseshoes Roundabout, then round and back for 2 laps. The trickiest part is the blind roundabout approach in the middle of the A192 (where Mr 9:03 used me to gauge whether it was clear so he could take it more quickly). It’s an ideal course to just push power and test your FTP. I crossed the line in a time of 23:30 and, honestly, felt I had a little more to give. My average power here was (obviously) a lot smoother than Barnesbury at 270W.

The final race of April was the Team Kirkley Cycles 10M TT just outside Ponteland. This one is a rolling route that heads through Ogle, stopping just short of Belsay to turn back towards Ponteland. It’s a route most cyclists round Northumberland will be familiar with and it’s a cracking route. Sign-on is at Kirkley Cycle Cafe (post-ride scone is in order).

Since I knew the route, there’s not a lot to say. Left turn at the college towards Ogle, left at Ogle then follow the sign to Belsay onto the single-track road. The condition was better than the Hilly 21, to say the least! With the hillier course, I finished in a time of 25:04, despite pushing 280W the whole way. A good chance to reset my FTP 10W higher, I’ll take it!

On the way back to the cafe, I bumped into a Dave B and David S from the club. We grabbed a coffee and rode back home together in the gorgeous sunshine. All in all, a cracking day out!

Barnesbury Hill 21M57:4974 / 100
North Tyneside Riders 10M23:3072 / 112
Team Kirkley Cycles 10M25:0469 / 114

I’ll probably ride a few Club 10s at Cramlington if and when time allows. If you haven’t tried a TT, you really should! They’re excellent fun and the community around them is great!

Next up is the Eton Sprints Triathlon at Dorney Lake. Tri season is back on!

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