It was nearing the time when we should start our race, and there we were trying to figure out what to wear. No, this wasn't just a girlie obsession with clothing; it was a coldish and windy March day, and we wanted to be warm, but not to overheat. We had to wear the new blue CUCC (Cambridge University Cycling Club) shirt on top, but the rest was up to us. In the end we all wore long black tights, but we wore different amounts on our torsos. Christine the triathlete just wore armwarmers. Kate the star MTB racer wore a lightweight long-sleeve shirt under her CUCC top. I'm mostly a tourist, and I tend to get cold, so I wore a fleece jersey with a hood, which I wore under my helmet. At least we looked matching, with black legs and arms and the blue tops.
There were two team time trial events that day, the open even in which any team could enter, and the BUSA (British Universities Sprts Association) event. Since I'm not a student, our team was in the open event. The Oxford ladies' team was in a similar situation. That left only Loughborough riding in the women's BUSA event.
|Kate, Chris, and me before our ride|
For a team time trial you are supposed to have four riders, and you must finish with three of them (so one mechanical doesn't kill your chances in the race). We only started with three people, not having been able to find a fourth woman roadie in Cambridge to ride with us, so we hoped our bikes would see us to the end of the race.
The organizers of the race had provided all the teams with food bags, consisting of scones, soft drinks, and all sorts of packaged cakes. We had this high-calorie food for our lunch as we cheered on the mens teams and waited for our start time.
Finally we warmed up, going up and down a road that wasn't on the course, and we arrived at the start location in plenty of time. The other teams ahead of us went off, and then it was our turn. We were pushed off and got going fine. We formed a line and started rotating on a regular basis, the leader doing about 30 pedal strokes before peeling off to the right to let the next in line take over.
The rough outline of the route we took is at the left. The course was about 40k (25 miles) long. There were a few little turns not shown, but since they kept us going in more or less the same direction, they weren't important.
The first turn came very soon after the start. It was right at a roundabout. Chris was in front of me and moved to the right. I interpreted this as her getting into the correct road position for making a right turn at a roundabout, so I pulled over behind her. This was a fine example of me really not thinking, as if I'd been paying attention I would have known that this was her pulling off. She dropped her speed, intending to fall behind me and Kate, and then pull in behind Kate. But I was behind her, and our wheels touched. Well, that woke me up, and I realized what I'd done. I apologized, and we reassembled and went around the roundabout in the outside lane, perhaps not the best way to do it, but we got through safely.
Then we were riding with the wind behind us. We pedalled on. Chris, the only one of us who had aero bars, would often get down on them and pull away from us, fast enough that we couldn't keep up with her. We'd shout, and she'd come back to us. The only event of note in this section was a big tractor pulling out in front of us, slowing us down drastically. Kate contemplated overtaking it, but soon it picked up momentum and went faster than we would have, so we settled into our routine again, well behind it.
We turned left and went into the wind. In addition the road was very rough in parts. This section really sapped my strength, but I managed to keep going. We made another left turn and were headed back to the start.
I was beginning to really hurt, and I'd drop back slightly on the hills. I just hoped that I'd be able to keep it up until the end. I really tried, giving it all I had. But finally I found that it was taking all my effort to keep up with Kate and Chris when they were leading, and there was no way I could manage to keep up their pace at the front of the group. I told them that I'd stay in the back, letting them alternate being at the front, and I'd recouperate for a bit. This was at about 3/4 of the way through the race. I now kept up with them well. I'd begin to think that I'd recovered enough to take turns at the front, but then they'd go up a little hill, and it would take all I had to not drop back, and I was wasted gain.
We heard this whirring noise, and some purple-clad people rushed by us, silent but for the strange sounds of their aero wheels. Soon after that another team went by, looking much less organized. And then one of the Cambridge men's teams passed us, and we cheered each other on.
And then the finish was near, we saw from signs on the road. Kate and Chris picked up the pace, and I put all my effort into keeping up with them. Finally we passed the finish. We slowed down. I just wanted to stop and rest, but Kate and Chris rolled around a bit in a proper cooldown. I followed them. Eventaully we were back at the parking lot, and I lay down for awhile, until cold drove me to get my jacket on.
We were the last women's team in, and so we saw how we'd done very quickly. Our time was 1:20:35, while Oxford was 1:28:09! We'd beat them! But the Loughborough women beat us by a similar amount. They were in the BUSA event, but we couldn't help comparing us to them, and being impressed by their abilities.More ride stories