Eastern Counties Cycling Association ‘50’ mile time trial on E2/50c (Newmarket) Saturday 14 May – Bruce Williams reports
The first 50 mile time trial of the season in East Anglia took place on Saturday afternoon on the ultra rapid E2/50c course, with warm but windy conditions prevailing. North Norfolk Wheelers affiliated to the ECCA for the first time at the beginning of this year as a result of which I duly reported for marshalling duty meeting the event secretary and other helpers at the village hall hq a couple of miles from Six Mile Bottom, just south of Newmarket.
This is a drag strip course that does not seem like a lot of fun – riding on the dual carriageway A11 / A14 alongside fast moving traffic – but is popular with riders because of the fast times frequently recorded here, and Saturday was to prove no exception. The start was south of Newmarket on a slip road with competitors heading south to turn at Fourwentways (FWW) – a slip road leading to a large roundabout and a 100 yard long bridge crossing the main road – then heading north to turn again at the B1085 junction at Red Lodge.
At this point, competitors head south on the old A11 for a bit under two miles, to retrace north and then to re-join the dual carriageway heading back to FWW for the second turn, finally finishing back at Six Mile Bottom. In practice, this is not as complex as it might seem and enthusiastic high viz jacket wearing marshals were evident in abundance, but there can be no doubt that the course would be even faster if it were confined entirely to the A11/A14 dual carriageway, the 3.5 mile leg on the old A11 being slow by comparison.
I was marshalling at Red Lodge, a good spot as riders head south and back on the old A11 leg taking anything from 8 to 10 minutes to pass me for the second time. Perhaps because this is a Saturday afternoon event, the field is limited to 90 riders with plenty of numbers reserved for women. Many open events on this course take place on Saturday afternoons, whilst the ECCA ‘100’ in July – one ECCA event (along with the 12 hour) that is not restricted to riders of ECCA affiliated clubs and therefore draws top riders from around the country seeking fast times for their BAR attempts – has the more traditional early Sunday morning start and will attract a field of 120 competitors.
This Newmarket course is something of a melting pot where competitors from Essex and North East London converge and compete with riders from East Anglia, all seeking quick times. Earlier this season, professional Alex Dowsett recorded 17.46 on the E2/10 despite cold and windy conditions; he also set the ‘10’ competition record at 17.20 on this course in 2014. Only two amateur stars have recorded sub 18 minute ‘10’s’ on similar courses in recent years when good mid season conditions prevailed. I asked a few local experts what it is that makes the E2 course so fast and the general response was the top class, smooth road surface and the drag effect from the considerable traffic flow. Drag strip courses existed back in the 1970’s (I rode them once or twice myself) so I guess there is no point complaining.
My impression was that the windy conditions would preclude really quick times, but I was wrong as 6 men recorded times under one hour 44 minutes (1.44) the winner being Liam Maybank of the Twickenham CC (he came second last year) who did a 1.39. Even on this course, it is a rare thing, and takes a very strong rider, to get under 1.40. David Langlands of Fenland Clarion came 2nd with a 1.41 ride beating David McGaw, Cambridge CC, the winner last year, by 4 seconds. I spoke briefly with David at the finish and, philosophical chap that he is, he seemed pleased with his performance and time, rather than disappointed not to have repeated his win of the previous year.
Jason Turner of Norwich ABC recorded a personal best 1.46 (no doubt a club record as well) whilst James Trenchard of Godric also recorded a pb and club record with a 1.47. These two guys are both rivals of Charlie Nurse in EDCA events, but I cannot help but feel that Charlie would have been on a 1.45 ride had he entered this event. Of course, he went on anyway to do a very fine ride for 3rd place in the Wisbech Wheelers 25 the following morning.
I asked James about the wind and how it was that times were so quick. He explained that the wind was favourable for the southerly leg to FWW, whilst the road on the northerly leg affords a fair amount of wind protection which was anyway more across than against. Basically, he explained that the wind was, on this particular day, in the right direction.
He must be right because, in a strong field, no less than 4 women recorded sub two hour rides. Sue Triplow of Essex Roads did a 1.59 for 3rd place with Mary Bower of Chelmer CC getting the win (and 40th overall) with a short 1.58, thirty seconds clear of Suzanne Robinson, of club VC10 in second place. These two women are slight in stature and build (Trenchard again reminding me that that is good for low aerodynamic drag) but evidently generate a lot more cycling power than you might imagine. Perhaps I should get back into training ?
Unlike some of our NNW club time trial courses, this is not a course that you would choose for a scenic club run, but time trial riders are a funny breed and motivated by the spur of competition and the prospect of fast times. The course and the day delivered – there will be more full fields and over subscribed events for sure.