Eastern Counties ‘25’ mile open time trial on Sunday 29 May on the E2 course – Bruce Williams reports
There was a great deal of anticipation within the cycling community for this event on Sunday morning as local boy and professional star, Alex Dowsett of the Movistar (UCI registered) team headed the line-up on what was his third appearance in amateur time trials on E courses this season.
Last man off at number 130, traditionally known as ‘the Scratch man’ and starting at 0810, Dowsett was rumoured to be intent on taking national competition record for the distance, currently held by Matt Bottrill with a time of 45.43 set on a Midlands course around Derby. Dowsett already holds competition record for the ‘10’ at 17.20 set on the E2 in 2014 and of course is also a former holder of the track World Hour Record.
Event secretary, officials and a fair number of spectators were not disappointed as Dowsett, four time British Cycling professional time trial champion, duly blasted his way round the Cambridgeshire based course to shatter the record with a formidable new record time of 44.29, an amazing average speed of 33.7mph.
I was marshalling at the top of the exit slip road at Fourwentways – from where the riders turn to retrace the route back to Newmarket using the fast A11/A14 dual carrigeway – and was joined at one point by Dowsett’s father, mum and a close friend, stop watches to the ready. I enquired of the older gent if he was indeed Dad Dowsett and he confirmed same pointing out that sadly he was no longer plain Phil Dowsett, just ‘Dad Dowsett’. I suggested to him that it could be worse – do any of the enquiries refer to Grandpa Dowsett? Dad also checked traffic coming from Alex’s right as he entered the roundabout to begin his turn, in the interests of safety as he explained to me.
‘Phil’ pointed out that Alex was back in the UK (staying with his parents who live local to this course) after a block of two weeks training in the Pyrenees and had decided on a local time trial and a tilt at the 25 record. All the officials had deduced that a pro rider, and time trial specialist like him, would not turn up for the fun of it. Phil also explained that Alex was disappointed not to be selected for team GB at the Olympics in the time trial – we have one place this year (compared with two in 2012 when Bradley Wiggins triumphed) which has gone to Chris Froome, and, at this moment, it does not appear that he will be in the road race team either. He is waiting to hear from his pro team that he is in their Tour de France team selection.
Later, I briefly spoke with Alex and his father at Newmarket Leisure Centre, the event hq; Alex said he had been right on the limit and could not have gone any faster, but was pleased with his performance. Keith Dorling was also more than happy, in his capacity as event secretary, to bask in the reflective glory of the star rider and new competition record, commenting that the morning had been cold (12 deg C) and windy so, on a better day, a 43 minute ride would be possible.
Great credit should also be given to the top amateurs, Colin Ward of Essex Roads and Justin Layne of CC Ashwell who did 47 and 48 minute rides for 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Julia Freeman of Easterley Road club recorded a very rapid 55 to win the women’s event from Sue Triplow (Essex Roads) and Anna Dearing, Colchester Rovers, taking the next two places with 59’s. Verity Smith of Stowmarket being unlucky just to fail to break the hour in 4th.
Flying the flag for the NNW was Karl Read who recorded a fine 55.33 for 37th place overall and, he told me, his best time for a 25 in 19 years. He will be back feeling sure that he can get a personal best on the right day. That is the spirit of time trialling.
Mike Padfield directed me to a cycling blog where people commented very differently about the pros and cons of star pro riders mixing it in amateur events, winning championships and setting CTT competition records that an amateur rider will not be able to compete with – most people agree that only a pro rider who also specialises in time trials will be able to take a record like this one. It is of course true that amateurs and pros are not competing on a level playing field in these events but I believe that most of the top amateurs enjoy the occasional contest with the pros and the competition and excellence that this generates.
There could perhaps be an argument that competition records should exist separately for both amateur and pro riders? Back in the 1970’s, cycling was strictly segregated between amateurs and pros and no pro riders wre allowed to enter amateur time trials. A retiring pro had to wait two years before he or she could re-enter amateur tt’s and punitive measure were taken by the governing body against amateur riders alleged to have infringed amateur status.
There are always different opinions and individual subjectivities in these things but, on balance, and allowing for the level playing field issue, I prefer the spirit of open competition that exists today compared with the rigid rules that were enforced back then.