Two of the greatest ever rides in British Time Trialling (IMO) must be Andy Wilkinson’s incredible 12 and 24 hour records. To go 1 mph faster than anybody else has ever gone over the distance is a phenomenal achievement in my book. It’s hard (looking back ... for me) to believe I did something similar 30 years or so ago.
It was back in 1983 and was on the last of five consecutive weekends where I either broke a National Record or won a National Championship.
The event was the Goodmayes Whls ‘100’ held on Sunday 24 July on the super-fast E38 course in Essex. I’d beaten Glenn Longland into second place by over 8 minutes in the National 100 on the H100/8 the previous weekend, although my own ride was ‘ruined’ to a certain degree due to a lapse of concentration when (Dave) Lloyd packed just as I was about to catch him for 10 minutes. Although Phil Griffiths (who was helping me in the event) did his best to rally the troops by telling me to ‘get over it’ and concentrate on the ride I missed competition record by a mere 24 seconds, so I was sure that given the day, on a course as (potentially) fast as the E38, something REALLY fast was possible.
Although the Goodmayes event had been won with pretty fast times in the past I was still surprised
when the start sheet arrived not to see more of the BBAR big-hitters entered (although it was still a
full field of 130 … yes, that’s 130!). Whether that was because it was only a week after the National
I’m not sure … but I had faith in the course and I was going to do my damnedest to make sure I got
something out of the event on the day.
I started No 100. Chris Holloway, Gary Woodward, Ticker Mullins, Geoff Greenwood, Mick Storey, Jeff
Marshall, Sue Fenwick, Vic Gibbons, John Golder, Mick Burrow were also down to ride (interesting …
and good … to see how many are still racing now).
As mentioned elsewhere on the site, I was fortunate to be able to count of a number of good friends to
help me out in events at the time. On this occasion Mick Storey (Scarborough Paragon) and his
girlfriend Janice came down from Scarborough and stayed at mine for the weekend before I shared a lift
down to the event with them on the morning. I remember sitting in the back of his green Austin Allegro
surrounded by God knows how many bikes and wheels getting psyched up as we talked about the
conditions and what might be. We had a ‘saying’ at the time about ‘this is the morning people are going
to talk about for years to come’ … and we both hoped this would be one of them.
We met Renny Stirling, who had agreed to help and feed me during the event, at the start near Little
I’d first met Renny when I’d joined the Edgware RC and went on my first EVER holiday abroad … a
training ‘camp’ in Majorca with him, Pete Wells, Nipper Adams, Alan Rochford, Barry Chick, Pete
Mitsides, FRANK DICKENS (of ‘Bristow’ cartoon fame … very funny man) and Jim Mepham. Alan
(Rochford ... an even funnier man) missed the original flight but turned up at the Hotel later that night
on his bike with his suitcase perched precariously on his handlebars. He totally convinced us all that
he’d ridden all the way from the airport … in the dark … with his suitcase on his handlebars … because
there weren’t any taxis available at the time. To this day no-one has been able to come up with any
evidence to suggest that he wasn’t telling the truth.
Renny was a very good rider. He’d been a trike competition record holder and was someone I’d always
looked up to. He was always VERY keen and enthusiastic and it was always good to ‘mix’ with him
just in case anything good rubbed off on me.
The E38 course dropped down from Lt Warley to the A127 where it turned left to go over one of the fastest 25
courses in the country (at the time … course key number escapes me) to the first turn at Rayleigh Weir. It then
retraced to pass under the (new then) M25 to turn left, then right, up a minor B road (where I’d always arrange to
have my ‘feed’ of a bite-sized Mars bar and swig of Coke) to pass back over the M25 to a T junction west of
Brentwood, a few hundred metres east of junction 28. It then joined the A12 for the remainder of the distance …
right out to Colchester and back. Looking back, the equivalent today would be the A100/4 but in there wouldn’t
have been the same amount of traffic 30 years ago.
For the event, I chose to ride my favourite lo-pro ROURKIE. In those days, fitting a water bottle was considered
to be the first sign of weakness (even in a ‘100’) so I was going to have to heavily rely on Renny to keep me fed
The hardest part of the ride (as I remember it) was getting settled ‘in the groove’ … at a pace I could comfortably
maintain before trying to lift the pace over the last 25 miles or so.
The Rayleigh turn came quickly enough and I was, by then, settling down. By 25 miles (53-16) I was happy and
bowling along at a pace that wasn’t causing me any great distress. It was now just a matter of concentrating on
keeping it smooth and not letting the pace drop off at all.
Although I had a 56 x 12 top gear, I was using the 13 most of the time.
50 miles went by in 1-46-14.
From the last turn at Colchester (at the far end of The Avenue of Remembrance), Renny started giving me an
idea as to how fast I was going (remember … in those days we didn’t have computers ... of any sort). Initially,
when he’d hand me up a bottle, he’d be saying ‘You’re on a 39’. When he handed up the next bottle a few
miles further down the A12, he’d be saying ‘You’re on a 38’. I can’t remember how many times I slowed down
for a bottle, but each time I did, the news just got better and better.
‘You’re on a 37’.
‘Christ … where’s the next lay-by? I want to be on a 36!’
And so it went on.
I must have lost heaps of time slowing down for a bottle, but by the time I was on the Brentwood bypass with just a few miles to go it didn’t matter any more. I was on a 31 … if I sprinted!
The clock stopped at 3-31-53. An almost 8 minute beating of the old competition record, a race win by 22 minutes and £16 (£6 for the win … an extra £10 for competition record) better off.
Mick also got under with a time of 3-57-37.
Made up or what?
Even if no-one else was going to, both Mick and I made sure we were going to talk about that day for a long time! I’m still doing it now …
If you're still with me and haven't nodded off, go HERE for Cycling's report of the race.
Nearing the finish.
Photo by Bernard Thompson.
Sprinting for the '31'.
Photo by Roger Chappell.