Competition Record '50' day - Saturday 25 June 1983.
As soon as the 1983 handbook came out, I spent a couple of hours pencilling in the most obvious BBAR counting events and it soon became obvious that there was a 5 week period where it would be in anybody's interests to be on form if they had any serious ambitions about winning the BBAR.
What was to become, for me, a 'purple period' comprised the following events; the Otley 50 on Boro, the National 50, the National 100km ttt (although not a BBAR counting event in itself, it would provide excellent training for those events), the National 100 and the Goodmayes 100 on the E38. The first of these fell on the first weekend of the Harrogate Cycling Festival. Saturday 25 June to be precise.
When I received the start sheet I immediately knew this one was well worth getting psyched up for. This was the fastest '50' course in the country and the competition would obviously bring out the best in the riders. In addition to the usual BBAR contenders (the main one being Glen 'Nipper-Longlegs' Longland), the event included the likes of Dave Lloyd (who had notched up well over 100 wins since his latest comeback ... almost in as many rides too!) and Martin Pyne, who was one of the fastest short-distance time triallists of the time.
As far as my own form was concerned I don't think I'd ever been in greater shape. I'd covered 9,070 miles on the bike by the end of May and already had 14 wins before the Otley event came along ( I went on to win 28 open events in 1983), and that was without 'peaking' ... so I knew there was (a lot) more to come.
The last week leading up to the Otley included rides to and from work, intervals and two '25's. The first resulted in a second place to John Patston in the Bishops Stortford event on the E1. The second was a day later on the Wednesday. This was the St Neots '25' on the F1, where I took another second place - this time behind the great Noel Lilley RIP.
I drove up to Harrogate on the Friday and pitched tent with my mate Mick Storey. We then hit the town and (probably) managed a Chinese meal for six between us.
I'd been keeping tabs on the weather forecast over the last few days by regularly ringing the Met Office. I'd tell them I was hang-gliding at Wetherby at the weekend - which was by far the best way to get the most accurate forecast. That was all well and good until they started asking "at what altitude will you be flying Sir?"
"I'll only be taking off and landing" was the most appropriate answer under the circumstances.
True to their word, when we got up at 5 on the morning of the event, the conditions looked nigh on perfect. We went for a short (7 mile) ride on our road bikes and then I jumped straight on the rollers to loosen the legs off and 'get some speed' in them.
We then motored out to the event, finished our warm ups and at 8 o'clock I was off.
I used my 'favourite bestest ever' Rourkie (details elsewhere on the site) gearing of 56 x 12-17 and Clement Folgores on Assos / Campag s/f 28s.
GS Strada team-mate / mentor / and good mate at the time Griffo came out to give me some checks, the first being at 15 miles or so. Up until then I'd been riding well within myself, covering the first few miles in the 14 and only gradually building up the gears as I got in to the ride. At 15 miles, I was told I was 2 seconds down on Martin ... but 10 up on Lloydy. So I knew I was going pretty well, particularly since I hadn't started 'clogging it' yet.
At the turn I took my own checks and I could see that I was 'about' 20 seconds up on both Martin and Lloydy. Keith and Joyce Webb, timekeepers of the event, later gave me copies of their 'official' turn times which showed a more accurate position of how we were fairing.
(I was 26 seconds up on Martin and 27 up on Lloydy)
In the knowledge I was 'up' (I don't think any of us were actually going for fast times at this stage ... after all it was a RACE which we all wanted to win!) I then just went into 'over-drive' and the 25 miles back down the A1 just couldn't have gone better (for me). I only really started thinking about the record when I had another check with 5 miles to go and was told I was a minute up ... so surely the race was won? Then a glance at my own wristwatch (we didn't have computers on our bars in those days so it was all by 'guesstimation'!) revealed just how fast we were all going. I'd covered 45 miles in 1 hour 30 minutes ... so a 30 mph '50' was a possibility.
What if I punctured though? Apart from just trying to go faster and faster, that thought was in the back of my mind ... but not for long, as the last 5 miles flew by and as I crossed the line I knew I'd done it. Of course, at the time, I thought I could go faster still. After all it was only a personal best wasn't it? (Actually I was going to improve ... but it took 11 years, tri-bars, Campag Ghibli and aero helmet to do so. 1-39-49 in the R T East '50' on the B50/13 in August 1994).
I turned into Cowthorpe Lane and there were lots of VERY happy faces. I'd like to claim having had the broadest smile though.
I smiled all the way back to Rudding Park and I was still smiling when I went out for a leg-loosening ride with Mick, Nipper-Longlegs and co later in the day. I couldn't get too excited about it all though, because we were only 8 days away from the National '50' and after this ride I'd look a bit of a plonker if I screwed that one up! After all, you're just the 'caretaker' of a national record ... but no-one can take a Championship away from you once you've won it.
So there was / is more to come!
How Cycling saw it ...
Three breakers of John Watson's 13 year old '50' record of 1-43-46. Lloydy, me and Martin. Unfortunately for Martin, his name never went in the record book because Lloydy beat the record first.
The Result Sheet ... left and below
Anybody else still breathing out there who rode it? If so, what do YOU remember about it?