Posted on Monday 5 October 2009 by Stephen Taylor
For the second year I entered the Blenheim Palace time trial and by now I should be getting the hang out of it. However, the air of nervous anticipation that hung over me at the start led me to make several mistakes before i was even on the road. In my nervousness I managed to leave my gloves and glasses (luckily not prescription) in the tent where I signed on. Then, walking across the dewy grass in the early morning my cleats became clogged up which meant I could barely clip in. Finally, I just could not seem to balance as I was held upright to start. So I started with one foot on the ground which, with the grass-clogged cleat, meant it took me several revolutions before I had both feet in the pedals and I was off and riding.
My ambition was to do better than my time last year (39 minutes 45 seconds) and, if possible to manage a time of 37 and a half minutes which would equal an average speed of 20mph for the 20 kilometre route. This would be my stepping stone to greater things next year when I turn 50 and aim to complete a 25 mile TT.
The Blenheim Palace route is three laps of the park. It starts with some lovely swoops and turns as you go around the edge of the palace and into the grounds of the park proper. Then there is a climb which isn’t steep but somehow saps the strength. After that a good gradual descent where you can pick up speed before a final climb that eventually brings you round to the home straight (on a slight incline). Then repeat twice more. The grounds were laid out by Capability Brown – cycling (and time trials) did not exist in his day but he had laid out a perfect route!
I realised at the end of the first lap that I would have do some serious work to get close to my target and, despite valiant and slightly crazy efforts on the final lap, I finished in 38 minutes and 25 seconds. I didn’t make my target but I did beat my personal best, and it was in the right direction.