Lingering fog combined with damp, cold conditions did little to deter
the hardy souls taking part in Southend Wheelers’ annual Christmas
10-mile Time Trial, last Sunday (18th December 2016).
Time trials can be seen as the purest form of cycling sport. Riders set off individually on a road course at timed intervals and the fastest competitor wins. The French neatly sum it up as ‘contre la montre’ – against the watch.
The sport developed in the late Victorian era, at a time when motorists were limited to a maximum speed of 10mph, making ‘furiously fast cyclists’ the fastest people on public roads. Consequently, massed start races were banned, prompting an innovative response from competitive riders.
To avoid trouble with the police, time trials involved people starting at one minute intervals. The rules also dictated that participants must wear entirely black kit, as it was believed this would make them more inconspicuous in the early morning events. Even in the 1930s, a rider could be disqualified for not wearing black socks.
Courses were secret codes, known only to the racing fraternity, such as the E21/10 – many of which still apply today.
Despite road racing later becoming legal in Britain, time trialling had become ingrained in the nation’s psyche and it is to this day that this form of racing is in rude health. It may also explain why 28 riders defied the lure of their duvets to muster in the village of Steeple to participate in Southend Wheelers’ Christmas 10-mile time trial. Persistent fog, damp roads and single-digit temperatures did little to quell the festive spirits, with several riders donning complete Santa outfits. Also marking a break with old traditions none raced clad in black, with the majority sporting the Wheelers’ distinctive yellow, white and black kit.
Having recently signed to turn pro with Leigh-on-Sea-based Richardsons-Trek, James Jenkins – the defending champion – was using the vent as his swansong with the club. He faced stern opposition from Chris Smith with fellow fast man, Jamie Maidment ceding his chance to battle for victory by riding a standard road bike rather than his regular aerodynamic TT bike.
Rather than this being a closed event, visiting riders – in the form of Colin Lewin (Schils-Interbike), David Carey (Maldon CC) and Alan Clarke (Essex Roads CC) - made sure Sunday’s race would be a real competition.
Jenkins lived up to his reputation and battled through the gloomy conditions to blast round the ten mile course in a time of 23 minutes 24 seconds. Lewin ran him close with his 24.14, perhaps rueing not wearing winter warmers and racing in kit normally worn during summer events. Smith took the third step of the podium with a fine 24.28.
Leading home a strong female contingent of eleven entrants, Charmaine Sterling clocked a time of 30.10. Denise Kemp’s normal speed was perhaps compromised by her Father Christmas-inspired costume and bike festooned with lights and tinsel. Still, she posted a respectable 31.38.
Also eschewing his regular aerodynamic bike and skinsuit, Barry Simpson powered his way to the Veteran class win with his 29.53 time. In the Two-Up competition – where two riders form a team – Katie-Ann Elliston and her partner, Chris Smith, pipped father and son Arthur and Tom Knowler by a margin of 19 seconds.
Southend Wheelers’ 2017 season kicks off in earnest with the Easter Egg Cup 10-mile TT at Steeple on 17th April.
Southnd Wheelers Press Secretary