On Friday evening, 81 teams of 9 riders lined up for the annual 9-up team time trial at the Silverstone motor racing circuit. Organised by Bicester Millennium Cycling Club, it’s a great event that raises huge sums for charity. It is open to clubs and race teams alike and has men's, veteran's, women's, mixed, junior and hand cycling teams all on track at the same time, making for a really nice atmosphere. It seems to be getting bigger and better every year.
This event’s format is that nine-rider teams complete three laps of the Silverstone F1 circuit and each team’s finishing time is taken from the fifth rider across the line. So, you can drop four of your nine riders and still get a qualifying time. The way we’ve always approached this is for the team to ride in a paceline with each rider taking a turn on the front, the length of your pull depending on how strong you are. We switch to a constantly rotating echelon when riding into the wind. That’s the theory anyway, in practice it’s usually a complete shambles. We’ve never finished with all nine riders. Most years we’re down a few by the end of the first lap.
We have Jered to thank for organising our team this year. Our line-up was Leon O'Rourke, Gareth Harvey, Luke Souter, Phil O'Connor, Jered Allcock, Justin Belcher, Billy Leason, George Day and Tim Hiscocks. We didn’t do any specific training although our Monday night chain-gang is pretty good preparation.
We do a fair bit of racing on motor-racing circuits but Silverstone is a bit special. Each team is allocated a garage in the pit lane to set up. The pre-race atmosphere is electric… 81 teams of 9 means over 700 cyclists, plus all their friends and family. Many of whom we know. It was great to see the Cowley Road Condors in their new Shutt speedsuits.
The circuit is open for warm up before the race and we managed three full practice laps before regrouping in the garage. As team number 7 we were one of the first off, so lined up immediately to pass through the scrutineering area. They take this pretty seriously as riders must use standard road bikes rather than TT bikes. No x-ray machines though!
Once we’d cleared customs, we lined up for the official team photo. A really good one this year. There are usually dozens of photographers at this event and amazing photos appear online over a number of days. I'll add more as I find them.
Race time... and true to form, lap one saw us lose three riders. No idea how that happened. Although, it was very windy which made communication tricky.
All six remaining riders made it safely around lap two. As more teams were released, the circuit became increasingly congested. As one of the quicker teams we were overtaking a lot of the slower teams by the end.
On the final lap, we lost another rider as we snaked through a gap between two other teams, so were down to five guys. As a minimum of five must finish we couldn’t afford to lose any more. I don’t think that slowed us down much though and all five of us managed a sprint to finish within a second of each other. Our lap times were surprisingly consistent and within a few seconds.
Of the Men’s teams competing, we finished eighth fastest. Which wasn’t too shabby considering how disorganised we were.
Each category had a medal ceremony on the main Silverstone podium stage which is pretty cool and a cracking end to a lovely evening of riding and racing.