Course Record for Rob at East Surrey Hardriders
Slowly but surely Rob Sharland is mopping up course records across the South East region, his latest perhaps the most impressive yet in terms of the calibre of former winners and record holders: the East Surrey Hardriders.
The East Surrey Hardriders is a rolling course normally run over 29.9 miles but reduced this year to 27.25 miles of fast single track, dual carriageway and finally some country lane fun, writes Rob.
I’ve done this event three times, the first time I was 11th, last year 2nd and this year I won and set a new record for the course that has been used since 2014. I think having looked at previous data I may well have taken the standard length record had we raced it.
The attraction of this race goes beyond a generous smattering of prizes (£180 cash and £80 in vouchers better off after the win! [Rob has been appointed team social secretary in the hope he might be convinced to redistribute his winnings down the pub!]), it’s about getting my name among some strong and well known riders not just locally by nationally. It’s a bit of a who’s who of testing in the UK: Richard Prebble, Hutch (four times!), Sean Yates, Wouter Sybrandy, Gethin Butler, Tim Stevens, Matt Bottrill and Steve Berry, (who set the record on the normal course) plus many more – a lot of national champions in the list!
The lead up to this race was, as usual, less than ideal. The previous weekend I had been to Madrid for a mate’s stag do, of the 48 hours I spent there, I think I slept 8 and drank 35 of them. I thought I would be ok but I didn’t feel normal until midweek really, getting old it would seem. I’d recently had another session at the velodrome with Xav of Aerocoach so was confident that my position on this fairly quick course would be improved from previous years and even with similar power I may still go quicker.
On the startlist were many of the usual suspects, sadly owing to a team camp, last year’s winner was not present (Chris McNamara), but there was Liam Maybank (past winner), Pete Tadros (past winner), Conall Yates, Paceline’s own Pat Wright who has a few wins under his belt already this year, and John Dewey who beat me into 2nd the other week on a sporting course. I knew I’d have to do a very good ride to beat an improved John, and of course stay ahead of the rest of the guys. I had a vague idea of what sort of pacing I would look to employ as it’s easy to get this one wrong being fairly long with a nasty sting in the tail with a hill at 22 miles.
Last year no sooner had I set off than I was stopped by a dithering driver which cost me a few seconds, and then again at the next roundabout. None of those dramas today. A clear run was the order of the day, save for straining my neck to see the huge amount of serious potholes between Reigate and Dorking – very poor condition for what is a main road.
It was a tailwind start, and as far as I was concerned the race proper began after the climb from the ‘Cock’ roundabout just outside of Dorking. I’d wanted to ride to this point at about the same power I’d managed last year (about 340W) and from there it was game on, push on until the top of the hill at 22 miles where the remaining few miles were quite quick (well, as quick as going through small Surrey Villages can be) and I’d just hang on.
With the bulk of the quick part of the course done at the 20 miles point my average speed was over 28.5 mph. With the hill and a rolling finish I was confident I would beat my time from last year (26.9mph avg). I hit the climb and immediately had to get out of the saddle – 42-23 was not ideal up there: low cadence, 500w, and creaking bike! But I managed to get back on top of the gear and soon after that I caught my 9 minute man – Dave, who I regularly see on my commute, shouted something which was appreciated, even if he was cursing me!
I finished in 59.43, nearly a minute faster than last year. I later learned that Dewey had not started, but I think it was best I didn’t know at the time as I put it all on the line for the win. I think John would have gone well, but I’d still have stood a good chance with the time I did. Second place went to Pat in 1.01.02 – so there was a bit of wriggle room, but I was pleased to have won and got my name up there.
Rather stupidly I had entered a 70 mile road race in Petersfield after this event, it had a short 25% climb in it, I lasted 5 laps of 9 and called it a day with screaming muscles. I was barely out of breath and my legs were in agony, I did enough to not call it a wasted trip and then stopped to watch James Boyman win in impressive style riding away on his own for the last two laps to win by over a minute, more than just a tester it would seem!
Next race is one down Winchester way next weekend – the James Atherton with Paceline teammates Pat and Tom, so hopefully we can animate that race. I decided to skip the Wally Gimber and having seen the startsheet, that might have been wise!