Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) editions from Amazon. HERE
I felt the hand tighten on my seat post as Mike clipped his pedals in. He always gets tense now and never speaks to timekeepers; he just focuses ahead as our minute man disappears up the road. Mike likes this course. The dual carriageway start means that competitors rarely lose sight of the rider in front and Mike expects us to catch them well before the roundabout which arrives at around nine minutes thirty into the time trial – well, it does for someone as quick as Mike.
Mike slides forwards and prepares to rise up from his saddle so that he’s in perfect position to explode away from the start; four deep breaths to pre-oxygenate his eight and half litre lungs are taken; preparation for the first minute of all-out effort that can leave him seeing double before his heart rate catches up and pumps enough blood to his brain. I feel the tension build as the pressure rises on the left pedal – Mike always pushes off with his left.
“10 seconds, nine, eight,” Mike’s hand momentarily leaves the low set bar to press the start on his timer. “five, four, three, two, one, go!” The stresses are huge as his muscular body leans forward and pours five hundred watts of raw power through the pedal. Once again, I feel my bottom bracket squeeze gently away from the arc of the pedal arm, my handlebar stem creak mournfully under the upward pressure and the chain hiss against the teeth on the huge carbon chain wheel. We’re off.
“Go Mike – have a good one, Mike” The encouraging words are barely heard through the slow acceleration away from the line – the gear is big; matched by Mikes thighs. The cadence will always be low with Mike; he’s a power man that excels in the flat 10’s. Ten miles of all out savage power; lungs grasping for air, lactic cursing through veins and tyres clinging precariously to the asphalt; ten miles, always under eighteen minutes.
The weekly Farnham Road Club tens run every Wednesday evening through the season on the H10/8 course on the A31. Mike Jarvis isn’t a member but we go every Wednesday nevertheless. Every Wednesday Mike Jarvis wins. As was usual, we arrived at the quiet stretch of road where everyone parks up for the event, and Mike set me up on the turbo for his obligatory thirty-minute warm up. He always uses the trainer so as not to run the risk of a puncture in one of the lightweight Vittoria tubulars that shroud the Zipp carbon wheels.
Five minutes into our warm-up we were disturbed.
“Hey, are you Mike Jarvis?” He looked up, almost accusingly from his Garmin monitor, and stared at the diminutive young woman stood with her bike in front of him – it was dark carbon with deep-section wheels, but no branding. No one ever spoke to Mike when he warmed up. He mumbled a begrudging affirmative and looked back down at the monitor. “OK – nice to meet you.” He didn’t even flinch at the faintly sarcastic comment and, mercifully, she wandered off and left us alone.
His minute man was, in fact, that girl. We’d never seen her before and he kept us away from the start until she’d begun her ride. As a rule Mike didn’t talk to anyone if he could help it, and he certainly wasn’t going to talk with some random chatty girl just before the off.
We got up to race speed after only a hundred metres and Mike’s regular rasping breaths could be clearly heard above the noise of the booming 808 rear disc wheel as we crashed across an uneven section of tarmac. Soon after we’d suffer the regular transverse cracks running across the road every twenty metres for a mile or so through the fast Froyle section. The effect on the bike speed and a riders resolve can be severely hampered by the ensuing bumps, but Mike knows to drive on through them; the smooth section after is always better when we hit it at speed and are able to exert maximum loading for the slight down-slope that follows. This was where we would expect to start to close in on the rider ahead. Strangely, we didn’t. There was no sign of the girl; had she punctured or had a mechanical and slipped back to Control unseen? I knew Mike was perturbed and I could see him starting to glance across at the riders on the other side of the road on the return leg to the finish. He was distracted.
“What the f…?” There she was; head down, long legs spinning, and in a perfect aero position. She’d passed her own minuteman and was closing in on the next rider. I felt the surge of watts as Mike put his own head down again and flicked through the readings on the Garmin. We were on track for a good time but that wasn’t enough for Mike.
After taking the Hollybourne roundabout faster than we’d ever done with my right hand pedal getting within millimetres of grounding, we headed back up the A31 towards Farnham. The chase was on. I worked out that the girl was quicker than us at the halfway point – we were forty seconds from the middle of the roundabout when we crossed – and Mike was now doing everything to re-take her. We passed the two minute man in a blur, and, shortly after that, the three minute man. Mike was churning the 55/11 gear with everything he had. As we closed in on the final half mile, our speed topped thirty four miles an hour; a rising panic pulsed through the bike as Mike’s breathing reached feverish levels and the sweat dripped incessantly from his helmet; we were starting to sway from side to side. The last hundred yards and still no sign of the girl. Surely we’d done enough.
The screen read seventeen minutes eleven seconds and was not just a big PB, but was also good enough for the course record. The warm-down ride was quiet as Mike punched through the splits on the Garmin and mumbled about something about the girl. How could she just turn up and put in a ride like that? Who was she? Shouldn’t he have been told?
“Great ride Mike!” Old Dave Garner, the septuagenarian trike rider from Portsmouth North End CC, was the only one to speak as Mike made his way into the village hall to check the results. The embarrassed silence of the others should have told him all he needed to know, but when he looked up to the hand-written results on the tired old whiteboard, the small red letters broadcast his humiliation to everyone.
- Alice Burbage – 17 mins 2.57 seconds (CR)
- Mike Jarvis – 17 mins 10.82 seconds
He looked around to expectant faces. Smiling, he tried to hide his disappointment, but his voice, like the whiteboard, betrayed the undeniable truth.
“Where is she?”
“No one seen her Mike – she rode straight off the end of the course and away. No one seen her before.” Only Dave had dared to speak.
Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) versions from Amazon. HERE