An unfamiliar name took the British Best All-Rounder competition this year. Farnborough & Camberley CC?s Nik Bowdler topped the 2008 table after 13 years of steady progression, beating nine-time former winner Ian Cammish.
We confessed to not knowing much about Bowdler when we spoke to him. ?Not many people do!? said the 39-year-old from Guildford, before explaining his time trialling history.
?I started as a junior but had a bit of a break ? or rather it fizzled out ? when I went to university, but in the last 13 years I have made steady progress every year.? Steady progress includes a sub-19 minute ?10? and sub-50 minute ?25? as Bowdler turned in impressive times at every set distance, but the BBAR remained just out of reach.
?I have finished sixth and fourth previously, and only just missed out on third last year, so decided at the end of last year to really go for it. It was my main aim for the season.?
Persistence paid off for Bowdler and, although obviously pleased to finally land the prize, the fact that Kevin Dawson did not compete took a little shine off his victory. ?It was a little bit of a disappointment,? he said. ?Because Dawson didn?t defend, there is always going to be that question: ?If he was there, would he have won it?. I would like to have gone head-to-head with him.?
With the season over, Bowdler has yet to decide on whether he will defend his title next year. He sacrificed competing in all but one national championship event in 2008 to ride BBAR qualifying events, and things went awry in the one championship ride he did.
?I was experimenting with some different cranks and almost didn?t start because they didn?t fit, so it was a bit of a disaster all round.?
Cranks are not the only piece of equipment the Surrey-based man experiments with. If you are studying his bike and thinking something looks out of proportion, that will be the custom-made 77-tooth carbon chainring. Yes, 77-tooth!
2008 BBAR champ with his infamous ‘big ring’
?It has been a gradual progression over the last five or six years,? Bowdler explained. ?I just went bigger and bigger ? 53, 55, 57 ? and still found I was always using the 11-sprocket. It just seemed that the bigger chainring I put on, the faster I went.?
That means starting in a massive 108-inch gear and going up to a mind-boggling 160 inches, flying in the face of modern thinking when it comes to cadence.
?I have experimented with it [low gears] but I just pursued the big gear approach. My cadence is around 65rpm and it has been shown that lower cadences are more efficient ? you just can?t get the power out. I have trained and raced on big gears, so that even at a low rpm, I can still put the power out.?
With the saddle positioned as far forward as possible, Bowdler is still sat on the nose of his perch, giving the 5ft11in man a unique riding style. ?I use short cranks, 165mm, which is also against current thinking ? people say you should have cranks matched to your leg length. My theory is that it is lighter, stiffer and more aero, and it operates your legs over the more efficient portion of the stroke, so you can optimise your saddle height.?
Unusual ideas ? a combination of Alf Engers and Graeme Obree taken to the extremes ? but you can?t argue with the BBAR winning results.
2008 BRITISH BEST ALL-ROUNDER RESULTS
|Nik Bowdler (Farnborough & Camberley CC)||1-39-02||3-37-52||289.84||27.329|
|I. Cammish (Planet-X)||1-40-26||3-37-42||283.68||27.024|
|C. Ruebotham (Team Swift Allsports)||1-41-40||3-43-39||283.59||26.656|
|P. Smith (PCA Ciclos Uno)||1-42-37||3-46-58||288.31||26.565|
|A. Bason (Wrekinsport CC)||1-44-26||3-44-13||283.58||26.373|
|K. Platts (Cambridge CC)||1-42-36||3-46-34||280.29||26.360|
|B. Johnston (Sportscover Spiuk)||1-46-38||3-41-32||280.07||26.186|
|D. Lubin (PCA Ciclos Uno)||1-44-32||3-48-36||281.62||26.138|
|J. Wainman (Team Swift Allsports)||1-46-00||3-40-24||267.95||25.951|
|J. Morgan (Preston Whs)||1-44-30||3-47-59||271.42||25.881|
|Lynn Hamel (Thegreenroomgroup.com)||55-30||1-52-53||4-00-14||26.193|
|L. Taylor (Walsall Roads CC)||55-50||1-56-31||4-03-47||25.742|
|A. Swan (MI Racing)||56-08||1-53-32||4-09-44||25.724|
|C. Ella (Lincoln Whs CC)||56-40||1-57-03||4-10-37||25.347|
|R. Dorrington (Team Swift Allsports)||57-12||1-57-20||4-07-43||25.338|
|R. Eyles (Beacon Roads CC)||56-15||1-55-06||4-19-03||25.298|
|C. Lee (Scienceinsport.com)||58-34||1-58-23||4-08-37||25.029|
|J. Wilson-Young (Edinburgh RC)||58-55||1-55-51||4-27-21||24.599|
|C. Essex (Kings Lynn CC)||58-34||2-01-58||4-17-33||24.502|
|M. Avres (South Bucks RC)||58-49||1-59-01||4-25-04||24.448|
Time trialling: Time for change?