Taking place in early to mid-February, the Ely and District CC Hardriders’ 25 is the traditional opener of the time trialling season in East Anglia.
The Fenland location may be relatively flat (the old Isle of Ely itself does make for a few undulations), but the winter wind and cracked, exposed lanes more than justify the event’s moniker.
As most participants’ first competitive outing of the year, the event at Little Downham marks something of a re-familiarisation process.
They’ll catch up with old friends, reacquaint with their aero kit and get back into the swing of that well-versed ritual of signing on, hearing the timekeeper’s countdown and standing around the results board with a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge.
It was such nuances of time trialling that Cycling Weekly photographer Andy Jones went in search of at this year’s event on February 14.
The weather and attire will no doubt evolve with the season, but week-in week-out from now to October, scenes like these will be repeated in village halls, car parks and lay-bys all over the country.
Above: Dressed for the cold, club stalwart Brian Cooper handles timekeeping duties at the start. The octogenarian helped found the Ely & DCC 45 years ago – as did Roy Benstead who also officiates at club events.
Above & below: Dressing for the early-season event is a compromise between aerodynamics and warmth. Twice in its 28-year history, winter weather has forced the postponement or cancellation of the event – most recently in 2013.
Above: At least signing on is still done with old fashioned pen and ink.
Above: One of the promoting club’s riders gets pushed off from the start. Alongside the club members competing, there were 25 volunteers helping out with officiating, marshalling and catering at the Hardriders.
Above: As competitors look on eagerly, organiser Steve Laurie pens up times on the results board. After 23 years of running the event, Laurie plans to hand next season’s Hardriders over to club chairman Martin Holland.
“It’s all becoming a bit too much to do,” Laurie says. “Demands have changed. People expect things to be done so much quicker. But I’ll still help out. Next year you’ll probably find me out in the cold, marshalling on a corner somewhere.”
Above: Riders analyse their times over a well-earned cuppa.
Above: A rider uses a smart phone to capture a quick record of the results board.
Above: How many race numbers get exchanged for a cup of tea during the time trial season? How many slices of cake get consumed? Quite a few if Ely & DCC’s tasty looking spread is anything to go by.