Dan Bigham and his Team Ribble colleagues will not ride the RTTC National 25 mile time trial this weekend, and the aerodynamicist has called for the governing body to push the discipline into reform.
Bigham – who ranked fifth at the recent British Cycling National Time Trial Championships – has said that he and his team mates Simon Wilson and John Archibald will skip the event on the A25/11 course near Derby.
The course – which uses the A50 – has come under scrutiny before, with residents petitioning for cyclists to be banned.
This RTTC National events span the coming weekend – with women and juniors racing from 3pm on Saturday and the men off from 6am on Sunday.
“It’s a trunk road between the M1 and M6 – and it is just lorry after lorry after lorry. That’s why the course is quick. There’s no big hill, no net elevation loss, no super smooth road. It is literally lorries pulling you along. It’s not a safe course,” Bigham told Cycling Weekly.
Living 10 minutes from the course, he added: “It’s a busy road all times of day. I’ve driven on it at 2am, 3am in the morning and it’s not clear by any means.”
Father to two would-be competitors, Micael Tarling told CW: “We were notified of the nature of the course by some other riders who noticed my two boys on the start sheet.
“We did some research including talking to relatives who live nearby who told us how busy, fast and dangerous the road is.
“We then discovered that the kids’ race is 15:00 on a busy Saturday afternoon… We discussed it and decided we’d rather be a DNS than a DNF.”
Discussing the choice of course, National Secretary at the CTT, Nick Sharpe told Cycling Weekly: “Yes, it is a dual carriageway course. But all CTT courses are risk assessed, and traffic counts taken.”
Commenting on the Team Ribble riders’ decision, he said: “The event starts at 6am, on a Sunday morning. The last rider will depart at 8am, and be off the road by 9am.
“At that time in the morning, the traffic on that course will be verging on non-existent, I would have thought. I can’t see why there are concerns.”
Aside from safety concerns over the weekend’s event, Bigham believes the CTT needs to move away from dual carriageway courses.
“A lorry goes past you and you can see up to 100 watts less aerodynamic drag. But that’s not to say that just because you saw that, the next person does. It’s completely unfair,” explained the Watt Shop aerodynamicist.
“It doesn’t reward good time trialling. Good time trialling does mean riding fast against the clock, but also cornering well, climbing and descending efficiently, pacing your effort over the course.
“It’s become just a watts to CdA game, and it’s not enjoyable anymore.”
The CTT has hosted the ‘Classics Series’ since 1995, with the aim of rewarding efforts on more technical and undulating ‘sporting’ courses.
The 2019 series culminated in the RTTC National Circuit Championship, which consisted of two open road laps just outside Bath.
It also holds closed circuit events, with an RTTC National Closed Circuit Championships in October this year at Thruxton motor circuit.
However, neither the sporting events or closed circuit events attract the field sizes seen at popular ‘fast’ courses.
“I appreciate people want to chase fast times, but it’s so false – the CTT needs to push against it – advertise the circuit series more,” Bigham said, highlighting the spectatorship and commentary opportunities available, as well as timing systems already in place at closed circuits.
Sharpe agrees – but commented that such events are a hard sell to the current audience.
“There are 25 million more cars on the roads than when I first started riding a bike. We’ve gone from about 22 million to the thick end of 50 million. And so, yes, the CTT would like to encourage events on the more rural courses.
“The CTT as an organisation is very, very keen to have circuit events, on the road, but also closed circuit events, and we’re doing what it can to promote those events.
“But it does have to be said that in relation to the Classics series events, whilst some attract a large entry – some get an entry of 30 or 40 riders.
“You compare that to an entry on the Welsh course – you’ll get a full field and more or less a full overflow.
“The majority of riders like the fixed distance events, in particular those on fast courses. A ’52’ on a fast course sounds a lot better than a ’57’ in Cheshire.”
He also pointed out some complications around closed circuit events.
“Most are held on a motor circuit, which will often be one or two miles long. Even on a ’10’ you may be doing five laps, which comes with logistical difficulties.”
Of the cost, he said a weeknight hire was “not so bad”, but weekend hire “can run significantly into four figures, if not five.”