Warrington 4 up TTT and ‘An Ode to Old Faithful’

By Stephen Feeney

Team Chronomaster recently embarked upon one of its biggest challenges of 2017 in an attempt to lay to rest the ghosts of recent years, to try and actually get a team to the start line in the Warrington 4 up 25 mile team time trial.

The event is now well established in the local race calendar and I’m proud to say I’ve been in the winning team on a couple of occasions over the years.

We’d been particularly ambitious this year, we weren’t attempting to get one team to the line but two!

After the protracted and arduous task of recruiting willing riders, two teams were formed (albeit one included a ‘ringer, namely James Claydon from Bill Nickson Cycles RT)

Team A – Warren, Craig, Jon F & Tommy
Team B – Ste, Kris, George & James

I would be down as a reserve for the A team just in case we needed to jiggle things around in the likely occurrence (considering out TTT history!) of a non starter.

As sure as night follows day, we failed to get our full compliment of riders to the event on the night. We arrived at the event with 7 riders, which was a great improvement on recent years! Tom was otherwise detained. So I made the switch to the A team.

Old Faithful - Ste FeeneyThis was a prospect I was not particularly looking forward to. Craig, Warren and Jon are on great form and they were sporting the very best in TT bikes. I felt like I was on good form but that my vintage steed may put me at a disadvantage. However, I was keen to try and help the boys as much as possible in search of victory.

Team B were most understanding about being reduced to a threesome!

As we rolled to the line, with me set to lead us away, an old team mate of mine, Mike Jones now of Warrington Road Club, was going to push me off! We had a bit of a chat and catch up having not seen each other for probably around 15 years. Interestingly, he recognised my bike from the old days!

Our tactic was to build up speed steadily and settle in over the the first mile or two but we seemed to hit speed straight away and immediately settled into the ride. I felt petty good from the start, it was hard but I was happy that I was going to be able to contribute!

We rode in formation virtually without hitch for most of the race. There was a bit of a mix up as we passed another team that had just finished and were blocking the road as we started our 2nd lap but we got back in line and continued to tap through. Another hitch as we caught a team and a car meant we got split up slightly, I wasn’t as quick as some of my team mates getting through and the small chase to get back on had a quite marked effect on my tiring legs.

Although I was tiring I decided not to save energy by sitting on the back so I could get to the finish. I decided to keep working and doing turns until I popped. The team only needed 3 finishers and I felt doing a few extra turns was better for the team effort than sitting on the back saving myself. At the 18 mile point I swung off after giving my last contribution shouting encouragement to the lads who were all still looking good.

As I met the lads back at HQ I was told they’d finished with a time of 52 minutes and 6 seconds. Good enough for 2nd and ahead of some very strong teams.

Team B , looking remarkably fresh, had managed a great time of 56:35 with just 3 men and road bikes.

Back at HQ the post mortem into my own performance began. Maybe I wasn’t on form, maybe my old legs were no longer up to the job. At the forefront of my mind though was a recurring theory…was it time for a new bike? Could a new “state of the art” Time Trial bike really be better than a 24 year old, 10kg, steel Low Profile 🤔 More importantly could I have found a reason to buy another bike! (Please let the answer be yes!)

The standard of bikes now evident at any time trial borders on obscene. Practitioners in the art of Time Trialling leave nothing to chance, benefits of this helmet, those frames and these wheels are well known and documented.

Things were different back in the day when I first acquired my ‘Time trial’ bike which I believe must be one of the oldest bikes still competing against contemporary machines.

For a start, we called them ‘low profile’ bikes. So named due to the smaller front wheel (26” on my bike but 24” was also popular) that I believe was a Russian or East German invention which enabled riders to get closer to the rider in front for drafting purposes (Germany was divided into 2 countries in those days!)

There was no browsing through fancy catalogues and websites when I picked my bike. Local frame builders custom built your bike using steel or steel. I bought mine from Mike Dixon at Ormskirk. My brother had bought one from him a year or so before and it was ace! I wanted one too!

So, armed with a crude sketch of my own design of frame shape and colour, no doubt inspired by a cycling hero of the time, I went to see Mike.

I opted for Reynolds 531 tubing, my budget wouldn’t stretch to 531 ‘pro’ or 653. Never mind super exotic 753 or Columbus SL or SLX.

Only one gear lever boss was to be mounted (gear levers were on the down tubes) and no front mech braze on necessary, only one chainring was required!

Around 4 weeks later my creation was born and for the princely sum of around £200!!

A Campagnolo Chorus groupset was fitted, which featured delightful interlocking brake calipers, a single 53 tooth chain ring and a ‘straight through’ 12-18 seven speed block! All the gears looked the same size! A Simplex ‘retro’ gear lever was the lever of choice!

Wheels were 28 spoke ‘radials’, all MAVIC. This was as few spokes as you could have at the time.

I remember how light it was when I first weighed it up, a real talking point! How things have changed!

My first race on it was a 10 mile time trial on my 20th Birthday (March 1993). The course was the super fast J4/5, Byley – King Street- Northwich -Byley, and I managed a decent 22mins 33 secs for second place, narrowly missing out on the win. Perhaps a surprise for many for that I could post such a result but it was the start of many great years with my new acquisition.

Over the years we managed to notch up wins in individual time trials, district championships and team team trials. The last win being a 10 mile time trial in Cheshire in 2010 at the ripe old age of 17!

My bike is no ‘Trigger’s broom’ though. It still has all the original parts (Campag 😉). The sealed Mavic bottom bracket has never been maintained and runs so smooth it puts many modern units to shame! Only the wheels have been changed, a pair of Zipp ‘404’s’ replaced the original hoops in 1999.

Despite my fondness of this bike, and the many great memories it’s given me, I think the time has come for its retirement (not mine…yet!). However, it won’t be broken up and sold on, the parts would be eligible for an Eroica bike, it will be kept as a cherished ornament in ‘Bike Bedroom 1’ where I can still stare at it lovingly in the years to come.

In any event, the stem has been seized for many years (I tried to adjust them before the Leigh Premier RC 10 in 2003 but no chance. I remember because I won the race ☺️). The seat pin and seat tube are now also ‘as one’ and the bike, therefore, only any use to anyone of my exact size! Coincidentally such a man exists (my identical twin brother) and he has used the bike on several occasions!

I just hope it doesn’t get too jealous when it gets replaced a younger model!

Old Faithful - Ste Feeney

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