Houghton 25 TT

Houghton CC Open 25 TT – Many thanks to John Mabbitt for the report:

Be careful what you wish for… I promised Mal a report on the Houghton CC Open 25, but the results took a while to come out, and there were no photographers on the route. So he’ll get this instead.

The Houghton 25, for as long as I can remember at least, has always been a low-key event. This is odd, as it hosts the Jack Trusty Memorial Trophy, the official inter-club competition between Houghton CC, Sunderland Clarion and Cestria CC. The last time I rode it (before my 10-year disappearance from the North East cycling scene), it was a private event, entry on the line and we drew numbers out of the bag for start order. Seven of us rode.

This time, the field was notionally 47-strong, but only myself and Rick from Cestria. That probably wasn’t that surprising as it was the day after our open TT, and at the same time as the wildly popular Steady Ride 6. And the weather forecast was utterly foul. Plus, the Ponteland Course is something of a hipster’s course. It’s not properly hilly, but it’s definitely not flat, just a succession of steady drags that seem to get longer and steeper to the turn at Kirkwhelpington. Too slow for the drag strip specialists, too flat for the climbers.

At halfway, you turn into the junction at Kirkwhelpington, and some poor soul stands on the white line at the junction for you to go round them as u-turns in the main road are banned. The wind is usually a factor too. Nine times out of ten it’s a headwind out and tailwind back. I’ve ridden the home leg many times in various TTs – the Mountain 47 uses the Kirkwhelpington – Belsay stretch, the M18 uses the Belsay – Ponteland stretch and there’s a 10 course that uses the last couple of miles into Ponteland. It’s always a tailwind home.

I was off early, with all the slower riders. Even so, carbon fibre and deep wheels were the order of the day. My old fixed wheel still got the usual half-impressed, half sympathetic comments from the pusher-off. More so when they saw the Reynolds 531 frame sticker. I tried to start steadily, but was soon going faster than I’d planned. I thought it must be the red mist, but then I realised that the wind was actually coming from the south, so I had a cross to tailwind out. Just before the turn, the wind seemed to turn and get stronger, so I was hopeful for a tailwind back as well, but mixed in with a heavy shower, the wind seemed to be gusting in every direction at once all the way back. Not a tailwind home. Around the turn, pretty much everyone seemed to come past me, except my minute man.

On the way back, I saw Rick a bit north of Belsay, going very well indeed. Looking characteristically smooth, he was on his way to being almost 13 minutes faster than me (heading to 13th place overall), which was pretty gutting at first, but was proportionately a smaller deficit than I had on him at the Mountain 47, so I’ve got some hope that I’m improving. And his ride, just over the hour on a tough course in the worst of the weather was really impressive.

I’ll be back next year. Maybe even with a new bike (it’s been 14 years since I last bought one, so it must be about time now). Stuff it, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for the Clarion 25 on the same course – assuming they let me ride…. It’s a great event and it’s important to keep the interclub competition going – and better yet to get Cestria back on the trophy.