Sunday, 10 January 2010

Post-blizzard conditions improve averages

Riders’ abomination of ice and snow in winter bike races is dramatically illustrated by the DNS ratios for two similar recent rides. They were the Southborough & District Wheelers New Year’s Day 10-mile time trial of 2009 and 2010 respectively, both of which used the Q10/10 Bethersden-Singleton-Bethersden course. Weather conditions in 2009 were cold (1 degree Celsius), wet, and overcast. The ride’s DNS (‘did not start’) ratio was 22% from a field of 74 entries. In 2010, when conditions were cold (1.3 degrees Celsius), wet, and dazzlingly sunny following early morning blizzards, the DNS ratio, also from a field of 74 entries, was 42%. The 2010 New Year blizzards apparently prevented many prospective riders from reaching the race headquarters at Bethersden Village Hall.

Five Thornton RC riders were on the Southborough start sheet in 2009, all of whom rode. However, only three were present on the 2010 start sheet, two of whom rode. Don Houghton, one of these two, exceptionally gained second prize for a time (26:31) that was near to his best performance. The other, Russ Mason, gained no prize, but at 31:36, performed almost as well as he had done in 2009 (30:13).

Viewed overall, the performance of veterans (i.e. those aged 40 or more) in 2010 outshone their performance in 2009, on several counts. First the overall winner in both years, Dave Wheeler of Rye & District Wheelers, improved his veteran performance by an astonishing 37 seconds (23:43 last year; 23:06 this year). Although the blizzards in 2010 reduced veteran participation to 27 riders, from 34 in 2009, relatively 2010 veteran participation, at 63% of all riders exceeded 2009’s 59% participation. Perhaps because the average age of veterans in 2010 was a mere 50.1 years compared to 2009’s average of 51.3, the average time of all veterans improved by 13 seconds – from 28:30 to 28:17. Best veteran improvements compared to 2009 were in the rider group of 55 and more. For example, a 55 year-old male would on average have achieved a time of 28:46 in 2010 but only 29:29 in 2009. Even better than that however, a 72 year-old male rider would have achieved on average 30:23 in 2010 compared to a sluggish 33:52 in 2009.

These are hypothetical performances of course; scrutiny of the Southborough results sheet reveals that there were no 72 year-olds in the 2010 ride. There would have been if Thornton’s Gordon Davis had not been defeated by the pre-race blizzards, and if Eric Bates’s entry form had not taken five weeks to reach the race secretary in Tunbridge Wells. Such hazards are surely a part of winter’s ‘best laid schemes’ which, according to Robert Burns, ‘gang aft agley’.

A summary of this year’s veterans’ results, including a comparison of 2009 performances, is shown in the table below. It is, one hopes, self-explanatory.

Male veteran ten-mile time trial bicycle results New Year's Day







Average age in years



Times in min:sec

Fastest/slowest riders - range



Average veteran standard



Average actual vet time taken



Average vet time increment/year of age



Intersect parameter for veterans



Average theoretical time of a male aged:










Eric Bates