Andy Wilkinson’s National 24 record of 541.09 miles was confirmed on Monday afternoon after an anxious day-long wait.
His previous record of 525 miles, set in 1997, had been viewed in some quarters as unbeatable. But to raise the bar thus, and at the age of 47, is superlative.
The Port Sunlight Wheeler, a doyen of the time-trialling scene for the last twenty years, had long thought it possible to improve his previous standard.
So how did Wilkinson prepare for it? “You can’t,” he laughed. “I don’t do epic 400-mile rides. All my racing prior to that was to gain form; I’d done some gym work on core fitness and stability over the winter. I trained by myself, fast rides rather than long.”
But when months of preparation and careful planning came down to the big day, an eleventh-hour problem threatened to slow him down immediately.
Wilkinson’s helmet strap broke two minutes before his start time, forcing him to ride without one for 20 miles. A superglue DIY job by his support team fixed that problem.
Helmet back on and into his stride, ‘Wilko’ made good progress. “The [Sussex] course was nice pretty villages and good scenery, which is important. But it could have been flatter, that’s why I’d definitely say that my mileage isn’t unbeatable,” he says.
A day of riding is a test of focus. “I just concentrate really hard – if you stop thinking for five minutes, it’s over,” he said.
“Pacing, eating, gearing – there’s a million things to be thinking about. By the time you hit twelve hours, you’re exhausted, you have to learn to deal with it.”
Catching up with eventual runner-up John Warnock (Twickenham CC) also affected Wilkinson’s pacing, with his rival going faster on the hills and slower on the flats.
At the finish, the champion was “made up but in so much pain”, unable to walk or feed himself properly.
What next for the flying 47 year old? “A rest and supporting my wife with triathlon.” When asked whether he’d take on the long-distance tests next year, he replied “I doubt it. I can’t imagine myself doing another 24, but I’m old enough to know you should never say never.”
But there’s the impression that indomitable Wilkinson won’t rest till he’s toppled another record – his own 12 hour one from 2009, which he believes “has another 10 miles in it.”
Not that he’s the only man with a shot at breaking these marks. Wilkinson said that he and Michael Hutchinson talked at the National 50, and time-trial dominator “Hutch” had indicated an interest in tackling the 24 at some point in the future.
“That would be great, I think Hutch could beat it. He brings so much technical knowledge,” Wilkinson said.
Endura manager Winn believes Endura can win Tour of Britain
Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Endura manager Julian Winn said: “We’ll be going for a win overall – I don’t see why not. It’ll be a tough call and it will depend on certain breaks going, but we’ll be up there.
“Any of Iker [Camaño], Jack [Bauer] or Alex [Wetterhall] could do it,” he continued. “We’ve got a lot of strong riders. Of course we’re not quite as strong as the Pro Tour teams, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do it if things don’t go our way.”
Winn believes that the right tactical approach will be to be initially cautious in the opening stages, before looking to go into the final day and the time trial in a good position.
“We’ll have to play our cards close to our chest,” he said. “If we go into the time trial on the last day in the right position, then I think we could do it.
“Of course, we could also completely mess it up and be nowhere near,” he also added.
Armitstead fourth in Giro Donne opener
New British road race champion Lizzie Armitstead will swap her national jersey for the maglia bianca in tomorrow’s second stage of the Giro Donne.
She leads the young rider’s classification following her fourth place finish on today’s curtain-raiser into Velletri, which was won by Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit).
Ina Teutenberg (HTC-Highroad) took second, with Swede Emma Johannson (Hitec Products) completing the podium.
Armitstead’s Garmin-Cervélo team-mate and GC contender Emma Pooley finished in the peloton.
Armitstead racing at the recent Otley Crit
Windsor maintains Rapha’s outstanding criterium record in Stafford
Rapha-Condor-Sharp’s remarkable record in criteriums continued on Wednesday night as Dean Windsor took the win in the Stafford GP, round two of the Elite Circuit Series.
Just two weeks after taking the overall victory in the Tour Series, Windsor and his team-mates filled up five of the top seven positions, and runner-up on the night Dean Downing moved into the series lead.
Speaking afterwards, Windsor was relieved to have finally stood on the top step of the podium.
“After getting podium places all over the globe since the start of the year I’m really happy to get my first win of the year here,” he said in a team press release.
The Rapha trio of Windsor, Downing and James McCallum formed the decisive breakaway of the night, and were joined by Corley Cycles’ Simon Gaywood.
Downing attacked with seven laps remaining, before Windsor bridged the gap and managed to outsprint his more experienced team-mate for the victory.
Gaywood scuppered Rapha’s hopes for a podium lock-out, yet still had McCallum in fourth.
Their dominance continued as Graham Briggs led the peloton home in fifth, although Tom Murray (Sigma Sport-Specialized) edged out Kristian House for sixth.
He’s been here before: Windsor wins in Woking, Tour Series 2010
Describing the action, Windsor said: “It was a great race for the team, we really had to give 100% to make the break stick.
“It wasn’t easy with lots of organised chases behind, but the circuit suited the smaller move more than the organised chase. It felt like it took forever but we eventually broke them and got the lap.”
He continued: “Coming in to the final ten laps we started attacking. It was a great feeling to race for the win knowing if you lost it would be to a teammate.
“After racing with Deano a lot this year I really knew I’d have to dig deep to bridge across to him after he got a gap quite far out [7 laps out -Ed] but I got to him in the nick of time I attacked straight away and got the better of him. It felt a bit like attacking my boss!”
*Highlights of Wednesday’s racing can be seen on Sky Sports 3 next Tuesday, July 5.
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