It was 1970 when I first got into cycling, the British ‘25’ record, set in 1969, stood to Alf Engers at 51:00 – it would be 1978 before that was improved upon when Eddie Adkins returned 50:50.
But it only lasted for minutes; because this was the day all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and ‘King Alf’ put the final burnish on his ‘legend’ status with 49:24 and left his fans – me included -smiling for days.
The physical genius of Graeme Obree apart, I never thought that I’d see times like that recorded in cold, damp Scotland in my life time – but on Sunday on a grey and not at all summery day, Ian Grant recorded 50:46 to win the Scottish ‘25’ title.
A dazzling performance even in these days of aero helmets, disc wheels, tri-bars and wind tunnel sculpted frames.
We thought we should have a chat with Mr. Grant about his ride and just how he goes so damn fast.
A great ride, Iain – give us your thoughts on the course and conditions, please.
“The week leading up to the race the weather was great; but when I got through on Sunday morning it was cold and overcast – so that was a bit of a disappointment.
“But when you were actually racing in it the cooler conditions were fine, once you get going in the race you soon heat up.
“It’s run on a busy road but you couldn’t fault the organisation or marshalling.”
Do you prefer the ‘scenic’ courses like Fife – or the ‘turbo with traffic’ drag strips?
“From a personal time trialling perspective, I prefer the one turn, out and back where it’s two big constant efforts, it suits me – it’s how I train.
“The scenic courses are great because they offer a distraction but on the drag strips you have to concentrate more on your position on the road and I prefer the constant power output type of riding that they offer.”
Do you still ride on power?
“I’ve always used that system; different folks use different methods – measuring their effort on ‘feel’ or heart rate but I prefer power.
“I averaged 350 for the race; I was 355 at the turn but was in bits on the way back.”
Were you getting time checks?
“No, apart from anything else, you can’t hear a thing in those aero helmets.
“Your power meter is your ‘minute man’ – if you know what you need to ride at and can hold that, you know you’re going to be there or thereabouts.”
You’re still on the Giant Trinity; tell us about the wheels, tyres and gearing – and are you still on Rotor rings?
“I’m on a Xentis three spoke front; I feel it’s perfect for all conditions.
“The disc is a DT and I run Vittoria Corsa CX tyres; last season I was on Vittoria Pista Evos which are lighter but I picked up a few punctures and decided to go for something with a little more beef.
“I ride SRM cranks with Rotor rings, I have them on my road bike too; I don’t know if they help generate any more power but I do feel that they smooth your pedal stroke out, the ring size is 55 on the down stroke and 51 on the up.
“But I whilst I’m gearing a bit higher this season I tend to be three quarters the way up the cassette and pedalling at a higher cadence rather than in huge gears.
“And aesthetically I think the Rotor rings are the business!”
Tell us about your training.
“I’m coaching now so it means I was able to quit my job in construction and get out on the road more than I used – which is great, especially if the weather is good.
“For example, in the afternoon, after the ‘25’ I was out and did a couple of hours just enjoying the bike.
“And I always do a couple of hours after a ‘10’ – it’s a savage effort but does nothing for your endurance.
“But I do still turbo train; it’s best if the weather is bad, safer, more stable and you can get the work done.”
Do you have a coach?
Terry Bell of Mercury Performance Coaching has been looking after me and it’s actually him that I now do coaching for.
“He oversees my training and monitors what I’m doing; it’s good to have accountability.
“The main facility is in Lancaster so most of our communication is by telephone and email.
“It’s about testing, raising the bar, analysing . . .
“My main targets this year are the ’25,’ ’50; and ‘100’ – the ‘10’ was a target but it wasn’t to be and the best man won on the day.”
Did you taper into the ‘25’?
“Yes, I only did a few efforts on Thursday; and on the day before I race I always do a couple of two minute efforts and 15 minutes of tempo riding then just enjoy being out on the bike.”
If it had been a little warmer, might a ‘49’ have been possible?
“I think I may have been closer to 50 minutes, but I’d have to generate a little more power as well as it being warmer.
“And I think that the Laurencekirk course is one of the few you could do it on.
“You only have the one turn and if it’s dry you don’t lose too much time going over the flyover, you can still put the power down.”
Have you made any forays down south to try the really fast courses?
“I haven’t managed that yet I’ve been building the coaching and also working on the Herbalife wellness centre so there hasn’t been the time – but it’s certainly in the back of my mind.”
Would you ever go back to Duathlon or Triathlon?
“I never say “never” because there’s only so long you can train at the top level before you head goes; and I aim to go back to a multi sport discipline at some stage – and have some fun, again.”
What about the track?
“That’s another thing that’s in the back of my head; but I made a mistake by not getting my credentials to ride, back last winter.
“It’s something I fancy trying and will look at it at the end of the season.”
“The ‘50’ is next, that’s at Irvine on June 30th.
“And I have unfinished business in the ‘100,’ that’s in August at Alness.
“I rode last year but didn’t finish – training to race 100 miles is one thing but actually riding it is another – but I learned so much about pacing and this year I’ll have a different approach.
“For the short stuff you have to go out hard and try and hang on but for the 100 you have to tell yourself to ‘calm down!'”
Our congratulations to Iain on his successful title defence, and best wishes for the forthcoming races.
And to the gentleman from the Ythan CC who reckons we’re ‘Weedgie obsessed;’ when you win your first Scottish National Time Trial Championship, we’ll be the first to ask you for an interview, sir.