‘Back in the day,’ the RTTC, now CTT, was an organisation I viewed with suspicion, Scottish riders could compete in their events, ‘down south’ but not their championships, which they guarded closely.
And they were always giving my idol, ‘King’ Alf Engers a hard time – the officials were ‘grey men,’ stuck in the days of all black alpaca outfits and pre-dawn starts.
But fast forward 50 years and we’ve had Scottish RTTC/CTT national time trial champions and whilst Scottish Cycling time trial championships have gone a tad ‘Cleese-ian’ – ‘don’t mention the ‘25’ Champs, I did once but I think I got away with it!’ – the CTT now has a Scottish division and are running championships.
The anomaly however is that times set in CTT races don’t count as ‘official Scottish records’ which have to be set in SC events – it’s a situation that could do with being resolved.
The 2021 CTT Scottish ‘50’ title race took place on the fast dual carriageways north of Dundee with GTR Return To Life rider, Chris Smart winning in a stunning 1:40:36 with veteran team mate Dougie Watson a scant six seconds back in the silver medal position.
We caught up with Chris soon after his ride.
Congratulations, Chris is that ride a personal best?
“Yes but it’s a fast course, my previous best was a 1:44 ridden in the British ’50’ a couple of years ago.
“I could see that a 1:39 ride was possible but that last stretch was hard and it just slipped away.”
I make it Scottish record, the previous best was Kyle Gordon’s 1:41:16 but whilst it’s fastest it’s not the ‘official’ record because of the SC/CTT divide?
“It’s faster than Kyle’s time, yes, but he set that time on the Invergordon course which is much a much tougher course than the Forfar one – the comparison is night and day.
“As far as Scottish Cycling goes no one in the time trial world recognises them anymore, they’re irrelevant to me as a CTT member.
“Scottish Cycling are about the road, track and criteriums now, they’re not interested in time trials.
“At GTR we’re all British Cycling members but race purely in CTT events and love it.
“And whilst it was great to win the ‘50’ the highlight of my year was the ride which Dougie Watson, Daniel Cain and I produced in the CTT TTT championship at Irvine where we were fifth with a 32 mph ride.”
The ‘50’ was close though, your team mate, Dougie Watson was just six seconds back?
“Yes, it was, I wasn’t getting time checks but at the turns I was gauging where he was when we crossed and I knew it was going to be close!”
What was your pace strategy?
“I rode at what I could keep going until the end – at the start it felt comfortable but that last stretch was hard – I was riding at 340/350 watts.”
Tell us about the course and the weather.
“It seemed pretty even both ways perhaps harder out and faster back?
“There are a lot of turns but that’s not a bad thing, it allows you to come off the skis and stretch a little before getting back down to it.”
And you’re on a new machine?
“Yes, a Giant Trinity, the old Viner is retired; it’s taken me about 18 months to find the ideal position on the Giant though.”
Are you a disciple of ‘Aero Guru,’ Dan Bigham?
“He’s certainly changed the sport but made it more expensive, it’s now a middle class sport, an arms race where aero trumps power every time, a world of POC helmets at £350-a-pop…”
Tell us about your gearing?
“You know I like me big gears, Ed!
“I read in your interview with Dan Bigham that big chainrings mean you can run towards the middle of the cassette to provide a better chain line but I have a 60 ring with an 11 up cassette – and my chain spends a lot of time in the 60 x 11 combination.
“I was down to 70 rpm in the last 10 miles; but that’s the thing about us time trial riders, we do things like that, we’re ‘social oddballs’ – one thing about the present situation is there’s no race HQ where you have to stand and chat…”
Have you ‘gone clincher’ yet?
“I have a 20 year-old Corima tubular disc on the back and there’s nothing wrong with it, up front I have a 23 mm Knight composite clincher with a latex tube.
“But our GTR team mate Daniel Cane is making composite wheels and I look forward to trying them.”
Do you have a coach?
“No I’m self-coached and help a few other guys with their training.
“I do a lot of Zwift racing, I just love the Turbo!
“I race for Blake Pond’s Nopinz R3R e-Racing Team on Zwift with most of my training on the Turbo, I’ve only been venturing outside because it’s been so hot but I do spend time on my time trial bike on the road to acclimatise to it.”
I see you’ve been knocking out some fast times south of the border, including a 49 minute ‘25’?
“Up here in Scotland, GTR have been the only ones organising races. If I’m the race organiser then I can’t ride them but I do like to travel to race in different parts of the country and have been down this year to The Lakes, Teesside and Northumberland to compete.”
Is the CTT ‘25’ at Keswick on the agenda?
“Yes, that’s on the A66 which can be super-busy with traffic but it’s pot luck depending on your number and the time of day.
It’s always fun to speak with Chris, wishing him and those GTR boys, ‘all the best’ for the rest of the season.