The time trial season in England starts with a bang over the long Easter weekend as riders test their post-lockdown legs.
The opening round of the Merlin Cycles Classic Series starts the action on Good Friday with a hilly 22-mile time trial organised by Birkenhead North End CC.
With prizes awarded for the overall series for men, women, juniors, veterans, paracycling and road bikes a bumper field of 120 riders are due to take to the start in the first of six rounds.
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Scratch rider is Dan Bigham (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) with the 29-year-old from Stone in Staffordshire looking for a local win to kick-start his time trial campaign.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it and it’s been a long winter for everybody,” said Bigham.
“The field reflects that, people want to get back to racing and want to get out and see how the legs are and I’m much the same really.
“It’s been a good training block I would say, I’m not peaking yet and have got goals in the future that I’m targeting.
“It’s relatively local to me, about half an hour from my house so I’m pretty keen to get over there and ride local roads and see what the legs say.
“I’m going to try and do as many Classic Series rounds as possible but it’s a bit hard with the current calendar and we don’t know what we will be racing as Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling internationally and domestically.
“Alongside that I also work over in Europe so it depends whether I’m going to be in the country or not.
“Any races I can do in the Classic Series I’m very keen to do. I think the series is awesome and exactly what time trialling needs and the kind of courses I thoroughly enjoy.
“They bring out the best in time trialling, they challenge every aspect: pacing, technical ability, raw power, the aerodynamics side and it’s everything that you want in a time trial.
“It’s not just an out and back drag strip, they are all challenging course in their own right with different strengths and weaknesses to expose the time trialist.
Bigham, who won the National 10 last season and was second in the 25, will face a host of challengers for an opening weekend victory.
Alexander Royle (Manchester Bicycle Club) will look to get closer to his rival and clocking an 18-28 in the Croston Velo 10 last season – finishing fourth with Bigham winning in 17-52.
After finishing second junior in the National 10 and 25 last season Oscar Nilsson-Julien (Team Inspired) has moved up to the under-23 ranks this season and will also be looking to compete for honours.
The women’s event is set to see last season’s National 25 champion Joss Lowden (Drops - Le Col S/B Tempur) start as last rider.
She will face tough competition from Abi Smith (Team Breeze) who won the junior category’s National 10 and Hill Climb last term and is now stepping up to the senior ranks.
Veteran women riders Lisa Davies (Drag2Zero) and Janet Fairclough (Liverpool Phoenix CC) will also be looking to challenge.
Meanwhile, the veteran’s category will be headed by Keith Murray (Drag2Zero) who won the Seacroft Wheelers 10 last season.
Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling will be hoping for double glory with Jacob Tipper starting as last man in the road bike event while David Murphy (Liverpool Mercury Dolan CC) goes in the para-cycling category.
The course sees riders start outside Broxton before heading south on the A41 towards Whitchurch and then cutting across to the A49 to head back north.
Riders then turn left and cut across back towards the start on the A534 through Bulkeley to the finish.
“It’s fairly undulating but not super-challenging,” added Bigham.
“I wouldn’t call it a hardriders or mountain course by any stretch but there are a few lumps, rough roads but there’s nothing too technical I would say and it’s fairly simple in the grand scheme of things.
“I know the roads fairly well, it’s quite an enjoyable course and there’s a nice hill to finish that you can empty everything out on and coast down the final 200 metres downhill to the finish line.”
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