British National 25-mile TT Championship
Consistently labelled the nearly man of British time trialling, Stuart Dangerfield finally broke his national championship voodoo with a late burst of power that carried him to the ‘25’ title.
AFTER nine years of trying, Stuart Dangerfield (Wheelbase CC) beat the jinx at last to win the blue riband event of British time trialling, the RTTC national `25' title, at Stockton-on-Tees on Sunday. In a close finish on the T252/3 course at Crathorne he rocketed over the last six miles to turn over a 15second deficit on Chris Newton (North Wirral Velo) and take the gold medal by five seconds with a time of 51-10.
The `25' title will be regarded as Dangerfield's first major time trial championship victory, surpassing his four national hill-climb titles in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996. As well as the four hill-climb titles, Dangerfield has twice won the BCF time trial championship and was a member of the winning RTTC 100km team trial championship quartet last year while he was riding for Parker International RT.
"The hill titles don't mean that much to me anymore," said a jubilant Dangerfield, who had never won a medal of any colour in this event, but came close several times. "But the `25' title is something special because people like Chris [Boardman], Graeme [Obree] and other top riders have won it in the past." Following this triumph, the Midlander's greatest wish is to ride for Britain in the World Time Trial Championship in Spain in October.
"I've never got a medal in the `25' championship because I've always been slightly off form. But this year I've been riding the road. I've hardly ridden any time trials and I think this has been a good thing," Dangerfield added.
The victory meant a lot to him, especially after the disappointment in the 10-mile championship a few weeks earlier when he felt he had been unfairly defeated to a silver or bronze medal by a machine, not an athlete. However, his fears the same might happen in the `25' came to nothing as the Obree-style bike at the centre of the controversy was abandoned by the Walker brothers, who had upstaged Dangerfield in the `10'.
Harry Walker (Team Metro), one of the two brothers on the said machine, provided an ample riposte to any possible criticism by taking the bronze medal on a conventional bike, albeit one with very narrow tri-bars which looked anything but safe. Both Harry and Brian Walker have discarded their `Obree' machines after recent protests that its extreme position offered unfair aerodynamic advantages. After Harry had clocked 52-07 for an eventual third place, there were words between him and Dangerfield.
Of Graeme Obree himself there was no sign. The defending champion carried out his threat not to start, pleading poverty due to having no Sports Council grant yet. Alongside his name on the result board was written the legend, "DNS - no apology". Event secretary Keith Roberts of Stockton Wheelers, organisers on behalf of RTTC Teesside District Committee, wasn't pleased. "I rang him to see if it was true he wasn't going to start and left a message on his answer-phone, but he never called me back. I'm disappointed and so are the fans who came here to see him."
But there were plenty of other riders to entertain the spectators on a brilliantly sunny day which was full of surprises. The big question was, what happened to the great Sean Yates, the former Tour de France yellow jersey?
Beaten out of the medals in the '10', he was also out of reach of a gong in the `25', finishing fifth. It is surely time now we stopped expecting Tour de France performances from this great rider, who is completing a sort of reverse metamorphosis. For Yates, the boot is now firmly on the other foot and it was perhaps expecting too much of him to win the `25' title 17 years after he last did so.
He moved up from amateur to pro 15 years ago and is now moving gently back in the other direction. Although clearly capable of taking the RTTC medal he dearly wants, the fact is he's back in fulltime employment. However, he has rightly retained that aura of fame which means he is destined to be pursued by autograph-hunters at every event. The Team Clean star cut a fine style, although he was obviously straining on too big a gear and settled for fifth place in 52-24.
The man immediately in front was Julian Ramsbottom, fourth in 52-19, and the second counter in the victorious North Wirral Velo team which won the team championship for the second time in succession. Their third counter was Matthew Bottrill, with 53-37, who placed ninth.
How Dangerfield did it
But this was Dangerfield's greatest hour. In the showers afterwards he said: "It hasn't sunk in yet. Someone else usually wins the `25'." It was nice to see him smiling broadly when his brow has tended to be furrowed after some mishap.
This was the day it all came right for the small Midlands rider who was off number 110 at 7.50am. Although he has won four hill-climb titles, he had never previously taken a medal in the `25'.
However, until the very last moments of Dangerfield's run, it looked as if Newton was destined to take the crown. Off number 95, he impressed on the mostly uphill six-mile drag to Osmotherly and went on to reach the turn at 12.16 miles in 24-20.
But that was with a fresh wind behind. Dangerfield was 19 seconds slower than Newton to the turn, while Harry Walker arrived 30 seconds down on Newton. In fact, Yates was third fastest at the turn, in 24-46, but he knew he was cooked, and so it appeared to the bystanders. The stopwatches told the story. With Yates fading fast, it appeared to be between Newton and Dangerfield, while Harry Walker was burying himself in an effort to restore his bruised morale. With just over six miles to go and Newton still in the gold medal position, an urgent shout to Dangerfield - "you're 15 seconds down on Newton" - worked miracles. At this point the Wheelbase rider was apparently level with Yates. But as Walker pounded towards a bronze medal and Yates slipped backwards, Dangerfield cleared that 15second hurdle, churning a mighty 57x l4 gear to draw level with Newton. He even whacked into the 12 sprocket occasionally and perhaps this made the difference as he hit Newton for another five seconds by the line!
How the fast times changed
What happened to the other names, eclipsed this day by Dangerfield? First of the favourites onto the course was early starter Rob Hayles (Team Ambrosia), the former 10-mile champion. Off number 30, his 52-38 was the fastest ride on the board by nearly three minutes at that point. But five minutes later it was clipped by one second by BCF under-23 champion Paul Manning (Adidas-Sci Con), and Hayles began his slide to an eventual seventh fastest.
Manning's time stood for 55 minutes, until Harry Walker shaved 30 seconds off and set Manning on his descent to sixth place. Then in swept Newton some three minutes later to knock this down another 1-22, before Dangerfield nipped in to steal the plaudits.
Rated riders not at their best included the BBAR Andy Wilkinson (Adidas-Sci Con). Off one minute behind Hayles, he conceded more than a minute by the top of Osmotherly after six and bit miles. He blamed his poor showing on social duties, attending weddings and dinners. "I just couldn't get going, it got so bad I started looking around, to try to take my mind off the fact that I was going so slowly," explained Wilko, who started number 31 and, oddly, finished 31st fastest! No report would be complete without mentioning `Mr Consistency’ - none other than young veteran Geoff Platts (Coalville Wheelers). He was eighth, slipping from fifth place last year.
Traffic was so light on this Teesside course, compared with courses further south, you could be forgiven for thinking the event had slipped back in time. This fanciful notion was reinforced by a procession of immaculately preserved vintage lorries from the early 1950s which purred down the course during the event, keeping to the left, out of the way of the fourth-generation trucks three times their size which hurtled by every few minutes.
1. Stuart Dangerfield (Wheelbase CC) .................................24
39 51 10
Team.- North Wirral Velo (Chris Newton, Julian Ramsbottom, Matthew Bottrill) 2-37-11.
What they said
Stuart Dangerfield, gold medallist, had a sleepless night before the '25' thanks to rowdiness outside his hotel and it stunned him that he appeared to go faster, not slower, as a result. "The police were around, there was a lot of noise, and people running about," he recalled.
"I didn't get any sleep all night and felt dreadful. But when I was racing, I just got better. The last five miles I just blitzed it. I knew it was close, but I didn't know I'd won it until I saw the result board. The most I'd hoped for was a medal.
"I knew Chris Newton would be a threat because he is a class rider. He's been going well on the road abroad. And I thought Yates might be there, and the Walker brothers."
Chris Newton, silver medallist, was riding his first `25' of the year, and although he looked fast and impressive as he set the fastest times before Dangerfield cancelled him out, he claimed to be feeling tired after an arduous stage race in France which finished the week before.
"Things are going really well out there, but I'm looking forward to having my washing done for me again, and my meals cooked," he laughed as he explained he was back home for six weeks.
Did he know he was leading most of the way round? "I was getting plenty of time checks," he confirmed. "I was told I was 20 seconds up after five miles and all the way around people said `You're up'."
But up on who? "Exactly. Who?" said Newton. "I didn't know whether they meant the other guy on the opposite side of the road, or whoever. I just kept going. Stuart went a lot faster on the way back. I think most people thought it would be between Harry Walker and Sean Yates."
Harry Walker, bronze medallist, thought Newton would win it and didn't give himself much of a chance. "Obviously Dangerfield pulled out a really good ride on the day," he said.