In his latest 'Rookie Report' Mamraz Nagi takes us through the dreaded 10-mile Time Trial experience

I’ve just clicked the ‘pay now’ button on the Cycle Ireland website, and now I can’t get a Britney Spears song out of my head: ‘Oops! I did it again...’

It’s not that I’m in a year 2000 throwback mood, nor am I a secret Britney Spears fan – it’s just that I know I’ve kind of made a mistake; a kind of, ‘Why the hell am I doing this again?’ type of mistake.

The reality of the situation is that I’ve entered myself into a 10-mile time trial with the club... again.

The fact that I know that Britney Spears released that song more than two decades ago tells you that I’m no spring chicken, and that ‘old dawgs’ like me should know better than to do stupid things more than once.

“It’s nothing but grief and pain, and sure why would you bother going near that craic again?” I asked myself after I clicked ‘pay now’. I didn’t get a reply – I just kept humming the melody to ‘Oops! I did it again’.

You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that time trials are the equivalent of a cycling maternity ward.

At the beginning, you see a lot of riders full of excitement, with hopes and dreams for what their “wee baby” will do – i.e., their bike.

However, the closer they get to the countdown, their excitement turns to anxiety, with the realisation that “this is going to take a lot of huffing and puffing” and that pain and discomfort are going to be the order of the day.

It’s most definitely like a maternity ward towards the end, when at the finish line you see reddened faces, with some riders looking like they are ready to explode, such is their effort with that last ‘one big push’ towards the finish line.

So, here I am waiting at the start line. I’m the second rider to depart, behind Niall Murphy, and I should be internalising my pacing strategy and going through my mental checklist of do’s and don’t’ s.

Shoes not too tight? Check. Chain in the right gear on my cassette? Check. Etc.

The only problem though, is that I’m staring at Niall Murphy’s calf muscles, and I’m now having a debate with myself that is casting all kinds of self-doubt, and it’s throwing me right off my game plan.

“Bloody Hell, lad, would you look at those boulder calf muscles! That’s some serious power right there. You’ll have some craic trying to follow that man down the road. He’ll be halfway to Tempo before you even settle into any kind of rhythm,” and “Never mind the boulders, lad – look at those piston quads stretching his bib shorts. Aww Jeez, this is surely going to hurt!”

In addition to this, the Coa man, just minutes before, was showing me some flimsy black plastic that he had manufactured and attached to his rear wheel to aid his aerodynamics.

If he wasn’t going to mash me to pieces with his muscular advantage, then surely I was going to be cut to pieces by a rogue piece of flying plastic that would inevitably be dislodged from his bike?

Going back to my game plan, my aim is always to take off and ease myself in, but Murphy had a different approach.

3... 2... 1... and off he went, cranking out a seriously heavy gear.

It did nothing at all for my confidence, because he was standing out of the saddle, and I could clearly see every sinew in those calf muscles and quads. “I’m done for, now,” I thought.

Now, to set the scene about myself: I don’t have the physical attributes of a lot of the guys in the club. I’m a shade under 10 stone, in old money, and come from a running background, so I like to spin a high cadence.

It just comes naturally to me to be riding along at about 95-100rpm. It’s what I’m used to, so it’s what I stick to.

But here I am, a few minutes into the time trial, with the ‘bejaysus’ frightened out of me by the legs of Coa’s finest, and I start to do a quick system check and realise I’m down at 80rpm.

“So, this is what that feels like,” I tell myself. “You may get back to the spinning, lad, pronto, or you’re going to mess this one up. Stop acting the buck and change gears now!”

I waited for a rise in the road to come and changed gear but the rhythm that I changed to just felt plain weird. “Oh, crikey – you’re surely going to come last now.”

I spent the next few miles until the turnaround having a full-scale argument with myself.

I pretty much cursed every bloody thing that I could think of. “Friggin’ Britney Spears and that stupid song – who the hell sings a song that starts with the word ‘Oops’, anyway?”

If it wasn’t Britney Spears, it was Niall Murphy. “It’s bad enough that my friggin’ legs and lungs are burning, but now I’ve got to watch out for bits of black plastic flying through the air because some mad eejit thinks it’ll make him go faster. Wait til I write a letter to the UCI about this craic!”

I made the turnaround in a filthy mood and, to make matters worse, my foot unclipped. Had the lovely marshals not offered their usual kind words of support, I’d have snapped, such was my self-rage.

“Right lad – let’s get something positive out of this, and stop taking the hump with yourself. You’re halfway there, get moving!”

It’s funny how the human brain works, because Britney Spears and her stupidly-titled song faded into obscurity and instead, the chorus from the 1986 Bon Jovi hit, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, started playing on my mental jukebox.

So, over and over in my head, I had the lyrics, “Woah, we’re halfway there, Woah, livin’ on a prayer”, going round and round in my head.

Lo and behold, I quickly tapped in to do a system check again and found myself feeling pretty pumped up and my legs had settled back into my familiar high cadence.

“Right, come on, dig deep and start hurting,” I urged myself.

Good things started to happen, and I began to feel positive. I rationalised, that if I hadn’t been taken out by Murphy’s fabricated wheel cover by now, then it was unlikely to happen at all. “Don’t hold anything back now, lad. Work, work work!”

By this stage, my legs were in full burn mode and slobber had escaped from my mouth. “No time to wipe it – just push, push, push!”

I felt like I was going very fast now and this in turn only served to make me try harder.

It was akin to the motivation that a child with a fist full of loose change gets, running after an ice-cream van with its brake lights on.

“You’re going to get a good result here... but keep diggin’ in!”

I’m sure my face was badly contorted as I managed to get out of the saddle to sprint for the line, and I’m sure I was grunting and groaning, but I didn’t care.

“Remember, this is the ‘cycling maternity ward’, do whatever it takes, lad. I want one more big push!”

When all was said and done, and the results were in, I found out that I came eighth (25:32).

I was delighted, because I had ‘given birth’ to my new PB for a 10-mile time trial – but boy, was it tough going.

If you fancy giving cycling a go, then please keep an eye on the club’s Facebook page for a full calendar of races, and the newly introduced ‘Sunday Social Cycle’ for leisure and recreational cyclists.

Overall Results

1 Rory Gamble 23:17

2 Seamus McGovern 23:47

3 Nigel Foster 24:09

4 Niall Murphy 24:52

5 Kenny Boylan 24:55

6 Fergus McGirr 24:55

7 Dermot McAtemney 25:07

8 Mamraz Nagi 25:32

9 Seamus Mullan 26:15

10 Dane Dunlop 26:17

11 Leonard Gillick 26:20

12 Cathal Conlin 28:06