Johnny Helms Grand Prix des Gentlemen
Tuesday 11th October

Jeff Marshall and Paul Holdsworth travelled to Lancashire last Sunday (9th October) to ride this ‘Gentleman’s’ two up time trial.

The basis of this type of event is that the ‘gentleman’, a veteran, is paced by a younger and faster rider. The gentleman uses his pacer’s slipstream in order to match the younger rider’s speed - it is estimated that by closely following the pacer’s back wheel the following rider requires about twenty per cent less effort. The main award is made for the greatest Veterans’ Plus rather that the outright fastest ride.

This time trial commemorates the famous Cycling Weekly cartoonist who died in 2009 having published cartoons in the magazine for the previous 63 years. It is an invitation event and the most of the veteran riders are drawn from the cream of British racing men of the Helms era. Fifty teams reported to the start timekeeper.

Jeff’s racing season has been a little sparse this year, and although this has been mainly because he has been busy with other matters rather than lack of fitness or enthusiasm, nevertheless it meant that he was not particularly well prepared to hold the back wheel of an on form Paul Holdsworth who has succeeded this season in increasing his speed by decreasing the long distance events he has ridden. Apart from this the wet road surface caused spray which made it hard to stay in the leading rider’s slipstream.

However the Hounslow pair made a good showing covering the 23.8 mile course, mostly on country lanes, in 55 minutes 59 seconds. This gave them the eighth place on actual time, sandwiched between the current 24 hour recordman Andy Wilkinson, partnered by his wife Jill, in seventh place (55.14), and former world road champion contender Les West, partnered by Scott Burns, (56.08). In the more significant ‘Vets’ Standard’ competition they came fifth with a plus of 19 minutes 57 seconds, the winner being the amazing 81 year old Ron Hallam, who partnered by Charles Taylor recorded an actual time of 1.00.20 giving him a plus of 22.05

Jeff did have the satisfaction of being able to say “No other seventy year olds went as fast as I did.” Next Sunday (16th October) Jeff has entered the Redmon Grand Prix des Gentlemen, a similar event which he won last year. His pacer will again be the Sigma Sport professional Wouter Sybrandy who was his partner in the 2010 race. We all hope that his ride in the Johnny Helms event will have sharpened up his speed for next week.

View the full results: Actual time and Vets' Standard

Chris Lovibond