I pushed off again at the weekend - a time trial that is, my thoughts are here!
I've been time trialling since I was 14 - never been much good at it so have on occasions helped in other ways. Now a veteran I seem to have become a regular at pushing off.
There are many advantages in turning up to do this at an ungodly hour of the morning:
Its warmer than marshalling.
You finish early
You get to look and often laugh at what other people are riding and wearing
You get to banter with the timekeepers - believe or not they do have a sense of humour.
It encourages you to ride the next event because looking around you're not in as bad a shape as you thought.
Having personally turned pushing off into an art form you will be familiar with both riders and fellow volunteers short comings.
Worst of the pushers faults is the 'wonky hold' where the person holding has you leaning over as if you're negotiating a high speed corner. I've adopted the continental approach and now push from the rear. Some riders still query the vertical but I always carry a plumb line in my pocket to prove my point. This seems to upset some people just before their effort but standards must be maintained.
There are however many things to observe from the pushing perspective as one esteemed timekeeper recently put it 'I could write a book'
The first annoying aspect is people who insist on standing on the pedals just before the off. I always point out that all coaching manuals recommend a moderate start to a TT.
'The Panic' a wobble brought on by those not used to being stationery on a bike when clipped into the pedals. I take this personally, it displays lack of trust. I remember having to let one very experienced rider go early on one occasion, with the timekeeper commenting '......5-4-3...oh near enough!'
Another personal dislike is unnecessary 'bike furniture', turning up with a bike looking like they're going on some transcontinental adventure. This seems to be a particular affliction with our friends who also like to swim and run. When purchased the bike has been endlessly wind tunnel tested, it is constructed of ultra light carbon fibre and has wheels worth many thousands of pounds. Then it's turned back into something as aerodynamic as a garden shed, adorned with various bags, pumps, lights and possibly the most hazardous to the pushing off operative, the double rear bottle cage. I've almost broken fingers and once snagged a perfectly serviceable cardigan on one. Why? you're only riding a 10!
Now we come to the 'grumpy competitor'. As we all know good manners cost nothing. While you can be focused and even shouting 'I need pain!' for goodness sake be civil.
From memory one of the worst was always Dr Hutch who once grumpily commented when the timing and pushing off staff were having a bit of a banter 'Could we take this seriously please gentlemen'. At least he said please. Probably a moment of 'cycling stupidity' he omitted to mention.
Lateness or lack of planning is often a problem. Riders arriving late always seem to have a greater sense of entitlement for some reason and while every effort will be made to start you within the rules including the pusher catching you when you are red faced and out of breath with less than 5 seconds to go, but don't blame us for your tardy appearance beyond this - its bad form to upset a timekeeper. You might be waiting a very long time to start.
'Oh you still here?' is a comment I often hear after an individual is abusive.
Flatulence ... sorry to bring this up, but its not big or clever especially with me behind you - what are some of you eating and drinking before an important event?
Courtesy - don't forget to say 'thank you' this goes a long way with the timekeeper and pusher and can often be the difference between an '0' and a '59' and also getting your jacket returned if know what I mean!
If you're new to pushing off fear not, the vast majority of riders are ok, but sometimes a little panicky and confused. You'd think some are walking to the gallows than simply riding a TT.
Be positive and assertive, grab the bike at 30 seconds to go and give a positive affirmation such as 'OK' or 'when you're ready' - at this point some of the less organised will:
Suddenly become totally unable to clip into their pedals
Want to take there jacket off.
Pin their number on
Realise they're in the wrong gear
Pump up a tyre
Ask course details
Answer mobile phone calls, send texts and take selfies
Have a complete meltdown
....or in the very worst cases all of the above.
After the last rider has started reflect on how well you've done, gather up the jackets to take back to the HQ knowing most will never be claimed and end up in the next cycle jumble.
You will also gather all the bits you've managed to pull off bikes [refer to 'Bike Furniture'] and reflect on all the new vocabulary you've learned [refer to 'Lateness' and 'Grumpy']
Note how your passages are now much clearer due to 2 hours of breathing in riders embrocation - get used to it you will be still tasting it for the next few days.
Then its back to the warm HQ for first dibs on the coffee and bread pudding - bliss.