This weekend I entered two races for the first time. Some people say they go better the day after a race or hard training effort, so I thought I’d try it. Usually I try and do some kind of training ride the day before racing, but generally a 2 hour endurance/low tempo ride, no hard efforts.
iCycle 20.2 mile open TT
On saturday afternoon I drove over to Cranfield (near Bedford) for the iCycle Northampton & District Cycling Association (N&DCA) 20.2 mile race, held on the F5/20, which is basically two laps of the F5/10 course. Being a circuit, it’s different to most of the open courses I’ve ridden, which are generally out and back along the same section of road. That said, it’s quite similar to our club course, in terms of the twists and turns and relatively lumpy roads. I drove round the course after signing on and immediately thought that it’s not the kind of course that would suit me! That might sound negative, but courses with hills tend to suit lightweight riders, and courses with lots of turns and twisty bits require good handling skills. Get my excuses in early. At the first sign of a tight corner, I’m off the extensions and onto the base bar. I always think I could do better on corners! But, I was well motivated for the race. It’s part of the N&DCA points competition, a 10-race series that runs throughout the season. I think I will base my season around this next year, as it’s a chance to race against the same riders regularly, and to experience a variety of different course types and distances.
The event was very well organised, lots of helpful marshals and the start and first corner were nicely coned-off to protect riders. The first lap was quite good fun. I passed a lot of riders compared to the second lap, and I seemed to be going well. Power was where I hoped it would be, a little up on last week’s 25. There’s two quite big hills on each lap. The first time up the first hill I went up it feeling good. You come up into a village and I got a bit baulked behind a car who was waiting for someone going the other way. It’s silly, but these things bug you at the time. The more it happens though, the more chilled about it I get! The course is quite bumpy and twisty for the rest of the lap and you have to be careful with the line you take sometimes. The lap ends with another big hill. It’s the first time I’ve raced on a course with hills that have me sitting upright to get up them. The speed is reduced quite considerably, I was down to 14/15mph on both the hills.
In the second lap, power dropped off a little, indicating that maybe I’d started a bit too hard. Didn’t see many other riders on this lap, except I passed a couple of later starters who were on their first time around. Just after the first hill and village, I got strangely delayed by a car who seemed to be waiting for someone. It was out in the country, so no turns, and she was driving at about 20mph as I approached, looking all the time in her mirrors. As I got very close I sat up and waved at her to try and get her to foxtrot oscar out of the way! But she continued to dawdle, having clearly seen me. Eventually I either had to sit behind her, or overtake, so I went past. Weird.
The race ends just over the brow of the second hill on the lap. This time of course I emptied the tank and stayed above 18mph. I crossed the line, went to the end of the road and then rode the 4 miles back to the HQ. I was 4th again, with 45:52, same placing as last week, a long way behind Ashley Cox of Luton CC and Jon Simpkins of Drag2Zero, and 30 seconds behind Jason Gurney of Arbis-Colbert Cycles RT. Power was 1w up on last week’s 25, so a reasonable performance, and a decent result.
Here’s the ride on strava
Bedfordshire Road CC 25 mile open TT
This morning I drove the 30 minutes down to Tempsford on the A1 for this race. It was held on a different variant of the F1 course, this time running south to Baldock and then back north to Tempsford. It’s a significantly hillier version, quite lumpy around the turn. Obviously this morning the weather forecast wasn’t so good, but at the start there was no rain, although the sky ahead to the south did look ominous.
I felt pretty good and got to the start with no stress and was set off at 0736. Within a mile though I could see that I was struggling with power, not really getting above 280w, versus last week where I was riding at around 300w for similar perceived exertion at this point. And then the heavens opened. I’d been thinking about riding without a visor, but since there was no rain when I started I left it in place. In no time it was pretty useless, misted up on the inside and covered with water on the outside. The one saving grace was that the visor on the Giro selector has two small (useless) vent holes at the top edge. The angle of my head is such that I can see enough through one of these holes to be able to ride safely. I’d discovered this on a club TT earlier in the year. But I was concerned about the conditions. I have never raced in rain before and the course has several roundabouts and traffic flashing past you all the time.
I went up and over the hilly section before the turn, and encircled the Baldock roundabout and headed back North. The main hill seems steeper as you approach from the south, it is a straight road so you can see all the way up it from a way away, and it seems to ramp up as it gets towards the top. But, I had a tailwind now and speed dropped to 17mph as opposed to 15mph on the way out. It was hard to make out the digits on my garmin, but when I did, it didn’t make for good reading, averaging somewhere down around 270w. At the final roundabout at Sandy, I had to slow right down to wait for a car, cost me a few seconds but it didn’t bother me. I picked the power up in the final couple of miles, went past the timekeeper as fast as possible and made my way back to the HQ in the rain.
I saw a clubmate of mine, Dominic, and he said I’d come third! But on closer inspection I was 4th with 56:02, missing out on 3rd by two seconds. So the last roundabout had cost me! But of course the guy who came 3rd might have been delayed any number of times that I’ll never know about! In fact I am a little relieved not to have come 3rd – I hope to get on the podium (so to speak, there isn’t actually a podium!) one day, but off the back of a good performance, not like this. I’d averaged 267w, fully 15w less than last week. I think this was due in part to tired legs from the race yesterday, and also a slight lack of desire and concentration because of the conditions.
Once again, here’s the ride on strava
No more races for me now until the National Championship 10 on the 31st August, but I will be training hard for that! Thanks for reading :)