Here’s a link to today’s data on Strava.
Today was my second race of the season. If you read the post I wrote about the first race of 2014, you might remember that I had a good result, but a poor performance. Sometime after the race I noticed that my saddle had slipped down, and I wondered if the low power figure was in some way related to that. Since that race I have trained quite well and hoped that I’d be able to push the pedals hard enough to satisfy myself that the winter has not been wasted! I wasn’t targeting this race specifically, the first race I am looking at is later in April, so the early races like this one are handy training. But of course I always want to do as well as I can.
The race today was on the F2A/10 course, which is on the A428 just west of Cambridge. It’s a dual carriageway course, but oddly not hugely fast, historically. I rode over it last weekend and it seemed a good course to me. Nice surface in the main. A little exposed, but I was looking forward to tackling it with a number pinned on.
Saturday morning I take my Son, William, to football. So afternoon racing generally has to fit around that. His match today kicked off late and so I was short on time. I don’t like this – I like to be early and in plenty of time. But I arrived about 60 mins before my start time, with time to do everything I needed to do before the race. I signed on, got changed and did most of the “Team Sky Warmup” on my turbo near the car. I try and do this warmup whenever I can use my turbo before a race. I haven’t spent years perfecting my own procedure, so why wouldn’t you copy those boys?! They’re not doing too badly with it.
I was in plenty of time getting to the start line, I had about 5 minutes to wait, but that’s ok. I needed a wee of course, but too late for that. At 1425 I was set off onto the course. I was determined not to start too hard this time. It’s all too easy to do this – the pace you can sustain for the race feels very, very easy at the beginning, and you’re naturally excited and wanting to go fast, but if you overcook it in the first part of the race, it can ruin you for the rest. The biggest uphill section on the course is just after the start, so that’s not ideal from this point of view, because your power rockets as soon as you start to go uphill, and also generally you should push harder uphill, but I seem to have kept it under control, from looking at the data post-event.
Having said that, after about a mile, I noticed that I’d averaged about 310w, which was about 30w more than I was thinking I’d make. But I felt quite good so I thought I’d try and stick at that level for as long as I was able. I passed number 24 quite quickly and was going along quite nicely, power even went up to 313w. I thought ‘uh-oh’ and was waiting for the inevitable loss of breathing control that would signal a necessary reset of expectations.
The course runs east-west and there was a pretty brutal sidewind coming from the south-south-west. It was gusting occasionally and I got knocked sideways a couple of times. Luckily traffic was quite light! Maybe the rear disc wasn’t such a great choice today, but once you’ve started, of course you’re stuck with it.
Sure enough I had to back off as the turn approached, but even so I was pretty pleased with the first half and hoped to be able to match it on the return. I’d averaged a reasonably good speed on the out leg (26.6mph) and as soon as I started to head back east I got a slight benefit from the crosswind, which was now helping to push me along a little bit. On a couple of the downhill parts I was struggling to keep the power up because the wind was helping to such a degree that I was pedalling as fast as possible to keep some resistance on. In fact, one mile from the end on a downhill section, cadence went up to 106rpm, but power down to 190w as my speed went up to 38mph.
The course ends with an uphill drag of about 3/4 of a mile. I seem to have had enough left in the tank because I pushed 356w for this part and averaged 31.5mph for the last section (cheers, tailwind). I managed to get everything I had out and passed the timekeeper just as the Garmin bleeped to end the 10 mile lap. I squinted through the tears and snot to see the time, somewhere around 21:15. That’s a lot faster than I hoped to go, and I thought it should be reasonably competitive. Best of all, I knew I’d produced the best-ever power – I didn’t know at the time but the average was 311w for the race, and I’d done a slight negative split (more power on the return leg) which is something that I think is good to do, because it means you didn’t over- or under-cook the first half too much.
The results were being projected onto a white screen at the HQ. My official time was 21:13, which is outside my PB by 7 seconds. But the course I did my PB on (E2/10) is very fast. And today’s time was only 2 seconds slower than I recorded on V718 in Hull last season (V718 is generally accepted to be the fastest course in the country). There were 90 riders in this race, and I’d gone off 25th, so I had quite a while to wait to see how I’d done relative to everyone else. It was shaping up quite well, I was in 4th place after the first half of the riders had finished. Might I make the top 10? The rest of the results were displayed in small batches, and I finished in 6th place. The race was won by Simon Norman, some 62 seconds ahead of me. That’s a long, long way. I wasn’t too far off 3rd place though, only 7 seconds, and I missed out on a small cash prize by 4 seconds to 5th place. But no matter, it was far and away my best result and performance. I finished ahead of a few riders that I’ve never beaten before. Hopefully I haven’t peaked and can improve a little more in the next little while, as the main events of my season approach.
As Chris Boardman might say: Satisfactory :)
Thanks for reading :)