St Ives weekly club 10
I’m trying to ride this race every two or three weeks through the summer. Its on the same course as my two open TTs so far, so it makes for a good way to measure progress. Three weeks ago I rode it as a 2up (a team of two riders) on normal road bikes. We finished in about 24:50, so around 1:15 outside my PB on the TT bike, despite my average power being over 300 watts for the first time. Testament to the difference made by riding on the right equipment.
The last month has been chequered in terms of progress. I had two bad colds in quick succession, which forced me to pull out of the 25 I was planning to race in mid June. I had a two week period of zero training up until last Saturday, and then the following day rode in the ‘Flat out in the fens’ 152 mile sportive, with my mate Mark. I’ll leave that story of pain and suffering for another day.
Last night I turned up at the event HQ in Sawtry, feeling healthy, but unsure of what I’d be able to produce. Largely because of the lack of training, but also, in conjunction with my coach/mentor Ben, we’d changed my position on the bike quite drastically, with little testing to see the effect. I’d ridden the course officially twice before, clocking 23:39 and 23:34 respectively. A goal for this year is to get that time down towards 23 minutes, hopefully even into the 22s. Previous power had been 276 and 287 watts. I was planning to try to average over 300 watts this time, so was hopeful that if I could do that, I would take a reasonable chunk out of my PB.
No dramas beforehand, a good warm up, plenty of time to get to the start line. I am learning! I sat on the start line thinking about what was to come, trying to focus on not starting too hard. Lately I have been trying to push that little bit harder through the race, to find where the edge is. As a result I think I have been starting very hard, and finding the edge too quickly. Everything I read about TTing says don’t start too hard, don’t start too hard, so I concentrated before the start on thinking about this.
My time came, and bang, off we go. Quickly up to speed, through the first roundabout, up a small rise to the second roundabout. What’s this!? I have started too hard, again! Legs start burning, breathing is not controlled. Well done. So I backed off for a short time to try and get it back, and then pressed on up the long drag that makes up the middle section of the out leg. I’m looking at average power and it is showing me 310 watts. Aware of a headwind on the way out, I had wanted to push in the first half and hang on for the second, so this was ok. I really was not comfortable though, I had not managed to get my breathing completely under control, which makes it unpleasant.
I passed a couple of competitors riding a 2up, then came to the turn. I’d made 310 watts for the first half, but I was blowing, to say the least. Every ’10’ I’ve done so far, I have come back with higher power than I went out, but I realised there was no way I would do that this time. The return was hard, for some reason the expected tailwind didn’t seem to be helping, I needed over 26mph average to get beneath 23 minutes, and halfway back I was nowhere near it. Worse, I was struggling. I can remember a point about 3/4 of the way through the race, when a voice suggested that I knock it on the head for tonight, just coast back. I considered it for a moment, but looked at the clock and saw I had about 5-6 minutes to go. It can be endured for that much longer, surely?
I’m reasonably good at making quick time/distance calculations, but I was struggling to make sense of the data on my computer. Probably because of the state I was in. I was trying to see if a PB was at all possible. There’s a roundabout that is 0.9 miles from the finish – I consider that this marks the last part of the course. I know that in the past I’ve covered it in 1:55 – 2:00. I’ve just over 2 minutes to get a PB, but we’re not at the roundabout yet. At this point I know a PB is probably not possible. Again, the voice suggests backing off. But just 2 minutes left! Slightly ahead of me is my minute man (the rider who started one minute before me). He was riding a road bike and I was surprised not to have caught him already. I moved out to overtake as we went up the final hill, but it took an age to get past! I reckon he was looking at me, thinking “well go on, then!”
Into the last half mile, which is pan flat. Usually I finish strongly, but not today. There was a point about 400 metres out where I wanted to vomit, forcing me to back down from the sprint. Round the last corner and over the line. The garmin bleeped as I passed the timekeepers, recording the 10 mile lap. I couldn’t really see what it said, 23:29 I think. When you start, it takes a little time before it starts recording, 5-7 seconds in the past. I have almost certainly missed my PB by a couple of seconds.
Cycled on for a few hundred metres, not really in a good place, physically or mentally, back to the HQ. Had a chat with a few riders, including Ben, who was there riding a 2up with one of his juniors. Everyone thinks it was hard, conditions not good. The headwind out, bot being negated by much of a tailwind effect on the return, for some reason. Feel a bit better.
The result sheet comes, and I have a PB, by one solitary second. 23:33. I came 3rd of 42 riders. 30 seconds closer to the winner than before. A reason to be cheerful. When I got home, I had a good look at the data. Average power was 306 watts, at least 15 watts higher than any previous solo TT. Yet the time doesn’t show it? Perhaps the new position is less aerodynamic? Perhaps it’s the conditions? I am learning that TTing, whilst being more predictable than mass-start road racing, is not formulaic.