N&DCA 10 mile TT, same place as last week
A few weeks ago I entered a bunch of races so that I’d be racing pretty much every week until the end of May. Today’s race I entered mostly because it is so local. I *am* browned off with the course, but I thought it might be a chance to pit myself against some different riders – and a lot of the same riders too. The N&DCA (Northampton & District Cycling Association) run a championship over a number of races throughout the season. Because of this (I reckon) the events attract more riders than might ordinarily race on the more “sporting” (i.e. a bit hilly) courses like the venerable N1. Last week’s St. Ives 10 had a big entry compared to last years, but today’s event attracted 40 more riders even than that, despite being on the same course only 7 days later. Around 115 riders entered, many of whose names, in seeded positions even, I did not know.
I had a quick look through the past results of some of the seeded riders who I didn’t know (well, you gotta…) and it was quickly apparent that I wouldn’t be finishing as high up the field as I did last week! I was given number 95, so among the second tier of seeded riders, and due to start at 1535. Showers were forecast, I just hoped to avoid any rain. As it happens, not one drop fell (in the entire event, I believe).
The past few weeks I have worked hard to get my training volume up, to see if it would make any measurable difference to performance. As a result of this I have been quite tired. I picked up a cold in the earlier part of this week and – with the poor weather forecast – was in two minds whether to race or not. This morning I woke feeling not brilliant, but had a couple of paracetamol and perked up. As I write this in the evening after the race, again I feel a bit under the weather, but have to say I was A-OK for the race today. Good old amphetamines. Joke!
Because of the large field – and my late start within that field – I had aeons of time to play with today. I got my number from the out-of-the-ordinary HQ in Glatton, 2-3 miles from the start, and found a suitable spot within a few hundred metres of the start to park and setup my turbo. I messed about for a bit, listening to the football on the radio and then got myself sorted.
One little custom I have adopted recently is to warmup with Olbas oil-soaked cotton wool up my nostrils. This is, no doubt, a total placebo but it does give the feeling of the nostrils being cleared before the effort of the race. It looks a bit stupid, but that’s ok because I’d normally be in a reasonably quiet place, left to my own devices. Today, however I’d chosen a spot that would be passed by most of the field as they warmed up before the start. Doh. A new young rider from my club named Thomas pulled up to have a chat, a few minutes before he was due off, to find me doing a passable impression of Captain Edmund Blackadder. Embarrassing.
Right, blah blah blah, we’re off. Today’s conditions you would not consider ideal. A strong southerly breeze. Nobody I spoke to thought the conditions were good for racing, but I was pretty happy. The reason being, the course runs virtually due north and then due south. The first half is net uphill. A slight tailwind in the first half counters the gradient. In addition, there is some psychological effect on me of a tailwind in the first half of this course. I watch average speed while riding, and I know what my best speed is. A tailwind here in the first half can give you a good average speed, even though you’re climbing. This means that you can arrive at the turn – having done the ‘uphill’ part of the course – with an average speed greater than your PB. This is undoubtedly good for the soul. The tailwind was considerably more than slight, but it suited me and I hoped to be able to make hay in the early stages of the ride.
So it proved today. I was bombing along on the out leg, the gradient seemed to have disappeared and I arrived at the turn – at the top of a harsh ramp – having averaged 28.8mph. Last week’s race was completed at 26.9mph. I had ‘simply’ to avoid bleeding off more than 1.9mph to secure a PB!
Seeing the conditions, and knowing how hard the return leg would be, I’d planned to pace the out leg to try and reserve as much as possible for the way back. Often this sort of thing completely goes out the window the moment you’re released to ride your race. But today I noticed at the turn that I was averaging around 300w. I hoped that if I could add just a few watts to that on the return, I might be able to beat my previous best of 22:26, recorded 7 days earlier.
Heading back, it was hard. There is a long drag just after the turn, and the average speed, with the accompanying headwind, was dropping fast. At times like this I do have thoughts along the lines of ‘this is not so important, why not coast it back?’. So far I have been able to dismiss these absurd ideas. It’s pretty amusing to me that they even occur. I have quit plenty of training sessions after similar voices appear, but never a race. Onwards.
At the last mile, the average speed had dropped to 27.0mph, a hair’s breadth faster than last week. There’s a pretty steep ramp to cope with, plus 3 roundabouts and a stiff breeze in the face. Oof. On the plus side, it is the last mile. Technique goes out of the window here, and I was acutely aware of some wayward riding out of the last roundabout on the approach to the chequered flag. But we crossed the line showing 27.0mph! Garmin says 22:15, so if the gods are smiling, it will be a narrow PB. Had a ride around for a bit to warm down, then got myself sorted and drove back to the HQ.
Lots of people had gone home by now, since the results were all in some time before I made it back to the HQ. It’s one of the advantages of a late start – plenty of time to kill before the race, but not hanging around for ages afterwards. The first care is to check one’s own time, 22:18 today, a PB by 6 seconds. Very satisfactory given the conditions. The next care is to count how many riders have gone faster. Eight. Missed out on a cash prize AGAIN. The race was won by Simon Norman in 21:14. The same rider who beat me by a similar margin three weeks previous. Good time. Never going to get close to that. There were three other riders below 22 minutes, David Kiernan with 21:28, Nick Cave (I presume not THE Nick Cave!) with 21:34 and Mark Exon with 21:56 and then a few more just over 22 minutes. Ninth place this week doesn’t sound as good as fourth place last week. But I did go faster, on probably a more difficult day weather-wise. Pretty happy.
Looking at the data on my computer, I went out in 300w and came back in 314w. This is pleasing. As I said earlier, I hoped to be able to produce more on the way back to counteract the wind, and I did manage it. As a result, that’s probably my best all-round performance on this course. It’s my best time, of course, but I mean in terms of my current capabilities. To be able to get 300w out in the first half, then 5% more on the way back, that’s pretty much as good as I could hope for at the moment.
Strava race data here. Thanks for reading 🙂