Three recent races
I’ve raced three times in three weeks since the last update. First up was the Team Sales Engine 10 on the F2D/10 course just west of Cambridge. In last year’s event I had a good run, clocking 21:13 on the F2A course (very similar route, just in reverse) and making record power of 313w, which I later equalled but had not beaten. I think it’s a good course for average power because it’s quite flat and there’s not much other than the turn to affect your rhythm. I went into this year’s race hopeful of a good performance and a good result.
The event was notable for the return to action of my good friend Mick, another St. Ives member. He’s been quite an inspiration to me since I started two years ago, when he bothered to chat to me after my first event, having started one minute behind me and passed me at about the 7 miles mark. He didn’t race last year, a period where I improved quite a bit, so naturally this year I am keen to see where I am relative to him. I was also hoping to get under 21 minutes, which I thought should be likely. And I had a faint hope that St. Ives would be fastest team, given we had Mick and Luke Hattersley riding. Luke’s a very good rider, National Junior champion over 25 miles two years ago.
It was a cold day with a breeze from the side. I had my pal James along for moral support. I got going in the race and made pretty good power, I was quite confident I would be able to better my previous power figure, but as the race went on that looked ever more doubtful as I struggled in the last couple of miles. I was lucky at the finish as the rider before me was baulked by a bus, but I arrived at the roundabout just at the right time and scooted past him and sprinted over the line. It was very close to 21 minutes, but I felt just over the mark. Damn. But…average power was showing at 314w, a PB by 1w.
Fears were confirmed at the result board, 21:01. Mick went well, clocking 20:43. Luke was fastest St. Ives rider with 20:33. It turns out we lost the team prize to Team Velovelocity by one solitary second. If I’d managed 20:59, we’d have won it. The race was won by Jason Bouttell with 19:57, Justin Layne taking second with 20:04.
I was not a particularly happy camper. I failed to achieve my target time, we didn’t win best team, and I was well beaten by Mick. I’ve trained a lot harder this winter than I did last year and so I was hoping there would be tangible improvement. No.
Last weekend I rode the first N&DCA event of 2014, on an 18.7 mile sporting (hilly) circuit course near Rockingham. I did a couple of N&DCA events last year, there’s a points competition aggregated over the season. It was my plan to ride as many of these events as possible this season, to see how far up I could finish in the competition. It was my plan, it’s not now! It was a very windy day, but I enjoyed the race itself. Power was a not-brilliant 286w, but it’s a longer race and I have never averaged good power in a hilly race. Don’t know why. The results weren’t kind to me, I finished a distant 11th with 44:29, nearly 3 minutes behind Luke this time. Whilst I enjoyed the race, I was peeved (to say the least) by the result, and I resolved to stick to events where I fare best: namely faster, flatter courses where aerodynamics can make up for the relatively low power and high weight!
So to the race yesterday, the blue riband event on the UK time trialling calendar, the St. Ives CC Open 10. It’s the most important event to me, because it’s the first one I ever did. I fell in love with the sport on that day and so it’s the one I look forward to the most. I did quite well in my first race in April 2013, clocking 23:39 and finishing in 10th place. Last year I improved to 22:26 and 4th place. I was NOT expecting any improvement this year, following the previous races. I had a cold all week which stopped me training, and I also developed a recurrence of my old knee problem towards the end of the week. Doom!
I went back to my old saddle position and used my Kask Bambino helmet. Everyone says it’s not the fastest helmet. Well, I like it. It’s very comfortable, and visibility is excellent. I think it’s easier to see with your head down low. I wore it at the back end of September on the E2 course and did ok. I’d wear it for the St. Ives. I was quite relaxed beforehand. I expected nothing, just wanted to avoid disgrace!
I had number 20 pinned on my back. I saw this as a good omen, as in my first race in 2013 I was number 19 and Mick was 20. It was a good reminder that I have made some progress since I started. Back then, the “zeroes” seemed like double-hard bar-stewards to me. Mick was racing too, off 10 minutes before me. I had a good warmup and got to the start in plenty of time. Conditions were ok, pretty much the same as last year. 12 degrees, north-easterly wind which meant a cross headwind on the northerly out leg. I don’t mind that, means you can try harder on the out leg – which is slightly uphill – and get some benefit on the return.
My coach Matt Bottrill has taught me some interesting things about pacing. I’ve tried to implement the ideas in my races so far, with some success. I have ridden the N1/10 course many times, more than 10 I think, and improvements have always been incremental, with one exception when I made a drastic position change for the better. So I decided to REALLY concentrate on the pacing ideas, and try and carry them out in an even more extreme way. I figured “do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got.” Expectations were very low, so why not take a risk?
I’m pleased to say it appears to have paid off. Power was quite good, 308w, which I think is a very slight power PB for the course. But I clocked 21:50, a course PB by 28 seconds. I could scarcely believe that when I saw it. I can’t say for sure that the pacing was entirely responsible, because most of the other riders I looked at in the race also improved, some by a similar margin. So maybe it was a very good day after all? Or maybe everyone has improved? Anyway I never dreamt I’d do that time, it’s not far off two minutes quicker than my first effort two years ago. I finished 5th. Matt Sinclair won (20:45), followed by David McGaw (21:00), Luke Hattersley (21:32), Mick Hodson (21:36). So the home team St. Ives was fastest team. Yay!
Next week I’m racing on the same course again, in the next round of the N&DCA series. So we’ll see if it was a fluke!
Thanks for reading, apologies for the length of the post. Should have written sooner.