VTTA National Championship 10 mile TT
Towards the end of 2013, after my first season in the sport, I was out on a ride with my friend and sometime mentor, Ben Price of Kinetic Velo. We were chatting about goals and so on for the 2014 season. I had recently recorded a time of 21:06 in the abandoned VTTA championship on E2/10 at the end of August, and so I was feeling quite pleased with myself and maybe a bit overconfident of what the future might bring. I’d be secretly thinking to myself “what if I could do a 19?” (sub 20 minutes for 10 miles)
Generally I like to act first and talk later so thoughts like that are best kept to oneself, but for reasons unknown I blurted it out. “I’m going to do a 19.”
Silence. Response came there none.
I was immediately a bit embarrassed, but I’d made the thought real, it was now a thing. I could tell from my riding partner’s silence that he didn’t share my conviction, and why should he? But now I’d said it, I needed to make it happen. I made a plan, I needed something like 50 watts, so I’d go to the wind tunnel and save, what, 20-30 watts? And so that just needed me to gain 20 watts or so from training and I’d be there. Let’s go. So I went to the tunnel, and I gained 2-5 watts from a helmet change, if I kept my head really low. Which I might not be able to do. Bugger. But, I did come away with a far less aggressive position, which ought to release some power.
And so it transpired, with an additional 20-25 watts, a bit more savoir faire, and some favourable conditions, during 2014 I got pretty close, recording 20:02, 20:04, 20:07, 20:12 and 20:20 in various races throughout the season. But I missed out on the 19. I thought that was fair enough. I deserved it for boasting to Ben that I’d do a 19. Hubris.
Moving onto the current season, I have made a host of kit changes, experimented with position to see what’s fastest and seem to be adding a bit more power, watt by watt. In 2014 I managed a best average of 313w on a couple of occasions. In 2015 it’s been creeping up, 314, 315, 316w. Each additional watt is worth approx 1-2 seconds, so these are very small net changes. What’s definitely required for a PB is good conditions. Early races in 2015 have not – as is fair to expect at this time of year – provided those conditions. Best so far is 20:35 in the VTTA London event at the beginning of May. A long way from a 19 (about 450 metres on the road behind where I needed to be!).
So I bought a golden ticket to ride in the VTTA National Championship, this year to be staged on the fabled V718 just west of Hull, generally considered (nay, pretty much universally considered) to be the fastest course in the land. With good conditions and good form, maybe I could sneak under 20 minutes?
Yesterday I made the trip up with my father Barrie and brother David, who are visiting for a few days. They were present last year for two separate PB rides, and so I dragged them along to be my rabbit’s feet. The forecast wasn’t great, quite a strong westerly (the kind of wind that recently prevented Sir Bradley Wiggins from breaking the competition record on the same course). Hopefully not as strong. I started with a sore throat on Friday night, but I dosed myself up with Paracetamol and forgot about it. Not everything was in my favour, but you never know what will happen on the day, in the minute, and so I took my place at the start line in South Cave hopeful, but not expectant.
I can’t compete really in the VTTA championship. There are far too many faster riders, and a lot of them are older than me, so with the event decided on handicap time (called “standard time”) it was really just about the actual time I could record in the event. It was pretty much 19 or bust. Because of this, I decided to break a golden rule I have and display average speed on my Garmin. I used to do this, and found that if things weren’t going well and it was below target, I tended to lose heart and not do as well for the remainder of the race. But yesterday, if I failed it didn’t really matter if I did 20:00, 21:00 or 25:00. I needed to keep average speed above 30mph, simple as that.
Setting off on the course, you get the immediate aid of a downhill slip road, and with the westerly wind and me heading South East, I was getting a bit of assistance and average speed was quickly up over the necessary mark. I knew that the second half of the race would be harder than the first, and also riders always lose time at the turn, because we don’t go as fast around the elevated roundabouts as we do on the faster dual carriageway. I arrived at the bottom of the sliproad up to the turn at about 4.5 miles having averaged 31.2mph. I didn’t feel as if I was going well, my throat had closed up a bit and the chin strap on my helmet seemed to be too tight, causing me to need to swallow repeatedly. At this point I thought maybe it wasn’t possible. But I was ahead of the needed speed, and as long as that was the case, I was on target.
After the turn the average had dropped to 30.7mph, and then I reached the Welton drag, this is a half mile slight uphill, that you really wouldn’t notice in a car. But I was noticing. I was struggling down at around 26mph and the average speed was ticking down like a bomb timer in a Bond movie. By the time the course swung due west, into the wind for the final mile, it reached 30.0mph. But the bomb didn’t go off! Instead I reached a slight downhill section, and the wind wasn’t as bad as I feared. Speed eased up to around 32mph and the average stabilised. The final section is uphill and I reached this on an average speed of 30.1mph, which should be enough. I had to fight to keep the speed above 30 for the final few hundred yards and I passed the chequerboard utterly spent. The Garmin bleeped for 10 miles and showed 19:54. But, recently it has been out by up to 6 seconds. It would be close! Somehow did a power PB, by 1 watt, 317w. It didn’t feel as though I had, because whenever I looked at current power during the race, I seemed to be labouring and having to back off a bit.
Back at the HQ, time was confirmed as 19:57. So there we are. It’s been my main focus throughout 2014 and 2015 and now the box is ticked. I’ll have to think of some new goals. But maybe I’ll keep them to myself and not say anything out loud, like say sub 51 minutes for 25 miles, or sub 1:50 for 50 miles. Oops.
Ride on Strava is here.
Thanks for reading 🙂