The venue for this weeks’ time trial was Sleaford in Lincolnshire, a 100 mile roundtrip from South Wingfield, a fair old distance for about 24 minutes of actual racing but having not been here before I was looking forward to it. As I mentioned before, I am not doing any structured training at the moment, for health reasons I do not want to add additional pressure to myself so I made the decision to focus one session per week on “training” and then whatever else I do will be for enjoyment of just riding my bike. Of course this riding does have a training benefit given that I usually target a number of strava segments so in effect it can be similar to an interval session. Tuesday, I did some long intervals on the turbo trainer using my TT bike, Thursday having finished a little earlier from work I hit some local hills on my road bike. Both sessions gave me confidence that I am progressing fitness wise, Thursday being particularly pleasing, it was also nice to leave the leg warmers at home as spring seemingly arrived.
With my little boy at my parents on Friday evening, after a few chores on Saturday morning I could focus on getting ready and making my way to Sleaford. With the bike and kit in the car off I went. I had a general idea where I was going so knew the time it would take and as I approached somewhere near the HQ I saw a number of people already warming up at the road side and asked the exact location. Luckily I managed to get a parking spot on the side street opposite, so having signed in I began to kit up for my customary reconnaissance mission. I’ve not ridden this course before which isn’t a concern but as it was an out and back style parcours I really just wanted to get an idea of the wind, this would enable me to know how to control my effort. Thankfully there was hardly any wind blowing at all, but even with tiger balm and ralgex applied to my freshly shaved legs it felt pretty cold.
I knew a few of my fellow Bolsover crew were racing, but until Bill pulled up I’d not managed to see anyone outside or in the HQ, the HQ being a church hall, already decked out with the score board and a rather nice selection of cakes. I’d got my eye on a flapjack for after my race. As I wasn’t off until right near the end (15:56, the event starting at 14:00) times started to come in, I’d spotted a low 21 minutes so figured the course, even though a slower course to Hatfield was racing quite well. Bill was off a little earlier so as I had a final comfort break, I saw he’d already begun his warm up as he whizzed past the HQ. Bill had already given me an idea of the course direction, this was useful as in my head I would have been going somewhere totally different!
With 35 minutes to go I applied some more tiger balm and due to the cold temperature a bit more ralgex on my calves, if nothing else it was to try and ward off any cramp, but the smell is also nice so with the car locked I began my warm up. My warm up consisted of getting up to race pace and a few short sprints on some of the local roads before making my way down to the start line. Unlike Hatfield I’d not quite timed it as well so I was there 3 minutes before the start, thankfully though as I handed my warm up jersey over I didn’t feel any cold.
After my minute man set off I inched my way to the line and with 30s to go, the starter kindly held me in place, the starter then called out 10s, then 5,4,3,2,1 and off I went in search of a personal best (PB). I quickly got into my rhythm as I pushed up the road, a road that was uphill so no easy start here. My strategy for time trialling is to push harder on an incline section as I am led to believe this is the fastest way to go. My race pace at the moment is around 270-290 watts but I was pushing 350-400W to counter act the loss of pace up the incline before settling down to a more consistent power output. Unlike Hatfield this course wasn’t as flat, the uphill drags were quite tough but at least you know there are small recoveries to be had in between. Prior to the race I’d used google images to look at a twisty section and at 3 miles the road looked familiar as I battled with my brains wish to slow down and my legs wish to carry on, looking briefly down at my Garmin, the average power was 272W, so power wise I was on track.
At 5 miles the roundabout presented itself, unlike Hatfield it was actually round. With marshals in place I passed one turn, then the next to make my way back from where I’d came. As I came around, I’d spotted a couple of cars approaching the roundabout, it was my right of way so I just went as fast as I could, but the car approaching seemed to be going quite fast, as I went past her exit it was clear she hadn’t seen me and she proceeded to enter the roundabout. If it hadn’t been for my quick thinking she would have ploughed into me, thankfully I avoided her, shook my head but quickly refocused my efforts on the 5 miles back to the finish line. If anything I think this gave me a nice distraction, but not one I want again.
I’d made the roundabout in just under 12 minutes, so with the course offering a slightly easier return I felt that even though my legs would tire a bit I could crack the 24 minutes. As I negotiated the twisty section again, I spotted the photographer, no time to smile, head down power on. The miles began to count down nicely until I got to about 8.5 miles, although I felt ok, with half an eye on the clock the next mile seemed to take an eternity to pass, but pass it did. In between the suffering, mental agony and burning legs (lactic acid not the ralgex) I’d been thinking ok, if I’m going 60mph I’d be doing a mile a minute (I wasn’t), 30mph I’d be doing a mile in 2 minutes, that was about all I could manage as my brain was naturally depleted of oxygen, so I just turned all my efforts back to emptying the tanks and giving it my all to the line. With a final look at my Garmin I could also see the finish line, my objective time clearly in sight as I buried myself for those final few metres. As I passed the line I knew it said it 23:40 something, so I felt good, that lasted for 2 minutes went cramp hit my leg!! Thankfully though it went as quick as it came and I made my way back to the HQ which was 1.5 miles up the road, this gave me a nice cool down and chance to reflect briefly on the race. My overriding thought was that this course was quite tough, but the conditions were great so you couldn’t ask for too much more.
Empty Tanks Time:
I rolled back to the HQ, stood my bike in the hallway and made my way through the crowd in front of the score board. I spotted Bill who said “good time that” , I said I wasn’t sure what the final time would be but as I looked up the time against my name was 23 minutes 47 seconds (20 seconds quicker than Hatfield), a new PB, a new time to beat. Today’s objective achieved. The HQ was a hive of activity as all the helpers and racers congregated at the end of what had been an excellent event run by Sleaford Wheelers cycling club, the event itself actually being a charity event in the aid of Cancer Research, at the time of writing this I believe there had been around £1,500 raised which is a superb effort so well done to them for that.
Sleaford on the Left / Hatfield on the right. Actual times 23:47 and 24:07. So I managed to find 3 more watts at Sleaford, plenty more to come I hope. My position was 30th out of 121 riders so pretty pleased with that.
Strava ride link: https://www.strava.com/activities/279158177
Full results: http://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/Events/Results
Some good performances from Dave Johnson, Zoe Hibbard, Mike Garvey and a creditable 21st place for Bill Seddon.
The winning time for Hatfield was 21:18 set by Dan Barnett so on that day I was 2m:49s behind the winner, at Sleaford the winning time was 21:34 so this time I was 2m:13s behind the winner. I have also taken note of a few people that entered both, notably Shaun Eden did Hatfield in 21:35 and Sleaford in 21:39, so I closed the gap there. Bill my club mate did 23:27 and 23:02, so I was 40s behind at Hatfield, 45s at Sleaford so while he beat me by more this week, I don’t think his Hatfield time was a true measure of his performance, think he’d admit to going off a bit quick. (Bill??!).
To sum up though, a pleasing performance and a step in the right direction. Next event likely to be a 25 miler at Hatfield as part of the North Midlands Time Trial series, the hope is I can also get a place on the super fast V718 course at Hull on the 16th May.
Thanks for reading.