So after a positive performance at Sleaford the last two weeks have been up and down, the week after was basically written off due to a cold but last week I got back on the bike with some really positive rides. A couple of rides utilised probably one of the best training roads in Derbyshire, the Via Gelia which starts in Cromford and if you use it all goes on for 7 miles at an average of 2%. I’ve been attacking the first 4 miles hard as not only do I enjoy riding at that intensity but it also simulates my TT race pace, albeit for only 13 minutes. That riding has been done on my standard road bike, but with my focus on Wednesday’s club 10 I took the TT bike out for a spin on Monday evening and whilst it was only 45 minutes I averaged over 20mph, cobwebs blown off.
The two 10 mile TT’s I’ve done so far have been “Open” events which require pre-registration, last night’s race was a “club” event which just requires you to sign on near the start, pay your £3 and pin your number on. These club 10’s are put on by clubs up and down the country every week, they are the bread and butter races, how serious you want to take them is up to you. The really quick boys and girls might use them for practice, position tweaking or just to build a bit of confidence but unlike Open events there is no prize money. Each Wednesday at Cuckney the club 10 is put on by my own club Bolsover and District Cycling Club (B&DCC). Like Open races, for these events to run it requires a number of volunteers to help with marshalling and time keeping and sure enough each week people give up their time, I’ll be taking a few turns myself this year to help out, it’s only fair that I give my time to help as others have done for me.
Having got to Cuckney in good time, I got signed on, kitted up and consumed my caffeine gel approximately 35 minutes before my start time. I would be number 12 meaning I’d set off at 18:57, first rider off at 18:45. Having still not got one of those fancy NoPinz speed pockets it was Simon Travell who had the pleasure of squeezing my backside and pinning my number on to my skin suit. Lucky him. I chatted with a couple of club mates and also with Andy Bishop from the AMAC race team, I’ve met Andy a times, he’s an incredibly strong rider who would surely be pushing for top spot tonight.
Not quite the Team Sky bus!
Open events I’d been arriving nearly 2 hours before my start time, last night gave me much less time but still enough to saddle up and get a few miles in. 16 minutes later I came back to the car for a final drink of Lucozade and some encouragement from Bish before making my way to the start. After a couple more high cadence efforts I pulled in behind number 11, waited for him to set off before inching my bike to the start line. The starter last night was Craig Devonshire, we’ve got a bit of friendly rivalry going at the minute as we are pretty close on time, last week he’d put in a time that was only 4s off my Sleaford time so if ever I needed reminding to pedal hard, seeing Craig was it. He joked that he’d keep a hold of my bike to cost me a few seconds, but then decided he wants to beat me fair and square so as Zoe Hibbard a fellow club time trialler counted down 5,4,3,2,1 off I went.
The Cuckney course offers a downhill start, but with Dan Barnett’s message of “don’t blow your wod in the first mile” firmly in my thoughts I got into my best aero position and began my race. I’d set myself 4 goals for last night, with the addition of not blowing my wod this became 5.
Number 1, To go quicker than 23:40, this would be 7s quicker than my current PB set at Sleaford. With no wind and a nice temperature this was doable.
Number 2, To be within 25s of club mate Joel Candy, Joel was actually marshalling last night so I’d use his time from last week 23:20 as my marker. So 23:45 to do that.
Number 3, To set a power goal of 280W, previous best was 275W at Sleaford
Number 4, To be within 2 minutes of the winner. This is a little more difficult to predict as it depends who’s racing, I’ll call this my stretch target, but Ian Guilor who’d won the Sleaford event in 21:34 was here, my time was 23:47 so this 2 minute target turned about to be a good one to try and achieve.
Having blasted down the first section, I got into my rhythm as I passed the parking area and began my mission to achieve those 5 goals, thankfully I hadn’t “blown my wod” so already I’d achieved one, now for the rest. The course itself is the traditional out and back, but instead of a roundabout it’s a fiddly little thing, more on that later. Whilst the course offers some slightly downhill sections and is quicker than Sleaford, naturally that is offset with some draggy sections, these stretches offer a chance to work towards a given power output, after my training on the Via Gelia I was conscious not to overdo the uphill bits and sure enough I managed to maintain an output near to my targeted average. Slighty concerning was that my heart rate was creeping over 180BPM, I was aiming for a few beats lower but as long as it didn’t get to 185 early on I wasn’t too worried.
The finish line (almost)
Conditions were pretty good, a slight cross wind, but nothing to either help or hinder and as I passed a rider who’s started before me I dug in for the steepest part of the course, a short little ramp of about 6-7%. I resisted all my climbers urge to give it full gas and remained seated, just knocking the gears down to allow me to spin up over the crest. This ensured the power and heart rate didn’t go too high, now the turn. As I approached, there were cars coming from my right but far enough away for me to give them a wait signal with my hand as I sat up momentarily to make myself more visible. The Sleaford near miss obviously not banished from my memory just yet!! Brakes applied, turn right, check left, no cars, out of the saddle, pedal hard to bring the speed back up, back down the 7% ramp and back into position.
The run for home
Time wise I was doing ok, to be honest I didn’t bother doing any meaningful mental calculations at this point, it was impossible due to the lack of oxygen in my brain but I knew I was doing ok. My power was a bit down but I’d really focussed on keeping my head out the wind so maybe that wouldn’t be a factor. As mile 8 came up I began to consider times and when to really sprint for the finish, as is usual with me it’s at mile 8 my legs turn to jelly and doubts of being able to push through the pain barrier creep in. To combat this I recalled some things I’d been reading from Adam Topham’s book, I told myself how good it would feel if I beat my time, I told myself that my family were waiting at the line (they weren’t), and how crap I’d feel in front of them if I didn’t get the time PB and so at 8.75 miles, 1.25 miles left I gave it everything.
On the outward leg, sadly the van killed the image.
The road at this point was going up, never more than 2-3% I’d think but a strain on the legs to maintain speed, my power dipped but I just dug in, reminding myself again that I was almost there. It was at this point a rider came past me, he’d obviously started a minute behind, maybe 2. If this had been mile 5 or 6 then there’s always the tendency to want to speed up, but this is wrong, you should maintain your pace, you are not competing against them, they are much quicker than you (quotes taken from Topham’s book), but with only 1 mile to go I was determined to keep them as close as possible as I gave it everything I had. Pleasingly from about 8 miles I knew that unless I suffered a mechanical or cramp then 23:40 was going to be smashed, the target now was to break 23! 23!!! Despite the lower power I was going well, almost too well as my brain was telling me “you can slow down now you’ll beat your time”, but I buried these thoughts as deep as I buried myself and as I crossed the line I hit stop on my Garmin, 22:46! Wowsers!
Strava analysis – https://www.strava.com/activities/290646443/overview
After a very short warm down, (too short in fact) I got off my bike and my legs felt shot as I pulled up at the car, popped the boot and sat down. The official time I’d been given was 22:48, I was absolutely amazed, clearly that Via Gelia work is paying off. Simon was taking a few photos’s last night from near my car so it was good to have someone there to share my joy, he had his young boy there with him, without wishing to get all Mills and Boon I began thinking of my own little boy Charlie, I’d hoped he was proud of me tonight. After the pain of those 10 miles then the comedy moment came, Bill Seddon my super quick club mate had suffered what can be best described as a wardrobe malfunction, the zip on his skin suit had decided to abandon ship leaving his midriff exposed, there is photo evidence, not fair to put here, he’d even had to put his heart rate monitor on the outside to secure the suit! Still, it hadn’t bothered him too much 22:20 was his time which I think is a course PB. No doubt the time in the wind tunnel, some www.drag2zero.com bling bars and a new helmet offset the zip issues! Bill is another rider who I can track my performance against, he’d beat me by 45s at Sleaford so tonight I’d done much better narrowing the gap to 28s.
With the ever efficient Steve Crapper laptop in full flow the remaining riders times came up, I’d finished 9th out of 23. The winning time from Dave Ellis was 20:41, 2 minutes 7 seconds in front of me, I think that was the rider who passed me. So going back to my targets, I’d not quite achieved number 4 but I was 1m 50s behind Ian Guilor who came 2nd so that was a positive. I’d also only finished 1 minute behind Bish who took 5th. I’d even closed the gap on Xavi from Hatfield’s 1m 44s to 40s tonight, although I’m sure the week in Majorca might have left him a bit fatigued, so he tells me………….
Goal number 1, to beat 23:40, well and truly smashed. Season goal of sub 23 also smashed.
Goal number 2, to be within 25s of Joel Candy’s time, I actually went 32s quicker so that goal well and truly smashed
Goal number 3, not achieved, 261W so quite a bit down. Not happy with that but that gives me confidence I can lower my time further on this course.
So all in all a good night, so good I celebrated with a Mcdonalds, next race likely to be Cuckney again next week if the forecast is a good one. The focus in between is to stay healthy and to get some more consistent mileage in, My thanks again to all the helpers.
Time to set some new goals……..