Finally after 5 months of training mainly in a freezing cold damp outhouse the race season arrived. Due to work I’d sadly missed the team launch but was keen to get cracking.
As with last year it was the 2UP 25 mile event put on by Sheff Rec at Hatfield Woodhouse (or Hatfield Roubaix as it’s now being called due to the terrible surface) where I’d be opening my 2016 account. Now racing for Team Bottrill I teamed up with a fellow team member Andy Cutts as it seemed we were quite well matched in terms of times produced last season. Having never met Andy, we’d managed a few conversations on facebook where I basically rambled on about rubbish trying to empty my usual over analytical mind about race tactics, to cut a long story short we appeared to be on the right page so all looked good. However………..
I’ll be honest and say I was very apprehensive about this race, last year I’d been fighting anxiety, this year (and the back end of last year) I’ve been fighting comfort issues with my saddle. Despite the bike fit I had, the issue, if anything has gotten worse and at times I’ve honestly wondered how the hell I’m going to race this year.
I’m of the firm belief that without the coaching from Dan (and the constant bothering of my team mates Travell and Seddon) I would have been in terrible shape as the season approached because quite frankly the stresses of trying to get comfy on the bike have taken their toll. Despite battling comfort issues and my training being compromised, it’s not been derailed, sure my CTL should probably be about 10 points higher but physically I’m in decent shape. But back to the saddle, essentially I had no idea how I would handle things in the race, I’d done a bit of testing on my road and one session along the A6 in Derbyshire, but it’s not the same as being on the rivet on race day so apprehension was the emotion of the day.
Arrival at HQ
It was very cold and typically windy as I arrived at the HQ, Andy and I bumped into each other and after a brief chat arranged a few things, including deciding to warm up together. Once kitted up we ran into Dan and Billy and then later Simon and Bill who made up the 3rd Team Bottrill team on the day. Skin suit on, embrocation applied, Roubaix warmup top to keep warm and then finally the TT lid on it was time to begin the warm up. It felt good to be in the Team Bottrill kit. Both Andy and I had warm up instructions but if we are both honest they kind of went out the window as we basically just rode around the loop of the HQ to keep warm and practice some changeovers. (sorry coaches).
With about 8 minutes to go Andy had a slight mechanical which required a trip back to the HQ, getting to the start on time would now be tight but these things happen, this first race is actually ideal for ironing these gremlins out. The effort to come was more important. Sure enough despite a mad rush to the start we were late, only about 45s but still late. Luckily with it being a 2up and people starting at 2 minute intervals we were slotted in and off we went, albeit 90s late. (I think both of us hoped we might get off with the penalty).
With the countdown completed we shot off up the hill, negotiated the roundabout (RAB) and buckled down to business. I knew instantly this was going to be tough as I was already fidgeting around on my saddle desperately searching for something resembling comfort, but letting my team mate down was not an option so we pushed on.
With the late arrival I’d used the wrong Garmin display screen but eventually found one that would be of use and continued on our way to the next RAB. Having never ridden together before our changes were pretty damn good, we communicated well, neither of were concerned with willy waving and surging through, we just concentrated on making them smooth. The surface wasn’t great as we bumped and bobbled along but as we reached the turn (a turn I got lost at last year) we had covered the first 6.6 miles in 14:48 averaging 27mph.
We’d targeted a time of around 58 minutes, in warmer and more favourable conditions I’m sure we’d be looking at nearer 55 but today a 58 would be acceptable. With the turn negotiated we soon got back into position and made our way back from where we’d came. On the way back we passed a couple of riders so were obviously going ok, we also spotted a couple in a layby who’d clearly had an incident of some kind. Some sections of road are pretty horrendous, my eyes felt like they were jangling in my head, throw in a headwind and it really tests your metal.
As we proceeded Andy shouted up that the wind would be slightly better in this section, this gave me a lift and allowed me to momentarily forget the pain coming from my groin, my saddle was clearly trying to kill me. As we flew past the start area I heard some words of encouragement from a rider getting ready to begin their own race, I’m pretty sure it was my coach Dan, no time to wave, we just kept the wheels turning. We’d made the return trip of 6.5 miles in a slower time of 16:13, averaging 24.4mph. So now we were 13 miles down, 12 to go, 10 of those on the more familiar 10 mile course.
We’d get a tailwind to the final RAB, a small consolation for the bad surface, but that obviously meant a headwind for the 5 mile run for home. But forget the run for home, I’ve got more fidgeting to do before that. Fidgeting on the bike kills your power which kills the speed, I’ve no idea how many turns on the front I did but even if I lost 0.5 seconds with every other fidget they add up. We both knew where the really bad surface was so ended up pretty much in the middle of the road at one point but time wise I felt we were still on track.
I think it’s fair to say Andy got the better of the deal, he got more shelter behind me than I did him but power wise I was managing things so still all good as we made the final turn. We did the outward 5 miles in 10:31, averaging just over 29mph, looking at my power it was a little down on the earlier splits but I do think I was holding fractionally back for the head wind to come.
Turn and Burn
Roundabout negotiated, now the run for home, 5 miles, bumpy surface, headwind, the joys of the UK time trial scene eh. By now the pain in my groin had turned to agony but the pain in my legs as we gave it everything masked this a little so I was able to keep things going. With about 3 miles to go I was tiring, the cold and mild flu I’d still not fully recovered from had robbed me of some endurance but we continued pushing. I think Andy probably had more in the tank towards the end but we kept the turns coming, albeit a bit quicker now but nice and slick as we surged toward the line. Last 5 miles done in 13:30, or about 22mph, even with a headwind that’s slower than both of us would have expected.
I knew once I crossed the line things were going to get worse, that’s a bizarre thing to say when you stop but the saddle had broken me, the agony level had increased to the point I could not even sit on the saddle, but after collecting kit I got back to the car and climbed off the bike. I could barely stand, the impact of the poor comfort had affected my whole leg, nothing appeared to be working as I literally collapsed into the car. Getting my overshoes off was horrendous, getting my kit off even worse, walking, another step up from that.
As I limped into the HQ Chris Ledger (a fellow racer) asked what was up, (the grimace on my face giving the game away), he took me to one side, well into another room actually and before I knew it he had me planking and offering advice. I’ll try and heed some of that, thanks Chris I really appreciated your time.
We’d done a long 57, 57:57 but with a likely penalty to come, getting in the top 10 would be very unlikely. There was some confusion as we saw a time of over one hour but by now all I wanted to do was get home, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to drive at this point the pain was that bad.
Before I left we’d spotted Dan and Billy, sadly they’d had a double puncture and had to walk about 3 miles back to the HQ in cycling shoes (wrecking them in the process), in the freezing cold, that must have been horrendous but not quite as horrendous as what happened to Bill. As I was exiting the car park, I saw Bill, he was a bit banged up with cuts to his hand, he’d actually crashed. Skin suit ruined, a few bits of his bike broken and some lost skin but thankfully no more than that, he was actually back out training the next day.
Utilising the cruise control I made my way home, the saddle glaring at me in the rear view mirror, I’m sure I heard it laughing. In terms of the result we were 18th (out of 63), we’d have been 11th, only a few seconds off the top 10 without the penalty, that looks good for the season ahead, well once I’ve sorted my saddle, Andy’s sorted his bike, Bills got a new skin suit, Dan’s got some new shoes and Billys fixed his puncture, Simon I think was OK!
Next race, Saturday the 12th March on the O10/3 near Ranby, fast course, 9 Team Bottrill riders on the start sheet. It’s time to #smashitup again.