First solo race of the year and a new course for me, the O10/3 near Ranby in Nottinghamshire. On the right day a fast course as it’s ran on the busy A1 dual carriageway so I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. But first let’s address the ongoing saddle saga…
Friday night, dashed home from work so I could do some testing, an hours testing later and with darkness approaching I gave up as still I was struggling to find a solid position. Saturday morning (race day) some more testing, saddled swapped, bars altered slightly but still no real step forward. I sat in the dining room of my house about 4 hours from my start time pondering what to do, should I race, maybe I’ll be ok once I get going?. If it was raining and cold I may have aborted but with the sun shining, the mercury rising and favourable wind conditions I decided to give it a crack.
Arriving at the HQ was like arriving at Team Bottrill Village, we had 9 riders signed on so it was great to see some familiar faces, a few of my previous club mates were doing most of the organising so again some more familiarity to settle any pre-race nerves. I really had no idea what would happen today, I had visions of actually sitting up on the bike after 2 miles, demoralised I couldn’t pedal the damn thing but with a 6 mile ride to the start line I guess that’d give me chance to at least try and get in position. I gave myself plenty of time and arrived at the start, in front of me was another TB rider Elliot Maynard, we both offered each other encouragement and then away he went.
On time keeping duties was Malc Smith which made it feel less like an Open event and more of a club type affair, this kept me relaxed and focused on the job in hand, that job would now involve subjecting myself to around 21 minutes of torture on the A1.
With the time at 14:56, away I went and started the uphill drag to enter the A1, at this point I was out of the saddle so everything felt great, what would happen when I sat down? Thankfully when I did get “in position” the power seemed to be transmitting through the bike and onto the tarmac, I felt like I was sitting side saddle (and thinking a basket might be nice) but still, the speed and power looked good so I settled in. Racing on dual carriageways (DC) can be a bit daunting, you’ve got traffic coming past at twice the speed (and more) than you’re pedaling at, but on the plus side there are no T junctions so no danger of someone pulling out on you.
With a slight tailwind out I was determined to execute the coach’s strategy and put in a good performance, a few miles in and all was well, by luck I was in a sustainable (if a little odd feeling) position and I kept the power within the target range as I pushed onto the turn. My legs felt really good, whenever I asked them to do something they responded, I feared I might pay later but what the hell, doing 30, 32 or 38mph on a DC is pretty exciting so I pushed on. With Elliot (currently faster than me) in front it’d be unlikely that I’d see anyone to chase down, for me this is not a bad thing, it allowed me to focus on my own race.
As I approached the slip road at the turn I spotted a couple of marshals up ahead who directed me safely and quickly around the junction as I headed over the A1 to go back from where I’d came. I got out the saddle to pick the speed back up, at this point I thought “shit, what if I can’t get back in position?”. Again, luckily I was back in position and pressed on for the return leg. The return leg was slightly shorter, about 4.5 miles, it’d be slower too with a slight headwind to deal with but having reached the turn in 10 minutes 33s (averaging 30.4mph) I knew I’d paced it to pretty much perfection, all I needed to do now was keep it above 28.5mph average and I’d achieve my goal of breaking 21 minutes.
As the miles ticked by my average speed slowly started to drop (I expected this) so it was all about keeping my head, keeping those pedals turning and really focusing on my position. As you begin to tire the natural reaction is to start lifting your head up to get more oxygen in but that puts you more in the wind and slows you down so it’s really key to hold that position even when you feel you can’t. With 2 miles to go I was still feeling good, confident that I’d have enough in my legs to not come to a standstill on the tough last mile.
After a close pass from a lorry that unnerved me slightly I just really kept myself low and pushed with everything I had. It’s in these last 2 miles that things seem to go very slowly. A look down at the Garmin, on track time wise (calculated from average speed), it showed 1 mile to go. Not sure if it’s just me but I try to mentally vision how far that is based on other roads I travel on, those 0.1 miles ticked down very slowly before it showed 9.7 and 0.3 to go.
For some stupid reason I thought about Monsal Hill Climb, that’s 0.3 miles long, albeit at a 13% average gradient, why could I not think of a nice flat, smooth piece of tarmac, with the sun shining. Well, no matter it seemed to work, in fact there may have been more in the tank as I pushed 10% more power in the last 0.3 miles than I’d done as an average overall, maybe I’ll hit the go button at 9.5 miles next time.
As I crossed the line I hit the stop button, my average speed told me I’d done ok but the time that flashed up was 20:43, I’d done it, I’d beat my previous PB of 21:01 set on the faster V718 course in Hull, I figured it’d be more like 20:45 (due to the lag of the garmin when setting off) and sure enough as I came back to the HQ the time was confirmed as 20:45. Happy with that, especially for race 1.
Pleased with my own performance I then started scanning the time sheet for other riders, I’d had 3 goals for the day, sub 21 time, top 20 finish and to beat 3 of my rivals, all achieved so a really good day for me but not just that it’d been a great result for Team Bottrill. We’d actually taken the top 3 spots, Aaron Ward winning in 19:38, Elliot in 2nd with 19:59 and Dan Barnett (my coach) in 3rd with 20:05 and we had all 9 riders in the top 20, I was placed 12th overall.
Top is Aaron, bottom left Elliot, bottom right Dan.
As we replenished our energy supplies on cake it was great to chat with so many TB riders, many of whom are from different districts so that won’t always happen but needless to say there’s a great camaraderie within the team, all pleased for each other, all pulling together to help us all go faster.
More Bottrill riders, Bill Seddon (L), Andy Cutts (R).
A special thank you to all the organisers, time keepers and everyone at the HQ and also to Brian Hall for taking some superb pictures. Next week, it’s the O10/5 course at Cuckney, this promises to be a great event with a full field of 120 riders expected, a slower single carriageway course but one I’m very familiar with, I’ll be targeting a course PB and getting as high up the leader board as possible.
Thanks for reading