After a frustrating string of weekends that should have seen me building on a winter of training, but instead have yielded snot and coughing and some overdue mechanical attention to my bikes, I have finally managed to kick off the 2012 racing season.
With what I am pretentiously referring to as my ‘early season calendar’ entirely geared towards my attempt at the Beacon RCC Little Mountain Time Trial at the end of April, the first morning of British Summer Time saw me taking to the start line for the Chelmer CC ‘Hardriders’ 25.5 TT. The preceding days had not been the best possible preparation as, aching to make up for several weeks of missed training, I had ridden further and harder than I would have in other circumstances. A ‘steady spin out’ with clubmates on Saturday morning was still heavy in my legs as I loaded the car, the time lost thanks to the clock going forward had removed a much-needed hour of recovery.
After several balmy days, and the apparent onset of spring, arrival at the race HQ yielded more unfavourable conditions. Although the temperature was set to rise to well into double figures by early afternoon there was a real chill in the air, a quick glance at the car dashboard broke the news: 4 degrees C… Skinsuit was quickly teamed with leg warmers, arm warmers and gilet to provide some protection from the cold and, after a brief warmup, I was off the start. I had intended to gauge my effort with my heart rate monitor, but the cool morning air precluded me sweating enough for an effective signal to be transmitted from the chest strap.
Expectations were fairly tame for the race, at best it was going to be a good training session, a chance to try out the time-trial bike in anger for the first time since last summer. I was hoping to average 20 mph or better so, when I caught my minute-man after 8 minutes, I was rather pleased with the way I tackled the initial hilly section of the course. Being passed myself by 2 riders within the first 5 miles put this in perspective and at times the seemingly innocuous climbs taxed my legs more than expected, but I forged ahead: crouched low on the tri-bars, the tip of my new aero headwear tapping between my shoulder blades.
The final miles of the course took their toll to the extent that, as a small flourescent sign hoved into view on the roadside proclaiming ‘5 Miles To Go’, my head dropped and I tried to summon up a final surge of strength. In doing so I promptly sailed past a left turn and took myself off-course. Having never ridden the course before it was several miles before this became apparent, by which time any sense in completing the race had disappeared. Unfortunately by the time I had retraced my steps back to the missed turn, by now well behind the last rider on the road, the organisers had efficiently removed a number of the signs marking the remaining turns. As a result the next hour was spent exploring the quiet lanes to the east of Saffron Walden, culminating in the ultimate in embarrassment: interrogating queueing customers at a petrol station as to how I would navigate my way back to Finchingfield whilst skittering about the forecourt in cleated shoes, clad in a skinsuit, with a bonce topped off with a silly pointy hat.
To compound things I had, for the first time in 3 years, tempted my directeur sportif to accompany me to a time-trial, with the promise of an afternoon of picturesque villages and cream teas. Having only taken the minimum of food along, only expecting to be spending 75 minutes on the bike, by the time I located the HQ all sense of humour had deserted me and the ‘bonk‘ was looming. Thankfully I was greeted with concern rather than a fit of apoplexy by my DS and the inevitable post-race cake soon helped to rebalance the blood-sugar levels.
At some point this week I’ll need to map out exactly where I did end up before I realised I was hopelessly off-course to see exactly what sort of pace I was riding. During the sporadic periods when my heart rate monitor decided to function it was clear I was pushing reasonably hard without over reaching myself so as far as effective training goes it can probably be considered a succesful ride. In terms of actually clocking a result to add to my palmares, less so…
Hopefully I’ll have got a seasons worth of bad luck out of the way in one go. The next competitive outing is going to be the Buxton CC Mountain Time Trial on Good Friday. Another course I’ve never ridden, I’ll probably pay more attention to the course map for that one…