Back down to earth

After the relative glitz and glamour of the Buxton CC Mountain Time Trial,  a race in the clouds including onboard coverage of which has even cropped up on Youtube, today saw racing which was strictly back to traditional time-trial roots. I was back down to earth in altitude terms, organisational terms and, it would transpire, performance terms. The day delivered a promoting club that has barely entered the internet age, a standard distance: 25 miles, an early start: first man off at 8am, a HQ in a secluded village hall and a startsheet made up of local club riders. Welcome to the Elite CC 25 mile TT…

After the absolute battering I took on Good Friday I had spent a couple of hard sessions on the turbo trainer in the week. On the menu was the standard serving in the time-triallists training diet: threshold intervals – 20 minute bursts at an intensity best described as ‘unpleasant’ with the aim of raising the overall level of intensity I could ride at for a sustained period.

These sessions had certainly taken their toll, by the time Friday came round and I had the chance to get out for a longer ride I was fairly well exhausted and the 2 hours bashing up the nearest thing Essex has to hills was quickly revised to a steady ride in some rolling terrain punctuated with mild drenchings thanks to the changeable weather… If I’d been looking for a stellar performance today I’d have rested up more than I did, but the big race is only two weeks away now so training is the main purpose of every ride. Looking to improve on PB’s can wait for later in the year…

Just like the Chelmer CC Hardriders a few weeks ago the temperature was bitterly low in the HQ car park and once I rolled out onto the roads for a quick warmup it was apparent I would be facing a howling northerly wind for much of the ride. Yet again the temperature played havoc with the heart-rate monitor, so the first 5 or 6 miles were ridden without the benefit of any kind of performance feedback, apart from the screaming agony relayed through the nerves in my hips and thighs. In hindsight this may have been an indicator that I had started off a little more briskly than I had intended…

The course itself was on rolling roads, through quiet villages and mostly tree-lined, with only the occasional stretch of road bordered by open farmland. Neither were favourable, the tree-lined sections funnelled the headwind into a constant wall of resistance for the majority of the course, the open sections allowed the cross winds to batter away at my aero helmet and wheels. The route itself was rather unusual, taking the riders 6 miles north-east of the start to a roundabout before retracing, back past the start, and heading off 6 miles south-east to another roundabout before finally turning for the final leg back to the finish. Although the altitude changes were fairly marginal, the road dropped towards both roundabouts, a short sharp descent to the first one, a drawn out rolling descent over 5 miles to the second one. Teamed with a strong headwind the last 5 miles of the course, returning to the finish was guaranteed to be challenging.

After what was probably an over ambitious first 5 miles I turned back towards the start/finish for the first time. Where the first stretch of the ride had been a rough struggle, battling the blustering wind, pedalling suddenly became effortless, clicking down through the gears and accelerating up the road with the wind at my back. The one small victory of the day occurred after 8 or 9 miles, catching a rider ahead of me. Turning south-east towards the second roundabout this victory was tempered by the realisation that I was loosing time hand over fist to the faster riders as two riders effortlessly blasted past me.

Having realised that I had probably started too quick, and desperately trying to hold something back, I looked in vain for the second roundabout. I seemed to be inching towards it agonizingly slowly until finally the road crested and I turned back into the wind. At the halfway point I had decided to hold back some effort until the final turn, then smash the final 5 miles as hard as I could. Sadly, thanks to the toll that the rolling roads had taken, this wasn’t the epic final few miles I had anticipated. Having been caught for 3 minutes at the final roundabout I haemorrhaged time as I ground away at the pedals and watched the rider who had passed me edge further and further away from me. The sight of the chequered flag allowed me to summon a final surge and then, thankfully, it was over.

Vague, pre-race, thoughts of a finishing time of 1 hr 5 or 6 minutes had been revised to perhaps 1-10 on the start line. Back at the HQ the truth became apparent: 1-13 was not the outcome I had expected and was somewhat adrift of the majority of the field. Some solace was delivered, only 2 riders went under the hour mark, times across the field were slower than usual and this race was more for training than anything else.

Only two more competitive outings stand between me and the mountain, midweek club events that will serve as last-minute preparation. With 14 days to go I am trying to stay positive, but rapidly revising my dreams of breaking the 2 hour barrier to a simple hope of improving on my personal best…. Let’s hope that these punishing sessions on the bike will pay dividends in the meantime…

1 thought on “Back down to earth

  1. Pingback: A line in the sand | meandthemountain

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