In 2013, my first season racing, I did 5 races: 4 TTs and a Hill Climb. Last year, 17: 15 TTs and 2 Hill Climbs. This year, I did a much more full season: 21 TTs, 3 Hill Climbs and the Etape du Tour. The year was perhaps too full: I’m knackered. But it’s been a fun year.
Early Season Sporting TTs
February and March herald in the season with Sporting TTs: hilly (or at least rolling) courses of varying length. Being around 61kg, these should suit me, but they’re tough mentally. When I turned up for the SCCU 21, it was 4 degrees and raining, and I had only arm & leg warmers to go with my skinsuit. Still, this race would see me finish 9th – one of two top-ten finishes in the year and my first appearance in The Comic.
All my season goals were in open TTs. As stated on the Wheelers forum, they were:
- 10s. 21:xx
- 25s. 55:xx
- 50s. Complete at least one. Stretch goal: sub 2-hours.
- 100s. Complete at least one.
- Overall. Place top 20% in an Open.
Following the sporting courses, I went straight into racing standard distance TTs at the beginning of March, starting with the High Wycombe CC 10 on H10/22. I was treating these early-season races as a build-up, expecting to achieve that goal some time in the summer. This race turned out to have fantastic conditions: not too cold, very little wind, and a touch of moisture in the air (they say the air is more oxygenated after rain). I rode hard and was looking on to achieve my goal – I couldn’t believe it. On a downhill section I tried to shift into my top gear and the chain came off, getting caught between cassette and frame, jamming my pedals at 34mph. Slowing to a safe stop, fixing the issue and getting moving again meant I stopped the clock at 23:58 and was bitterly disappointed, but motivated for the rest of the season.
In my next 10 on the P881 in April, I managed a 22:05. My form went away a bit for the next two, stopping the clock at 22:35 and 23:01 on H10/22 and H10/57 respectively. Then, in June I bettered my PB, again on the P881, to 22:04. It seemed the 21:xx might elude me. I had three 10s left over two courses (G10/57 and G10/42, neither of which are known to be fast), and though I achieved course PBs for both I was unable to hit the goal. However, my power in the final 10 of the season was a best over 20 minutes at 314W, which should see me below the 22 minute threshold next year.
I only raced two 25s in 2015, on G25/54 and H25/2, and was able to PB in both races. The first saw me finish in 58:25, taking almost 30s off last year’s PB. In the second I was able to produce significantly better power and produced a 56:51 – a big chunk of time off my previous PB but some way from my 55:xx goal.
My first 50 was during my taper for the Etape, so I should have been going well. However, the conditions were bad with an awful headwind – a friend and strong tester was barely able to get within 5 minutes of his PB. I managed a 2:04:19, which put me closer to the 2-hour mark than I had expected.
I had been bitten by the bug, and entered the last available 50 of the season for me, which would require travelling to Chester. On the D50/3r, I managed a 2:01:43, significantly closer to my stretch goal and a big chunk off my PB. Promisingly, when reviewing the data from the race I saw that I had averaged the magic 25mph until the 42-mile mark, at which point the course turned into a headwind and headed uphill. This race also saw my second top-10 finish, and saw me achieve my top-20% goal in an open.
I didn’t manage to enter a 100 this season, since scheduling conspired against me. It’s still on my list to do, but perhaps a target for 2017.
At the Wheelers end of the season awards night, I received a nice surprise – I had won the Club Time Trial Series, a points-based tournament held over a number of races. Although I was quite far from being fastest in any of the disciplines, consistency saw me place highly and I was chuffed to win. It’s not something I expect to repeat – there are significantly quicker testers in our club than myself.
Etape du Tour
A bucket-list event, I signed up after some friends told me they were doing it. I love riding in that region and couldn’t wait to test myself on the Tour climbs. After a yo-yo’ing weather forecast, and a thunderstorm the night before, the day of the event was incredibly hot. Although we started relatively early whilst it was cool, it soon heated up, with the final climb on La Toussuire being particularly sweaty – south facing and exposed, with fresh tarmac reflecting the heat. Kind families in their motorhomes were handing out water, and a man sprayed riders with a hose at one of the feed stations. As I passed one spectator holding a bottle of water, I motioned for her to pour it on me. “C’est froid”, she warned. I wished I’d known the French for “I fucking hope so”.
I’m more a hot than a cold weather guy, and I loved the event (I even managed to not get sun-burnt). The first pint of lager (and the second and third…) whilst I waited for my room key to turn up was brilliant. I finished in 6:36, the quickest of our group and 759th of 12,092 starters. The slowest rider on the Tour de France finished in around 4:55. So, they’re just a bit better than me.
We followed up the Etape with a week in the Vercors and I felt fantastic. I didn’t hit many PBs but I was loving riding my bike and couldn’t wait to get back to racing.
The traditional British Time Triallist’s end of season, I only managed three hill climbs this year. I made the mistake of going straight from racing open TTs to racing hill climbs, without any specific training in between. As a result, my performances weren’t as good as I’d hoped.
I returned to Denbies Wine Estate for Dorking & Redhill’s Denbies Duels. I improved my time by 12 seconds, despite being partner-less, but was still outside the cut-off to progress to the later rounds. As a result, I was able to head over to Staple Lane for Charlotteville’s club race. Staple is a climb I know quite well, and was able to place 5th and only a few seconds behind my friendly rival Mark Gray.
My biggest success of the season was at my own club’s race on Leith Hill. I didn’t improve my time on last year thanks to a headwind, however I was the quickest member of the Kingston Wheelers, making me club Hill Climb Champion 2015.
Perhaps I was a bit ambitious in 2015. As a result, a lot of my targets will move over to 2016.
- 10s. Achievable: 21:xx. Stretch: sub 21:30.
- 25s. Achievable: 55:xx. Stretch: 54:xx.
- 50s. Achievable: sub 2-hours. Stretch: sub 1:57:38 (25.5mph average).
- La Marmotte. Place similarly to the Etape – top 10% or so.
- Hill Climbs. Retain my Wheelers Club Champion status. Train for them properly.
- Overall. Plan the season better, with space for specific training between TTs and HCs.