April fool’s day and I was at Goostrey for the Withington Wheelers 25 mile time trial on the challenging J2/9 course. A full field, including a novice event, and rumours of lots of riders being turned away. Incredible really for an early season event on a slow course. April showers were falling as I drove there but thankfully it had stopped by the time I rolled up to the start. First 25 of the season – probably going to hurt I reckoned. I was right. For the first five miles I felt rubbish. Then I felt good for the next fifteen. Hanging on for the last five was the best I could do at that point. My back ached, my neck and shoulders were sore and I’d been fidgety all of the way round. And it was pretty windy too.
I was, however, quite happy with the power I managed, although the time I recorded was my worst time since 2015, and in the end so was my finishing position – go figure! 15th from 120 riders
I decided I was going to tweak my position again. Patience is not my thing! I ordered a switchplate kit from Canyon that offsets the armrest stacks and allowed me to get my armrests into what I hope is the Goldilocks position (not too narrow, not too wide, just right…) and I added a cm or so to the height.
My saddle moved forward a cm in an attempt to stop the fidgeting.
Speaking of position changes, somebody got pinged for a 3cm rule breach which was the cue for another flurry of posting on the time-trial forum. The fact that the breach was identified via a picture only added to the storm, which threatened to escape the teacup and then some (something I talked about in this post here). Having seen galleries from my races so far there are quite a few riders who, on the face of it, could have been in trouble, but that was their lookout. However, it became clear that the CTT were not helping themselves by posting images of race winners in positions that were clearly contravening their own regulation, even if those pictures were old stock images. And it hadn’t been mentioned once in an HQ, which is the complete opposite to the other regulation change for 2017 (signing out) which had been mentioned every time. Anyway, to cut an already long story long, the CTT then announced a moratorium on the 3cm rule for 2017, meaning that anyone who had spent time and money on complying had effectively wasted both. Distinctly not great for all involved.
Back to the racing.
On Saturday 8th it was the VTTA National 10 mile championship on the J2/1 course. The weather was absolutely fantastic – sunny and warm. I didn’t really think I had a chance because the VTTA races are handicapped. There is a “standard” time for each age from 40 upwards and the actual time is subtracted from the standard to give a “+” or “-” against the standard. I came 4th overall on actual time but that only translated to 10th on standard. The winner was, I believe, 86 years old and still doing a 10 miles in less than 30 minutes. The 2nd place guy was 73 years old and did a 23:30! Amazing and inspirational to anyone who thinks they are too old for competitive sport! Frustratingly, myself and two other Manchester & NW Group riders (Darren and Mike) were only 16 seconds away from a Gold Medal for the fastest overall VTTA Section. 4th from 107 riders, 10th place in the Nationals on Standard
Next up were three consecutive races over the Easter Weekend, starting with a chase for a fast time at the “V”.
Luckily the rain that was falling as I sat in the car park died down and I managed my warmup and race in the dry. I was expecting the ride out to the turn to be quick but it wasn’t and it felt harder than expected. My time at the turn was considerably down on previous efforts although my power was up and I felt decent. Coming back there were some really fast sections and I was gradually making up time.
A really big effort and at the end I crossed the Line in 19:49 – 10 seconds down on my PB on what felt like a harder day. I feel that with the right conditions I can really improve on it so I’ll be back! 37th from 108 riders
The wind was up in Cheshire on Saturday.
One of the hardest days I can remember on J2/9. The headwind from Chelford to Ollerton was very much hard work and featured twice, whereas the Twemlow Lane tailwind only featured once – it’s rarely fair! Of course it’s the same for everyone and the faster riders dealt with it better than I did. I felt good and my power reflected that but for the second time in a month I’ve recorded my worst time on this course for 2 years. I’m happy with my position and feel it’s a bit better than last year but I got roundly beaten by a couple of riders who I beat/was close to last year so maybe I’ve stood still relatively speaking. That said, a very close call with a car that didn’t see me meant I was a) shaken up for a while and b) happy enough to finish in one piece. Onwards and upwards. 10th from 97 riders (£10 1st team)
The final piece in my Easter racing jigsaw was a stupid o’clock start to get to Tilstock. I wasn’t expecting much and accepted wisdom is not to do two races consecutively, let alone three, but I enjoy racing much more than training so there you have it! It was a cold morning with a stiff breeze but nowhere near as bad as Saturday.
I was expecting to feel the effects of Friday and Saturday but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t. In fact I felt strong and was happily maintaining a very decent power output. Normally, if I do two 25’s consecutively I am at least 10W down during the second. Today my power was higher. My minute man was a DNS but after about 10 minutes I could see the lady who had started two minutes ahead of me. A couple of HGVs went past me on a straight section, followed by a couple of cars, but then we were quickly into a fairly twisty section and on the narrow A road they inevitably struggled to get past the rider in front. When I analysed my data file for power and cadence I started to ease off at about 00:11:50. By 00:12:00 my cadence and power drop to zero and apart from one spike in the middle it was 00:12:23 before I start pedalling again! I missed the podium by 8 seconds and 1st on standard by 20 seconds, but who’s to say that the breather I got didn’t spur me on to better efforts afterwards, so you just put it down to experience. The wind made the section from Tern Hill to Emsley hard going (but easy back) but then again after the turn back for home at Tern Hill there were long sections where 350W was getting me just under 25mph – very hard work indeed. At the end I equalled my best time for this course on a day when many other riders struggled, and I beat a few that I didn’t expect to (i.e. the complete opposite of the day before). A final word on the winner who tabled a 49, which I understand to be not just a course record but a county record! That’s 30mph average over this course – ridiculous and awesome in equal measures! 4th from 111 riders (£20, 2nd on standard)
Club 10’s also started after Easter. I made a bit of a hash of the first one, missing my start time due to some faulty overshoes delaying me, so when I set off I went off like a complete idiot and faded badly near the end meaning I was well beaten. 3rd from 37 riders
Leigh Premier’s 10 at D10/1 was the following Saturday.
There was a delay to the start as the local council had decided to cut the grass verges – who knew local councils worked at the weekend? The weather was sunny but a stiff breeze meant that most of the ride would be either tailwind or headwind. I managed to get my pacing just right – going harder on the headwind (and uphill) sections and easing back fractionally with the wind at my back, so I was really happy with my ride. You heard it here first – a tester happy with a ride and not making excuses! 4th from 74 riders (£20, 1st on standard)
The next club 10 was FREEZING! On the back of a block of hard training sessions and a -ve Training Stress Balance (TSB) I expected to be tired and struggle so I took it easy at the start. As it was I felt okay so ended up with a bit in hand at the end but was in the bizarre situation of having sweat dripping off me whilst simultaneously not being able to feel my fingers or toes! More importantly the marshalls and volunteers deserve special thanks for standing around in that! 2nd from 29 riders
I’m not sure if the hard week and some issues with sleep caught up with me but after two decent races it all came down to earth with a bump!
The East Lancs Road Club 10 was a re-run of the J2/1 course earlier in the month. This time the wind was giving a bit of a shove on the way out and a bit of a smack on the way back. I didn’t really have a clue that it would be a bad day for me until riding to the start when I felt a little queasy. After the start I felt very queasy but put it out of my mind as I thought it would go – it’s not unusual to feel bad in some way at the start of a TT until your body adjusts to the effort. Unfortunately mine didn’t on this occasion and I felt bad all through the ride and I simply could not sustain any level of power. At the end I’d lost nearly a minute on my time from 3 weeks earlier which was unsurprising as my power was 17W less, and even less than my last 25 mile race. Consequently I lost a lot of ground to many of my peers in the overall standings. 18th from 105 riders
The next morning I was hoping I felt better as it was the VTTA National 15 Mile Championship on V728 in Hull. I had never ridden a 15 before so was looking forward to it.
The wind was really blowing when I arrived. It was blowing such that the outbound leg would be a block headwind and the return would be a tailwind. Riding to the start was a crosswind and it was flicking my deep section front wheel continually. When I started the force of the headwind was quite staggering. But it was also swirling which meant the front wheel was catching it again. It was pretty sketchy and meant that my speed was dropping as low as 18mph on sections and by the time I took the turn and rejoined the return leg I’d done the first 8 miles in 20 minutes. By complete contrast the return leg was how I imagine Brad Wiggins or Alex Dowsett feels – super-fast and relatively effortless! I think I changed out of 56-11 only once, my speed (on the flat) peaked just over 40mph and I completed the second 7 miles in just under 13 minutes. My power was still a bit down and I still didn’t feel 100% but I was happy enough in those conditions. 22nd from 129 riders
So how do I assess the season so far. Well, it hasn’t been what I wanted it to be. My power is all over the place, which I can’t explain given how well (I thought) my training had been going. And other people have improved beyond me. On the positive side I’ve ridden my course best times on J2/1, J2/3, D10/1 and D25/8e. I’ve also had some times on courses that are my worst for several years! I’ve had some rides I’m really pleased with and then some that were just horror shows. I can’t explain it, let alone try to fix it, but I need to try to get some consistency because next month the longer races start.
During the month I managed 453 miles outdoors with 18,146ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 16,364kcals. I spent 20 hours and 33 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,435kcals. Total for the month was 2,571TSS