A slow start to the TT season
Once again I’ve left it way too long to do an update and as a result, I have way too much to cover! I may break this down into two posts, just to save you poor readers.
My last update on March 7th was titled a ‘rude awakening’ and the core message was that I arrived at the start of the Time Trial season poorly prepared. Well, things have improved a little, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
My next race after the sub-par showing on H10/8 was a ‘fun’ non-aero (no TT bikes, no wheels deeper than 36mm, no skin suits or silly helmets) 10-mile TT on H10/3a. I rode my Giant TCR SL. It was only a bit of fun (if you consider time trialling on a road bike fun!) and I was ridiculously slow but at least the power was up a few watts.
The next proper race was R25/3H on March 31st. This popular course near Methyr Tydfil is well-known to be a PB-setter. I arrived early an met up with Alan Murchison (Performance Chef) and Vicky Gill to drive the course. It was my first time, but Alan was looking doubtful. The wind strength and direction meant it wasn’t going to be a fast day.
I warmed up and got to the start line ready to go. Mindful of my power deficit, I didn’t want to start too hard, so the first 3km or so were pretty measured (too measured, I suspect) and then I hit the famous ‘ski ramp’. I started on the tri bars, but as the speed notched up to 80kph and the wind started buffeting my 90mm Enve front wheel, I admit I lost my nerve and swapped to the base bar. I also ran out of gears, spinning out the 52t front ring and 11t cassette.
With a tailwind, 10-miles was dispatched in under 19 minutes (I suppose that’s a new PB?!) but then it was time to turn around and battle the wind. Although the road was pretty flat until the last five miles or so, I was struggling. The font wheel kept getting snatched away from me (not fun when half the passing cars are giving you just inches of space despite the road being a dual carriageway). Put simply, it was a slog back to the finish line.
I crossed the line in about 55:16. A solid new PB for me, but way off what I should have been able to do on that particular course. My power was still down (ski ramp probably reduced the overall average power, but still low). Unfinished business. I will be back!
Next up, it was back to H10/3R for the second of the two-race non-aero series. This time I was on my Giant Propel but with skinny wheels (they said no TT frames and no deep wheels, nothing about no ‘aero road bikes’!). I wore my tightest road cycling kit (definitely not a skin suit!) and the road helmet with the least number of vents. I also forwent the socks (skin is more aero than cotton, apparently!). This time I was the best part of 30 seconds faster for about the same power, which just goes to show what difference clothing and bike frame can make.
After the two races, I had an aggregate time that was good enough for second place overall. My first (and maybe only!) podium of the year.
In between all the racing (serious and non-serious), I’ve been looking for a bike coach but without much success. I’m finding it really difficult to identify a coach that I can afford, that I trust and that I think can handle my slightly haphazard life. As a result, I still don’t have one and I’ve instead just been relying on one of the standard Zwift 12-week FTP builder programs. But rightly or wrongly, I also feel that regular racing is a good way to get fit (although I know that ‘racing to fitness’ is less popular in the pro ranks these days).
So I wanted to make an early start to the local midweek evening time trials.
The first of these was on April 10, on the H10/3 course. Despite being well short of a course PB, the positive sign was that power was up a whole 20 watts on the first 10-miler of the year back in March. If only I could keep adding 20 watts per month!
Then on Saturday, April 13 it was back over to ‘Bentley’, this time for the H25/8 25-mile course. Another sub-optimal day (cold and windy) but having at least ridden 10 miles of the course previously, I had an idea of where I should push harder or hold back. My aim was to ride to power, holding the 10-mile power I’d managed midweek, but this time for the full 25 miles. It worked, sort of. I ended up only two watts off the average for the midweek 10, but crossed the line with too much left in the tank. Should have gone harder. A time of 56:33 was only good enough for 18th overall (10th Vet) out of 99 finishers.
Maybe triathletes really aren’t very good at time trials after all.
I’ll leave the rest for the next blog. But to summarise, what have I learned so far?
Well, I’ve remembered just how important position is. Despite my power being down, I am beating guys with significantly higher outputs, just by being more aero. It’s something I have to think about pretty much every second of the ride. The moment I forget, I find myself lifting my head or fidgeting. And right now, I need to make up for every lost watt!