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  • Writer's pictureMatt Fisher

Rejection, Puncture, PB repeat

With mixed experiences at cycling Time Trials in recent weeks, in early June 2018 I searched the CTT website and found a ‘fast course’ to enter. The plan was to put a little focus into the training and hit the course in good shape, ready to finally get that sub-22 (dare I say it, even a sub-21) time I’ve been wanting for so long.

At the same time, I’d been beginning to think about how to complement the ‘engine upgrades’ with a more efficient aero position on the time trial bike. As chance would have it, a fit became available at Drag2Zero near Northampton on Tuesday. The day before the time trial was perhaps a little risky, but getting a slot at D2Z isn’t easy, so I thought it was worth the risk.

All was going well until Sunday night when an email arrived from the CTT saying I’d been rejected from the time trial on the P881 course. Annoying to say the least, but as I’m only just beginning to learn, the time trial world has its own rules and language that don’t really make sense to me. I’m sure in three or five years I’ll be ingrained into ‘TT speak’, but for now it still feels an alien concept (apart from triathlons that you specifically need to qualify for, I'm used to a first-come, first-served basis to race entries) and I’m only just learning about things like ‘middle marker races’ (probably got that wrong already) and the fact that 'open' races are actually selective, not 'open' in the usual sense of the English word. Time trial speak is confusing to an outsider.

Anyway, despite (naively) appealing, I wasn’t racing on P881 and that was that.

At least I could go to Drag2Zero and not worry too much about any changes being made.

In the end, the changes made during the ‘studio fit’ (as opposed to a wind tunnel fit) were subtle. Having recently moved my saddle and started using the D2Z angled risers (under the elbow pads), we experimented further with saddle position, elbow pad position and tri bar extension length and angle.

The fit was done using a combination of the now-familiar Retul system (I’ve written about Retul fits several times before, effectively using motion capture techniques to record the biomechanics of the rider in different positions), the dartfish video recording (to capture and compare the ‘shape’ of difference setups, helping determine the most aerodynamic positions) and of course the keen eyes of both fitter Rob Lee and D2Z principal, Simon Smart.

After playing with a few saddle positions, we ended up with a setup very similar to the one I had found naturally. The changes, however, were more pronounced at the front, where we added 10mm to the elbow pad stack (disproving the theory that ‘lower is faster’) and then changed the angle of the tri bar extensions from 50 degrees down to 20 degrees (bear in mind I recently added 12 degrees with the angled risers). This had the net effect of bringing my hands lower which in turn allowed me to bring my head down further while still being able to see the road ahead over my knuckles. We also moved the tri bars forward a touch, which helped flatten my back a little.

The final position felt pretty comfortable; hopefully sufficiently so to allow me to hold it for up to 90km in middle distance triathlons.

Having reached a happy place with the position using ‘test parts’, it was a bit deflating then that the fitting came to a sudden end and there was no time to fit the required new bars that would allow me to leave with the new position set up and ready to go. Instead, after recording the ‘ideal’ measurements, all the original parts were put back on the bike and I ended up leaving with the bike more-or-less in the same position as I arrived. Hopefully I can enrol the help of Martyn Harris at Raceware Components (who is increasingly doing more work with Drag2Zero) to help get the new parts fitted over the coming days.

Nevertheless, I felt it was a shame to turn up to the local club time trial on H10/3 with a position that I felt was slower than the one we had dialled-in 28 hours previously.

My mood wasn’t improved as I was getting ready and realised that I’d left my NoPinz aero shoe covers at home (idiot…), which meant I’d have to ride in socks and normal shoes (I realise to anyone unfamiliar with time trialling that this sounds pathetic, but aero shoe covers have been shown to be worth 30 seconds over 25 miles). The boa dials on the shoes are an aerodynamic nightmare too – again, research suggests that shoes with boa dials can be 30 seconds slower over 25 miles than a more aerodynamic lace-up shoe!

At least my socks matched my skinsuit!

I headed out for a warm up (I can’t be bothered taking a turbo and a turbo wheel for local TT events). All was going well (the position felt a little weird, being a halfway house) until I rolled-up to the start line a few minutes ahead of my allotted starting position. Within 50 metres of the line and suddenly BANG! Oh no, the inner tube in my rear disc had gone.

Again! The third time this year.

Thankfully I had a ‘spare’ rear wheel still in the car (I’ve become so nervous about the disc that I rarely turn up to a race without a spare these days) and the organisers allowed me to ride the mile or so back to the car on the flat, change the rear wheel and start the race as last man. Very kind of them to do so, as they’re not obliged to do that.

So 10 minutes after my original start time, I lined up and got underway as last man.

My number one priority was not power, it was position. Having seen the video of me in different positions at D2Z, I wanted to emulate the faster, more aero position as much as was possible given the imperfect setup. This meant getting my head a low as possible and ‘peeking’ above my hands just enough to see the road ahead.

Getting underway at the 10-mile Time Trial

A little football game helped. The roads were eerily quiet and rather than spending half the race worried about trucks steaming past or cars leaving only inches of road space, I was able to concentrate on position and power, position and power. Oh, and potholes.

I made a point of not looking at the time. No point in stressing it, especially after the last run on H10/3 where I had felt good but ultimately had a slow night. Just look at the power occasionally but really focus on holding the best position possible.

With less than two kilometres to go, it was time to properly empty the tank. Analysing recent races, I’ve come away feeling that I didn’t give it all and wanted to properly go into the red zone and be sure that I’d ‘left it all on the road’ last night.

One final push to the line, hold the position and shout the number, and only then sit up and pause the Gamin. Look down and check the time: 21:53. A new 10-mile PB and course PB by 23 seconds. I’ll take that.

Later, examining the data in more detail I also saw that I’d set a season’s best 20-minute power as well. The final two-kilometre push had been worth it. Third place and only less than 20 seconds behind the winner. A good night out, despite the lack of aero shoe covers and rear disc.

Maybe getting rejected from the race on P881 had played its part too. I doubt the small 10-mile PB will be sufficient to get me on the start list for the next race, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

So that’s 22 minutes broken for a 10-mile TT. What’s next? Back to sub-40 for 10k running or target sub-55 for 25-mile TT?

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