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  • Writer's pictureMatt Fisher

Time Trials are a pain in the butt

It’s been a good week on the bike. On Sunday I took part in Reading Cycling Club’s open 50-mile TT on the H50/1a course (basically 50-miles up and down a seven-mile stretch of the A4 between Thatcham and Theale), improving my 50-mile PB by just over a minute (now down to 1:54:22) on a windy day.

Then last night (Wednesday) we had the last of the Newbury Road Club midweek TTs, this time on the slow H10/3a course. Having not ridden the course (according to my training notes) since 2016, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so was pleased to come away with another course PB and my first time under 23-minutes on that particular course (22:19 and only 15 seconds off the win).

I’ve also been accepted into an open event on the F10/11 course, which those in the know tell me is super-quick on the right day. So, fingers crossed!

Reading Cycling Club – 50-mile H50/1a

I felt I had put in a good effort on H50/17 a few weeks back, but as I noted in my blog, the draggy climbs didn’t really suit me and I felt I could probably go faster for the same power on a different course. However, it wasn’t looking promising on Sunday, with a stiff breeze coming out of the South West.

It would mean that heading from Thatcham to Theale was likely to be super-fast, but coming back the other way (which was also, incidentally, the first leg) was likely to be a slog. And so it turned out.

After some fuelling issues at the Oxonian event, I revised my in-race nutrition strategy and that seemed to work relatively well. I probably still need to take on a few more calories and perhaps start fuelling a little earlier in the race, but overall I was happy.

I also tried riding to the same sort of power that I had averaged on H50/17, but to be honest, that was less successful. The nature of the course and the conditions meant that a reasonable amount of time was spent over the target and, conversely, more time was spent below (especially with the tailwind). I still feel like I could have ridden the race more intelligently, with better gear/cadence selection and more attention to keeping a tight aero profile (still too much “meerkating” going on).

Whether because I was grinding it out too much, or perhaps went off a bit too hard, I died in the last five miles and was eventually overtaken by the race winner (Tim Cartwright, our ‘local hero’ who is a machine on the bike and started a full 12 minutes behind me!) in the last two miles.

Still, despite being a bit low on power, I was pleased to get my first top ten (7th) at a ‘proper’ open event and set a new 50-mile PB.

Like on H50/17, however, my glutes were absolutely killing me after the race! Clearly the muscle strain hasn’t healed fully and (I guess) I’m still not used to pushing hard for a full 50 miles!

NRC Midweek TT – H10/3a

I turned up for the last of the 2018 midweek TTs having not touched the bike since Sunday. I knew I still had some of that race left in my legs and the lack of any kind of spin out on Monday or Tuesday wouldn’t help, but I didn’t want to miss the last race of the year.

Much to my disappointment (!), a few of the fast guys were also racing, so my chances of claiming a victory in the series were vastly diminished! Nevertheless, I decided to go out hard (the first five miles of the course is net downhill, albeit with one sharp hill that lasts about 500m) and just try to hang on for the return uphill leg.

Again, the wind wasn’t really helping, albeit more of a crosswind that tail/head.

I launched off the line and my Strava times confirm that I PB’d the first mile (just under 50kph average) and the sharp climb (330W average, well over my FTP!). But I was blowing already.

I probably eased back a little too much after that climb (another way of saying I hit the climb too hard!) and although I did PB the first half of the course, I perhaps could have gone faster had I not burned the match on the first climb.

Turning at the five mile point, I reckoned I had about a minute still on the next guy behind me. That next guy being Ian Greenstreet, the fastest guy in our club before Tim came along. To have kept Ian at a minute (give or take) was promising.

But now I had to climb back to the finish. I tried to keep the power over my last 20-minute FTP test figure and make myself as small on the bike as I dare on a public road (proper head down racing still scares the life out of me…). I was catching a fair few early numbers, but I couldn’t see the ‘other fast guy’, Andy Laycock, who had gone off two minutes ahead.

Back down that sharp hill (31kph on the way up, 52.4kph for 330W on the way down – tells you what the cross/headwind was like!) and the final lunge for the line.

Stop the Garmin and die a (not so) quiet death… 22:19. Nowhere near a 10-mile PB, but easily a course PB. In fact, in five years of trying, the first time I’ve managed a sub-23 minutes ride on H10/3a.

Giant Trinity
Punctures aside, the Trinity and I have had a good year

And, it turned out, good enough for second place just 15 seconds behind Ian’s win. Always the bridesmaid… Comparing Strava segments later, it did indeed seem that Ian and I were neck-and-neck up to about six miles, then he started to eat into the minute bit by bit as tackled the draggy climb, then we were neck-and-neck again for the last mile. Good insight and no doubt it will help me ride the course better next time.

So like I said, a good week on the bike. In fact, it’s been a good year. Although I haven’t managed to hit the FTP that I did last year, I’m faster. In the next blog, I’m going to explore why I think that is… not that it’s rocket science, but some interesting insights, hopefully.

In the meantime, I went for a run today. And it hurt like hell. My left glute is still strained from when I slipped when running on the beach nearly a month ago and my right knee hurts whenever I’m running round a bend or uphill (figure that one out physios….!). Thank God my last triathlon of the year is looming. Hopefully I can survive that and then take a bit of a break. And maybe figure out if 2019 will see much triathlon action or whether I’m going to focus much more on the bike.

Aquabike racing, anyone?!

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