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RLSCC Time Trials – One man’s season

Sun 2nd December

The preparation for a successful season Time Trialling is down to 3 things: winter fitness, bike preparation and a target to aim for. In December this was looking good – a new Boardman Air TT was sitting in the garage, my winter riding was strong and going sub 26 minutes was the target.

Then I crashed into the scenery at Bike Park Wales and broke my shoulder. So by the time the season started in April, I’d not even sat on the new bike. I did a few laps of the block to get the seat position and the reach to the bars roughly right, but it was apparent I wasn’t going to be able to ride 10 miles in an aero position.

By late April I got as far as a 2 mile warm up on the bike, but still couldn’t do a 10. It took until mid-May to do my first time trial, and at the end of it I was frustrated with my fitness, the riding position and the speed of the bike. Even the gearing was wrong.

I got some Planet X wheels off eBay and they improved the speed, but not the handling. The comfort still wasn’t great. By end of May I’d got as far as my 2015 PB.  There was this battle in my head between despondency, frustration and determination to bounce back.

Then I had a bit of an upturn in performance. Of all things it was a 25 mile TT. I knew the shoulder wasn’t good enough for a 25 miler on the Boardman so I did it on my Kuota road bike. I was only 2 minutes off my 25 mile PB, set on the old TT bike. The fitness was getting there.

Buoyed with enthusiasm I spent the rest of the week working on the riding position on the Boardman and reverted to the wheels I was using last year (and don’t ask me how but an 11 speed Shimano drivetrain and a 10 speed Campy cassette works for me!). That week’s TT was a revelation. The bike felt fast, I was comfortable and the wheels improved the speed and handling. Boom, I’d set my first course PB of the year and by a healthy margin. Then another 25 miler, this time on the Boardman, and again feeling good with good conditions, I took a whopping 3 minutes off my PB.

By now we were into July and I was back on the K10/10A course. Traditionally this has been a good course for me. And so it proved again, with a surprising PB taking 30 seconds off my previous best.

So there was a transformation from early season frustration to mid-season elation, I was pumped up and ready to go. The following week, a course PB in torrential rain, a week later a course PB by over a minute.

I was now convinced my sub 26 wasn’t a flook. Then I went within 10 seconds of my PB on a course that I’ve never really done well on with a second ride under 26 minutes.

Then a minor disaster. A late finish from work, and bad traffic, colluded to missing the Tuesday TT, but I opted to keep up the momentum. I wanted to have a crack at my PB, but due to holidays there was only one opportunity on our calendar. Scanning the weather and the TT calendar I chose the Coventry Road Club TT on the Thursday. But here over optimism showed its hand. We usually ride the K10/10A course. They ride the K10/10 course, which is 95% identical apart from last half mile to the finish. I’d looked at the course on Strava. I thought I knew what I was in for. The first 2 miles felt relatively slow, and being overtaken by a rider from Clinterval coaching after just over a mile didn’t help, but once out on the A45 speed picked up, and the run back to Princethorpe was hard and I had no real idea if the PB was on. The lack of experience of the finish killed any hope of a PB. I paced myself too cautiously on the uphill bit, and the downhill that followed was steeper than expected so I didn’t need anything in reserve by then, so I crossed the line not even out of breath. Still it was sub 26 minutes, so not a disaster by any stretch. Stuart Travis, the rider from Clinterval Coaching had just broken the outright course record. So being overtaken so early wasn’t a great surprise in retrospect.

So I lined up on the start for my final TT. Back on the 10A course. My most successful course for PBs. The weather was a bit muggy, but with light winds in a favourable direction. I’d decided to throw everything at this one, and had added a skinsuit to my cycling wardrobe. Head down, bum up, race face on. The first section felt much quicker than last week. The A45 felt properly fast. Had I used up too much for the uphill return leg? Dig in, work hard and take a bit of recovery on the downs. Drain the tank to the finish. Job done, but had I done enough? 25.13. 61 seconds faster than last year and a new PB.

Given that the season started with me not able to even ride the bike, I’ll take that.

But the thing is with time trialling is that you think to yourself ‘I could have gone faster’.

Now it is back to winter training, setting the bike up and setting a target for next year.

And try and keep myself out of the scenery at Bike Park Wales.

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