My day at the New Zealand Road Nationals Time Trial was the culmination of a year’s worth of focus.
I'd made huge advances with my Zinn - so wanted to now see how far I could go with some serious work.
A year ago I’d decided to take on a coach – train seriously – aimed at the Nationals TT – and see what I could do. I’d only ever ridden in a handful of TT’s at that stage – but figured that would be a good place to aim – as it takes the size element out of the equation to a degree.
So this was it!
Not quite do or die – as apart from me – no one would really care a jot about how I went. But it was going to be a serious test of my years’ worth of work.
And I was worried about how I’d go.
I’d made really big gains in the first half of my year – which showed up in the difference in the test results from the start and then halfway through the year. But then I’d hit problems. I had a big performance drop – which saw me heading to the doctors for a full round of medical test. Tests came back fine – but showed that I had very high blood pressure – which we dealt with via medication. This didn’t really explain the drop in performance however and in the end it looked like the probable cause was some sort of virus. Anyhow it took me a long time to come right from that – and it was only in the weeks leading up to the Nationals that I was starting to feel like I did at the time of the previous test just before things went haywire.
And in the TT rides I’d done up to the nationals – I hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked. One of the early markers that I’d set myself was to break a 40km/hr average in a TT – and this was something I thought I would’ve cracked pretty quickly with training. But here I was at the Nationals – still having not got past the elusive 40km/hr in a TT. I was seriously beginning to think that maybe it was beyond me.
So how did I go?…
There were 2 of in our club having a crack in the TT – and we drove up together on the day. We met up with Bob and Derek, who were the officials from our club, at their motel.
I’d woken up that day feeling pretty nervous and this was building as I got closer to start time. But it was that good sort of nervous energy that I hadn’t experienced since my days playing in big rugby matches. So I took this as a good sign. We got changed at the motel and performed all the pre ride rituals – pinning the number on the jersey – checking the bike – pre ride meal etc etc.
Nerves, nerves, nerves!
How would I go? Would I come last? It wouldn’t really matter if I did come last – but please don’t let me come last!!!
So with these sorts of thoughts going through my head – we headed over to the course. I’d already figured I was going to commit a big no no – in changing what I normally did. My plan was to do a long warm up of 1.5 hrs. I’d never warmed up for that length of time before – but I’d never really had the chance as most of the TT’s I’d done up to now were evening events after work – so no opportunity to warm up for that amount of time. And I know I often struggled early on in races and got more comfortable as things progressed – so I figured I’d do a long warmup that started slow and build the intensity into the last half hour.
So that’s what I did – and it was absolutely the right thing to do. Spent best part of an hour just going for a ride – nice and relaxed. I stayed pretty close to the Start/Finish just in case I had any bike problems – and I tried not to see all the very flash TT specific bikes and the riders with the skinsuits and all the TT bling. It’s the rider that counts the most right?
Then with a little over half an hour to go – I came back to the club trailer and Bob and Derek swapped the wheels on my bike over to the quick SRAM S80 wheels that I’d borrowed for the event. (a bit of bling of my own). Put on my borrowed TT helmet – and headed off again to build a bit of intensity and get a real sweat up.
Intervals went well – wheels sounded cool (very important J) and before I knew it – it was time to head to the start.
Still feeling nervous – but still good nervous – amped, focussed, buzzing, ready to go…
Had to get through the scrutineering – where they measured my bike to make sure it complied with UCI regulations. If you’ve read the rest of my blog you will know that as I’m 6’7” and have a custom built bike – no – it didn’t meet with the UCI’s restrictive regulations (specifically the front half of the bike was too long and the bottom bracket was too high off the ground). But I’d made sure that I’d complied as much as I possibly could – especially in the setup of the handlebars and seat. I’d been in touch with the commissairs before the event to let them know my circumstances and they’d told me that if my bike didn’t comply – they’d let me ride but that I wouldn’t be an official part of the results. They also then went on to tell me how my bike was all wrong and had very strange geometry – which I didn’t appreciate as I wasn’t asking them what they thought of my bike – I was asking if it complied with their rules. By now I’m used to people questioning the validity of the design. It’s nice to let the results speak for themselves…
So as I rolled up – the commisaire said “So this is the famous bike”. Here we go I thought.
In TT mode. Managed to get the seat forward with seatpost turned backwards - so the offset was forward.
He put it up against their jig and saw that the bars and seat were inside the prescribed measurements – and told me that I’d done well to make it comply – off you go… Wow! The measurements that my bike fails on – weren’t even on the jig!!!
So I was going to be part of the results…
So that left me with a 5 min wait until my start – in the start box (once you’ve been measured – you can’t leave the start area). They offered me a seat – but I couldn’t sit – had to keep moving. Bob came and was a calming influence – focussing on the process I was about to start.
Bob and I in the pre-start area. I think the bike's a little too big for him
Got on the bike with about 30 seconds to go – there was a starter counting me down – and a guy to hold my bike. I reminded him that I was probably double the weight of most of the other riders – so make sure you get a good hold…
Bob was talking to me as the clock counted down – which was really good stuff – breathing, focus, power etc etc
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!
The plan – that my coach and I had come up with – was to start in a controlled fashion for the first few km. In the past I’d been guilty of going out too fast too soon and blowing up. I’d done that in the Wellington Centre TT Champs only a few weeks previously – and had come second in a TT I should have won. So – start in a biggish gear and keep the heart rate down a bit just to settle in – and then give it death!
And the course played into this plan for me – as just after getting up to speed from the start – it headed slightly downhill for a good bit and this let me comfortably get in a big gear and settle in without pushing too hard.
It’s a fine line however…
I knew the course – which helped – I’d come up a few weeks previously and had ridden it. It was an out and back that followed the river upstream in the first half. So was slightly uphill on the way out – but I knew that it was really a series of flats with short steps up in between. So push hard on the steps and back under control on the flats.
And it went fantastically well on the way out. I wasn’t riding with either a heart rate monitor or a speedo – but I knew I felt good and comfortable and that I was pushing a big gear – even on the slightly uphill bits. And I also saw that I could see the rider that started a minute in front of me and that I was slowly catching him! Cool – I had someone to chase. Turns out I caught this guy easily – and he was in fact the guy that had started 2 mins ahead of me – and he’d already been caught by the guy in front of me. It really is the best feeling to blast by someone – and it also meant something very important – I wasn’t the slowest!
Then I started seeing another rider up ahead – my minute man. And I was catching him too – not as fast – but definitely catching. Yeee Haaa!
At the turnaround – I was about 20secs behind him – and had 12.5km of slightly downhill to go. And when you are my size – slightly downhill is your friend…
I caught him with about 6km to go. He had a beautiful TT bike, skinsuit and all the bling – so it was a nice feeling to pass him on my road bike with clipon TT bars.
Then it was a matter of hanging on. I was tiring – and finally had to change down a gear – but I knew I was going way faster than I ever had before. I died a bit on the uphill bits before the finish – and had absolutely nothing left for a sprint.
I finished in 36:08 – and an average speed of 41.5km/hr! (click here to see results) Very very happy – didn’t just break the seemingly unbreakable 40km/hr barrier – but absolutely smashed it!
Looking back now – I think I had the perfect day. I really don’t think I could have gone any faster. Terry Gyde (my coach) really did a great job preparing me – especially in the last few weeks. He’d told me a few weeks before the event – that I would average between 41 and 42 – and I didn’t believe him. I guess that’s why he’s the coach.
To be sure – I think I can definitely go faster – but that will take more training, hard work and focus. And Terry agrees “I’m picking you have a lot more development left in you”. He and I are working together again to see what I can do in the Masters 3 division.
I’d love to have a TT bike for the next one – but I don’t think it’s going to happen (I’m still buying the lottery tickets). But my beautiful Zinn once again proved itself the perfect vehicle for me to get power down on the road. I know as a rule people seem to ride longer cranks in TT’s – but I bet not many are riding 210mm beauty’s! Being a road bike – It’s certainly not the ideal platform for TT’s – and I will need to figure a way to get the bars lower still so I can get more aero. But I think the proportional length cranks more than made up for any shortcomings. When I do go for a TT bike – it’ll definitely be a custom built Zinn – so I can take advantage of the proportional cranks… No brainer for me. Can do things on the Zinn I could never have done before. Did a seriously competitive time on a road bike with clip on aero bars! And as far as I could see – I was the only one in my grade not on a TT bike. So that bike geometry is not so silly after all