Scratch

The startsheets are coming thick and fast. This weekend is the Severn 25 and the weather looks and feels unspeakably cold. It will take all of my mental fortitude to make my way out to the push and ride this event. I have no desire to tackle the U17 in minus temperatures. However, it’s a key part of my training for the more serious stuff in March. we shall see.

Speaking of the more serious stuff, the startsheet for the Chippenham Hilly is out. Last year it was run off in the kind of temperatures that did for Captain Oates. Everyone is hoping for milder weather. The big beasts are out in force: including big Jeff and big Rob. Both are national champions.

Big Rob, the fastest dentist (and 49 year old) anywhere in all of the world

I scanned the list of riders and had a moment of genuine panic when i couldn’t initially see my name in amongst the field. I’d expected it to see it with the seeds in the middle somewhere but it wasn’t there. A closer inspection showed I had somehow, for some reason, been made the scratch rider. Normally I wouldn’t mind and there’s always a bit of latitude with these things, but on this occasion I was unnerved to be ranked (ostensibly) ahead of the two top guns. I asked the organiser why this might be. He’s a really nice chap. Apparently he calculated the speed of various riders by using a formula that factors up results in a hilly 24 by 1.16 in order to level the time with a fast 25. This was new to me, i’d always gone on the previous year or like for like times.

All of which doesn’t change the fact that I’m the scratch rider. This has happened before but generally it’s because I happen to be the fastest rider on paper and in the event. I’m looking forward to it and hope that I get a good result. There’s no genuine pressure because everyone knows the real order of things and that i’m not as quick as the seeding suggests.

I’m looking forward to the first real hilly. It’s time for the real racing to start. I’m also excited to see lots of BSCC on the startsheet.

 

 

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The Pain of the Fast and Hilly Time Trial

my legs are currently in bits. this is the technical term for when you’ve really cooked it and they are very hurty. this is the current state of my legs. i also feel a bit full because i just ate lots of spinach and eggs and bread and quorn sausages.

today i rode out to the start of the Severn Hardrider, keeping it resolutely old school. All i needed was some wheel carriers and i would have scored maximum points. it was a 15 mile ride with a couple of big hills. i kept it slow and steady and avoided the tribars. riding out to an event is an odd experience. i left the house at around 7am, which was pretty early. i caught sight of drunks and stop-outs making their way home. i think i made for an odd image with my full TT bike and aero-helmet. I hoped to avoid any hilarious comments and also to make it to the HQ without any mechanical issues. i managed both. alec baskaya summed it up better than i can.

The Severn event is hilly, but doesn’t contain any really mammoth climbs, instead it undulates and rolls like an ocean swell with some fast descents and short, savage lumps. there is also the worst section of road in christendom, a long drag with a cratered surface, low grade tarmac and usually a nasty headwind – although not today, fortunately. on strava i have labelled this ‘the lumpy ass drag to hell’.

Again, i rode pretty much on feel, keeping an eye on how fast i was going in terms of average speed and how far there was left. this event went past in the wink of a young girl’s eye. glory days. it was over almost before it started. it hurt a lot and I felt a sense of nasty lactic build up but tried to ignore it. my fear was that it would begin to inhibit my ability to climb quickly, but it never really got to that and like i said, the race went really quickly as ¬†time and space accelerated. Everything blurred as i got a bit cross-eyed looking at my forearms and the road ahead in an attempt to keep my head down and low. it seemed to work.

eyes on the extensions and road

the start of the course is a real up and down roller coaster, i chickened out and used the brakes. i didn’t want to do a rasmussen (in terms of technique, not in terms of drug-related geographical misinformation).

having said that, i did have an unscheduled clipless moment whilst warming up. i opted to use my super bling dura ace pedals with their carbon fibre stealth and light absorbing properties. they really grab the cleat with a resounding ‘thunk’ and don’t like to let go. i was turning slowly in the road and tried to put a foot down, they didn’t let go. i just about got out of it. luckily no-one saw so it never happened. or it didn’t make a noise. or something.

the second part of the course was super fast, a long and steady descent of around 6 or 7 miles. i maxed out at around 35mph here and really pushed the big gear. it was pretty good fun, although i was nervous about not overcooking it. i passed a few people, some of them were freewheeling. i have an opinion about this – if you’re going to freewheel in a time trial it can only be because you are descending a steep, gravelly, technical, nasty, wet, greasy and terrifying hill and need to simply control the bike to stay alive. any other freewheeling is really bad form.

i was dreading the lumpy ass drag to hell – as it shall from henceforth be known by all and sundry. in the end i stuck it in as big a gear as i could manage without my legs seizing up completely and bullied my way along this section. it was nowhere near as bad as i’d anticipated. once through this pitted canyon it was head down for the finish with a repeat of the rollercoaster bit. i didn’t touch the brakes this time and slammed it up the final climb in the big ring, squeaking across the line a little while later.

i managed a 52.34. a theme is developing here; these rides don’t feel that fast when i’m doing them, in fact, i feel like i’m going too slow and am always trying to force myself to push that bit harder. in reality, the course record for the u601 was a 52.01 from last year, which means i was within 34 seconds of it. i was thrilled to bits with this, but also knew that Rob Pears would go quicker and that this is a course that really suits him, it lacks the bigger climbs that level things out. he duly smashed the course record, coming in at a mid 51.

the numbers!

there were 8 Bristol South riders on the start sheet which was absolutely fantastic. A further 6 were in action at the Merryfield Circuit Race and 1 was mountain biking. The difference from last year’s events, with just me and Dan testing and Steve doing road races is startling.

Personally, it’s great to be going quicker, to be exceeding my aims and goals and to be making such vast improvements. before the start of the season i was worried that I wouldn’t or couldn’t be as quick as last year. Today’s time was a full five and half minutes quicker than last year, and 3 minutes quicker than my later time in the WTTA event on a shorter course. i am going to target a fast 25 in a couple of weeks. in the meantime, i have some other, non-cycling related aims, hopes and dreams that are coming to fruition. These are the most exciting of the lot.

Time Trial Position

I’ve generally felt happy with my position on the bike; flat back, comfortable, helmet tail resting against the shoulder blades. this weekend my bubble was well and truly burst. rob pears, or the beast of bath, the fastest dentist in all the land and one of the fastest time triallists currently racing, commented on my position. he was perfectly placed to review it because he tore past me at a gazillion miles an hour in the Corinium 50. Essentially, he said he thought i was ‘sat up’, and that i had ‘to get much much lower’. as he went past i realised i couldn’t see his head, just a curved spine and shoulders, not even arms, everything was tucked in. this is seen as being very ‘slippery’.

to add insult to injury, a few other people then chimed in, a clubmate said ‘yeah, now you come to mention it, i always thought you looked a bit like a praying mantis’. and then someone else said ‘it’s odd how you even manage to go so fast riding like that’. add this to the ‘you’ve been sandbagging’ comment and it’s been a pretty chastening weekend, but in a good way. i feel a bit like the new boy who has finally earned enough kudos to have some cruel advice dished out by the prefects in the quadrangle. incidentally, some people use the praying mantis to good effect, it’s the arms raised from the elbows upwards; but it’s not particularly UCI compliant, so can only be adopted in CTT events. best not use it in case you end up riding the Tour and have to change it.

my time trial position

so anyway, i looked back at a recent picture… one i particularly liked… and i think it’s fair to say that quasimodo could probably get more slippery than me, that’s if he had a TT weapon and wasn’t busy with campanology or some kind of terrifying love triangle.

praying mantis

the more i look at it the less aero it seems. and this was on a day when i rode a 20.51. to make things worse, i realised the giro helmet is much more adustable than i thought, and i can get it lower on my massive forehead, thus not being so constrained by the tail on the back. furthermore, i think i’ve learnt suddenly that time trialling is not supposed to be comfortable. it’s about dragging your head and shoulders down, physically, until they are so low you look like gladstone small. i’d venture to suggest that gladstone small would be very slippery in deed on a bicycle.

gladstone small

in order to remedy these errors, i have already dropped the stem, and raised the saddle slightly (which i suspected was a tiny bit too low anyway). I also plan to get an adjustable stem with a bit more reach. needing a new stem is a perfectly good excuse to get a new bike mind you, so i could always just get a giant trinity advanced. it’s a perfectly reasonable ¬£10,000.on second thoughts, i’ll settle for the stem. i shall be expecting big gains.