To race or not to race?
It was a last minute decision to enter the 2016 ECCA 100mile time trial. Taking place just a week after the Newbury 12hr time trial, I was sure I would still be struggling to sit on the comfiest of sofas let alone a hard saddle. The concern of an embarrassing sub par performance was both a terrifying and very real prospect.
However, the course (E2/100C) promised to be extremely quick; entirely on dual carriageway with lots of dangerously fast moving traffic to help suck riders along. Entry for open TTs usually close 2 weeks before the race itself, so I decided to enter as a 'back up', so I wouldn't miss out if anything went wrong with the Newbury 12hr (race cancelled, crashed out, DNF etc).
The Newbury 12hr TT went well (link), but it took a lot out of me. With only a week till the ECCA 100 I wasn't sure whether I should ride it. I had 3 full days off the bike, then did just a few easy short sessions. The day before, I did an easy ~40mile ride on my TT bike with a few leg testers. I didn't feel brilliant, but good enough to decide I would race.
I've got the power
I've been resisting the urge to fit a power meter to my TT bike for racing. Although I ride with a power meter during training, I have no idea what numbers I could expect to see for longer races, so from a pacing perspective it would be fairly unhelpful, and I thought it could negatively affect me mentally if I see the power dropping right off during a race.
Despite my concerns, I fitted a Verve Cycling Infocrank meter, making this my first proper time trial with power. Technology!
All cyclists and triathletes are used to getting up early; it is part of the lifestyle. but this event set a new standard for early starts, with the first rider off at 04:45am. Although my start time was a (relatively) leisurely 06:05am, it still meant leaving Henley at 3am. It is quite a surreal experience (ordeal) leaving the house in cycle clothing heading for a race, while the last stragglers are still out and about, tucking in to a kebab and shouting drunken nonsense at each other.
Although 3hrs sleep probably isn't conducive to the best performance, the morning went very smoothly and I managed to get to the start line feeling relaxed and ready, with a few minutes to spare.
Dying a Slow death
I started the race hard, too hard, as usual, but now had a power meter to confirm I was going over the top. In the first 10mins I averaged 370 Watts. But i felt great! At the end of the first hour this had dropped to 330 Watts, and I felt not so great. This trend continued for the whole race.
At around half way through, I convinced myself the power meter was broken or had drifted out of calibration. I found it harder and harder to maintain numbers despite fighting it. I was slowly dying.
As the race went by, I kept re-evaluating the average power that I would be happy with come the end of the race.
"Oh, it's dropped to 310w, I'd be happy with that"....
"hmm, 305w, well that would still be quite good"
The graph of my average power across the entire race highlights the slippery slope (this could equally be a graph of Mood vs Time):
"You'll never drop a chain with that"
David Woodhouse had kindly lent me his 60T carbon chainring for the occasion. Apparently carbon chainrings have longer teeth than normal chain rings to stop the chain from derailing. Apparently...
Well, it happened. The chain dropped off at about 10miles, during an overtaking manoeuvre. It's quite embarrassing nailing past someone at 200% FTP, then immediately pulling over to let them pass again. I managed to sort the chain on the move, but probably lost something like 15-30seconds.
(Post race I mentioned this to David, to which he said "I have a chain catcher on mine")......🙄
I usually try to empty what little I have left in the final push to the line. My efforts were slightly hampered because I became convinced I had punctured with 5miles to go on hearing a hissing sound. Strangely, I wasn't too annoyed at the prospect of DNF'ing as I was disappointed with the average power I was seeing (297w), thinking it wouldn't be competitive.
The tyre was fine though (maybe just wishful thinking) and I went through the line in 03:28:17sec (28.8mph) for 3rd place, behind Richard Bideau (3:22:16 - incredible time, second fastest ever 100mile TT!) and Liam Maybank (3:25:28).
I think poor pacing, combined with fatigue from the Newbury 12hr meant I didn't get a time I think I was capable of. But, it's still a great result to finish 3rd in such a quality field, something I didn't think would be possible last year.
Top ten results as follows;
- Richard Bideau Pendle Forest CC 3:22:16
- Liam Maybank Twickenham CC 3:25:28
- Peter Harrison G.S. Henley 3:28:17
- Stephen Irwin North Lancs RC 3:28:25
- Jon Wynn T1 Diabetes.info 3:32:50
- Daniel Bloy Team Velovelocity 3:33:24
- Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team 3:34:02
- Dave Green Team Velovelocity 3:37:01
- Colin Ward Essex Roads CC 3:37:35
- Gavin Hinxman Kettering CC 3:38:02