Wednesday, 5 March 2014

First Time Trial – Rossendale Hilly 11 Bolton-by-Bowland

Last Saturday was my first race, a hilly time trial on the outskirts of the Forest of Bowland. Despite being well and truly in the North, the weather was nothing short of majestic, with base layers being removed left right and centre. As it was my first race, I set out to arrive about and hour before the start, hoping to drive at least part of the course. However, when I got there it was already starting to get busy, and the lanes were even narrower than they had looked when i street-viewed the course on google maps, so I gave it a miss.

By the time I’d collected my number and set the bike up, I had about 40 minutes, time to warm up! Many people were on turbo trainers, which had crossed my mind when packing to drive up North, but space was an issue, and I didn’t know if it would look odd, evidently not! That said, there were a fair few people riding around the local lanes to warm up, which I joined in with. I didn’t want to risk missing my starting spot, so I probably only did 20 mins warm up, some high cadence stuff to get rid of 240 miles of driving, then some general riding with some sprints. Not ideal, but I was feeling pretty good.

I bumped into  friend on the starting line, and after a quick chat 2.25pm was upon us and it was time to start! The sensation of someone holding you up on the bike was odd at first, I had visions of falling, but a firm push of prevented that, and off I went. I knew the course went up for a few km from the off, but there was a steepish kick for a few hundred metres which I hadn’t anticipated, and I hit it a little hard for the beginning, gasping for air as it evened out a little. It wasn’t too bad though, and half a minute later I was fine. Not dissimilar from a tough first rally in a squash match, so nothing I couldn’t handle! I digress.

No TT bike or aero bars, but the race wheels felt great!
The next couple of km went gently uphill at 2% or so, and as I neared the crest I saw my minute-man! Visions of finishing last vanished and I burst forward to catch him. Potentially unwise, but with a downhill section to follow I think it worked out ok. As I had’nt had chance to set the clip-on aero bars up, I got down low on the hoods, using scientific reasoning that the drops widen the frontal area – plus I find I can generate more power. As the first corner loomed, unbelievably I saw my 2 minute man ahead, although this time I resisted sprinting to catch up, and a hilly section followed. It was also at this point I got overtaken, although as we hit the climb I was matching pace, a demonstration of how effective TT bikes are on the flat/downhill.

I caught my 2 minute man on the crest of the last main hill, approx halfway round the course. I put a bit more effort into this climb than I maybe should, but a sharp hairpin requiring slow speed provided respite. The downhill second half of the course proved a little more undulating than I expected, but I think that suited me, using my preferred out of the saddle position every so often. I felt to be pushing on the limit, and despite expecting to be overtaken again, it never came. I was slightly taken by surprise by a nasty 5/6% kick, which sent me really into the red, but I was able to recover quickly for a sprint finish to the finish, which was several hundred metres away.

Riding back to the village, I was gasping for air, unable to speak as I got back to base! Thus, I think I probably rode it well, on the limit without exceeding it or cracking at any point. I aimed to break 30mins, which I was kind of confident I had. The times were soon up in the village hall, and I found out I had in fact done 29:27, an average speed of 34mph. Not quick in the grand scheme of things, but for a first attempt on a hilly course on a road bike, not too bad I don’t think. I reckon knowing the course I could knock possibly 2 minutes off next time at a push, certainly 1-1.5mins.

The winning time was 25:04, so I was less than 4.30 back. It is estimated that a TT position can save approx. 5 mins over a 25mile TT, so subtract 2 minutes and I was only a couple of minuted off the pace. I’m not saying this would necessarily be guaranteed, but science doesn’t lie! In theory anyway! If nothing else, there were some incredibly expensive bikes there, so cost:time wise I think I did OK!
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable ride, compounded by tea and cake in the village hall afterwards! I’ll definitely be signing up for more soon, with better training and a tactical plan to boot.

Things to take away for next time:
-   Take the turbo to warm up, easier to do and no risk of getting lost/puncturing
-   Drive (or ideally ride!) the course before to get a proper idea of the topography
-   Don’t get over excited when catching people!
-   Spend vast amount of money on a sleek TT steed!

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