Sunday, 1 March 2015

Rossendale Hilly 11 - Season Splutters to a Start!

One year on from my first TT, and back to Bolton-by-Bowland it was. The weather seemed like it was going to hold off, until I opened the car door upon arrival and down came the rain! Fortunately it didn't last too long, although it was enough to turn the farmers muck on the roads into a muddy soup. A light wind was blowing, but overall conditions were good for a February day in Lancashire!

Renowned as I am for poor preparation, this time...well, this time was no different! Being in the midst of the squash season, I've been complementing 4/5 squash sessions with 2/3 sessions on the rollers per week, and a grand total of 4 rides on the road since September! These roller sessions have been more geared towards the upcoming crits at the MK Bowl, (and further afield... details to be revealed shortly!), but I thought any training is good training right?! Wrong. Cranking out suitable watts at 110 RPM for crit prep doesn't equate to good TT'ing it would appear! I also managed to overtrain just under 2 weeks ago, leading to a week of feeling awful, and not being able to sleep this week. I was going to DNS, but I figured I'd already come 250miles North, another 40 wouldn't hurt!

Another undesirable prelude was a problem with CTT affiliation. It turned out when I came to enter, that LBRCC weren't affiliated - the renewal form hadn't been sent. I held off until the last possible day, but it wasn't processed, so with hours to go I decided to join another club online! I opted for albaRosa CC, based in Leeds for a number of reasons. Firstly, I'd heard and read great things about the club, which although not even in existence when I left Leeds 4 years ago, now boasts hundreds of members! I thought at worst, it would be good to show support for the club. Also, through my recent job search I have strongly considered moving back to Leeds, so I thought this would be good potential prep if I were to do so.

On the positive side, I did take the rollers to the race, meaning I actually warmed up at a TT for the first time ever!

Pain, pain, and misery...
Photo: Ellenndan Flickr
Anyway, excuses out of the way,
on to the race itself!

It transpired that at no. 20, I was seeded. I felt bad, as this was purely a result of my 21.40 on the F11/10 last year, when I was training, and wholely unrepresentative of current squash season lack of form! Especially as super strong junior Adam Hartley was off no.22, and would essentially tear up the course. I digress. I came with a race plan this year, the most important point being not to overcook it on the first kick at about 0.5km! Of course, in the heat of the moment (according to Strava) I hit it even harder than last year! Not helped by my minute man being visible at the top, and an inability to resist the chase!

The following drag was ok, a little slower than planned, as my legs didn't seem to want to turn particularly quickly! The downhill to the turn was a welcome change, but the muddy wet conditions - roads more like Belgium than Bolton-by-Bowland - left me hesitant to go full gas. 4 rides in 6 months doesn't do too much for confidence in bike handling!

Reaching the turn, a gale seemed to appear, for arguably the hilliest section of the course. BBC weather states light wind, but all cyclists know that one must multiply those figures by at least 5 for the actual effect, 10 if you're having a slow day! My lungs were bursting here, I just didn;t seem to be able to get the power down consistently, and as such I was frantically trying spinning, grinding, tri bars, drops...nothing seemed to work! I should have just stuck with one really, certainly inefficient swapping. Finally, the last little kick appeared, at which point Adam Hartley glided past me. I knew he'd be on for a 24:XX, but I was hoping to get onto the final 7Km drag before he caught me. I managed to stay close on the downhill to the turn, a benefit of having the drops on the road bike, but at the turn, the TT bike prevailed and off he shot.

The final stretch is more or less downhill...on paper. On bike, it certainly doesn't feel like that with constant undulation. More mud and wet conditions led me to be a bit too hesitant on the corners, a few more road rides and I think my handling confidence will return. Still the legs felt leaden, but I managed to grind it out to the seemingly never-appearing final turn, cursing my decision to start racing without training! Timekeepers in sight, I mustered the strength for a sprint finish. I actually hit 56km/h during this, good indicator for the RR in a fortnight, and probably the most positive thing to take from today!

I crossed the line for 33rd out of c. 100 in 28:21, an improvement of over a minute from last year, but I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for 27.XX at least, and I reckon I could get a short 26, maybe long 25 in the midst of the season. Though after some reflection, I decided it wasn't too bad without training.

The runaway winner was Adam Hartley in 24:07, and last years winner Craig Battersby second with 24:34. Fellow albaRosa riders did excellently, coming 4th and 12th, with another unfortunately puncturing, and still not coming last despite a treacherous ride on a flat! We came 3rd in the team comp, so I guess turning up had one benefit of team filler!

Positives
- Slow, but an improvement from last year at similar stage.
- Decent sprint finish bodes well for the start of my road season in a fortnight!
- Although I didn't utilise them, the new clip on bars will be better with a bit of trial and error position wise.
- Served as team filler with the misfortune of another clubmate!

Negatives
- Slow!!!
- Unsurprisingly, 2/3 hours a week on the rollers isn't good for sustained big gear efforts...hopefully better for crits, which has been the main aim of the sessions.
- Bike position needs tweaking, riding outside seems to dictate a different position on the bike to the rollers.

Next up: Back South and back in LBRCC Team Green for the start of the road season at the MK Bowl on March 14th! Time to start my 2nd season and hopefully an assault towards 2nd Cat!!!

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