Sunday, October 14, 2007

The unbearable lightness of blogging

Normal service has not been resumed. Please turn your computer off now to avert risk of severe radiation poisoning.

Another weekend, another hill climb and a 3-man team time trial for good measure. The hill was the mighty Bowden Hill, which is about 25km east of here, or a bloody long way west if the scenic route is desirous. It's a tad over 2km long and averages 6.2%. James Dobbin won it last year in a staggering 4'21, but after I rode it during the week in 6'20 at 360W I reckoned I'd be happy with a 5'20.

I should have put money on myself because I ended up with 5'19 for fifth in a field of 22. Rob Gough just beat Danny Axford to win in 4'54, which was actually 20 seconds slower than he did to get second last year. Rob's unbeaten (I think) in hill climbs so far this year.

I paced it well so that I could put most of my effort into the steep bit in the middle, while saving just enough for the flatter bit at the top. I worked out I averaged a shade over 440W (6.2W/kg), but to win, I needed about 500W (7W/kg) or keep the same power output and lose 10kg. That ain't going to happen. And to get close to 4'21, I'd need a galeforce tailwind, or 550W, which would make me a world class track pursuiter. That definitely ain't going to happen!

Cut to Sunday morning, and it was time to jump back on the TT bike for the Chippenham 3-up team time trial. We'd tried to get a Chippenham 'A' team happening but Ben was still recovering from an operation and Andy didn't want to ride in his own event. So we had to make do with Chris Tweedie and I representing the Wheelers and Robin (John's Bikes) as the third. I think there were 22 teams in total, but a few couldn't record official times because they were down to two riders. Unlike a 4-man TTT, where you can lose one, you have to keep everyone together in a 3-up.

It goes without saying that we were meticulously prepared. 15 minutes before the start, we rode together for the first time and sussed out a plan: Me at the front, the other two come through when they can.

I haven't ridden a team time trial for about 10 years but I do know that you're only as strong as your weakest rider. And on a hilly course like this one (430m of climbing/390m descent), we had to be quite careful on the climbs. Robin was fine but Chris was 13kg heavier than me - that makes quite a difference.

We got going OK but I was a bit concerned when we started losing Chris on the small undulations in the first 10km. We didn't fall apart and as soon as I spotted a gap opening, I eased off. But when we hit the first longer climb, we had to back it off quite a lot. I kept an eye on my Ergomo and noticed that whenever I went over 280W, Chris would go off. The thing is, he would have been pushing 320W for the same speed. So on the flat, I could go quite hard and he and Robin would come through from time to time. Each time I was on the front, I had Tool's Schism going through my head. Good for the rhythm.

The best part was the section along the A4 on the way back, because we'd almost perfectly worked out each other's strengths. On the downhill just before the last climb, we were swapping off at nearly 70km/h - always fun! Chris had paced himself really well and I could sit on 280W again on the final climb and not drop him. We passed the Bath CC boys, who'd started 6min ahead of us, and almost caught Swindon, who had 3min headstart. Then it was a short wind up to the finish and it was all over.

We'd done 56'29 for 36.65km - not a great average speed but it wasn't a bad effort on that course. I had an average of 279W with a heart rate of 170. I think when fresh I could do that course in around 54min. The important thing was that we'd finished with three riders and not blown up. Still, I was pleasantly surprised when we got the results:

VC St Raphael, who had three strong guys and who have won this race for the last four years, won it in 53'36. We were second overall and first composite team (yay!) with our 56'29. Severn RC was next with 56'56, followed by another composite in 59'05 then Swindon in 59'21. So a water bottle and seven quid each, a nice way to finish off the weekend.

Now to do some actual writing.

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