Monday, August 24, 2009

Sub 50

Going fast in Wales
© Adele Would

Right, there's been more racing done at this end. No wins but a couple of good results worth reporting.

Firstly, the WTTA 100. I clocked 3:41:22 to finish second behind James Wall (3:40:15), who also beat me in the Bristol South 50 a few months ago. A slight disappointment, but it was still a very good time for my first outing over that distance.

It was tough, I'm telling ya. But I learned quite a lot about pacing and fuelling, which I have detailed in this blog on BikeRadar.

I'd love to go sub-3:40 for a 100 and I am seriously considering a 12 hour next year. But I'll see how much success I have with a new saddle...

Secondly, and this was an even bigger deal for me. I broke 50 minutes for 25 miles in the Hirwaun Wheelers 25 on Sunday. 49'58 for second behind the untouchable Michael Hutchinson (46'01), who nearly beat Chris Boardman's 16 year-old comp record of 45'57. That is seriously seriously quick and he was a bit annoyed with himself for not pushing it a bit more, because he didn't think it was possible. I wish he had because then I could have said I was second behind him on the day it happened. He is going to give Brad Wiggins a run for his money in the British champs in a couple of weeks time...

In the women's, juniors and overflow event (there were over 200 riders in total), Julia Shaw broke Yvonne McGregor's 13 year old comp record with a stunning time of 51'08. That was the 6th best time of the day too, meaning she beat most of the men. She's 44 and seems to be getting quicker each year. What an awesome rider.

I should explain that the course we raced on, the R25/3H is considered the fastest in the country. It's in Wales, near Glyn-neath, and you start at the top of a pretty sizeable hill (200m altitude) that you don't have to come back up. Reason being is that according to UK time trialling rules, the start and finish of a 25 have to be within 1.5 miles of each other. Just about all the fast courses have gift downhill starts, but this takes the cake.

Although it feels a bit like cheating, it is within the rules and everyone is in the same boat. But what I really enjoyed about it is that there was very little traffic, unlike a lot of other 'fast' courses. It's mostly on a dead straight dual carriageway down the Vale of Neath and back. Two roundabouts each way (plus a couple at the start) and just two sliproads. So it's very safe.

The weather had been looking a bit iffy all week but thankfully the forecast was correct and the front that hit west Wales stopped at the Black Mountains, right next to where we started. It was raining a little at the top but once we hit the main road it was nice and dry.

The start was surprisingly difficult. It was on a side road and at the bottom of a small hill. I found it hard to believe that this was the start of the fastest course in the country. In fact, because of the rain and the headwind, I averaged less than 40km/h (25mph) for the first 2.7km, until I hit the roundabout that led onto the main road.

Then it got fast. With the wind behind me, I picked up speed and was already close to 60km/h by the time the road started to dip down the bank. It got steeper and I wasn't getting a lot of use out of my 53x11, but that didn't matter. I found I could hit a certain speed (74km/h) before I'd get a bit of front wheel wobble, so I backed it off. But one of my regular TTing mates Stu Dodd said he hit 88km/h in a full tuck. Ouch that's quick.

I got to the bottom having now done the first 9km in just 10'30. Nice. The beauty of this course is that you keep descending gradually until the turnaround, so I kept it in the 12 and 13 the whole way.

I reached 15 miles (24.1km) in 28'30 - still nearly 51km/h (31.7mph) average. It meant I had to do the last 10 more uphill miles in 21'29 to break 50 minutes, although I didn't know it because I had the computer on distance rather than time.

On the way back, I realised that the wind wasn't going to push me back up the hill. In fact, it was against me because it was blowing down the valley. At least it wasn't too strong, otherwise I would have been sunk.

Fortunately I'd saved enough gas for the return leg and I really needed it. At times, when the road dipped, it was nice and fast and I could get into the 13 for a while. But I knew the last bit was uphill so I kept holding back.

I got to the 20 mile (32.2km) mark, which was just before the roundabout at Resolven, in 39'12. That meant I needed to do the last 5 miles in 10'47 - climbing 50m with a crosswind. The first two miles from the roundabout were nice and quick, completed in 4'05. But then the road kicked up and it got tougher.

I was still in control of things and it wasn't an agonising effort to get to the finish. It was just damned hard. The last 3 miles seemed to drag on and on, partly because I was going slower and partly because I was pushing it harder. In the end, I managed that stretch in 6'41 at 330W - well above average - so I did have the reserves to drive it home.

I crossed the line, sat up, pressed the button onto time and saw '49'57'. But I know the PowerTap takes a few seconds to get going at the start, so I had no idea whether I'd broken the magic 50 minute mark or not. I rode back up the hill, convinced that I'd probably just missed it. In 25 mile TTing, the difference between 50'00 and 49'59 is psychologically huge, even though it's nothing in speed terms. It represents a barrier that very few riders can break.

We had to wait a long time before the results were finalised, because someone had to bring them up from the finish to the HQ. I sat in the hall talking to Robin, Stu, Alan and Charles from Leisure Lakes, seeing how they'd done. Stu had done a 51'44, Alan a 51'50, and neither seemed particularly pleased although they did finish top 10. Charles had to be satisfied with a 53, while Robin thought he'd just dipped under 53 - he ended with 52'44, over 1'20 better than his previous best. I still had no idea.

Finally, they wrote the times down. Stu was first over to the board and he immediately turned around with a big smile and shook my hand. I was so relieved and happy! It's extremely rare that I get that, but this was a real barrier to break. I think I'd have to go back to the journo world's in 2006 to repeat that emotion.

I checked what Hutch had done and it was an amazing 46'01, just four seconds off Boardman's very impressive mark. Boardman set that in 1993 on a flatter course but with a hell of a lot of traffic on it. Even he commented on it at the time.

Then I realised I'd finished second behind the legendary Hutch, and was extremely satisfied. There were a lot of quick riders there and I'd beaten the rest of them. Only six other riders have gone under 50 minutes this year, so I've shot up the rankings a bit. If I had to do the national 25 again now, I'd likely finish top 15 or 20, rather than a disappointing 43rd (Hutch put over six minutes into me that day).

We left before Shaw's record ride was confirmed, but she's another talent who has gotten much faster this year. Do not underestimate the importance of being aero on a bike.

What next? Going up to Hull this weekend for a go on a fast 10 course, the V718. Then the British champs, where I stand an even chance of winning the masters 35-40 (would be awesome), then the journo worlds in Slovenia, where I would be very surprised if anyone beat me in the TT.

Finally, the beetroot didn't do a thing (I'm just as fast without it) but at least I didn't explode.


Anonymous said...

Awesome, dude! It's the go fast stripes, I reckon.

What was the power output average?


Jeff Jones said...


A mere 312W, but it was perfectly paced. I didn't train after the 100 and lost the edge off my form, but luckily it didn't matter.