Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nat 50 + visitation

The visitation was first, in the form of little sister Lucy, who was on a work trip to the UK and popped down to Bath for a hello and a sightsee.

The sightseeing involved approximately 12km of walking up and down hills. Very pleasant as we saw some nice bits of Bath that require a bit of local knowledge to spot. No pics owing to still busted camera. I must get a new one.

My legs were somewhat knackered after that, but I figured/hoped it wouldn't matter too much for the 50. In hindsight I don't think it did, as my power was pretty much bang on what I thought I could do. That was enough to get me another 8th spot, which was satisfying. It's strange, in the national 25 I was delighted, but in the 50 it felt more like confirmation that the 25 wasn't a fluke. You reset your standards when you improve.

I was happy for a few other reasons too. The main one was that I'd got an early start time (along with Richard Simmonds and Andy Bason). In a morning event this is usually a bad thing as temperature and traffic increase throughout the morning, which means you go quicker later on. I was off at 9:15, but most of the other quick guys were off between 10 and 10:30. It doesn't sound like it should matter but it can be worth minutes in some cases. And worse if you're off at 8am...

So I treated it as two races, one between me, Rich and Andy - to whom I could compare directly - and the other against the rest of the field.

I set off fairly hard into the wind as I thought it was better to counteract the slowest part of the ride with more power. It wasn't long before I passed Sean Yates (yep, the ex-pro wot is now director of Team Sky), who was on his second lap and not looking to be having an easy time of it into the wind. The road didn't help matters either: it was hard and bumpy and it's definitely not a fast course. It was a case of picking a line through the bumpiest bits and hoping you didn't get slowed down too much.

The tailwind back home was nice and I felt quite comfortable at what was close to my usual 1hr power. Never a good sign, as I know from experience. However I'd committed to this strategy. I think both Rich and Andy had this idea too, as they were 15 and 10 seconds up on me after the first lap.

Lap 2 was different. I dropped 13W but only 9sec (the splits in the results weren't taken at the end of the laps, rather at the 20 and 40 mile marks). In 20 miles at my speed, 13W should be worth 36sec so you can already see what difference conditions make. To put that another way, had I started at 10am, my first lap would have been 27sec quicker, my second and third - that's harder to tell. All up losing between 30sec and a minute based on start time is tough in a race like this! However, it's incentive to get quicker in order to get a better position on the grid.

At least I felt OK and wasn't in danger of blowing up, but I also didn't have loads left for the final short lap. I had now moved ahead of Rich (who'd beaten me on the same course by 2min a week previously) by 36sec so he'd clearly paid a higher price than me for a hard start. Andy Bason was still 9sec up so it was close.

I lost a few more watts for the final 9.6 miles but these were also my quickest (20'31) - both thanks to the conditions and also because we didn't have to go up to the second roundabout, only the first one. After gritting my teeth into the headwind the final time I flew home. The last 4.8 miles in 9'12 - that's 50.7km/h in real money. Yes it was marginally downhill, which helped!

Final time: 1:47:36, which was about 45 sec up on the previous week, when I wasn't going quite as hard. That was good, as a few people I spoke to afterwards, like Chippenham's Mark Woolford, who'd ridden both went backwards by 3-4min today as it was so windy.

Bason had lost a bit of ground to me and finished in 1:47:58, while Rich ended up with 1:49:31, which I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been happy with. Anyway, I had the lead for a bit but I could see that British long distance legend Andy Wilkinson (12 hr comp record holder with 302 miles) was motoring up and down the course and I was certain he'd demolish my time. He did with 1:45:13 which gave him third spot in the end. Hmm, I wonder if I can find 20W...

I had to wait a while before the final times were in and lo and behold, what a battle it was between Matt Bottrill and Michael Hutchinson! Bottrill was up 13sec at 20 miles, then just 7sec at 40 miles, but Hutch turned it on in the last 10 and reversed the deficit to a handy 16secs by the finish. That is not very much: 2W in power terms, or the difference between perfect pacing and slightly off pacing, or socks, or a head fairing as opposed to an aero helmet. It's really not much.

Bottrill was disappointed afterwards as he's never been that close before, but I'm pretty sure he'll get there in the next year or two. He has been flying this year and my own guesstimates (as I've raced them both) had him very close to Hutch. He was unfortunately off his best in the 25, which is why Hutch beat him fairly comfortably. But not in the 50 - where Hutch wasn't at his best.

It's good to see as we need a bit of competition at the top to stir up more interest in the sport.

Pics here (I'm on P7, P10, P19, P23, P26) and here
Results here
Report here

The women are a different matter. Julia Shaw was in a class of her own again and beat Rebecca Slack by over 6 minutes. It was a pretty grim day for them on Saturday too. I'd raced that course in the rain the previous week and it's no fun.

Next up for me: was going to be the national 100 in Yorkshire but I didn't get in as the organisers didn't receive an entry from me. Unfortunately you generally only find this out when the start list comes out, by which point it's too late to do anything about it. Annoying but not the end of the world, and I'll find another 100 to ride.

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