Monday, June 06, 2011

The national 25

Time to update el blog as I've just passed the main focus of the season, the national 25 mile championships. And done good too, finishing 8th, a mere 2'18 behind Dr Michael Hutchinson. Yes he had a mechanical but still, it's the closest I've ever been to him in a 25, let alone a national, so I'll take it.

To recap and I never get tired of reminding myself of this fact, in 2009 I finished 43rd @ 6'23 behind Hutch. In 2010 I was 16th @ 4'03. This year 8th at 2'18. So two more years and I'll win, ho ho. It's extrapolations like that that send companies bankrupt.

8th is a good result for me, as this is the most keenly contested championships for the amateurs. And it's also generally more popular than the British TT champs (pros can ride both, but they prefer the BTTC). So more competition, which is a good thing.

That said, the course, which started in Holsworthy in Devon, was more like the BTTC than a typical CTT course in that it contained hills. A couple of which I needed the small ring for, even down to 39x23! It also had more climbing than descending, so in that sense was like an early season hardriders course. On the other hand, apart from one corner and a roundabout that required braking, it was non-technical. And the roads were nice smooth tarmac for the most part.

The prep and the women

Liz and I drove down the day before to stay with relations of friends of ours (Lowenna and Mark), and we were generously given beds for the evening and large quantities of food. Which you don't actually need for a one hour race but hey...

Low was nervous as it was only her second 25 (she's done plenty of 10s and three(!) 12hrs). Plus she was on a new TT bike, which takes some getting used to. I spent some time sorting out her helmet so that it sat properly on her back, made sure her numbers were OK, gave her a few tips on the course and left her to it.

Liz and I cheered her and the rest of the women as they went up the first hill. We got a few nods of recognition and thanks as we named the riders correctly. It was interesting seeing how some of the women tackled the climb, which was fairly steep. Some flew up it out of the saddle, some were all over the shop in the big chainring and some rode it on the extensions to maintain a good position.

Eventual winner Julia Shaw did this, and it was clear that she was sticking to a set power as she wound her way smoothly up the hill. By contrast Chrissy Radon and several of the others were quicker on the climb but clearly paid for it later on, as Shaw won in 59'20 by over three minutes! Radon was second and Jane Kilmartin third at nearly five minutes. Our Lowenna was 25th in a very decent 1:14:36. There's room for improvement but that's not bad going for someone who had a serious accident earlier this year.

My turn

I was off at 3:10 so plenty of time to partake of some sandwiches at the HQ, a cup of coffee, a milkshake and anything else I could find in my bad. OK so you do get hungry before these events.

The start was in the town centre and we had a start ramp, a jazz band and even a closed road for the first bit. Have a look at the pics here to get a flavour of it. There are a couple of pics of me on Page 4

Off the ramp and with a twisty downhill start it was easy to pick up speed. I hit 60 before it was time to rein it in for the corner at the bottom of the hill, which led straight into a 7% climb. Change down, do not drop chain(!), try to keep myself from getting too excited, appreciate the cheering of Liz, Low and Mark on the hill and settle in.

Once at the top I picked up speed again, and was quite surprised at how quick it was into the headwind on what were apparently tiny downhill sections. I think the fact that the course was well sheltered from the wind helped, plus I was probably giving it a little too much gas. It wasn't long before I reached the main downhill bit, a dead straight 2% drag that we'd have to come up at the end. That was fun as I could just wind it up and relax, knowing the first and most tricky part of the course was behind me. Annoyingly I had to hit the brakes at the bottom as there was a car turning right ahead of me and riders coming up the other way, but that was only worth a few seconds or so.

Then it was up a two stage climb into Highampton. I thought I was going well until I heard the rush of a disk wheel next to me and my minute man, Andrew Griffiths, flew past me on the second climb. I was a bit shocked but I know he's a good rider (U23 national champ) and would have started quite hard. He quickly pulled away and I thought that was the last I'd see of him, but as we came into Highampton I could see I was gaining on him again. There was a short and very wet descent after the town and I picked up even more time, eventually deciding to overtake him a few miles before the turn.

He was having none of that and quickly re passed me, although I did wonder whether his early efforts were starting to take their toll and I might take him on the return leg. It was not to be. I had him hovering about 50m ahead of me until we got to Highampton coming back, then he just shot off and put 20 sec into me like it was nothing. That was actually a bit better from my point of view as I could concentrate on what I was doing.

The last drag was fun. We had a bit of a tailwind but it was nearly 5km at 2%. Full gas time. There were some flatter sections in it that I used to recover, but for the most part it was give it everything. I passed Liz, Mark and Low at the pub halfway up and they gave me another cheer, which was nice! Liz even took some video, which I have secured worldwide distribution rights for:

Once at the top it was flat out for another three minutes to the finish. It's hard finishing on a downhill as you feel a bit cheated somehow. I think I managed to expend my available energy though. And overall I managed the course fairly well considering I'd not pre-ridden it.

That was it. I rolled back to the HQ, packed the car, got changed, grabbed the all important bit of cake and cuppa tea and then wandered over to check the results. I knew I'd gone under 56 minutes (55'54) and a few people I chatted to seemed to think that was a decent time. But I didn't know so I started from the back of the field and checked every rider on the result board, counting any who had beaten me (I knew Griffiths had of course). Thankfully there were only a couple on page 2 who were quicker, and these I expected to be.

When I got to page 1, the top seeds, I was surprised at how many - and who - had gone slower. And by how much. Top 10 was the main goal of the season and I was at 6 when I got to Bottrill, Holton and Hutch. I was surprisingly quicker than Holton and was even more surprised at how close I was behind Bottrill (1'42) and Hutch (2'18). I learned later that Hutch had dropped his chain that probably cost him 30-40sec but still, it was better than I'd hoped for. And Bottrill was interesting: he's been putting more time into me in the Rudy Projects than that, but I managed to pull some back in the National.

I realised I was eighth, saw Liz and suddenly got the shakes, spilling my tea in the process!! Luckily the chocolate cake was unharmed. It was a pretty nice moment and you don't get that very often.

Power: tick. Not quite a PB but close enough.
Pacing: tick
Position: tick

Onwards and forwards. Next up: a test ride on the national 50 course this weekend, followed by the national 50 a week later.

U7B postcript

I did manage to break my 20'30 on the U7B 10 mile course a couple of weeks ago. 20'27 to be precise, on a pretty windy day. That is a tough course to ride fast.

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