As I write this, the wind is howling outside, the rain is lashing down at frequent intervals, Liz is sick and I'm not going riding (yet). April officially ends tomorrow and I will be glad to see the back of it. In hindsight, entering a bunch of races on fast courses on the assumption that the weather was going to be as good as last April was a bad idea. Not all bad though.
On Saturday I rode and won the Bath CC 10 on the U47r - the slower reverse version of the U47. I definitely wasn't thinking of a PB but I did want one final race before the national 10 in three weeks. I also wanted a longish training day so I set off at 5:45 to ride the 30+ miles to the HQ in Ashton Keynes.
It was grey and a chilly NE wind was blowing, but the forecast was for it to stay dryish at least. Nope, by the time I got there it was actually raining and you couldn't pass it off as low cloud either. It stopped before too long, but the roads were wet and that's never a nice thing on a dual carriageway. Rain is far worse though, as anyone who has driven or ridden in it can testify.
There was a reserve course but the event had already started so it had to continue on the original course or be cancelled. I was in two minds. I got kitted up, rode to the start, got very cold in doing so, noted that the roads were still wet but the rain had stopped and the visibility was decent so figured it was ok (just) to ride.
After a few weeks of so-so form - more on that below - I wasn't expecting big power numbers. My legs also felt like wooden blocks after standing around too long in the cold before the start, and they didn't want to play ball. So I went out at a fairly conservative pace into the head/crosswind to see what sort of speed would result. There were some fast bits when the road curved westwards, but a 10'45 split (27.8mph) to the 5 mile point shows that it was still a headwind, uphill grind.
Not going out too hard was of benefit coming back, as I only dropped a few watts with the cross/tailwind and held the speed at 31mph all the way back and it was still very much under control, rather than the gut busting oxygen deprived affairs that 10s usually are. I lost more momentum than I would have liked (33 -> 28.5mph) when I caught my two minute man with 2.5 miles to go, due to my own caution in passing people on DCs. Sometimes it's ok, sometimes it's better to wait. Liz had similar issues in her 5km swimathon yesterday.
The finish involves going over a flyover then turning right at a roundabout, leaving less than 100m before the chequered flag. It's a horrible way to finish a race as you always feel a bit cheated when you cross the line. But it's the only 10 course that can be run on that road at the moment as potential alternatives have to be measured and risk assessed.
I'd done enough to win, which was nice, and it was a good way to finish the April racing block, as now I have a three week gap before the national 10. At least I won't have any issues passing people there! Starting second last is cool, although I'm certainly not expecting to finish as high as my seeding.
Rewind to the other bits of April
How quickly does shock and awe get replaced by mild frustration? About a week in bike racing terms. That said, if I only have one good race this year then the 18'09 will fit the bill nicely.
As foretold, I faced Hutch a couple of days later in the Haverhill Wheelers Rudy Project. It was a 20 mile affair over quiet, often twisting Essex roads - a complete contrast to the V718 dragstrip. I felt good, despite suffering from what I thought was a nervous tum, and set out at a solid pace for the first half. The main climbs were, however, in the second half, and although I got over them ok I probably should have saved a wee bit more gas. Still, I acquitted myself well and finished second in the event, exactly one minute behind Hutch (we did joke beforehand that I'd give him a thrashing. That is not going to happen).
I was on a high after both Easter races, especially as I got a bit of a break from hard training the next week. But that was, in hindsight, the high point. The stomach bug got worse and I didn't really get the kick back in freshness I felt I deserved. I wasn't laid low, just had the edge knocked off.
By the following Sunday, four of us - me, Matt, Derek and Mark - lined up for the VTTA 25 in Wales, where we had planned a tilt at the team comp record for 25 miles (sum of times of fastest three riders in your team). The target to beat was 2:27:45, set by Matt, Scott Povey and Richard Bradley last year. It wasn't a bad day - a light-moderate N wind and about 10 degrees. That meant a tailwind downhill to the turn, then a shorter headwind slog back. I got to the turn (16 miles) in around 28'30 with OK power, but then faded coming back to finish in 49'46. Not a bad time but Mark eclipsed that with a fine 48'07, then Derek with 48'52 - which actually gave us the team comp record then and there. For a whole three minutes until Matt finished with an absolutely brilliant 46'47, an awesome ride on what I didn't think was a fast day.
So we finished 1st-4th, broke the team comp record twice and to top it off I even won the vets standard prize (fastest rider over 40, with an age adjustment built in). I was OK with my ride and really happy for the other three, who deserved that record and may well have put it on the shelf for a while. 2:23:46. That's three riders averaging under 48 minutes each!
A week later we had another chance at it in the BDCA 25. Again four of us riding: Matt, me, Derek and Chas McCulloch, doing his first 25 since 2009. Hutch was on the start sheet as well, thus it promised to be a battle of the titans. The wind definitely wasn't playing ball this week, block headwind on the uphill leg out to the turn, then tailwind for the slightly shorter return leg. That kills any chance of a really fast time as the time lost on the way out is impossible to make back, compared to if the wind was in the opposite direction. Still, it was more or less the same for everyone.
Derek, starting early, did a slowish 51'20, and subsequently ended up with manflu. Funny how you get sick after your best form, but that's often what happens. I was a little better with 50'37. I thought I'd be up on power compared to the previous week but it was the opposite. That made my strategy of hammering it to the turn a risky one. I managed 15mins at what I thought was below 10 pace but it was clearly way above what I was capable of. I spent the next 14 minutes grovelling into the wind until I got to the far roundabout. 29'06 on the clock with 12.1 miles (19.5km) left to ride. It was impossible to do a 48, and very unlikely to break 50 minutes. I did manage to get back in 21'31, using the tailwind for all it was worth. It wasn't good enough to make up for what I lost going out though. Given how poor my power was I'm glad I'm slippery enough to get away with having a bad day.
Chas did a short 50, an excellent ride considering how long he's been out of action for. I then had to dash off so didn't hear the final result until later. Hutch won it in a stunning 46'57 (which belies how hard it was out there) from Matt (47'55), both riders pushing each other to new heights while the rest of us can only watch in awe.