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National TT Championships 2012 Recap

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Last Friday, 29 June 2012, was the National Time Trial Championships in Bulgaria. As previously mentioned, this was THE race of my 2012 racing calendar. I wanted to do a time in the range 57-55min over the almost 40km course. I clocked a respectable 54:16.86 putting me in the top half at 12th place

The Race

Hiding away from the sun during the warmup

The course was a ¬9.5km segment that had to be traveled 4 times – so there were 3 turnarounds. The tarmac was smooth and in perfect condition. The total elevation profile looked like a very wide ‘W’ for an elevation change of 50m (155ft).

It was not just hot, it was boiling hot. The outside temperature sensor of my car was recording 36 C after the race when the sun was past its highest point. While I was putting on my cycling shoes I couldn’t keep my bare feet on the asphalt for more than 5-10seconds at a time.

I did my best to stay out of the sun and drink lots of fluids during my warmup. I soaked my skinsuit with water in an attempt to prevent overheating. I took a full 750ml bottle with a very diluted sugary drink on the bike (more concentrated solution would have made absorbtion slower). I was number 6 from the end to start. The top 5 finishers from last year were going to be ‘chasing’ me down the course. I lined up at the start just as my minute man was about to set off on his race.

The Start

I pushed off at my planned pace of 330W right from the line. It was hot and my skinsuit dried off seemingly in a matter of minutes. Something was not feeling right. In about 7km out of the 9,5km of the first leg I started getting the telltale signs that I am going well above my limits – my diaphraghm was starting to cramp and I was switching back and forth the same two rear cogs in attempt to find the right gear without any success. If I was to finish I had to ease up. So I slowly pulled back on the gas. The first turnaround came quick and after two big gulps of water I was back in my aero tuck pushing 285-290W average. That felt like the maximum power I could sustain without blowing up. I was back in the race!

After the second turnaround at the beginning of the course I briefly switched my Garmin 500 to show speed (My race screen shows only Distance, Cadence, 3s, 30s, Lap and Total Average power). I was currently going at 45-46km/h. At this point I knew the race was not going to be the abysmal failure I suspected. That gave me the needed confidence to focus only on maximizing my effort on the course. As I mentioned earlier the elevation profile was NOT flat, rather a wide ‘W’. Enough to throw off your pacing, not enough to require different power output on the uphill/downhill sections. I decided that constant power would yield the best time.

After the finish.

Pushing 290W was all I could make my body do, I tried to accelerate on a couple of occassions, I was not able to. I had to drink a couple of times in the remaining kilometers. The course was buffeted by crosswinds at some parts. I almost lost control while drinking in the aero position once due to some wind gusts. In the last 7km or so I got passed by three riders. They just stood at 20-70m in front of me and didn’t accelerate. I crossed the line with nothing left. As soon as I rolled to a stop the temperature felt even hotter. All I could do is sit on the ground and drink water, LOTS of water. The original Garmin file can be found here. I will post the GoldenCheetah graph once I am back at my computer.

Lessons learned.

I expected the weather to be challenging. It was game changing. According to my Garmin Edge 500, it was a blistering 38 C at the start of my TT. I was sufficiently hydrated at the start so I did not suffer from dehydration. In numbers the heat cost me 40W. I know I can sustain 330-335W on my TT bike and 350W on a regular road bike. After reviewing my data I had managed to sustain a HR of 190-195bpm (my other races it was hovering in the 185-190bpm for a good part of the race) right from the start. I was working as hard as possible, the heat was sapping away my power. For next year I need to find a way to get more adjusted to the heat. I drank 3.5L of fluids after the race.

Also before the championship TT I had a month completely free of racing. I think that cost me some top end. I was never big on tapers, however, I decided I should try 2 weeks as suggested in most training programs. I had 4 days of driving to do in the week of the race so I should not have taken the previous week so easily (4h total training time). Maybe my body was too relaxed going into such a tough race. I should not ignore pure race efforts in the buildup.

I only had 10 days to get adjusted to riding a full TT bike, which I am sure also had a price. The day after the race in addition to the usual fatigue, I was sore in places where I have no complaints when racing my road bike

In addition as a first time starter, very strangely to me, I got put towards the end of the start list with all the favorites (they all broke 50min and finished top 5). They could use me as a ‘carrot on a stick’ while I had no idea if I was gaining ground on my minuteman. Not as important, however, it is a bit demotivating being passed on the final stretch.

Going into the championships I was hoping for a time of 57minutes on an average day and 55min if I do the perfect race. I did 54.16 in a suboptimal race with mediocre (for my level of fitness) power numbers. My second half was 15seconds faster than my first so I managed to salvage my efforts and do negative splitting in a race that was initially heading for disaster. I placed behind cyclists that are going to represent Bulgaria at the 2012 Olympics in a month so I couldn’t be happier!

For next year’s championships my FTP should improve in numbers so I can only be excited of what time I could clock sustaining 350-380W!!!

I will take some days off on the beach to recover and travel back to The Netherlands before I start training for the Dutch Amateur TT Championships in September. I will post a detailed review of my TT equipment very soon.

Also this blog broke 200 views for June so I would like to send a big thank you to all my readers and supporters!

A drop of support means an ocean of gratitude.

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