Against the Clock Pain and Racing Speed

Primal Instincts – District Championships Time Trialing 2013

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If everything seems under control, you are not gong fast enough.

-Mario Andretti

As the season keeps rolling, my next priority event went by – The 2013 District Champioships Time trialing. For riders with Dutch passports it is a qualifier for the Elite National Championships in June so there was a lot of horsepower at the race.

The Course

The course was technical and VERY exposed to the wind. In addition all the farm equipment has dug up quite some gravel around the corners. I pre-rode the course last week and I was confident I was not going to take a wrong turn or do something time wasting like that.


The Race

Right of the start, I knew the first corner was only a short distance away so I can go full power and settle afterwards. I took the first turn a little too carefully and I could already see my minute man on the long stretch of road in front of me. I was closing in on him fast! I passed him and in front of me was only the official motor. I don’t know what exactly happened in that moment, however, as if somebody flicked a switch in my head. “Catch him!!! “ a voice whispered gently in my ear. It was on!

For those who don’t know those pilot motorcycles always stay about 50yds in front of the rider, so yes, technically you can never catch them. I only glanced at my computer to make sure I was not into sprint mode. The motorcycle driver was choosing his lines around the turns perfectly so I could mimic him. With my mouth gaping and the sweat running down my face I was eating the kilometers one by one. As I was coming out of the sharp turns I was so eager to get back to race speed I felt my rear wheel skip on a couple of occasions.

After 12 out of 18km (~12mi) down, it was starting to hurt badly. I had 2 choices – let it influence me or make the pain my bitch. I chose the latter. In my head I was getting that little bit closer to the motor. As I rounded the last  turn into the long final straight I had only one thing in mind: “Just 3 kilometers to go.”

Pain is a cruel mistress though, if you ignore her too much, sooner rather than later she will kick you…hard…VERY hard. It was a ball of agony trying to burst out of my chest.  The reassuring click as I shifted bike one gear higher sounded like that angry coach yelling in my head: “What are you waiting for!?!?? Christmas?!?!? GO!!! The pain was unbearable. The sweat was stinging my eyes and dripping down my chin with droplets getting flung on my helmet visor by the gushing wind. I was trying to suck oxygen through my ears. I finally realized what tunnel vision was. I could see the coveted finish line. I got out of the saddle for one last final acceleration and whoosh it was over.

Nothing is Perfect

Since I went on a masochistic quest to see how hard I can ‘push until it hurts so much and than dig deeper,’ I didn’t exactly have the most elegant race. I vaguely remember the number 370W Average hanging on my computer screen for the first 10min. If I was doing it planned, I should have held it at 365W and used those additional 5W during the ‘tunnel vision’ stage for a nice negative pacing. Oh well, next time.

In addition although an amazing bike, the brakes on the S Works Shiv are its weakest feature (pun intended). I caught myself praying to stay upright and on course during a couple of the technical corners as I was desperately trying to scrub some speed off. I guess it is a matter of consciously knowing that you need to brake a little sooner. If it all seems under control, you are not going fast enough! That being said I took those corners upright in the pursuit bar position, while I should have kept my body low and aerodynamic. I probably wasted 15-20s doing that including my last 100m out of the saddle final sprint.

Records Are There to Be Broken

Sometimes it is good to forget all things that make you secure and comfortable. As soon as I saw that motor hanging some 50 yards in front of my nose, something primal, just switched in my head. I could taste it, and as I am writing this it gives me goosebumps.

I completely shattered my best 10 and 20min peak aerobic power for 2013 and finally bettered my 2012 long standing all time best numbers.  At almost 360W average, this is the highest power I have put out (by 40W more!!!) in my new much more aerodynamic (read cramped) TT position. I have mentioned before that it takes time until you can go 100% being tucked on the aerobars. My power data is shown below (click to zoom).

District Championships Time Trialing 2013 Power Graph (Click to zoom)


Always remember that a time trial is a competition with yourself!

After getting dropped like a bag of wrenches only 2 short days ago I needed a reassuring confidence boost. I finally have a number proving to me my form is better than my peak in 2012. To be honest I was getting a little bit worried, to the point I had to check the calibration of my SRM (it was spot on…). Although on a different course, the distance was the same as last year’s edition.  On a much more technical parcours I bettered my time by more than two and a half minutes! I finished only 1:30 from the podium as compared to more than 3min last year. I came up 16th overall, but the ranking means nothing to me. I am MUCH faster than that time last year and that is all that matters. Always remember that a time trial is a competition with yourself!

Last, but not least, although faced with 30+kph (20+mph) crosswinds, I didn’t even spend a second trying to think how tough the conditions were. I was so focused on digging deeper, I completely ignored everything else.

Next week I will have a chance to improve on that even further during the annual interclub TT championships.

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