A fast day for the ones who got along with the heat …

Traditionally the Shaftsbury E2/50 is taking place on the hottest Saturday of the year, and this year is probably no exception. The usual 27 degrees might not have been reached, but we were not much below that. Still, this year there we had more or less no wind according to the forecast – it didn’t always feel like this out on the road, but even a wimp like me could handle an Enve 8.9 front wheel – so it must have been very calm.

Ever since starting to TT three years ago I wanted to go sub 2 h for 50 miles, ideally sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list. So far the heat on the E2/50 and me often being unable to ride the few other fast 50 courses for a variety of reasons has left me stuck with a 2 h 2 minutes PB for a long time, and seeing today’s heat made me wonder if I could gather the willpower to break that time. Plus seeing that until last weekend my legs were just not doing as told, I was not quite sure what to expect. Yes, I felt a lot better during the week, and hoped to have finally recovered from the 12 h Championship – but you never know until you are out on the road, do you? At least I know the course ‘inside out’, seeing that the E2 was the first dual carriageway course I ever rode, and I just love the E2 courses. I feel you can get into a proper rhythm there, not being interrupted by roundabouts and turns like you are on Etwall, but you just stay on the inside lane and pedal on.

Chris Melia had the great idea to meet up on Friday night and stay close to the course – her drive from Sheffield was a bit longer than mine, so that made sense and was a perfect excuse to have some fun. We drove the course and I tried to pass on my ‘expert knowledge’ where to expect things to be hard just due to the tarmac of a false flat which actually is an incline etc – and I was glad to hear that I did not overload her with information, but that it actually helped her not to be discouraged when it felt especially hard exactly at the predicted spots. Combining fun times and TTs is just the perfect way – thanks a lot, Chris!!!

The supersized cooked breakfast I had must have been digested by the time we raced, even though Chris’ option for porridge made for a faster ride (but to be honest, I don’t think it was down to the breakfast – Chris is just amazingly fast and way faster than I am. My conclusion is that it must be the age – speed comes with age right? At least I am getting faster every year, so that MUST be true 🙂 ). For the first time ever I did not get into any stomach problems when riding in the heat – those OTE products do honestly agree with me very much, and helped to make this ride much more comfortable than any E2/50 I did before (and those are usually the hottest rides I do …).

The true muppet moment came when looking for my skinsuit at the HQ – and realising that I left the bag with my most aero skinsuit in Chris’ car at the B&B. Luckily I had already decided to not bother with trip socks and overshoes due to the temperature (also in that bag), and had a spare pair of gloves in the car. And thanks to the amazing generosity of Nopinz I do actually have a ‘spare’ BtB skinsuit – so disaster was prevented, but I think I am keeping the mug for being the team’s biggest muppet for a while longer …

So all was well and not eventful before the start, pouring water over ourselves made the heat bearable for a few minutes. For BtB, Clare was off as number 1, then Chris number 11 and me the lucky number 13. I spotted Clare when she was coming back from Four Wentways, with Hayley Simmonds and Clarice Chuang already being close. Chris was also well on her way past the roundabout before I got to the turn, but that was not expected any other way. The start felt good, but I did already see the power not being as high as hoped and aimed for. But seeing my recent performances I rather kept to the lower power and hoped to keep it going – which I didn’t, but at least I was mentally able to push right until the end. I realised once more how comfortable I feel on this course, knowing my way around. Closing in to my minute woman Jody when getting to the Red Lodge turn was satisfying, as our times have usually been very close, with either of us being faster at different events. I lost her again due to more traffic at the roundabouts, and because I once more struggled at the dog leg. Going slower there allowed me to refuel on two gels, which gave me much needed energy. Karen Ledger passed me for 2 minutes around 25 miles, which I felt wasn’t too bad seeing her recent performances. Chris was doing an amazing approximately 53 minutes at the 25 miles split, and I was only hoping to keep myself together at that point. 56 minutes for me at the 25 mile mark, but from experience I know that I always have a negative split and slower second half in this race. Still – the sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list was not out of reach, even if I slowed down a bit, and that was a big motivation. More motivation was gathered by the fact that I kept both Karen and Jody in sight after rejoining the A11 and the A14. It took me a long time to finally pass Jody – and once more I managed to pass someone on ‘a climb’ – OK, a drag. Maybe I am not that bad at going up the drags? And as a positive surprise going up the drag didn’t feel as hard as it did sometimes before (certainly going up it for the 3rd time in the E2/100 was painful), so another piece in the puzzle of keeping me motivated was found, despite seeing a continuous drop in power. I had a mental blank trying to remember the average speed to get on the list, but 25.9 mph still sounded like I am on target. Another slow stretch of road going from the A14 onto the A11 allowed for another gel – weight reduction, right? The road until the start of the final 10 miles stretched itself, as usual – but I was pleased to feel that the legs did take some encouragement to keep on pushing. I never had to tell them to shut up, as they never complained. They were just utter silent, and refused to put out more power, but worked on an OK level. Strange …

When I started the final 10 miles I saw Hayley coming towards the finish, and did actually take the time to consider whether she got the competition record, and was fairly certain she did before telling myself off for not focussing on my own ride … So on I went, round and round. Time and average speed looked good at the final turn, a final gel was gulped and the legs were finally told to shut up, even though they still didn’t really complain … They were told that they can fall off after the finish and shall finally work hard to earn that status … If they would not hurt properly after the ride I might just hit them until they hurt – I wanted that list, and wanted it badly. Maybe I should have started to work for it earlier? Easier said than done, but maybe I could have given the legs a serious telling off earlier? Then again, they did not let me down as they did in the last races, so one ought to be nice to ones legs, right? And they honestly did work hard for those final miles.

It all still looked good going past the penultimate sliproad, and the legs continued to help, and even though I don’t trust my Garmin time to be accurate, if it’s showing a 1 h 56 minutes finish, I should be on the list

A cool down spin was necessary before joining Chris at the car and finding her as happy as myself, or probably even happier. She finished in 1:52:24 – which not only was a PB by 5 minutes, 5 seconds, but also got her the National Age Group Record. Luckily my legs were OK at that point, as some Tiggerish bouncing by the two of us had to happen – we were both just over the moon with happiness J Clare suffered more from the heat than we did and finished in 2:06:25 – still clearly well done for finishing in the heat.

For the riders who coped with the heat it was clearly a fast day – Hayley Simmonds broke the competition record by over 4 minutes with a 1:42:20, and plenty of women managed to get onto the All Times Fastest list. And I was pleased to hear that Chris shares my love for this course – I see more joint mischief coming up.

So I think we can clearly call this race another success for BtB – racing in a team is just fabulous!!! And my amazement goes to the BtB’ers who started racing today earlier than I did, and will go on until tomorrow afternoon. You 24 h girls are the real stars!!!

 

 

 

 

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Lessons learned in the past weeks

So, today I rode my 3rd 100 mile TT in five weeks, with a little 258 mile 12 h race sprinkled in for variety and only one weekend off. Guess what: the legs and the mind are still exhausted. So I learned a lesson about the necessity of proper recovery …

Saying that: I still managed a sub 4:10 ride today (OK, just, with 4:09:55), and kept together better than last week during the National 100. But a constant drop in power for each of the four laps of the Breckland B100/4 showed that the legs have not yet fully recovered from the 12 h race three weeks ago. Or is it the mind? Which of them is more important?

Admittedly, my recovery from the 12 was hindered by important work deadlines and the general catching up necessary, and by fighting a cold hindered my recovery from the 12. So I felt utterly not ready for the National 100, but wanted to do my bit for the team. Still, this was one of the first times I could not really push on any longer. Yes, I finished the National 100, and ‘pushed’ as much as I could to help us winning Team Gold, but it was not the fighting spirit I usually have when having a number on my bum.

Today the legs felt better, and I could not at all believe that until 85 miles I was still on for a PB. My legs did not feel like being on for a PB, and the power was so much lower than during the PB ride. But all fell apart with an ever-increasing headwind for 10 of the final 15 miles, and very very exhausted legs. Luckily the same was true for many other riders, who also complained about how hard this last leg was. I was utterly chuffed when a guy told me that he was impressed how I held him off for the final 20 miles – I think a lot of us were suffering at that stage.

But seeing that I was still on for a PB at 85 miles, I am certain that four weeks ago, before the 12, I would have pushed harder for those final miles. I used to not care about head winds, and certainly not drop the power going into one – so this was another important lesson in how important the mind is for succeeding in races. Yes, I did not give up, but I did not push as hard as I usually do in a race. It shows again how perfectly all came together for the superb PB on the E2/100 with 4:04:26, and the 12 h with 258.04 miles. It was planned and executed ‘to perfection’, and now I am looking forward to a break in racing after next weeks E2/50. I do honestly hope to find the proper mental capacity for racing by then. It’s a distance I still want to get on ‘the list’, so that should help me to keep pushing.

So now I understand about ‘A races’ and how you get mentally and physically ready for them – and that you cannot keep that state going forever, even of you want to and think you have recovered. I am still chuffed about today’s performance and the win. Even if things don’t go well, I don’t completely fall apart, and have been ahead of two riders who have faster 100 PB’s than me. But I have learned an important lesson about recovery, and that a 12 takes it out of you way more than I would have ever imagined.

I guess I need to thank my amazing team to get me out even when I felt exhausted, and for making my racing season a lot of fun. Definitely Dave Green for getting me into this amazing shape – and despite me cursing him on a regular basis he is still willing to get his picture taken with me 😉 Also OTE for allowing me to eat an ever-increasing amount of gels to keep me going whilst still liking their taste and not upsetting my stomach, and Nopinz for my comfortable skinsuit. And everybody whom I continue to bore with my stories about cycling, and who despite that encourages me to keep going.

So one more race, and then a well earned break. And then who knows …

Today’s provisional results:

Women:

Katja Rietdorf               4:09:55

Jill Wilkinson     4:12:23

Emma Taylor   4:15:50

Men:

Mark Turnbull 3:36:59

Daniel Bloy       3:38:11

Dave Green       3:40:42 – I worked hard to not let him come past me, maybe that’s what really kept me going 😉

The National Track Masters Championships 2016

With one months worth of sprint training, I headed to Newport for the Masters National Track Championships (talk about being chucked in the deep end – I blame Steve for putting the idea in my head!). Having only competed in one track league event at Derby I knew I was never going to win, but was keen to lay down some benchmarks to beat next year. My first race was the Men’s Flying 200, which started with me frantically removing my overshoes, because I never knew overshoes were banned in track cycling (who knew!). Once removed, I was pushed up the straight for me to begin my build up with the plan to build up speed without expelling too many watts. 1/2 a lap goes passed, then another. Things were hotting up and I was on my last building up lap. I came off turn 2 and headed down the back straight for the last time getting faster and faster, staying up high and as close to the wall as possible. Just underneath the big screen with my name on it, I put the hammer down.
Out of the saddle, sprinting out of turn 4, staying close to the wall down the home straight, building up more and more speed. Towards the end of the straight I begin my decent and sat back in the saddle, hunting out the apex of the black sprinters line at the 30m point. My legs were spinning, flying up and down like mini pistons propelling me towards the start line.
I pass the start line and the clock begins. I could feel the g-force pushing me harder onto the saddle. Half way down the back straight my legs should be flying, but for some reason they weren’t spinning as quick as they should be. Did I use too big a gear. Can’t change it now, so got to dig deep and keep pushing. I’m telling myself, “Push push push…spin spin spin…not long to go. Keep it going.” I fly pass my wife Libby at close to 40mph and can hear her cheering me on. “Come on…move it,” I tell myself. Round the next two bends, I feel the g-force again, while trying to focus on the black line. Out of turn 4 I look up and realise the finish line at Newport is at the end of the straight not mid-way like at Derby. Dig deep, make it count…GO GO GO… and finish. My track sprinting debut was over…but how did I do. Before I got half way round the bend I knew it wasnt a great performance (it’s one thing producing the ‘goods’ in training, but completely different when you are at the nationals and have been hanging around for ages waiting to do your race). On the back straight I looked up and saw my time on the large screen (12.818s). I thought to myself, “Well, at least it started with a 12!” Afterwards, I realised the combination of a 108″ gear and legs that weren’t firing on all cylinders prevented me from getting on top of the gear. Oh well lesson learnt. But still I got a new PB.
Many hour later, the rounds of the Men’s sprint began. I changed my gearing to 96″ to help me accelerate.  I was in Heat 1. Another first – I’d never been help up on track before. There was no gun, no whistle, no beeps, just a GO. Very weird. Being a novice I was straight to the front and cycled along the cote looking back at my opponent all the way around the track. We slowly cruised around in this fashion for another lap, until we approached the last lap. The bell rang. I looked forward for a tenth of a second and bang. My opponent saw his chance and took it. He went flying passed me. I knew I had the gear to accelerate quickly. I pushed hard, trying to chase him down. My legs were spinning faster and faster, slowly gaining on him. Round the last turn…push push push, but to no avail. I couldnt claw back the deficit gained on the inital jump. I was great fun though. Even though I lost that race, I haven’t had that much fun since racing people in the 100m.
My next race was the Repechage. I changed to a 100″ gear for this race, because I felt the 96″ sort changed me a little in the last race. There were 3 of us in this race. Same format as before. My opponent on the inside went off pretty fast. I zipped up behind him in case he tried to go flat out from start to finish (a tactic I saw earlier that day). I had to make sure I was able to cover any moves made by the man in front, but also the other sprinter behind me, who was higher up the track than I was, which could’ve been a problem for me if he went for the jump.
With a lap and half the sprinter behind picked up the pace. The man in front of me saw this and went for it. I chased him down as we passed the bell. Gaining on him with each metre. I pushed and pushed – I wanted to win. I moved out to pass him at turn 3, but went too wide (almost up to the blue line), and lost that extra speed I had and couldn’t make the pass stick, so had to settle for 2nd. What a great race. A great event. Definitely my favourite cycling event.
The next day I had the Kilo Time Trial to do. 4 Laps! I was not loving the idea of doing 4 laps! Steve was there that day like an eager beaver! He had a long day ahead of him and I was trying to get him to chill, but no…he was like a kid at Christmas! To give you an idea of our ‘noob-ness’ I think we were probably the only two people without TT bars. I didn’t even know they were allowed (I really should do more research into the sport I’m doing before trying it for the first time at the nationals!). I missed Steve’s race, because I was busy getting ready for mine, but looked up to see his time 57.0 for 750m…thats some good stuff! Another first for me: Starting a race from a starting gate. How was that going to feel? I settled on the bike ready for my 4 lap adventure.
The clock began to count down…then the countdown beeps started. I got out the saddle ready for a big lunge forward on the final beep…wait for it. Ready. GO. Big lunge forward. Big push on the pedals (after a little bit of a wobble) and another big push. GO GO GO. I could hear Libby cheering me on. All I could think about was getting on top of the gear. Still out the saddle building up speed towards the end of the back straight, I sat down, and gave it all I had. 1 lap in the bag, 3 to go. Telling myself, “GO GO GO”. Half way down the back straight I was thinking, “How am I going to do another 2 and half laps? I know push harder and use leg momentum to turn the pedals round…GO GO GO”. I could hear Libby & Steve cheering me on again at the end of the back straight. Round turn 3 & 4…2 laps in the bag…half way. I was beginning to struggle. The lack of training was started to show. My legs felt like they weren’t producing any power. My friend Mike, who was also competing in the 75yr old category was cheering me on at the finish line. This kept me going until I got back round to Libby & Steve who also cheered me on. After another lap of pain and not getting on top of the gear, it felt like I was cycling in treacle. My cadence must have looked ridiculously slow. I’d had enough. “What a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid idea…I need to pull out. I’m not going to make it. I need more holes to breath out of.” I thought to myself. I was about to peel off, head up the banking and dnf. But Mike was there, cheering me on. I had to keep going. I made it down the back straight for the last time. Hearing Libby & Steve cheering me on again, gave me enough to keep pushing till I crossed the finishing line. What a mess. Again, wrong gear choice meant I never got on top of the gear and expelled way too many watts try to accelerate out of the start gate. Another valuable lesson learnt!!! I knew my time was going to be slow, but how slow? I looked up at the scoreboard and saw a 1:1…….thank goodness for that! Down the back straight I could read the time 1:19.668. At least it wasn’t a 1:2….! Another P.B. Not amazing times, but next year I’ll be back to beat them.
It was a fantastic experience and helped me realise I chose the right sport. I always knew time trials weren’t for me. Time triallists never understand me when I say 10miles is too far. Track sprinting is where I belong. I’d just like to say a big thanks to Libby for supporting me and running around after me all weekend. And a big thanks to Steve for giving me the idea of competing in the masters and cheering me on at the track.
Next stop. Keirin Competition at Derby. Another first…

Team Champs again! RTTC 100 miles

Sue 2016 National 100 mile TT
Susan Semple – Photograph courtesy of Martin and Alison Purser

This year’s event was hosted by Stockton Wheelers Cycling Club. And what a marvellous job they did. Big thank you to Colin Whitefield, Chairman and Doug Howes, Event Organiser and all the wonderful volunteers.

In 2014 I entered my first 100 mile TT, the Anfield event. Loved the atmosphere but hated the ride especially as I missed the club record by 74 seconds. Couldn’t leave it at that so entered the BDCA 100 later that year. Club record secured, time from retire from100s.

In 2015 I joined Born to Bike – Bridgtown Cycles racing team and learnt their aim for 2016 was to field teams for each of the National events. So that is how I once again find myself on a start line for a 100.

6:49am – 5. 4. 3. 2. 1…… here I go again.

Conditions were pretty good, 17 degrees and a slight cross wind. Oh wait, make that more of a headwind once out on the A19.

Team mates Clare Campbell-Smith and Lynne Biddulph were already out on the course starting at 6:34am and 6:40am. I was closely followed by Katja Rietdorf off at 6:53am. Sadly Jacqueline Hobson wasn’t able to join us today.

So my plan was to push on the way out and enjoy the return and repeat. Simple!

The course was slightly more draggy on the way out than I expected but I was comfortably tapping out a nice rhythm, my average speed was lower than I expected by the turn but I’d make it back on the return, which was indeed enjoyable, well sort of.

First 50 miles done, just one more lap to go. 2nd bottle and gel handover successfully done. Great big thank you to hubby Alastair Semple for being my support, couldn’t have done it without him. Now back out onto the A19. Flipping Eck! Who’d turned the wind up? This previously draggy section which would take me to the 75 mile point felt hillier and my average speed started to drop. No problem, I’ll make it up on the homeward section, I kept telling myself. At around 74 miles I started with a vicious cramp all the way down my inner left leg, ouch! I decided I needed a brief stop at the final bottle and gel handover, not long but enough to help the leg relax.

Tailwind had increased, traffic had increased, so I was now feeling confident I could regain what I’d lost and beat my target of a sub 4 ½ hour ride time. All was going to plan until around 15 miles to go where I started to feel my energy levels dropping. And where had the hill come from, it wasn’t there on the first loop. Miles 90 to 95 were the worst, I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to finish as the cramp had returned. I kept getting out of the saddle in the hope to alleviate the pain. I took one last drink and then look at the computer and saw 96 miles, now at least I knew I could finish. But could I do it in the time I’d set myself, I daren’t look.

Slip road approached, yeah! Village approached, woohoo! Where on earth was that finish line? Suddenly I saw it and further down the road I could see Alastair jumping up and down, I knew I’d done it, a sub 4 ½ . Official time 4:26:42

Not only had I finished so had the rest of the team too.

Katja 4:26:34
Lynne 4:29:53
Clare 4:41:12

The next question was, had we done enough to win the Team Award? After a long and agonising wait it was finally confirmed we had indeed won, the joy was overwhelming.

A grand day out. Improved my 100 time by 5 minutes and 43 seconds. Improved my 2014 BBAR average speed and was once again part of the winning team in a National Event.

Big thanks Nopinz, OTE and Beet It without them I would never made it through the 100 miles.

And a great huge thanks has to go to all my team mates, those who rode and those who didn’t because without them I would never had entered and I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today.

Top Three Results:

Women
Hayley Simmonds (AeroCoach) 3:46:37
Angela Hibbs (Fusion RT Fierlan) 3:49:30
Bronwen Ewing (Rye & District Wheelers CC) 3:59:32

Men
Ryan Perry (Langdale Lightweights RT) 3:23:52
John Dewey (Team Bottrill) 3:25:46
Richard Bideau (Pendle Forest CC) 3:26:24

Zero to Hero, (well sort of!) – The birth of the BtB Track Team

So when did all this start?

 Back during the dark nights of October 2015 I had a cunning plan to try and compliment my training and thought that it would be a good idea to get myself up to the newly opened Derby Velodrome and see what all this malarkey about track cycling is all about.  Obviously to do this I needed a partner in crime and then stepped in John McLaren!

 Accreditation

 So you would think that to get on the track would be easy, in fact the hardest part is sometimes trying to get hold of the arena to book yourself a slot on what is already becoming a popular pastime for the whole of the Midlands. The route to glory starts with stage one of your accreditation whilst this will last an hour; but be assured that this hour will be of pure joy, excitement and exhilaration!  In all the stages of accreditation there are objectives to be met before progression is allowed to the next stage.  Objectives and aims get more intense and harder to achieve and it’s not just a case of turn up for a pass, people do fail.

Stage two for John and I came very close to stage one; the reason being is that we were that excited that as soon as our stage one finished we quickly ran around to reception to see if there were any spaces on the stage two that started straight away thus to avoid a potential 3-4 week wait.  Having completed this stages three and four soon came and passed and then it was on to bigger and better things – SQT’s aka Structured Quality Training.

One really good thing that Derby Velodrome offer is that once you have completed your accreditation with them then you are free to ride any velodrome in the country.  If you have become accredited at other velodrome’s then you will need to book Derby for a familiarisation session before you are let loose on the Midlands boards.

 SQT

 So SQT’s come in a variety of packages.  Generally speaking, for the majority they are split into SQT A & B.  ‘A’ being the more experienced riders and are of a quicker pace and B’s for the mere mortals amongst us.  Derby also offer, women’s specific session, discipline specific session (Derny or Madison) and also sprint and pursuit training.  So why not jump in the deep end and do the derny session, what’s the worst that could happen?  It turned out to be proper good fun (and hard work); whizzing around the track behind a two stroke engine motorbike and the adrenaline of it all was infectious. Soon John and I progressed up to SQT A’s and started to learn more about the track, not just riding fast around it but more learning track craft which is a fine art in itself.

 Derby Track League – Why Not!

 Having been clearly bitten by the track bug, the next obvious step for me was to enter Derby track league and test myself amongst the more seasoned and experienced riders.  I was really chuffed that I got accepted to race in the league and started off life in the C group to allow for certain teeth to be cut.  Previous road race experience served me well in this group and the ability to time trial certainly helped as I’m never afraid to push into the wind.  If I’m honest, I loved racing in the league during the early stages but mainly it was used to get some high intensity work outs that can’t really be replicated on the rollers or turbo.  I would often do the races for my own personal gains rather than tactically to try and win (and even be a main part) in the event be it scratch or points.

My first taste of victory in the league came in a race called the points de prime in which this race lasts for 12 laps (a whole 3 kilometres) and the first rider across the line every lap gets one point and the winner is the one with the most points.  So what better way to start this race as a ‘unknown’ as to go straight from the gun and hang on!  Plan executed to perfection, well I say perfection, I lasted 5 laps which luckily was enough to win the event, the remaining 7 laps were done trying the hang on to the coat tails of the peleton.

After sampling success, my hunger for the track grew and grew and I started to feel like I was more at home on the track rather than the road.  What I hear you say not do any testing again!  Well no not quite that serious but certainly to put road racing on the back burner for a season or two.  After a lull in the league where all these decisions were made I decided to race a little bit more tactically and place my personal training gains as secondary.  For the track league I ended up in 5th place overall before it resumes in September where I will hopefully have moved up from the C group leap frogged the B and jumped straight into the A’s.

To keep us ‘trackies’ interested over the summer months Derby track league planned a monthly race meeting (2 x endurance; 2 x Sprint nights) and this certainly inspired me to do well.  In the interim I had been on a few Wednesday afternoon sprint sessions and decided that after not being that bad at track cycling I would enter the National Masters Track Championships at Newport Velodrome in Wales!  The sprint sessions that I went to at Derby certainly paid off as I ended up winning every race that I entered within the C group with the most memorable of them all is lapping the field in the 80 lap points race and finishing with 50 points (must be an arena record there somewhere!).  I’m looking forward to the next meeting where I’ll be mixing it up with the big boys in the B group before deciding whether to leap into the A group for the remainder of the league.

IMG_0704
Quick pose during a Derby league meeting

 National Masters Track Championships (NMTC)

 So as I eluded to, I entered the NMTC and choose the TT (750 metres), scratch and points race to compete in and not too enter the pursuit (3 km) which now I have regretted knowing that I’m more suited to this event given a proven testing background.  This was compounded by lots of my new found trackie friends at the track were surprised that I didn’t enter.  I think my reason behind it were that putting some sticks on my track bike and learning a new craft would take me too long with the champs only 3 months away from time of entering.  My partner in crime John had also entered the Championships and with a medal winning background on the track (the athletics track that is) he had entered the sprint events including the match sprint (with a flying 200m lap to get a seeding) and the Time Trial (and for John being such a young pup this distance was the kilo! – pays to be over 40!)

John and Steve Chillin
John & Steve Chilling prior to the Time Trial

John was the first to venture down to Wales on the Thursday evening as his races started with the sprint and that lasted the whole day Friday and finished with the kilo Saturday morning.  For me it was a journey down (pretty much into the unknown) Saturday morning ready for my first race, the TT.

I arrived at the track nice and early as to avoid any last minute rushes and to get myself a space for my rollers, bike and an abundance of kit.  I won’t lie I was extremely nervous and it felt like the first time I entered and attended my first National Time Trial event that indeed I was swimming with the biggest of fish now.  The buzz around the velodrome was immense; there was event after event going on and plenty for the eyes to take in.  The first and probably most lasting memory that I will have is seeing lots of riders in their club kit but most of them wearing the world championship bands from past World Championships that they have won. In fact, these outweighed the number of past National Champions!

Signing on for the event took place and I then started to set up my kit and get everything prepared; bike was pretty much done and I decided on the gear that was going to attempt the TT in.  Rollers placed ready and I was ready to soak up the atmosphere.  John and Libby arrived around lunch time for John’s event.  Given John’s single day of more experience over me he was ‘old hat’ to all this going on, having already done his sprint event the day before and you could tell with John and he seemed lots more relaxed where I was still bright eyed!

The thing that first grabbed my attention during the racing was that the other age groups were already on the track doing their thing so I started to watch them and remember seeing them leaving the starting gate in a massive gear, pushing to get on top of it and get into their pace.  I was thinking at this point “maybe I should have had a go at actually starting from a proper start gate”!  After watching a couple of riders, the method the clock counts down and where they actually apply pedal pressure to get going I was confident I would hopefully be ok.  Soon after a lot of waiting around, plenty of nervous loo breaks it was my turn to go onto the track.  Luckily I have ridden at Newport about 4 years ago so wasn’t fazed to much about the track itself but more to the starting gate.

Warm Up
Warming Up prior to the TT

Before I knew it my bike was in the starting gate and I was upon it!  Suddenly it all got very real and the ambient noise in the arena was not to be heard anymore.  Focusing on the track ahead the infield turned into a blur and time slowed down.  The lights on the digital countdown turned from red to green with a loud beep and it started to count from 10.  Come on Steve this is like any other time trial that you have done. 5, 4, 3, 2, big breath, lean back and prepare to push, 1, GO!  I left the gate which turned out to be very similar to that of a TT but instead of getting a friendly push off nothing happened and it was up to me.  A slight wobble on the wheel and I quickly gained momentum and I was off.  Whizzing around trying to build the speed up to 30 mph and my cadence up to around 120 rpm I set off.  Clearly still very nervous that half way through into one of the turns I found my I had lost what little upper body strength I had and my arms were starting to give way!  My positon changed on the bike and the front wheel started to wobble and my weight shifted to the rear of the bike.  This is a scary moment to be honest after all I didn’t want to crash on my own on the track in front of so many ex-World Champions.  I regained control of the bike finding that I was pushed high into the banking and carried on losing valuable seconds but I remained upright giving it my all to the point that when I finished the effort I was on the verge of blacking out from the effort.  The end result, well firstly survival and finishing in 9th place with a time of 57.021; Yes, not setting the world on fire but it will hopefully prove to be an important benchmark for more to come.

Rest was then the order of the day before my evening race; more soaking up of the atmosphere required and also to give John a shout as he bombed around the track in his kilo time trial.  Soon before I knew it I was warming up on my rollers ready for the evening scratch race.  I remember people watching as everyone is rushing around getting ready for their own events and then I saw one of the riders donned in his very fine World Masters Champion skin suit sporting the famous rainbow bands (something if I’m honest I will be going for in a few years).  Just the sight of him wearing the ‘world champs’ bands inspires me more and more.  I chuckled to myself thinking that I would hate to be in his scratch race!  So there I was on my bike, helmet on, rocket fuel gel consumed and ready to roll onto the track to start the scratch race.  Just before clipping in the reminder of the 22 riders formed around me and yes you guessed it, there he was the current world masters scratch champion in my race!  Excited I thought to myself ‘oh well if I last the distance I know whose wheel I want to follow’.

Lead out in Scratch
Honest, I was at the front!

The 15 kilometre scratch race was under way and not to lie but it was relentless and the hardest race that I have done, clearly under geared (94.5”) the race was strung out from the start and no let up.  A few riders dropped out with the high pace and though I had no impact on the race I hung on to finish 16th and very chuffed; final race time was 19min 10 sec for 15 kilometres so just short of 50 kph, I reckon my average cadence must have been 1,000,000 rpm!

 

leading the pack
The current World Masters Scratch Champion sitting 4th wheel with me on the front

A night of rest (well listening to the traffic on the M4 with no air con in my hotel room) came and went and soon it was morning and time to get back to the track for my final race, the 15 kilometre points race.  The script was pretty much the same as the day before, get to the track, sign on and wait around for a fair few hours before getting ready and warmed up.  I lucky enough to remember to take my camping chair with me and I manged to grab 40 winks at some point!  Having spent most of the afternoon trying to relax and calling up Lynne (who had to work during the event and letting her know how much I was missing her – especially as she is my rock and always happy to help me with my track racing) it was time to get on the rollers.

I like the points race as there is an opportunity for everyone to do something but like the scratch it does turn out to be a lottery!  It started off well to be honest and instead of hanging on I managed to get myself on the front and decided to try and make a bit of an impact and go for it.  Slowly easing away from the chasing pack I discovered I had another ex- world champion on my wheel!  My moment in the spotlight was only short lived as the pack caught us back up after 2 laps and then things ramped up for the sprint but nonetheless I was there before I disappeared in the pack.  The pace was sky high and again a few dropped out but I was determined to hang on in there and finish and with that I solid 12th place.  Chuffed with my performance as this weekend was all about experience and seeing what event I wanted to do and what events I would be good at.

Meanwhile back at base camp in the Midlands a sneaky order for a set of pursuit bars has gone in and arrived and now the pursuit training will begin and the target set of winning the National title next year will start.

Next race for John and I is this weekend in the Derby Grand Prix on Saturday 9th July.  I will be racing in the Endurance events which feature a scratch, points, elimination and 10 mile GP and then I thought for fun I would enter the Kieran and give John a hand, though in retrospect I reckon I’ll be on my chin strap by then and too tired! We will see!

Finally a big shout out must be given to the BtB sponsors whom with Beet-It and OTE helping the team and me keep fuelled for these events (especially the rocket fuel gels!), to KitBrix for helping me #keepittogether with the team kit bags (essential for different events).  To Blake Pond at No Pinz for providing my custom made track ‘trip suit’ which proved to be not only the smartest, most aerodynamic suit at the Championships saving watts where it matters but it is one of the most comfortable suits I have worn.  Thanks also to Bridgtown Cycles & Bike-Fit for all things to do with bikes and pedalling.

The final words of thanks must go to my wife Lynne.  She has been there for me on countless occassions at Derby track league carrying my kit for me (well i did treat her to a trolley in the end) and being the most supportive person a husband could ever wish for.  Lynne thank you.

BDCA 50

Whilst amazing things were being done by some of the team on the last weekend of June, a few of us had our sights on goals elsewhere, namely the BDCA 50, especially Sue and Chris M as it was to be a BAR counter for them.

For me this was one of the key events of the year. I did my first 50 on the reverse version of this course 2 years ago, and despite having only ridden over 50 miles once that year before the race I managed to scrape, very painfully, under 2 hours with a long 1:58. Improving on this was a big goal for last year, but I did a different kind of painful scraping in my first planned 50 of the year, the National, by crashing at 30 mph and leaving a fair amount of skin on the road. This lead to a DNS for the BDCA 50 2 weeks later. So going into this year I’d entered 3, started 2 and finished 1 50. I was hoping that this year would go a little smoother!

Lots of decent long tempo rides over winter and into spring gave me what I felt was a decent base to build on, with the hope of getting close to around 1:51 for the BDCA 50. But then life got in the way, as it does, and I’d only done a handful of 2hr+ rides in the last few months, so it was with a certain amount of fear as the event closing date approached – partly fear that I wouldn’t be fast enough to get a ride in the association event, and partly fear that I would, as it was going to hurt a lot!

There were 7 of us on the start sheet – Chris M, Sue, Libby, Bob, Dave, Chris H and myself. Unfortunately Libby was a DNS due to illness, wisely saving herself for a rather bigger challenge later this year.

Going into the event I had a few targets I was aiming for – beating my PB was the minimum, I wanted to beat my minute man Alistair (friend of the team & Sue’s husband), but the main goal was the men’s team record (1:55:20), and getting as close to 1:51 as possible – having done a few 53 minute 25s this year, the often quoted formula of 2×25 time + 5 minutes indicated I could get close(ish) if things went well. But Mother Nature had other ideas… The day before the race the forecast looked reasonable, small chance of showers, temperature in the high teens, average pressure, and a gentle northerly breeze meaning the return leg should mostly be sheltered. But on the day, it was to be anything but. The weather was ok during the warm up, but as I rolled down to the start to see Dave off a few minutes before me, the sky went black and it started hailing, hard. The timekeeper and start marshals were thankfully under umbrellas but us riders were drenched in seconds. Within 3 minutes the conditions had gone from dry to standing water and spray. Alistair went off, and I pulled up to the line wondering exactly how much sanity I had left! The storm caught Chris M & Sue as they were getting ready to leave the car park causing them to try and take cover – days later Chris’s skin still showed the marks from the crazy hailstorm.

I was counted down and off I went – all of 100 yards to the first roundabout, went to brake, and nothing – the conditions were so bad the brakes didn’t work! Thankfully I’d not exactly gone for a flying start so I was able to cautiously limp around the island. Onto the Etwall bypass and there was standing water everywhere, truly horrible conditions. I made the decision to see what things were like at the turn for the dual carriageway 2 miles away and if there looked to be spray I’d just turn and pack. But, in true bonkers British summer weather style, 2 miles away it was bone dry, so onwards I went!

A lot of the first quarter of the course was spent fighting the crosswind coming from the south, completely against the forecast. At times it felt like the wind was swirling around, probably because of the pressure change from the storm – I can see from the elevation profile that my Garmin recorded that it’s absolutely nothing like the actual elevation, so the weather was playing having with the barometric sensors in the device. Then it was Concrete Mountain, 6 mile uphill slog, where you watch the average speed drop and drop… even worse with the wind apparently against you! You just have to hope that you get most of it back on the trip back down the “mountain”. I’d got a power based plan for the race and stuck to it fairly well, so far, going not far off threshold power up the mountain, with the intention of backing off on the descent to recover. I’d been watching out for Alistair and thought I could see him approx 30 seconds ahead of me. Sure enough, after cresting the climb and getting to the turn, I could see him pretty close by on the other side of the road, and he gave me the thumbs up. I knew I was going to take it easy down the mountain, but was hoping my extra ballast over Alistair would claw some more time back. Even taking it easy I averaged high 30s on the descent, probably my favourite bit of any TT course I’ve ridden – 6 very fast miles, as long as the wind isn’t trying to knock you about!

After this it’s a 3 mile dog leg on single carriageway which I remember being quite a bit of a slog 2 years ago when I’d ridden it. I was hoping to see that I’d pulled more time back on Alistair, and as I approached the turn it looked that I had… then I realised it wasn’t the turn and I still had a little bit more to ride. It seems that a few riders unfortunately thought the same and turned early (effectively DNFing) but thankfully I pushed on until I saw the marshals, and realised I was probably about a minute off Alistair again. It was around this point I had a double caffeine gel – hoping for a bit of assistance for the last ~15 miles. This was on top of the large cappuccino in the morning, double espresso 90 minutes before the start, OTE caffeine gel 30 mins before the start, and OTE hydro caffeine drink. I think I may have a caffeine problem….

3 miles back to the dual carriageway now – I was expecting this to be a painful grovel into the southerly wind that I’d been fighting earlier, but instead I had a pretty substantial tailwind – the wind had apparently turned completely since earlier, and the leg back to the DC flew. Although it was here that I was caught for the only time during the race – by the tandem pair that started 13 minutes (!) after me, and flew past me like I wasn’t moving. They went on to beat the competition record. Back on the dual carriageway and I assessing how I’m doing. This should be the fastest leg of the race, so I’d hope my average speed (floating around 25mph) would pick up. I needed a minimum of 26 to get a 1:55. 1:51 was well out of reach, but the men’s team record could still be achieved. Unfortunately this is where lack of time in the saddle started to bite. I’m having to frequently sit up in the last 10 miles to ease the excruciating pain. Thankfully whilst sat up I’m able to put more power out so I don’t lose too much speed exposing my brick-esque aero profile to the wind, but then I started to run out of steam a little with 5 miles to go – a few (not so) micro rests here and there to relieve the legs. But the average speed is picking up – 25.8 or so with 4 miles to go, and then just tripping into 26 as I get off the dual carriage way, with less than 2 miles to go. I get a clear run at the island and push as hard as I can (which by this point isn’t all that hard) to the line. I thought I’d done a mid 1:55, so was going to be close. I rolled back to the car and catch up with Alistair who thought he’d done a similar time. There’s a bit of a wait at HQ for the times to go up, but Alistair takes the last podium spot of the association event with a 1:55:24. Me? An agonising 1:55:27. 3 seconds off the podium, and 7 seconds off equalling the men’s team record. But I’m not disappointed – over 3 minutes quicker than 2 years ago, which was arguably a float day, in at times pretty tough conditions. Here’s to 1:51 next year…

Some great rides from my team mates too, including PBs for both Chris M and Sue (by nearly 2 minutes for Chris and a fine 4th place, and nearly a minute for Sue) boding very well for their BAR attempts!

And after all that caffeine, my cake of choice? Coffee cake. The jitters kicked in on the drive home. Whoops…

Results (Provisional)

Association

1st Martyn Shore (Walsall Roads) 1:52:49

Men

1st John Dewey (Team Bottrill) 1:37:57
2nd Stephen Irwin (North Lancs RC) 1:38:37
3rd Richard Bideau (Pendle Forest CC) 1:39:29

Women

1st Angela Hibbs (Fusion RT Fierlan) 1:50:03
2nd Alice Lethbridge (Starley Racing) 1:52:39
3rd Karen Ledger (Langsett Cycles Race Team) 1:53:12

Team results

Me 1:55:27 (PB)
Chris Melia 1:57:28 (PB)
Sue Semple 2:03:44 (PB)
Chris Hal: 2:04:28
Dave Pemberton 2:14:19
Bob Awcock DNS
Libby McLaren DNS

Still a Cheshire KaTT after winning the 12 h National – this time a race report with photos and lessons learned

Please click on the link to see my reflection a week after …

Becoming the 2016 National 12 h TT Champion – including the journey towards it and lessons learned

And the race from the eyes of a supporter – quite a different view …

Katja Rietdorf wins VTTA Championship 2016-KR