Last weekend was a real sporting treat: a couple of grudge matches in the Premier League; the thrilling climax to the Six Nations; Sagan, Cavendish and co. doing battle over 300+ kms of Milan-San Remo; and a skinny bloke with aspirations far bigger than his pigeon chest targeting one of cycling’s great double-headers: Saturday time trial, Sunday road race.
Dressed to impress in my new NoPinz SuperSuit skinsuit (shout out to Blake @ NoPinz for the awesome customer service) with bike kitted out to resemble a stealth bomber but precisely zero experience of riding dual carriageway TTs, I rocked up at the start of the ECCA 10 absolutely stinking of “all the gear, no idea”.
On its day (i.e. when the wind isn’t blowing much, and in a certain direction) the e2/10 is notoriously quick, with Alex Dowsett having set a British record of 17 minutes 20 seconds on the course in June 2014 (yes, that’s an average speed of 34.62 mph). Unfortunately the weather conditions were less than optimal on Saturday, so all plans of a crack at the record were reluctantly abandoned before I got going.
Nevertheless, this was my first outing on a “proper” TT course – out and back along a dual carriageway – so I hoped to clock a half decent time which might make give me a chance of getting a spot at some of the more competitive events later in the year. That said, I’ve been struggling to adapt to the TT position and have found it really difficult to get my power comparable to my road bike watts, so to some extent I knew I’d have to ignore the numbers and ride to feel… and be prepared for a sub-par effort due to less-than-perfect pacing.
The ride wasn’t quick, but under the circumstances I actually felt I rode it pretty well. I’d had a really easy few days after 6 weeks of relatively high mileage (weekly TSS at 550-600) so I was raring to go. With a strong headwind on the way out, the plan was to ride the first 5 miles slightly harder than I would under better conditions, to minimise time spent on the slower part of the course, and then hold on for dear life on the return leg. It’s actually quite difficult to do this, because of the fine line between a rider’s threshold (sustainable for up to an hour or so) and VO2 max (sustainable for a few minutes at most) zones. It’s very easy to overcook it slightly early on, and then suffer a slow and painful death as the body fails to shift the lactic build-up.
The out leg was tough, with a stiff headwind and gusts pushing me all over the lane. Even with a bright rear light it was pretty un-nerving, especially when less than sympathetic traffic rattles past you at 80mph while you’re struggling to hold your line. I reached the turn in just under 12 minutes averaging 312w, about 20w above FTP (this is a guesstimate as I haven’t tested for a while and actually never on the TT bike). I knew I’d need to ease off by a few watts on the way back, but that was always the plan given the wind conditions.
Unfortunately the tail-wind didn’t really materialise – apparently that’s what happens with a westerly on the e2, due to the geography and shelter provided by hedges and trees – but the return leg did pass relatively quickly and before I knew it I’d rolled over the line clocking 22 minutes 29 seconds, just about resisting the urge to throw up the caffeine gel I had squeezed down my neck 30 minutes earlier. Average power for the back leg was 299w, giving an average of 304w (NP 306w) for the ride.
Overall, a relatively good day out. Certainly an experience riding a dual carriageway TT, and my power stats are really promising even if they didn’t result in a particularly special time. That said, only a handful of guys went under 21 minutes so it clearly wasn’t a quick day – and at c. 60kg I am always going to struggle in windy conditions. I’ll spend a few more weeks adapting to the bike and working on efficiency in the aero tuck, and will be back again in the summer for another go at Mr Dowsett’s benchmark.
And with a road race in Ipswich at 09.00 the next day, it was full recovery mode for the rest of the afternoon…