Sunday, 6 March 2011

Northern Exposure – a mountain TT in mountains (well, big hills)

So, my first race of the year has been and gone! It does seem like ages since i last ineptly pinned a number to myself, and it’s always good to get the first race nerves out of the way before the BMBS creep into the picture (as they do every year – it’s always a shock!). I had originally intended to get a good training race in by doing the first round of the Sup6r Six road race series (basically the Scottish equivalent of the Premier Calendar, but with lowly races for mere mortals like me too), but alas it seems road racing is alive and well up here, and i didn’t get a ride in the 80-strong 4JWV field. Rachel did get a place, so we decided to divide and conquer – she’d do the RR on the Saturday, i’d do a local mountain TT at Knockhill on the Sunday. I’m just going to repeat my last sentence, because i love saying it so much – there was a mountain time trial held not far from where i live. Ah good, getting rid of the east-anglian chip on shoulder!

So, the first weekend of March rolled around surprisingly quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for Rachel to face her first ever road race at Gifford (just south of Edinburgh). The god of small things in cars had other ideas though, and after having got up at 6:30am to make the race start with plenty of time, we found our dreams of getting across the Forth bridge evaporating in the car park of a bowling green near Windygates as we waited for the nice man from the RAC to arrive. By the time our new ignition coil was fitted, our second of the week i hasten to add, we were already going to be far too late to Gifford to make the race, so a bit disheartened by the failure of our four-wheeled transport, we headed home to have a nice day cleaning and fixing bikes.

Blur is model's own!

Things were a bit more civilised on Sunday – my start time of 1332 made a lie in not only feasible, but in my view an absolute preparation necessity. There were quite a few names i recognised entered in the race, quite a few of whom had double-headed; doing the sup6r the day before for good measure, including Dave Henderson who i’ve had the pleasure of standing on the same podium as was back at the nationals in 2008. A “misunderstanding” between Rachel and myself about how far away the event HQ was (we thought, on the basis of a lie we had repeatedly repeated to each other that it was half an hour, it was actually an hour!) made for a sharp exit when we realised we had some distance to cover. Pasta in plastic tub in the car formed the basis of my less than gourmet lunch, and as soon as we arrived i dashed over, signed on (minus license – oops!), and jumped on the turbo to warm up.

A quick dash down the hill, and i was ready to start, with a hungry like the wolf looking Paul Newnham only a couple of minutes behind. D’oh! I got going, straight into the first big climb of the race that took us all the way up to the knockhill car racing circuit, before dropping us back down to the valley floor on a fantastic serpentine descent. I was too chicken to use my tribars much on the descent, having used them for a sum total of 30 minutes in the past two years, i figured that was asking for trouble, but gradually as the race went on my confidence grew. A little too late, sadly, as a flying Paul N came storming past me on the descent, riding amazingly fast, obviously due to not having the dilemma of whether or not to use tribars to worry about! Either that i was distracted from my usual lightning descending by the amazing views, and the pictures of various scantily-clad ladies strewn across the road at one point – you decide!

Grimace is model's own
The mid-section of the course definitely suited a strong time triallist rather than a climber, and left me wondering who this course does suit. I’m not really sure; i can think of plenty of time triallists i know who would have absolutely hated the fact that the whole race required constant changes of pace, but equally someone light enough to climb really fast would have struggled with the faster sections – i guess it just suited hard men. As i got into the second half, people started appearing in front of me – juniors were racing as pairs, and some were starting to struggle on the tough climbs. Equally, people started passing me. Next to come through was a certain Mr Henderson, catching me for four minutes. As the minutes ticked by, i started to wonder whether i might be able to beat Rachel’s best 25 time of 1:04:4?. At the final turn at Comrie, my watch read 1:03. I thought maybe, just maybe, but then i was met by a wall of lumpy tarmac; back down the gears i went for one final grovel to the top. To add insult to injury, the guy who set of a massive 8 minutes before passed me on the final climb to the line, he was absolutely flying. I didn’t even come close to Rachel’s time, in the end, finishing in 1h11m i think. Results to follow, but at the risk of sounding trite, that wasn’t really the point of today!

It would be easy to be upset about this, but losing 5 minutes to Hendo actually makes me pretty happy; it says that although i’ve basically only been back in training for a month after the madness of the move, i’m not totally out of shape. I’ve got three weeks to try to pull something together for Sherwood, and i’m pretty excited to give it a go. I’m now sitting here on the sofa with very sore legs, especially after going out for a spin with Rachel this afternoon that turned into an intervals session. But i’m happy, and i don’t have the race nerves as badly as before this morning. Let’s see what the next six months hold!

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