Friday, July 3, 2009

Two pair wins in poker, but not in the time trial

Two pair, poker, time trial? What am I talking about? I am talking about the time trial held last night at Donaldson Center. This was a free event for Spinners Members - and it was a fun time. Two pair? what does that have to do with last night's time trial? Read on and I'll tell you...

First, I should make mention of what a time trial really is - mostly because I have a number of friends who have posed that question to me. Strangely enough, it is quite simple - The individual time trial is a bicycle race in which cyclists race alone against the clock (borrowed from wikipedia). In the Greenville Spinners' version of the individual time trial, the course is a 10 mile total distance (5 each way, out and back) on Donaldson Center's Perimeter Road.

In a time trial, the equipment used by the more serious riders is quite different from a normal race bike. The bicycle is very different (geometry and handlebar configuration are optimized for aerodynamics and speed), helmets are optimized for aerodynamics, some riders will use shoe covers to improve the air flow over their shoes. Very different. See the wikipedia entry for images of peeps set up for time trials.

Since the time trial is an individual effort, riders are sent off in intervals of 1 minute. This is to minimize the possibility of two riders working together. As I learned last night, one rider by himself cannot go near as fast as two (or more) who are working together. With a 1 minute interval, the speed differential between one rider and the next (if the behind rider catches the front rider) is much too fast for either of them to take any advantage of the draft.

As previously stated, last night was the first time for me to participate in this type of event. It was really fun. I arrived at about 5:20pm and got registered. This is a good place to say THANK YOU to the good folks who volunteered their time to get (and keep) this event organized. Also, although I didn't win anything, there was product provided by sponsors (Powerbar, Whole Foods to name two I could identify), so thanks to them as well. Thanks also to the Women's cycling team that did the award presentations.

At registration, I received a number and a start time. I was also asked which division I would be riding in. This month, they changed up the categories to simplify the scoring. The divisions were as follows:
Men A (Pro/1/2/3): This is men who are licensed racers in the listed categories.
Men B (4/5/Unlicensed): This is men who are or are not licensed in the categories, but are for sure using time trial equipment of some type.
Masters 50+: This is what you expect it to be - men older than 50, although I suppose women could enter this group as well.
Women Open: Of course the ladies of bicycling
Juniors: Not sure what the cut-off age is, but there was at least three riders and each looked to be in their teens.
Merckx: This is my category. From the Spinners'
description: i.e. no aero equipment (bikes, bars, helmet, wheels, shoe covers, etc.) allowed.

I watched as the first riders were sent off on their attempt. Thanks here go to Scott who provided support by holding up each bicycle which allowed the rider to be clipped in from the start - no wasted time trying to get shoes clipped into the pedals. Each of them started in the big ring, so this I kept in mind for my start. After the first three or four riders were off, I took off on my bike to get some warm-up time. As my start time approached, I came back to the start area to watch the riders in front of me.

I wasn't really nervous like I sometimes get in other races I have done. Partly because of the individual nature of this particular event. In reality, every event in which I participate is kind of like an individual time trial. I understand my current state of fitness and strength, so I set goals for myself that I believe are challenging for me. Unfortunately, those goals are usually behind the folks who are winning these events. The difference in those other events I have done is the mass start. The mass start leads to a higher level of addrenilin and more nerves. With this time trial, it was me, Scott and the race official. Of course there was also the crowd who cheered me on when the starter released me. A very different feeling than being in the midst of a mass of hyper-energized bodies.

When I spoke to Tyler at Sunshine Cycle Shop yesterday, he gave me some pointers on race strategy. I don't remember all of them, but he did caution me not to take off to quickly. It would be easy to burn out in the first couple of miles and have nothing left for the remainder. I tried to take this into account as I built speed from the start.

The normal tuesday night rides follow the time trial course for the first 2 miles or so. When I lead a ride, I usually start in the front of the pack, so I figured I should be able to set a similar pace to begin, I just had to keep in mind I was not going to be able to sit in after a couple of miles - it would be me pulling myself for the entire 10 miles. At the turn off of antioch church road (where the tuesday night country rides normally turn right from perimeter road), my average speed was over 23mph. It was obvious that I was not going to average 25mph for this ride (see yesterday's blog).

From that intersection, I knew the route and I knew I would be able to carry some speed for a little while. The road gets really bumpy along this section leading up to Ashmore bridge road, but it is also slightly downhill. I carried all the speed I could (reminding myself that I still had miles to go). As I began the slight ascent after that intersection, I caught sight of a rider approaching from behind. My average was still pretty strong (yeah, 'pretty strong is relative to me, not to Lance Armstrong), but had begun to drop. He passed me about the time we finished that first small ascent. Next up was a slight descent leading into the golf course hill.

Surprisingly, as I began the ascent up towards the golf course entrance, I could see the turn around point. It was not all the way up to the top of the golf course hill. In fact, it wasn't as far up that hill as I thought it would be. The rider who passed me quickly pulled a gap on me. Greenville's finest was assisting us at the turn around, so we had a good clear road to make the turn.

Immediately following the turn, I cranked up the heat to descend what I had just climbed. I still felt pretty good, but my average pace was dropping. Making that small descent gave me some improvement in my average speed, but the 3m hill (gradual, but long) was coming up. I did my best to keep the rider who passed me in sight. I was surprised, even half way up 3m hill the initial gap he pulled was not increasing as quickly as it initially had. He was helping my motivation.

As I passed again the country route turn-off, I saw another rider in front of me. This guy had started some time before me, so again, my motivation got a little burst. He was in my sights and then behind me before I passed the Michelin Plant. I was now within 2 miles of the finish and my average had dropped to just below 22mph.

Another piece of advice Tyler had for me was not to sprint at the end. If I sprinted, I didn't push myself as hard as I could have. For the last two miles, I kept pouring on the power. My legs were burning, and my mouth and throat were bone dry - what I would have given for a sip of water! The main obstacle between me and the finish was the small hill coming out from the end of the runway. I tried to keep my cadence constant and used the gears to maintain my speed. My average pace had maintained since the drop coming up 3m hill. I was feeling good about that.

As I approached the finish, I just tried to keep pushing, now back on flat ground, I was shifting back up to regain whatever speed I lost on the hill. Although I wasn't standing, I felt like I was sprinting - I was pushing for all I had. I crossed the finish line with the same average speed as I was showing at the top of 3m hill.

So, what was that speed? After cheering on the rest of the riders, the volunteers compiled the race results. Give-aways were presented to the winners in each category - there was some very fast times out there. The fastest were in the 20 minute range! My time is where the two pair comes from - 7s over 2s in poker speak, but in time trial speak, my time was 27:27. That is an average speed of 21.9mph. Quite a bit below the 25mph I was hoping for.

At the end of the day, there was 12 people who had entered the Merckx division. I was smack in the middle of them. I can't recall the winner's time, but I do recall I was less than 2 minutes behind it.
Next month (August 6), I'll have a revised goal.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like you had a good time! i wouldn't put to much into the speed goal for your first TT. Now you know the environment and the course better, and have a time to beat at the august TT.


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