Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour of the Valley - Day 1: Time Trial

A time trial is a short mileage (typically) all out individual effort. Each rider has his or her own start time, typically about 30 seconds to a minute in between each rider. A time trial is different from the rest of the sport in that it’s all about what the individual can do. Typically, in big races like the Tour de France, the time trial is the difference maker in that no one can do the work for someone else. It’s all about what you, the rider, can do.

This time trial was 8.5 maybe closer to 8.75 miles long and an out and back. The entire course had about 100 feet of elevation gain so it was definitely the flattest course for the weekend. Starting times grouped the various categories of cyclists together and were then in alphabetical order. For once, having a name at the end of the alphabet was advantageous as it enabled me to have one of the last starts in my category with plenty of carrots out there in front of me.

For Friday night, a friend, Mark, allowed me to crash with him and his two teammates, Eric and Ken, at his parents’ home in Warren. Now, I knew Mark fairly well, and I read Eric’s blog, but it would be lying if I didn’t say that I didn’t know what to expect hanging out with these guys for the weekend. I ended up absolutely cracking up with these three guys Friday. I carpooled with Mark out there and despite best attempts, managed not to forget any essential equipment.

I warmed up on what I thought was the course, but I went the wrong way out of the starting area, so I ended up on some pretty sketchy roads. I came back and called a friend basically to calm myself down a little bit. He made me laugh a few times but yelled at me to get off the phone and go warm up some more so that’s what I did.

The wind was definitely blowing, and it was going to hurt. The first maybe mile was uphill with a crosswind. Then, the next three miles had a tailwind and were a slight descent. We had to turn around then come back up the false flat (slight uphill) with the wind in our faces. But, the last mile was downhill with a crosswind. I would say the wind was easily over 15 mph, definitely a bit noticeable.
I have never claimed to be a strong headwind rider, but I am starting to realize that one of my strengths is mental toughness. Is the headwind going to suck? Absolutely! Is it going to suck for everyone, probably! So, it’s a nonfactor. I wanted to win this time trial so I was going to give it everything I had.
Around 5pm, I got in line for my 5:13 start. I was right behind someone I have known for quite a while so I was curious to see if/when I would pass her on the course. I was right in front of a really strong cyclist as well so I was more than a little worried about getting passed myself. We had a little ramp where someone held us up so we could be clipped in and get a bit of momentum for the ride. I believe that I probably had about 15 lbs on most of the other women on the field so when I got to the start, I asked the guy if he could hold me, I mean, I’m a big girl. He laughed, and Eric called out, “it’s all muscle, Marie!” My response, “Yeah, I know.” If you notice, I don’t look nervous, I am just following my competition that has already started up the road.
I started and only slightly came close to veering off the ramp but got the speed up quickly. While I had thoughts of paying attention to my time and when my watch beeped to tell me my mile splits, I really just focused on catching the people in front of me.  I passed the woman ahead of me about 2.5 miles into the course, not too bad. I was cruising, but so was everyone else, I mean, the course was downhill with a tailwind. I tried to avoid looking at my speed as I was trying to focus on the effort I was putting out, not the speed.

I got to the turn around and saw that the person who started right after me was only about 10 seconds behind me. It took another mile, but low and behold, she passed me. I was dejected, but I kept pushing. At one point, I noticed she stopped gaining ground on me, but I just didn’t have the strength to haul her back. The false flat and headwind combination was brutal. A few times, I noticed my speed was in the teens, which annoyed me as I wanted my average to be over 23 mph, but I know I was giving it all I had. I eventually passed two more women before I made the final turn. After that turn, it was pain threshold riding, while downhill, I was pushing as hard as I could.

I finished with a time of 22:49, 6 seconds faster than the winning time last year, but I knew that at least one woman beat me. I could taste blood in my mouth when I finished so I know that I worked pretty hard. After finishing, I ran into Andy, who lent me the jersey at my first crit. He told me that “I should have told him I didn’t have race wheels, he would have thrown them in the van.” Duh!!!

When it’s all said and done, I ended up getting 6th, good enough for 10 points in the general classification (over all three races), 3 seconds off 5th, but about a minute from 1st. While disappointed, I set a good time and probably with an aero helmet and race wheels, I would have had a better time. Regardless, there’s room for improvement.

The race start/finish was at a winery and let’s say that Mark might have had a drink or ten. I had a lot of fun hanging out with all of the Snakebite folks and Mark’s family.  Mark's parents were so accomodating and hospitable.  It was a very fun evening!

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