National TT Champs……
Date – 28/6/18
Where – Northumberland
Distance – 17.5 miles
Competitors – Top 45 in the country
Course Profile – Sporting course
Have you ever pushed so hard you threw up and the only thought was to keep pedalling!
Back last year, the first conversation with the Team manager, Jason, I said I wanted to ride the U23 National TT Championships – the biggest TT race I would have ever competed in. I have always liked a Time Trial (and the pain it brings!) and the opportunity to compete at that level and see how I stacked up against the best U23s in the country.
Due to the nature of the National Championships the TTs are held on the Thursday as the Road Race is on the Sunday. Northumberland is a long way away from London and the mid-week time meant I had to rack my brain and ask for a few favours just to get to the start line. Dave Reece, my team mate made it all happen with my parents getting me to Liverpool, where he lives, on Tuesday night (their trip alone was 8 hrs round). Dave had agreed to take me up on the Wednesday. So that I could ride the course the day before.
We arrived around 4 o’clock on Wednesday; unpacked and got going on the recon laps, finding out about the flow of the course and the bits to watch out about. The course rose up from the start with a few lumps and bumps before taking 2 right handers at the top of the course and heading down hill with some nasty 90 degree corners to be taken at speed, before re-joining the course to start the second lap. Without this knowledge you will be in the wrong gear, brake at the wrong time and possibly turn the wrong way!
After the recon laps, Dave and I headed to the worst B&B we have ever stayed at. It came with loud water pipes which made noises all night and no breakfast in the morning… some Bed and Breakfast! Dave and I worked it out as best we could. I bought breakfast for Dave as token compensation for his bad night which ended up with him sleeping his car because of the relentless noise! Apparently I’m not allowed to pick places to stay anymore…. Sorry Dave.
Once at the race HQ I set about making sure the bike was UCI legal. This is the stress of making sure your bike fits within the boundaries so that everyone has an ‘equal’ chance and no one can be stretched out or use silly positions to gain an unfair advantage, however the specs are the same for anyone below about 6’2”. This means that a woman of 5’2”and a man of 6’2” are limited to the same reach on the bike even if they are completely different sizes. Personally I was told that if I pushed my saddle back 2mm I could move my bars forward 50mm. Margins, margins, margins!
A few hours later and the position were sorted and I was legal. I had got lucky, mine was quite close to the requirements however others hadn’t had any forward planning and had hack saws out with about 25 mins before their events! I blocked it out and got on with my warm up.
My Grandad had ‘popped down’ from Scotland to watch at the event and this made for a nice dynamic. He saw somewhat of a mad world of TT which you don’t have with road racing and I think he was somewhat perplexed by it but he said it was very interesting and loved the fact that I was racing in it.
As I warmed up, I thought I’d be sensible this time and I put on sun cream (Mum would be proud!) Arms, legs, neck… nailed it. I then rolled my skinsuit down to my waist and warmed up. Skinsuit then rolled back up for the race. The bit I hadn’t remembered was that my skinsuit was really thin over the back. Consequence…………….I currently have 2 semi circle burns on my back where the skinsuit is double stitched, the stitching covering the only bit that is still white. The rest is bright red and it hurts to have my back against anything!
Back to the warm up……….all was going well and I was coming to the end of the warm up and as I did the last effort the chain popped off the Chain Ring, I looked down at it, I had popped a link in the chain. It was about to snap! F*ck!
I got off the bike and humbly went over to the world tour Pro Alex Dowsett! He was kind enough to help me sort it out with the help of Ashley Cox and his Dad. They told me to go and get ready while they pulled a new chain out the plastic bag and got my bike working with 20 mins before my start time. Scary stuff. Very thankfully to those guys for not only helping, but being so calm, collected and generous. Great people.
I headed to the start, bike passed the UCI jig test, waited and then off…..DOWN THE RAMP…….only to find that my Garmin had changed bike setting! I managed to sort it out while riding. If only my biking life was easy but heh I’m learning a lot, very quickly this year.
Off on the course, took the 2 right handers at the top before shooting down the descent and spinning out massively – bugger! Then some nasty right handers, before starting the second loop. I had been getting hotter and hotter as the ride went on. As I came to the top of the course for the second time I threw up onto the bike! Urgh! All I could think was to keep pedalling! Grim. I kept my nerve and continued onwards, pushing the whole time. As I finished the second lap I had 3km to go and I felt like I was falling apart the whole way to the end.
I had pushed 360 Watts for 40 mins, taking 32nd place on the day.
Mixed feelings. My best numbers for a 40 min TT, but losing 4:01 MM:SS to the winner (but only 2:30MM:SS to 3rd place).
I definitely learnt a lot and realised I had missed a lot of little tricks. Things like chain rings sizes, UCI positions, white skinsuits over black, maybe thinner overshoes, etc., and I found out that most riders had ridden the course many many times to perfect every 100 yards of it.
After the event, I said goodbye to my Grandad and headed back to Liverpool with Dave. His family and him were kind enough to treat me to a northern dish of Gravy and Chips and a night’s rest before getting on the train early the following morning and being home by mid-morning on the Friday. To add to my life’s experience I arrived at Lime Street station for a 4.45am departure to discover that the first part of the trip was a replacement bus service (with my enormous bike box). What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was exhausted.
Thanks again to Dave and his family.
National TT Champs……