It just came out of the blue – someone mentioned to me that the club time trials were “this Sunday” and I thought, “why not” – it’s the only race where you don’t have to worry about all the other idiots on the track. The only race where you are in full control* of the end result. And it’s a great way to compare your abilities to the other riders in your group.
So off I went on Thursday to the bike shop, got myself a pair of clip-on time trial extensions, installed them at work and started my TT practice on the way home, starting off with a relatively light pace to get settled into the position, and then making some minor tweaks along the way. In the end the setup that they came in out of the box was adequate – every adjustment just made things worse.
But the practice and adjustment paid off, Friday I used them to and from work and was starting to feel very comfortable in them. So confident that I was no longer worried about the position. So I took it easy for the rest of Friday, just so I don’t burn myself out before Sunday.
Sunday morning came around and off I went to Penrith, the car said it was a chilly 5 degrees at the meeting point, and at least for the first few minutes my body was going into convulsions just trying to keep itself warm. However as the sun rose so did the temperature. So, time to sign-in, do a few warm up laps, and then just hang around until the starting time. During that we all compared bikes, racing strategies, and I mentioned that the tubulars will probably work against me and I hope I don’t get another flat – after all it seems all I get from tubulars are flats.
Race time comes along and it’s time to get to the starting line. A few minutes later I’m at the front and it’s time to go. The nerves went and then it came to the countdown, 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and I was off. The first lap went well, starting off with a few turns and a small rise followed by a small depression opening to a straight flat for a couple of kilometres, a couple of left turns and then back to the start. I started to get a good rhythm going.
My heartrate rose up to the 90% mark and my speed stabilised at around 39km/h. No chance of sustaining the 40+km/h mark, at least not in my mind. Two more laps came in quick succession, and then at the start of the fourth lap things felt a bit loose going through the first few corners. I look down and realise – my rear tyre is flat! I start to slow down, looking for a safe place to pull over and then think about it – I’ve come this far, why not keep going, after all the tubulars are well glued on and they’re not going anywhere.
So I get my speed back up.. Couldn’t really get back to 39km/h but 36 should do. The heart rate started pushing towards the limit, then comes the two lefties at the end of the straight, I had no choice but to slow down to a very mellow pace, gingerly take the corners and then push as hard as I can through the straight. Up comes the finish line, and thankfully I’m over in one piece and probably only lost a minute or two..
I check out the wheels and they’re immaculate, even the tyre was still well stuck to them and still holding some air. Whilst I cannot be more upset that my ride was thwarted once again by punctures, I was glad I was able to finish, and I doubt that I would have gotten far on the clinchers if I had a puncture. In fact it would probably be very dangerous to do so. And if anything I only lost a minute or so and still managed to get a decent finishing time of 32:05 over 20km.
If anything, it just makes me more confident I’ll be able to beat my time next year and maybe I’m going to reconsider using tubulars, even though they were safer to ride flat, the puncture protection just isn’t there compared to a good pair of clinchers.
* except flats