So it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything on here. This is the result of a combination of not having much content to write up, being away in Nice (which I plan to write up eventually) and upping my training volume again. Most of my riding in the last 2 months has been following my racing – lots of short efforts, sprints and the crits themselves. I thought that I needed a switch up as I felt like I was regressing as the constant racing stress was beginning to get in the way of my day-to-day riding and training. I didn’t do an RPR 5.45 morning session in about 6 weeks(!). For anyone not aware, these are my bread and butter training sessions.
Conveniently, I had the 2 Richmond Park 10.4mi TT events to give me something other than crits to focus on in late June/early July. TTs always make me think a lot about what I am doing. For example, I raced one of the Richmond Park TTs last year (finishing 4th), and the result marked a big turning point for me. I had produced ~10% more power than those who beat me, but lost in the region of 30sec-1 minute over 25 minutes. I was so aggrieved with the results that I bought a 140mm -17deg stem the very next day. I thought I was aerodynamic…I was wrong, and I went to work on developing a better position.
In last year’s crits I accepted my limitations as part of the racing, but the TT forced me to adapt. I had nowhere to hide!
Back to 2016
London Dynamo organised the Richmond TTs on 26th June and 10th July. The course is an out and back around the park, with a couple of the hills thrown in to mix it up. The TT skips out Dark and Broomfield Hill, opting to go back on itself before finishing at Pen Ponds car park (presumably/sensibly to avoid racing down Broomfield Hill’s descent).
There is a separate Road category from the main TT category to keep things interesting, as the real TTers are 90-120s quicker than the fastest road bikes on this course.
The first TT was a pretty bad experience. I picked up food poisoning in the days before the TT which really wiped me out. I had a horrendous fever and all the usual symptoms, causing me to shed 4kg in a couple of days. I managed to forget about the pain for 2 hours or so as I made it out to the TT and raced. I came 2nd, losing out by 8s to Jamie Francis of Dynamo. I was feeling fine until the final third of course where I felt I had nothing left and I faded. I finished in 24:57, which was apparently a pretty quick time for a road bike. To be fair, I was surprised to even get 2nd and if I was offered that beforehand (with £50 of Sigma vouchers), I’d have bitten someone’s hand off. I couldn’t complain – I was happy – but I knew I could go faster.
I’d also realised that I was trying to get too low on the bike, and probably compromising my ability to generate power by being too closed up at the hips. I didn’t need to try and get so aggressive because my natural position gave me an almost flat back in a sustainable position, with good power delivery.
The science is real here: I noticed this looking at myself riding past a glass building.
I gave myself the week to rest and recover, only really doing 1 training session and some commuting. On the Sunday in between the two TTs, I went out for a ride and felt amazing. Someone had stolen one of my favourite KOMs from me that week and I went out and completely smashed it. It’s a 3km long pursuit style segment that’s all about producing as much power over 3 minutes while remaining as aero as possible – I took 10s off my best ever time (and the KOM). It was the perfect feedback I needed before really going for it at the TT.
I felt good throughout the next week and put in a lot of miles – I tend to respond better to miles than intensity at the moment:
The second Richmond TT quickly came around, and it is fair to say that the start list looked much tougher. Conditions on the day were fast, although the steady wind from the SSW made some sections a real grind into the headwind.
My tactic was to hit any uphill segments as hard as I could, staying as aero as I could. The Strava ‘compare’ tool showed last time that I gained a lot of time on the uphill sections, despite not necessarily having a weight advantage. To balance this effort out, the tailwind section at the beginning would be taken a bit easier than usual and the downhill off Sawyer’s was planned to be aerotucked while the speed stayed high.
The rest would be as hard as sustainable, keeping HR around 193-195. My Stages power meter is being sent back for the 4th time for warranty so I was without the best pacing tool!
Looking at the Strava ‘Raceshape’ (below), taking it easy early on had cost me about 10s in the first mile. I didn’t feel the need to pedal hard above 29/30mph with a tailwind when Sawyer’s was going to be tough with the wind. As it happens, I had pulled back all of my losses in the first mile by the top of Sawyer’s and didn’t feel too bad at that point either. This was ideal as the next section was mostly into a headwind to the turn, and after the turn was a tailwind, but mostly uphill section. Combined, you have very little rest from mile 1 until mile 7 on the return. I gained at least 15-20s over most people in this section, and everything was beginning to hurt.
Nevertheless, I remained in a pretty good tuck position – as captured by Adrian Braun – gaining speed over the top of Sawyer’s going on to the descent.
Funnily enough, I fitted a 52t chainring (rather than my usual 50t) so I could pedal the descent and gain time. However, I decided to save myself a bit and freewheel the fastest parts while laying on the top tube. I lost a few seconds of my slender lead by doing this, but it made my legs feel refreshed and able to push hard again as I rounded Roehampton gate to turn back into a headwind.
At this point I look down and see 21:xx and I know it’s going to be a fast time. I still had a few riders ahead as a target to chase down, and I emptied the tank along the stretch to Robin Hood Gate. I’ve been beaten by a few seconds before in a time trial and I was hurting too much to let that happen here. The Raceshape shows I was 1s down coming out of the final roundabout to Matt Clarke (Pedal Heaven Excel), but I found an extra gear for the final half-mile to finish strongly in 24:41. Some 16 seconds faster than 2 weeks previous.
I wasn’t seeded highly so I had a 15 minute wait for the remaining riders to come in. Then there was a really unexpected moment where they put ‘1st’ next to my name and I had it by 3s. The final half mile had made the difference and swung the result my way!
Numbers and Results
Unfortunately I don’t have any power numbers from the ride. I was doing ~370w for 25 minutes in Nice on my test climb, so it’s likely to have been between 350w and 370w. HR averaged 189 and maxed at 207. I should really get a skinsuit!
Thanks to London Dynamo for putting on such a great pair of events – I look forward to the next time…
Thanks for reading. Hopefully some more posts to come soon as I get back to some racing, and catch up with my backlog.