After a string of second place finishes, I finally managed to nab myself a top step. On the way, I also set a new PB on the ORV course, smashing last year's time. But it wasn't quite as smooth sailing as I had hoped.
For a short time trial (7.6 miles) I like to get in a pretty good warmup. So we arrived on site a little over an hour early, and I found some of my friends who had scouted out a shady area (it's still amusing to me that we "warm up" in 95° weather) and started setting up. When I took my bike out of the truck I saw that I had pinched the tube in my rear wheel installing the tire and now I had a flat that would have to be changed.
Fast forward another hour... my hands are in ruins, I've bent at least one tire lever, and I've given up on trying to get the super tight Vittoria G+ reinstalled and settled for the Specialized Turbo Cotton... You KNOW a tire is tiiiiighttttt (My friend Tony, who also gave up the skin on his hands to help me seat the tube under the tire, called them 695c tires) when you consider the Spec TC to be the "easier" one to install. Finally, with around 10 minutes to my start time, we have the bike back together. My wife and mother pin my numbers and I throw on my shoes and helmet... the bad news is I didn't get to warm up... the good news is I got a heck of a warmup fighting that tire!
I jump out on the road to check the brakes and shifter, and as soon as I grip the brake I can feel that my headset has worked it's way loose. Jeez... just like a car, a bike can brake down just sitting in the garage. Cue the whole "Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance" saying running through my mind... So the choice is either miss my start time or ride it the way it is.
I make my way down to the start tent and try to get my attention focused on the job at hand. I was in the lucky position of going last, so I only had people in front of me to pick off, which always helps me when it comes to focusing. Finally, after all the hassle getting to the line, we're down to the 3,2,1... Go time.
Orv's course is short, but it's lumpy in pretty much all the wrong ways, and I've found it's easy to pay for burning the matches too fast. I come out of the start nice and controlled and quickly find my way into the bars. My goal is to push for somewhere a little higher than my 20' power for most of the ride, driving it up a bit on the uphills and letting it dip slightly to recover on the downhills. I didn't wear my heart rate monitor because I didn't want to see the numbers I'd likely be hitting, blowing up was a possibility we had discussed and would rather see than a soft race. So on I went. Making my way onto the on ramp to Hwy 95 the course starts throwing the rollers, something I've almost decidedly gotten worse at since adding 20lbs to my frame. As the turn onto Bear Creek Road comes into sight I am in the awkward position of needing to make a pass. I decide to burn a match and really put in an effort to get ahead before we go into the turn so that I've got free road to go. It's right on the limit of too much and it takes me a moment to recover, but I find my cadence again and just keep telling myself it's almost over. The back end of Bear Creek road is generally downhill, but still with some quick inclines and some overall mediocre pavement. As I make the final sweeping bend headed for the finish I pour everything I've still got in the tank (not much) into it and really hammer down. I pass my 5th rider in front right before crossing the line and stop the clock in 16:51, about 20 seconds faster than what we had set as a target.
2016 - 18:15
2017 - 16:51
It was great to finally take a top step again. It's been nearly 4 years (has it really been that long) since I got to stand on the top step at the end of a race. I suppose it's only fitting that it happened at the Podium Sports Medicine TT, and I'm glad I got to do it with them as my sponsor. We're still building towards something greater, but this was a nice confirmation that the hard work does reap some rewards even while working up to the bigger picture. Maybe it's also a lesson to spend a little more time getting the bike race ready a little earlier during the week ;)
Thanks to the Sponsors: Podium Sports Medicine, Visit Knoxville, The Feed, Harper Auto Square, Stoke Signal Socks, Yee-Haw Brewing Co.