Oak Ridge Velo Time Trial
It's been a while since I last turned the cranks of my TT bike in anger. Actually, it was the Oak Ridge Velo TT last year that was the last time. As the schedule flipped this year it just so turned out it was the first race of the season this time! While the weather conditions would be vastly different, it would be a pretty good way to measure how I was progressing vs. where I was last year.
For the nerds out there that are interested in such things, and to add some spice to an otherwise "I rode hard" style race report, here's the difference in the weather at 4p.m. (roughly my race start) between years
7/22/2017 - (16:51) 91° RHO(kg/m3) - 1.1422 with wind ~ 7mph blowing Southwest
4/14/2018 - (16:50) 77° RHO(kg/m3) - 1.1744 with wind ~10mph blowing South
What does that mean? Well, the condensed version is that the day was slower due to the conditions. (I know, I've just opened up a whole new world of excuses for people to use for a bad day now! "Yeah man, I was feeling good, but the Rho was just not in my favor!") While the lower temperatures "feel" better, in general we usually go faster when it's hot. (The caveat being if it's so hot that you are truly overheating) To expand -
In 2017 I finished the 7.6 miles in 16:51:xx
In 2018 I finished the 7.6 miles in 16:50:xx
What was the difference then? It took me 20 more watts to cover the distance 1 second faster this year. I rode the same bike, same wheels and tyres, with equipment/position that gave me a similar CdA (I looked!) or at least similar total drag, (total drag being a mix of CdA, rolling resistance and drivetrain efficiency) and paced the race similarly. (Note this doesn't account for traffic draft, changes in road surface over a year, etc etc) If you look at other repeat racers times vs. 2017, pretty much nobody went faster this year.
But enough of the nerdy stuff. This is a race report!
As a full disclaimer and apology, most of the people racing the ORV TT had already been riding on Saturday before I even got out of bed. Road racing, and especially any going longer than an hour isn't in my wheelhouse any longer, and I don't miss it! Nonetheless it's my new secret strategy to winning Omnium TT's... just don't wear yourself out earlier in the day!
I arrived about an hour and a half before the start. The general plan is to get to race site with plenty of time to fix whatever inevitably breaks on my bike (last year it was a flat!) and sequel into the start tent moments before it's time to start with a sky high heartrate. Somehow the universe mercifully spares me any mechanicals and I get to spend that time socializing. Some may say it's the right time to warmup for such a short event...but what do they know. Eventually I do kit up (In my red kit... which hides the blood from when I'm stuck with safety pins... just like a spandex Deadpool) and figure I probably should at least pretend to warm up. I do some openers, which any the track guys I know would laugh at, but felt like huge starts for me, then ride into the start tent. As usual, once things start moving, it moves fast.
I come out of the gates hot. (For me, again... laughable standing start watts) As soon as I'm up to speed I find my place on the saddle and tuck. For me the race is split into three sections, the first third (up to the highway on ramp) is to get into a good rhythm and settle my heart rate. The second section is all about making power (a long steady incline up the highway to the turn on Bear Creek Rd) and the third section is about maximizing where I spend my energy.
The first third goes by to plan. My heart rate settles in around 180 and my watts are pretty consistent though the slight rollers. As we approach the on ramp I catch my first rider. I split my focus between the road, (a dangerous balancing act as the shoulder is not swept, and the curvy road begs impatient motorists to make dangerous passes... all divided by some gnarly rumble strips) my wattage and relaxing...as much as you can relax at 180bpm at least. I've found giving myself things to think about helps me TT much more consistently. Nothing worse than a blank mind counting seconds. I come up on my second rider but I'm close enough to the edge I can't squeak out an "on your left" I just have to pass and move on.
Making the turn on Bear Creek it's time to bury myself. At this point the terrain changes pretty significantly, going from a general trend of steady uphill/false flat to true rolling terrain. Unfortunately I'm at my worst at stuff like this, I just can't get comfortable and stay in a gear, and my watts can drop / jump pretty wildly. I focus and just try staying smooth, something that has gotten a bit easier with my increased track time, but still isn't optimal. I pass my third rider and as I cross one of the hills I can just glimpse my fourth one. I figure if I can hold my pace and increase it to the finish I might just catch him. As we make the final sweeping bend before the final straight, I take my first second (too much, a full cadence drop to 0 in an otherwise beautiful power data file) of freewheeling. Once I'm out of it I put my head down (don't try this at home kids) and just follow the white line. I glance up and can see the finish, and realize I sadly won't be catching my fourth rider! I don't have anything left for a sprint, so I just hammer on to the line. Finally, I hop onto the base bar and can gasp air again.
The primary success for me was hitting my targets (technically I was 1 watt below my goal... but I'll allow it to be rounded!) and feeling "comfortable" doing it. That was a success. It was a happy bonus to also be able to take the top step of the podium at my "home" race as well. The fact that I was able to add a chunk of watts to my race on less fitness (for those of you who are Trainingpeaks nerds, around -20 CTL to the race last year) should mean my goals for later in the year are going to plan.
After that, I watched some of my friends start/finish their race, and collected my sweet sweet prize purse. It was great to see so many of my teammates dipping their toes into the world of bike racing.
So that was my ORV TT. I managed to sneak into the top 10 overall (I'm a nerd and looked) finish times, which I'll also take a small amount of pride in.