National Elite 40k TT Championships : Loyalton CA

Even as late as Tuesday I was still fiddling around to get a comfortable position with my new UCI legal setup. I could put in some good power numbers for a mile but for for longer distances it felt like my saddle height was wrong and my hips and IT band felt very uncomfortable. I have never encountered such lack of comfort on my TT bike before even when I had to convert to a UCI position the night before the masters TT championships a few years ago. The setup was not radically different from what I had previously (apart from the saddle) so I suspect my discomfort is mainly related to my lack of training in the TT position on this bike.  I also suspect all is not right with me and the new saddle as I really think this saddle is not intended to be used “UCI horizontally”. I am developing a deep dislike for the new saddle (So are my nether regions).

Final UCI legal position For the TT……..well almost

My strategy for the week was to put in a few hard intervals on Tuesday on the TT bike but keep the duration short, rest Wednesday and then pre-ride the course Thursday with a few leg openers to open up the pipes for Friday’s race. When I got to the course on Thursday afternoon it was very hot and very windy.  The course also turned out to be pretty bumpy if you rode close to the edge due to expansion joints in the road. My handlebars actually shifted during the ride due to these bumps.  I took the chance to do some extended efforts at tempo in the aero position but quickly found i was suffering from hip discomfort after about 5 miles.  I finished my course pre-ride pretty drained and had sore hips and IT bands despite not pushing very hard.

The TT course the day before

On Thursday evening I went to Northstar to have my bike checked out to ensure it was UCI legal. It passed the bike check with no issue which is more than can be said for many of the bikes there.

Waiting for the bike check

Come race day I still had sore legs but I did an extended trainer workout at fast but light tempo and my legs actually started to feel pretty good.  I felt my saddle was a little low on the warmup so I put it up 1cm and it definitely felt better (reading up on the subject of hip angle related TT problems after the event indicated that this was probably a very bad idea). There seems to be a particularly nasty hot air at altitude that really dries you out. I felt very hot and thirsty while warming up despite drinking plenty.

Race day

As I pulled up to the start ramp I was expecting a full bike check and weigh in but to my surprise all they did was check my brakes worked. I asked the official what was going on and he said they were not enforcing UCI rules for my event. I was taken aback by this announcement especially because of all the trouble I had gone to to be UCI compliant. It felt very warm waiting for my start in my Kask helmet. I didn’t have provision for a bottle on my bike as i thought aero bottles were banned for UCI events and this was worrying me a bit. Fortunately my friend Brian brought me an icy cold bottle to drink from while I waited.

Start Ramp [Picture by Jenny ]

I felt pretty good for the first 2 miles and was riding at a good controlled pace but still maintaining 27MPH +. After 2 miles I put it up a gear and pushed on at race pace but things started to feel a bit harder. i felt as if I was riding into a bit of a headwind. When I got to the 90 left at 5 miles I definitely felt like I was riding into a headwind and I started to struggle a bit. I thought I should push hard into the headwind as the way back would be much faster. The next 7.5 miles to the turn were generally very hard but occasionally the wind seemed to drop and my speed picked back up to 27MPH +. It felt a very long way to that turn but I was looking forward to a tailwind home.

Unfortunately it felt even harder on the way back and i really started to struggle. My mouth was so dry my tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth and sweat was running into my eyes. I kept pushing on waiting for the super fast 5 miles to the finish but the turn never seemed to get any closer. I got passed by a few riders over the next few miles and my power was dropping alarmingly. I really began to wonder if I could hold the pace to the finish.

[Picture by Jenny Peng]

 I finally hit the 5 mile turn to the finish and didn’t really experience the tail wind I was expecting. I started to get major pain in my hips and my power was dropping even further. I pushed on as hard as I could but the pain in my legs was getting worse. I got to 4 miles to go and had to change down a gear and seriously wondered if I could even get to the finish. I have never suffered like this before in a TT and I hate to think how much time i lost over these last few miles.  In the end I still managed a personal best time of 57m14s (Road bike, not recumbent) but this time was only good enough for 70th out of 77 riders. The winner did a time of 47m22s !!!!!

After the finish I was in excruciating pain in my hips and could barely pedal the bike. I couldn’t even move for a long while after getting off. My IT bands were tight as guitar strings and I was not able to walk properly or drive the car.  I sat down in the car for about 10 minutes drinking several bottles of water and took some strong pain killers.  Eventually the pain died off enough for me to start the 4.5 hour drive home. Despite the worst TT of my life i still really enjoyed the event but i need to sort out my position before i do any more TT’s this year.

Many thanks to Team Fremont for looking after me and letting me warm up under their tent.

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