“Nice bike, it looks fast and that must be the cleanest cassette of the night” said the man with his hand not 3cm from my backside. I turned my head slightly and looked at the smiling grey haired gent, confident that his grip on my saddle would keep me from falling and returned his smile. “Yeah the cassette is brand new hence why it’s clean and I’m not sure if I can do the bike justice, I’m slow.” He laughed and said “You’ll be fine, I’ll count you down from five, ten seconds to go.”
I sucked in a last gasp of air, my heart rate increasing as through the fog of my inner thoughts I heard “3,2,1….GO!”
And so began my 20 odd minutes of pain, and pleasure that would see me lose my Time Trial virginity.
Time Trials have long been something which fascinated and appealed to me, just you, your bike and a war of attrition against the clock. You would get from one exactly what you put in. There would be no swim to tire you out and no ‘I’m saving something back for the run’. No Sir this was just ride as fast as you can until you feel like puking. It would be a great test of fitness and give me a marker for my sprint tri season.
I’ve seen many clubmates do these over the years and they’ve all progressed their cycling ability greatly as a result, I should have bit the bullet ages ago and gone along and put my legs and lungs on the line but to be frank I was intimidated.
Time Trials always seemed like a secret world, one inhabited by the elite, the proper cyclists and not one where a fat triathlete would fit in. Meeting in car parks and laybys, routes with secret codes that you could only decipher if you had the ‘book’, shaved legs, shaved arms, people watching you physically give it your all until you were spent, in reality time trialling seemed like the dogging of the cycling world.
I couldn’t have been more wrong this event put on by Lancaster Cycling Club was one of the friendliest I’ve ever been too, no one laughed at me when I Signed on and paid my fee, in fact people were very supportive when I explained it was my first one. I listened to the instructions and then relaxed and talked to my club mates who were there in abundance. The nerves I had been feeling all day started to subside, they of course would come back in the final moments before the start, but that is a good thing.
The ROO had just been upgraded with new carbon bars and stem, seat post, saddle, new brakes and cables, which my mate Andy H had done for me. He had done a fantastic job and when I’d ridden the ROO the day before for the first time on my 2 mile commute it felt so comfortable. Add in the fact that I’d put on my new aero wheels and I was extremely excited to see what she could do.
The advice I’d been given was go steady for the first couple of laps ( 12.5 of them in total on a closed circuit ) and start to wind it up until you have nothing left and that is pretty much what I did. Within seconds though I realised I had a slight problem, I couldn’t read my Garmin properly. I had no idea how fast I was going or how much distance I had covered, I would have to ride to feel and have to try and keep count of the laps. Well I failed gloriously on that one.
I had in my mind the figure of 32 minutes, that’s what I thought I would do for My first 10 mile TT, whilst secretly hoping I might just sneak under 30 minutes. So with no idea of how many laps I had completed I decided that rather than risk a DQ for doing too little I would ride until my Garmin said 30 minutes. I kept the same pace and then ramped it up on what I thought was my last lap, finishing with my lungs and legs on fire. Unfortunately that last effort was wasted as I realised when I crossed the line and stopped my garmin that I had actually ridden 12 miles instead of 10. Muppet.
I was over the moon though, I had ridden my first time trial, survived, not been laughed at and thoroughly enjoyed it in a sadistic sort of way. And then one of my club mates told me my official time was 26.23. I was delighted and shocked. It was much quicker than I was hoping for, but my next initial thought was “I want a sub 26”.
I reckon that I can find those 23 seconds if I set my garmin up so I can actually see it and use the last bit of energy in the actual race and not the ‘warm-down’. Also I deliberately left my aero helmet at home as I thought I’d look “all the gear and no idea” at my first TT, I’ll be wearing it next time. Hell I might even shave my legs if it gets me a few more seconds 😉
So sub 26 next and then maybe with some hard work a sub 25 by the end of my first season, it’s a lot to ask for a slow fat lad but I believe Anything Is Possible and will do my very best to reach that goal.
So don’t be scared of time trials, they are great fun, they hurt but they give you a lot of rewards that will help with the bike legs of your triathlons. I can see time trialling becoming a new obsession if I’m not careful. I feel like I’ve joined a not so secret society. I might just need to learn the secret handshake next