It felt like a long time since the aero testing on the track at Newport Velodrome by the time I lined-up for the first Time Trial of 2022 on Saturday, March 19. In the time in-between I’d started travelling for work again, been sick and not done as much training as I had hoped for. I really didn’t know what to expect.
The course was the familiar H10/3A on the B4000 near Newbury in Berkshire. A 10-mile course with a downhill start, a short steep climb, then about 3.5 miles of net downhill before turning around heading all the way back to the base of the downhill start.
For no greater reason than pure vanity, I had ‘upgraded’ my trusty orange and black 2017 Giant Trinity to the new 2022 ‘black rainbow’ model. Exactly the same frame, so hardly a great investment, but the paintjob does look rather stunning! Aside from the tweaks implemented following the session at Newport Velodrome (saddle position, elbow rests), the bike setup was unchanged from the end of the 2021 season.
What I hadn’t figured was that this would be my first run on this course with the 58t chainring I had fitted towards the end of 2021. That itself wasn’t a problem. The fact the cassette on the back was an 11-25 might be! It certainly made climbing Wickham Hill more ‘fun’ than normal (the only time in the last few years I’ve had to stand on the pedals to get up that hill!).
A strong crosswind wasn’t going to be particularly beneficial in either direction; perhaps a slight help on the return leg. But either way, it wasn’t a day for PBs.
At least the section of road leading to the climb had been resurfaced (no repeat of the double puncture I had experienced on the same course last year… that was a sense of humour failure moment) which I think has definitely helped course times.
The crosswind, combined with the deep Enve 7.1 front rim, did mean a slightly cautious start to the race before the slog up Wickham Hill, then it was just a case of keeping a decent power to the turn just outside Newbury. The concept of ‘decent power’ turned out to be very subjective. I can’t remember which podcast or TV show I was listening to, but I’ve always thought the following statement about time trialling is about right:
“If you know you WON’T make the finish, you’re going too hard. If you know you WILL make the finish, you’re going too easy. If you think you MIGHT just make the finish, that’s about right!”.
Wise words, and perhaps something I’ve put more stock in over the years than any power meter readings.
As it turned out, I did make the finish, the smoother road surface through Wickham in the last mile definitely helping me squeeze the last drops of power out of the legs over the finish line. The result was nothing special, but enough to get within 31 seconds of a course PB and to take the win on the day by exactly a minute.
Clearly despite a disappointing power (well down on the average power I’d generated to do the course PB in 2020), the aero tweaks and new kit are showing signs of promise.
A week later, the same TT course
Fast forward a week to March 26 and we were back on the same course. Same setup. A slightly more favourable day in terms of temperature and wind direction. I managed to squeeze out a few more Watts (though still very much “early season power” as I like to call it!) but this time I knocked a good 19 seconds off the previous week’s time, again taking the win on the day.
H25/1A – April Bank Holiday 25-mile TT
Skip forward another few weeks and it was time for my first 25-mile time trial of the year, on the H25/1A course along the A4 between Thatcham and Theale. It’s a revised version of the old H25/1 course that was modified in 2020 due to new road furniture installed near Thatcham (making it unsafe for bikes to merge with traffic.
I’ve never gone particularly well on the revised course. Maybe I was just unlucky with traffic and weather on the two previous runs.
Again, the power was disappointing (looking back, I say that every March and April, so I’m not reading too much into it yet) and it was a bit of a shock to the system to have to race for nearly a whole hour rather than just over 20 minutes!
I did notice that I seemed to be catching more fellow racers on the sections of the course that were into a headwind, less so on the sections with a tailwind.
Which all seems to suggest that the aero magic must have been working again as I managed to set a course PB time-wise on a course worst power-wise. My first time under 55 minutes on that course, although no win this time (damn those fast guys!).
Early season takeaways
First of all, power is not where I want it to be. But as my Facebook “memories” seem to constantly remind me in March and April, I say that every year. So, I’m not going to stress. Yet!
Clearly, I’ve made (and been helped to make, it wasn’t all my own research and hard work) some good kit choices over winter. There’s no way I should be getting close to or setting course PBs this early in the season (cold, windy) at these power levels. So as one of my fellow racers expressed after the 25-mile race: “you’re pretty slippery!”.
The kit isn’t perfect, however.
The new skinsuit doesn’t hold the race numbers in the back pocket, which means I end up having to use safety pins to stop the number falling out the open bottom of the pocket. Sub-optimal (if only because it’s a right faff to get the number pinned right). It also feels a bit ‘baggy’ compared to the suits I was using last year – but you can’t argue with the times above.
Similarly, my new overshoes keep slipping down. I’ve tried various glues and methods to keep them up but so far, I’m three-for-three on them slipping down my calves mid-race.
For now, I will persevere and focus on increasing my power!
With a lot of work travel coming up, I’m probably going to stick to the low-key midweek club TTs for a while. Seems pointless entering open races when I know I’m likely to be jetlagged (I had to withdraw from P881 recently after my flight home from the US was severely delayed and I didn’t get home till 9pm the night before the race).