As part of “spring training,” triathletes sometimes enter a time trial (TT) to test their fitness and race-day setup. Along with my friend and Well-Fit Elite teammate Karin, I headed out to Cherry Valley, IL today for just such an opportunity.
I hadn’t raced this 20K TT before, but by all accounts both online and from friends, this was a flat and fast course. The only variable was the wind, which as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, can be downright brutal in the midwest during spring. Most road races and time trials are held out on country roads here, where fields are still without crops to block any wind. As a result, most of these races compensate for a lack of climbing with strong headwinds and crosswinds and today was no exception.
We arrived early after a quick coffee stop at Starbucks, checked in (more on that later), set up our trainers and began to warm up. Luckily a friend of a friend was also there and recognized me, so we chatted a bit and he snapped a photo…thanks Ben, though there is a .0001% chance you’ll read this!
After a short warmup with a few intervals, we rode over to the start line. We each entered twice, so I’d be racing mens cat 4/5 and mens 30-34, while Karin was racing the same divisions on the womens’ side. Before I knew it, it was time to go off for the first of two races.
Though I’d thought through a few ideas, including advice from my friend and a really sharp coach in his own right, Ted Ramos, I decided on the drive out that I’d give my first race everything and see how it went. If things went well, pressure would be off for the second race and I could go easier, likewise if something unexpected happened in my first race like a flat, I could give it another shot with the second entry.
I rolled to the line, saw my minuteman go off (Ben started 3 minutes ahead of me), got my own 10 second countdown and went off at the buzzer on the clock. The first 1.25 miles were more of a crosswind, but after making a right turn it was pure headwind and this particular wind was no joke. There had been thunderstorms the night before so the roads were mostly dry, but there were still overcast skies with some serious wind whipping through the farmland. I focused on keeping my cadence high, with an eye on my power numbers to make sure I was pushing as hard as I intended. In the first 3 miles or so I came up and passed an earlier rider who was sitting up on his bullhorns…he was a big guy and I felt kind of bad, knowing the wind could be a real beast and yet sitting up would only make the trek to the turnaround even longer. I began to see the figure of my minuteman ahead of me about 4 miles into the race and I steadily gained on him. At about mile 5.5 I made a very strong pass to make sure he was not going to stay in my draft. I pushed pretty hard the last 0,75mi to the turnaround, both to ensure that I was not easing off and to maximize the time I was putting in during the headwind. Sure enough, as soon as I made the 180 degree turnaround I was surrounded by a funny silence. Tailwind!!!
Something that Ted and I discussed briefly was to make sure to push the same power with a tailwind on the way back, so I was very focused on my Garmin. I did flip screens once I was at full-speed and laughed to myself seeing it read 29, then 32 and finally 35mph and change. I really focused on keeping my gearing as high as possible and actually ran out of gears on my cassette in my 53-12. Granted I was around 85-90rpm at that point, so it might not have mattered…but I found myself searching for another gear a couple times anyway!
I passed another two riders on my way in to the finish. After making the left turn back toward the line, when the wind shifted from tail to crosswind, I saw Ben up ahead. By this point I was pretty exhausted, but dug as deep as I could and pushed the pedals as hard as possible. I ended up just short of catching him, as he crossed the finish line maybe 10-15 seconds ahead of me, but I made sure to really drive myself into the ground right up to the line.
The result is one I’m extremely happy with (in addition to winning cat 4/5), especially considering I did a 3 hour hilly ride yesterday with a t-run afterward, so my legs were not fresh:
- Time: 29:55
- Avg speed: 25.7mph
- Avg cadence: 96rpm
- Avg HR 178bpm
- Normalized power: 285watts
I also thought it’d be fun to break the numbers down into the first and second halves of the race, since the “out” portion was almost all strong headwind and the “back” was the opposite. The Garmin time doesn’t match to the T with the clock time from the race, but that’s likely due to the Garmin “waking up” to start a few seconds after I started and me hitting the stop/lap button in time at the turnaround (I was a few seconds late). It’s pretty close though. So A) I am real happy with the even power splits and B) the difference in speed due to wind is crazy.
- Time: 17:35
- Avg speed: 22.86mph
- Avg cadence: 96rpm
- Avg HR 175bpm
- Normalized power: 286watts
- Time: 11:50
- Avg speed: 29.88mph
- Avg cadence: 97rpm
- Avg HR 182bpm
- Normalized power: 283watts
Back at the starting area I chatted with Ben, saw Karin finish and we shared a laugh…before we knew it, it was time to pin on the second numbers and go race again. I kind of knew rolling back to the start I would not be able to repeat my ride and sure enough, my legs reminded me right after starting. I settled into more of a tempo pace and rolled across for a 33:00 flat for my second race, still good for 4th place in the men’s 30-34 division.
While racers streamed in and out, we went for post-race Chipotle and came back for awards. Always fun to do well on top of being happy with your results! Karin cleaned up, winning both the women’s 4/5 and 30-34 divisions with the 2nd and 3rd fastest times of the day. Her $20 prize money picked up the tab for DQ Blizzards for the drive home (thanks KL!).
All in all, a fun and successful day. It was my first time riding the HED race wheels I bought last fall on the road, as I had previously only used them for cyclocross. The Vittoria Evo Corsa CX tubular tires were as smooth as advertised and the wheel/tire combo handled fantastically well in the crosswinds. It was also my first timed race on the new Felt DA3, which I reviewed recently, and it felt comfortable, stable in the wind and of course FAST! Thanks to Iron Cycles for answering the litany of bike questions, Coaches Sharone and Ted from Well-Fit Triathlon and Training, Karin and the rest of my Well-Fit Elite teammates..having a great group of folks to train with makes all the difference.