First up was the Hill Climb TT. The venue was Redhill, a 4.5km climb, with a 5.4% avg Gradient. I had approached this event with a fair amount of anxiety. My climbing capability is not very good, and worse so with my recent off peak performance. A friend had earlier the week shared his thoughts on the event, that entry fees had already been paid, and it was an opportunity to gain experience and learn. It was with this conviction that I committed to pitch up on the start line. On Friday we had rain and the forecast was for less than favourable rainy and windy conditions for the Saturday. Fortunately the forecasters had it wrong and I was welcomed at the venue by a gloriously beautiful morning.
After a 20 min warm-up I rolled up to the Vets that were assembling at the start line. I normally feel intimidated amongst the racing team guys. Soon the race commissars were calling out vet race numbers, and I was the first up, with subsequent 30s gaps between racers. There was a 500m flat to get the legs loosened before the gradient set in. I had ridden this climb before so had a good idea of what to expect. My pace on the first section was good, and I was keeping an eye on the Garmin’s avg Power reading, targeting to keep just over 300W. About halfway up, I was passed by the second starter. I was not too fazed because I knew that the field was very strong, and my power avg was at my optimum.
I crossed the finish line in 13:38, with a Normalised Power reading of 319W. I was satisfied with this because my FTTP in the beginning of the year was at 300W, so I was improving, and that is all I need to do. The experience gained was invaluable, as this will not be my last Hill Climb TT, and my mindset will be far different next time round.
Sunday was the West Coast Race, 85km on a flat and very fast route. Rain clouds were gathering, which is not good on such a fast course, especially since there were quite a few ugly falls last year in similar conditions. Luckily the rain stayed away for the race duration. The wind however had picked up and we were to be faced by a 35kph South Easterly wind on the return half.
The pace off the start was very fast. Race teams were attacking each other which caused some blistering accelerations. Over the first 40min of the race our speeds were 40-60kph. Those accelerations put me in the red on quite a number of occasions. I would start to drift off the back and have to put in short high effort bursts to pull back in. These were taking their toll, and I could feel the lactic building up in my legs every time, along with heavy breathing, panting bouts, which were burning my lungs. Once back in the bunch I could start to recover, but soon there would be another attack off the front. There were times when I wanted to stop the suffering and sit up. This would be followed by a sense of a minor victory every time I pulled back in to survive a bit longer.
When we turned off the West Coast Road and up the hill going to Atlantis, I could no longer hold the group pace and dropped off. I was not alone for long because Eugene, had been dropped earlier and was making his way towards me. We recovered and started working together. This teamwork continued for the remaining 50km of the race. We rode very well against the strong wind on the return route, averaging a speed of 30kph. This camaraderie and teamwork was equally welcomed and valued.
My finishing time was not as good as last year, but the race was more valuable in terms of conditioning, mentally and physically, experience gained in tough conditions, and a new friendship forged.
Let’s Ride !!!