I’m not doing race reports on every race I do, but some of them make a big impact. Then again, I’m not reporting on all of those either. For example, last week I bailed about 20 minutes into a TTT because of stomach issues–a problem with the fact that I’m doing these late night.
I wanted to record some thoughts on this one for a few reasons. One, is that Rene streamed it on Twitch. Not enough reason to share usually, but I did really well in this race, and he documented it for me! 🙂
I also learned a lot in this race. It felt like it was paced perfectly for me. I started hitting the danger zone for heart rate with about 2k left–short enough that I could just keep digging for a few more minutes. I think the major contributor to this was that we had really strong B-ranked pullers for this race, so Derrick and I were in the draft giving a steady effort the whole time.
I sort of intuitively knew this, but I ride best when I’m able to give a steady effort instead of sprint/recover/sprint/recover. I’m getting better at the latter, but the steady effort is definitely what I’m built for.
It makes me wonder if the best way for us to improve our times as a team is for our strong B riders (they are really strong) to just pull the whole time. I know that the times people have to sweep back and pick me up are usually when I pulled one time too many and then I’m just hanging on until the end. Our B riders pushing me to ride at my FTP in the draft could still ride at a very doable pace for them.
As a result (like in this race) it leaves me matches available to start leading out a finishing push in the final few hundred meters. If you watch this race, that’s exactly what happened naturally–I started leading out and then other guys pass me to the line, but they got the benefit of me doing 4.5 W/kg from the beginning. Again–I’m not able to put out big spikes of power, but I can get up into the 400W range and hold it for a decent period of time that the folks behind me can use.
I’m really happy to be on a team with guys who write up race reports and post them to the ol’ Facebook for the broader team to read. That means I don’t have to write the whole thing myself–I can just take what he wrote and comment on it. Honestly, I can barely remember parts of this race as I was hanging on by a thread.
I did not want to do this race, but I’m really glad I did.
Just want to jump in and comment on Tom‘s race report right at the beginning. You can have up to 8 riders on a team, and the time of the fourth rider across the line is the one that counts. We only had 5. That means 3 fewer people taking turns pulling. Even if they were only doing 15 second pulls, that’s an extra 45 seconds of rest per rotation, which is a lot.
This course was well suited for us, being mainly flat and with hills of moderate grade. As this group has accumulated TTT experience everyone is focusing on some of the finer points of the experience—bike and wheel selection, various tactical approaches, watching earlier races (an advantage of being in Z14), studying the course profile, etc. If nothing else this gives us plenty to chat about in our warmup meetup.
I really benefit a lot by being a part of Team Skofnung, and the larger Valhalla team in general. Someone else takes responsibility for putting us on teams and registering us with the league. And once we get to the race, our team captain takes responsibility for deciding on the order and length of our pulls based on the abilities of each of us. Basically, all I have to do is show up on time, follow directions, and suffer. Watching races earlier in the day is super helpful as well. It gives me an idea of where other teams have issues and a general idea of how long I’m going to be on the bike.
Once everyone was warmed up and in the pen we took to the pairing screen to stay loose pending our 12 minute delay. Derrick had a glitch where the pairing function released him for a second and he drifted right to the banner, but stayed in the pen. Then in slow motion his avatar drifted sideways into Tom Neuman and pushed him over and even piled into Sylvan. Everyone stayed upright and on the right side of the line, and then we were off .We quickly got into our rotation, having agreed that we would use the rider panel except for the hills, when we would blob as is our custom.
Great lesson we learned in last week’s race, which had lots of rollers, is that we were pretty strong at sticking together as a blob instead of a line when we needed to do it. It’s a good tactic for us because we have a wide range of weights on our team–if we tried to ride w/kg on the rollers it would split us up pretty easily.
For this race we agreed to target a speed (40kph) rather than a w/kg as the pacing metric, and it worked really well. Tom N was assigned 60 second pulls in exchange for his request to be 4th in the rotation, with Sylvan and me each at 30 secs and Scott and Derrick at 15 secs. Sylvan made the call to increase his efforts to 45 secs to help him remain calm and nobody objected. He later raised it to 60 seconds, again without objection especially from me since I was behind him.
Lap 1 went exactly to plan, rotating thru the flats, and then maintaining a seamless blob up out of the desert and over the KOM. Either Sylvan or I would be at the front keeping tempo, Tom N staying in the middle to help close any gaps that might open, Derrick and Scott riding spot-on and maintaining position. We anticipated the possibility of the post-KOM rollers breaking things up, and simply did not allow that to happen. We worked hard that first lap but very deliberately within ourselves, understanding that a big challenge of this course was the distance and wanting to conserve energy to be strong for lap 2.
That last bit was huge. I’m a big fan of going out conservatively. If you have extra oomph at the end, you can always find spots to use it. But if you burn all your matches early, there’s no coming back from it. I learned from my very first attempt at a TTT that once my heart rate isn’t recovering I’m cooked. And not just for a minute or two. I’m really happy to be riding on a team that feels the same way. My splits for the two laps in this race ended up being 2 seconds apart. That’s pretty good for a race that lasts over an hour.
By the second lap we were still going well. Tom N and Sylvan were dieseling through their pulls, Scott and Derrick were tightly in the group, occasionally rolling through the front, and I covered some extra rotation time on top of my pulls to keep things going. We had noted early on that we were putting time into the team behind us, and that on lap one the team ahead of us put time into us, but on lap 2 we slowly cut into the advantage of the team ahead, and passed individual riders dropped by their squads. This was all further incentive to keep the engine room stoked.
The second time up out of the desert and over the KOM was definitely grippy, as everyone was feeling the effects of the distance and the effort. There were occasional 1-3 second gaps but always closed, with once again Tom N doing mini-sweep work with Derrick and Scott as Sylvan and I maintained tempo up front.
So appreciative of the sweep!
Down through the rollers really started to hurt, and at one point Scott encouraged us to press on without him. He must have been hypoxic to suggest that, as it is clearly against Skofnung Company Policy, especially with only 5.5 to go.
Huge advantage of riding on a team–they forced me through a tough minute or so, and I came out find on the other side.
So we gave the slightest easing of effort, he went inside-out to close back on, and we were again 5 as we hit the true flats to the finish with 4km to go. Those last 4km were awesome. We kept it tight like a for-real TTT, cranking the watts up front well north of 4w/kg and ramping up to over 5w/kg as the line approached, Tom N and Sylvan clearly giving it the stick and me contributing what I could, Scott and Derrick blowing up heartrate monitors to stay hitched on. We were putting even more time into the team behind and wiping out the early advantage of the team ahead. That last 1 km was absolutely brilliant, full gas and maximum effort by everyone to finish fast and together, knowing there was not a single watt left out on the desert flats.
No lie here. Upper 160s HR is the “danger zone” for me on the bike, and once I cross 170 I really don’t have any hope of coming back. I was 170+ for the last mile. If my front wheel had been rotating I probably would have tangled my tongue up in it.
Fabulous ride, and a real pleasure. Very much looking forward to next week already, and to having some of our regulars back with us (looking at you in particular, Laurence!).Have great weekends everyone, until next time.TP
I’m really excited about riding again next week, especially if we’re able to field an 8 person team. We are improving every week, and I feel like we’re starting to know each other better as riders. Last week we were 136th overall in the Latte League. This week, 106. We made big gains in our Zone as well. It feels like we’ve just begun to gel!