Being a nerdy scientist, I’m always looking for patterns in everything. I like the challenge of sorting out order from chaos (and creating chaos from order which I secretly prefer).
So it struck me on the way home from yesterday’s Scottish National 10 mile TT that the second Sunday in May for the past three years has resulted in being my best competitive cycling performance (at that moment in time) of my very brief but fruitful cycling career.
Two years ago, I targeted the Sprint category in the Etape Caledonia as having had a nibble at the previous year, I believed I had the ability and power to win it. And so it proved. But I wasn’t done there. Last year I targeted and succeeded with the KOM at the Etape and ended up the fastest time too and first position. A new level attained. Great, let’s keep going upwards then!
On Sunday though, I didn’t have massive expectations. I have a stretch target of getting under 20 minutes on a Scottish course in a 10mile TT. Pretty ambitious, ridiculous, but that’s me. So when I ran my software that predicts my TT race times and it churned out 21:05 I quickly realised the A92 on Sunday morning was going to be a slower course than when I raced it one windy Tuesday night last summer where I was convinced I had posted 20:35, but was given 20:55 by the timekeepers.
But the lack of expectation wasn’t down to any negativity, just plain and simple realism. I’m in the process of transition, slowly changing from the old TT bike to the new one and with that comes disruption and a lot of unknowns (chaos from order again). I simply had no idea how I would fare in the race, but I was determined to break 21 minutes!
I didn’t get that feeling I’ve recently experienced prior to the race, but my preparation and focus in the week leading up to it had been spot on and I felt my usual relaxed and content self, looking forward to pitching up against the top riders in the country. A very strong field indeed. Eek! Ace! Whatever!
At the sign-on my good mood was lifted even more when I realised I had been seeded. This is a new thing for me and I don’t know much about it, but apparently the fastest riders tend to go off last with two minutes between each rider and not the usual minute.
But this posed a new problem in that I had no one to catch. Well not realistically.
I got into my pre-race routine, large cup of tea made in the van, getting the TT bike ready and went out for a spin on my road bike to check out the starting area, gauge the easterly wind which was causing all sorts of issues (riders were reportedly running out of gears on the return leg). I felt good, even inadvertently managed to bag a few Strava KOMs in the process. Back to the van, cup of tea, wrestle with the skinsuit for an eternity, ask someone to zip me up at the back (I always look for DTCC’s Ian Grant because he makes me laugh and/or has a nugget of wisdom to share) and then…twenty minutes later after issues with the Garmin (again) and power meter…start line!
I was right up for this and got into an even better state of mind when the starter told me I had the “unofficial” course record. I explained my story and he just nodded and said “Yes we know, you’ll just have to go and make it official”.
Not that I need any incentives. I had my game plan…push harder into the wind (outward leg), lace it over the flyer over, catch breath before ramming it up the sharp ramp after rejoining the A92 heading for Dundee, hang on…die after the end. Hurt locker. Cup of tea. Skinsuit off. Event HQ (fully clothed – note to self).
The race went exactly as I’d visualised it and a quick look at the Garmin as I passed the finish line gave me twenty-forty something. Dynamite, job done. And some!
So, back at race HQ, as per usual, I had no idea of where I’d come. Amanda Tweedie though was bouncier than normal (and that’s saying something). She’d finished sixth, which is incredible given her race preparation in the week was far from ideal.
I also got chatting with Chris Smart, the winner of the last National TT race a fortnight ago. He was quizzing me about the next National race, the 25m, which is on his patch which I can’t make (as my sister-in-law is getting married) and trying to convince me I need to get out of it or get it cancelled! Ooh, in another universe…
Half an hour later I got chatting to Chris again, this time on the podium! Chris had posted a time of 20:35 and of course, rightly so, the official course record. I had managed second place with 20:43 and delighted I was too! So, that’s three national TT races, two silvers, one bronze. Consistency across different TT distances (100 mile, hilly and now 10 miles). That’s the objective for this TT year.
And now the slow realisation (duh) that I can compete at national level. For the third consecutive second Sunday in May, I’ve gone up yet another level.
Not done though, I’m still eager to keep climbing. I’ll rest when I’m dead!
Thanks to Paula Stronach for the photos!