It’s been an excellent week regarding TT performances on the bike. Last Tuesday I raced the Ethiebeaton Dundee course selected for the National 10m TT last month along with my racing partner Amanda “Speedy” Tweedie. We both set Course Records (CRs) and Personal Bests (PBs). Amanda clocked 24:10, whereas the men’s CR was broken twice, first by British Cycling rider and track racer extraordinaire Mark Stewart and then I managed to go 4 seconds quicker and take 7 seconds off my own previous and “unofficial” CR which my TT racing buddy, Chris Smart, officially held after his commanding performance at the National 10m TT (20:35). Amanda later went on to get yet another 10m TT PB on Sunday with a 23:47 on a flat tyre!
Chris is racing the British National TT tomorrow and his name is on the start sheet with a number of equally top riders in the country, most of them professional riders. Mark too is racing in the under 23 age category. Having met these guys in the flesh and enjoying the banter I’ve since had with both, I can only hope for a couple of stellar performances and maybe a podium or two? Best of luck fellas, bring home some silverware north of the border! I will be glued to social media on Thursday.
The racing didn’t stop there though. As a warm up for the up and coming National 50m TT next month (back on my favourite A90 course between Stonehaven and Stracathro), I wanted to try out my new position that obviously worked (despite 15W less power than normal on this course) on last Tuesday’s 10m TT but over 50 miles and so I entered the Alistair Speed Memorial with a target of PB and breaking 1 hour 50 minutes.
I didn’t know the course, but I soon found it to be convoluted and refreshingly bonkers. This perhaps distracted me from concentrating on getting the position right, but I had enough power in the legs to achieve my objective with the bonus of winning the Alistair Speed trophy (which in itself was an honour and poignant reminder), returning a 1:49:24, two minutes short of the CR, so you can guess what my target is for next year?
And that’s exactly it. The silverware, white envelopes and friendly pats on the back are a welcome bonus, but I’ve said many a time that’s not the core reason why I do it. The cycle of targets, goals, objectives and then iterating is where my heart lies. Both Chris and I have a target of breaking 20 minutes on a Scottish course. For Chris it’s a matter of when (he’s posted 20:02 this year), for me it’s a stretch target, but despite a new bike, kit, wheels and ever-evolving position I’m getting quicker. Whether I break the magic 20 minute mark in Scotland is unknown and to be honest, and this may sound strange, it actually doesn’t matter.
Because what matters is trying. People have told me I’ll break 20 minutes on a fast English course (Scottish courses are notoriously slow due to road surface, wind, undulations, cold temperatures, low humidity and lighter traffic) and I wouldn’t disagree with them, but this is a personal objective based on time alone and I love it because it’s all down to me and getting what I call the “bothered-o-meter” dialled in.
Of course, I have time-based objectives for all the main TT distances but with the Haute Route Alps being my main priority this season, I can use 2016 as the reason to race hard, get the bike and position finely tuned and try different things, review, learn, adjust, test, race. Repeat and be in a better position for the 2017 season when the UCI Master’s returns to Europe with another opportunity to race for an even stretch-ier target – the Rainbow Jersey! Last year in Denmark I came 11th, if I can qualify for the finals in France next year, I will be looking for at the very least top ten, but my eyes will obviously be on the main prize. At 45 I’ll be in a new age category too, but unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point of view), age is just a number. And if it doesn’t happen next year, I’ll just keep going until it does. You’ll have to bury me on my bike. It’s as simple as that.
And that’s the point. I can’t remember whether it was an interview with one of my teammates or my mate Phil, both stalwarts, Team JMC riders, leaders and powerhouses of the 24 hour/endurance/marathon MTB scene, but to get to the top or achieve your goal simply doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and sometimes a lot of it, more than you wish for. You can train all you want, but there is no substitute for race experience. Sometimes you need to make one step backwards to go two forwards, but always look ahead and not behind. Take heart from trying. No such thing as failure when you’ve tried. In my world failure is not trying in the first place. Allowing fear to overrule your passion, fun, drive and motivation is the direct route to failure (i.e. not trying in the first place). Try. Learn. Try again.
Or in another word…iterate.