Monday, September 2, 2013

Back To The Future?

My road racing interests always seem to be in a state of flux.
Keenly aware that the new cyclocross season is less than a week away, on Sunday I took a preseason fitness test by time trialing on my ’cross bike to Campbellsport and back via the Eisenbahn State Trail. It’s a test I perform a handful of times each year, always shooting for less than 1 hour in each direction and a faster split on the return. I reached Campbellsport in 55:06—a good time, but not a personal best—and then raced back home in just 50:47, a personal record that beat the 51:19 I posted on July 8. That’s an 18.4 mph average on the return, covering 15.6 mostly-gravel miles with 700x32 knobby tires at 75 psi.

Obviously, I’m satisfied with any new personal best. But I also know that a long time trial is not the same kind of effort as a 30-minute cyclocross race. I proved—not for the first time—that I can sustain a hard effort once I get the motor going. My success in cyclocross will depend on good, long warmups; without them I will falter during the first chaotic moments and fall hopelessly far behind before I find my legs. I enjoy cyclocross, but I am not ideally suited to it. The shock of the start is hard for me to overcome. Building to a crescendo over a much longer effort is more my style.

It did not occur to me until Sunday that my 31.2-mile TT course is unusually long. Converting to metric, the distance is a little more than 50 kilometers. That’s longer than the last six UCI World Championship TT courses for top-level pros like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara. For amateurs like me, a sanctioned TT would generally be no longer than 40 kilometers. (That’s also the standard for the bike portion of an Olympic-distance triathlon.) This chart from Sunday shows how I achieved a negative split after the turnaround in Campbellsport (the big decelerations correspond to intersections where I had to slow down or stop for motor vehicles):
It’s too bad I can’t run my Eisenbahn TT on a closed course!
I have done just a handful of TTs on the road and I didn’t get close to winning any of them (unless you count this one). Competing on a stock road bike, I entered those races for fun and fitness and never had any expectation of a good placing. My fastest TT came on Labor Day 2012: a 21.35 mph average over 19.3 rolling miles (31 km) just outside of West Bend. With the right equipment and training—and on the right course—I might be pretty good.

If I decide to throw myself at time trialing in a more serious way next year, the biggest problem might be finding events that don’t conflict with my other racing ambitions. With that in mind, I am revisiting the prospect of a Washington County Bicycle Club TT series. The first attempt was a failure, but the composition of the club has changed over the last few years. A revamped series, properly promoted, might appeal to the multisport community. There are a lot of triathlon/duathlon folks in the area and their training objectives are not really served by the club's Saturday rides. Neither are mine, so maybe my future with the WCBC will be to coordinate the century and the TT series.

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