Friday, 21 June 2013

Testing times for Nat at the National TT champs

At some point in a distant past it seemed like a really good idea to enter the National TT Champs.  With only four TTs under my belt in my cycling career, if nothing else, it was going to be a good incentive to get riding some more.  An exciting time to make an attempt on time trialling too as this was the first year that the nationals would be run in the same week as the road race champs.  The startlist was bound to be impressive.  Like I said, with only four TTs in the past, what could go wrong? Well…

Ok, so it’s not like anything really went ‘wrong’ as such but I have a LOT of people to thank for getting me to the startline. The story starts a month back, squeezing TTs into a busy race schedule wasn’t quite as easy as I’d imagined, especially when getting out of work early enough is a problem, but not put off I surprised myself with doing a 57.36 for a 25m on my road bike early one Sunday morning.  Chatting to some guys over tea and cake afterwards, while trying desperately to come to my senses, one of them, Stuart, offered generously to lend me his TT bike for the nationals.  A incredibly kind gesture.  

I borrowed the bike over a couple of weekends and spent time on a turbo in his garden getting properly set up and comfortable.  He even got the hacksaw out to get the seat low enough, not something everyone would do to their beloved steed I imagine.  It all felt pretty good and training on it I felt amazed by the difference it made.    A few too many late nights at work and the tour series meant I didn’t make it to any races but even so perhaps all these people were right, TT bikes and aero gear do make you go a bit faster?

Next stop, in my beg, borrow and steal TT nationals (disclaimer: nothing was actually stolen in the racing of this TT), Sigma Sport came up trumps as usual and lent me a rather nice looking disc wheel and Madison sent me a fast looking Lazer Tardiz. Riding round the course the day before, I was beginning to look the part if nothing else and was surprised to find how lumpy it was.  Another lesson learnt, never trust a profile in an event handbook!

This is where the fun really began to start.  Being the nationals, the race is sanctioned by the UCI and as such all bikes have to conform to its rather lengthy rules and regulations (my favourite comment in it, ‘Superman did not ride a bike’.  I wonder if in the new films as well as not wearing his underpants on the outside he might also take up cycling and prove the UCI wrong?  It is a growing sport afterall).  I had measured my saddle before and it all looked ok but fast forward to my hotel room the night before and it actually wasn’t all ok and needed a severe shift backwards from its position to the bottom bracket.  A task that looked, to my eyes, impossible.  I was so worried I wasn’t going to get to ride. 

Step in Bilsland Cycles, on Saltmarket in Glasgow.  The friendliest and most accommodating bunch of people I could have hoped to have met in my hour of TT need.  They didn’t bat an eyelid that it was the day of the competition and I had arrived at their shop with I bike I wasn’t going to be able to ride.  An adamo saddle was whipped out of a box and my bars were moved backwards.  It didn’t look the same and it most definitely didn’t feel the same but it was going to get me to the startline.  I hoped!

Nervous moments at bike check ensued a few hours later as people in grey UCI t-shirts measured my bike up against the jig. Saddle, check – it got through!  Bars, fail –they were too long!  Not perturbed I hopped on the bike to see if I was a ‘morph’, as long as my arms were a less than 120° angle I would be granted a morphological exception and allowed to ride (I think this is polite for ‘short’).  They were, a big hurdle had been overcome.  The only ever time I wonn’t mind being called short.

Did I mention that I couldn’t get the disc wheel to work?  No?  Oh well, that happened too.  It wouldn’t fit in the bike, a wheel not fitting in a bike?  That’s what I thought as well.  This time my TT bacon was saved by three very friendly guys from Manchester Wheelers.  I had been lucky enough to sit next to Simon Bridge at the BC awards dinner in February and he and team mates Scott and Jerry got an allen key out and fixed the drop outs to prevent my disc wheel envy.  

However, it wasn’t prevented just yet, pumping the tyre up the valve got bent and all the air spewed everywhere.  The noise of a rapidly deflating inner tube is never a welcome one, let alone 2 minutes before I was due to hop on the rollers for my warm up.  This time, in walks Fiona Duncan with a spare inner tube with a short valve (riding deep section wheels the rest of the time not paying off just then) and there followed the quickest change I have ever done.  Thanks so much to my Mum and Dad who patiently helped me out as my nerves began to go a bit ragged at the edges.  

So then, I went off and did a time trial.  After all the drama of the previous 24 hours, which also included a 7 hour drive from London and having to move hotel rooms up two flights of stairs two minutes before I had been due to leave for the event, doing the actual race was small fry.  Apart from the fact that I also managed to go the wrong way.  I know, that is as embarrassing as it sounds.  Not every competitor had a motorbike outrider and as I approached the village of Stewarton a bus was stopped at a mini roundabout blocking the road and my view of where to go.  Even though I knew the course I panicked a bit and thought in my pain addled brain that the marshals were guiding the bus left not me.  I went straight on to sounds of ‘Noooooooooo’ from spectators ringing in my ears.  I had to come to a swift halt and back track.  I think that may have cost me quite a lot.  Although I didn’t go far out of the way this was the hilliest part of the course and getting going again was tough.  My legs protested loudly and I went so slowly through the start finish line as they fought to get back up to speed. 17km later I went over the line for a second time and promptly collapsed in a heap.

I have learnt many things from this TT experience and will carry every single one of them forward.  I was so uncomfortable during the ride and was in totally the wrong position.  I couldn’t get enough power out of my legs at all.  I usually use my glutes and hamstrings a lot and it just wasn’t possible to engage them in my wonky position.  I have no one to blame but myself though and many people to thank for even being able to ride in what looked on the surface at least like someone who might be able to ride a TT (please don’t look too closely at photos, my position looks as bad as it felt!). 

Still 12th at the nationals in my 7th ever TT wasn’t too bad and I am keen to do some more.  I wonder where I can buy a time trial bike…?

Natalie xx