An 11th hour call up saw me entered into the 9Up Team Time Trial at Silverstone on Friday 15th June. Off the back of a heavy training week with an Alpe de Huez turbo session earlier in the week and crit racing the night before my legs were like lead.
I’ve mostly only done triathlons and road races so a team time trial was a first for me. I arrived at Silverstone and made my way down to the team pit to meet the other riders in Shutt Ridley Race Team ‘B’. Thrown together last minute after some unavoidable clashes we quickly sorted out the order and had a quick chat about how we wanted to race the course. Sign on was quick and easy with a quick team tactics briefing following soon after.
Before we knew it, it was our turn to line out at the start line each with our designated commissaire to hold us steady ready for the push off. For those that haven’t done it before it can be a little unnerving being clipped in hoping somebody else’s grip doesn’t slip. Starting in fourth wheel it was a fast start with the team sprinting off to get up to speed. Gaps started forming prior to the start ramp onto the circuit but were closed quickly.
Dave O’Connor in first wheel put in a monster turn getting us onto the circuit from the Silverstone Wing and onto the Abbey turn. Once we were on we started rotating through quickly doing turns of between 10 and 30 seconds each.
The corners after Farm curve scrubbed off some speed and the straight leading up to Luffield had my legs burning. I was starting to regret not bringing the rollers for a proper warm up before we started, but gritted my teeth and held onto the wheel in front, clinging on for dear life.
The team had some strong time triallists so it never felt like a proper rest sitting on the wheels. No surging but the hammer was most definitely being put down. Julia Chatterton put in some cheeky turns, seeming not to feel the effects of the previous night’s racing, and showing us all how she’s won at the Milton Keynes Bowl before, towing us along.
The long run from Copse turn down to Stowe felt like forever with the wind hitting you head on during this stretch. There was no cover so keeping tight on the wheel in front was vital. If anyone could see themselves being gapped the shout would go up and the rider swinging off would slot in to prevent the gap getting any wider.
After Stowe came Vale and Club corner. The first part of Club is a sharp left hander followed by a sweeping right and before you know it you’re into the pit straight and one lap down. It was three laps in total, which added up to a little over 10miles.
The fresh legs in the team were putting in some strong turns with everyone contributing as much as possible. In a lactate filled blink of an eye the race was over with a very respectable 32nd place achieved. Not bad for a bunch that haven’t done a team time trial together before. Exhausted but elated pretty much sums it up.
It was a great learning experience and I loved every minute. I’m definitely going to be keeping myself fresh next year in the run up just in case I get the chance to ride the circuit again. Before I knew it I had to say my goodbyes and race off to work. There are some individual club TT’s just down the road from me, which I think I will have to try out after giving this a go.
Photo credit: Richard Brain Shutt Ridley Race Team
How To Pace For A Successful Sportive
By Pav Bryan of Direct Power Coaching
Inspired by the Italian Gran Fondo which is historically at least 120km long, there’s no doubt that sportives are a test of endurance – regardless of whether you’re seeing yours as a social ride or a test. If you’re getting ready for a sportive this summer, the chances are you’ve spent some time in the saddle in preparation; but do you have your pacing strategy at-the-ready, too? This is an all-too-often forgotten aspect, yet it’s critical for success and enjoyment. Here are our top tips to help you find the perfect pace come event day.
There’s nothing quite like that early-morning sportive atmosphere; the checking of PSI, the pinning of race numbers and the strategic placing of gels – the buzz at the start line is almost tangible. But after the tape is lifted, avoid the temptation to sprint off in excitement. Instead, settle into a warm-up and find your steady pace for the day – you may well be passing the riders later that started out too fast.
Save the legs
Throughout the event, it’s tempting to speed past those riders who just passed you – but avoiding unnecessary surges will improve your ability to ride strong to the end. In addition, optimize your riding position and gearing to maximise energy; staying seated in the saddle and adopting a higher cadence will save the legs for when you really need it on that final climb.
Use monitoring tools
Riding with power is becoming increasingly affordable, with power meter prices gradually coming down and bikes being fitted with meters straight out of the box. If you have it, use power on sportive day to pace the climbs effectively. If not, heart rate monitors are another great tool for pacing – staying in your aerobic zone through the day – where possible, this isn’t a reason to get off and push! – will maximize your ability to maintain a level effort throughout the day. Dipping into, and over, threshold will dig away at your reserves. Without power or heart rate monitoring to hand, being aware of how your body feels is a great tool in itself – if you can chat, for example, you’re likely riding at a sustainable pace.
Take a friend (or two)
Riding closely with a group of friends will dramatically increase your average speed without dramatically increasing your effort. Wheel-sucking can serve-up gains to the tune of 30-40%, so working together is a great way to ensure that your energy stands up to your time goals. Team efforts also improve morale when the going gets tough.
Your plan for hydration and replenishing glycogen stores should work hand-in-hand with your pacing strategy. Eat early, and regularly, and hydrate, especially on hotter event days. Be aware that if you do dig a hole, your mental ability will take a hit, so you may forget to eat and drink – so planning how often you’ll fuel and sticking to it methodically (using time) throughout the day will help. If you do get into bonk territory, being armed with an emergency caffeine gel can work wonders to get you to that next checkpoint where you can refuel.
Prepare your mind
A long day in the saddle over a challenging course can be daunting – but splitting the task into sections is an achievable mental approach that’s widely used by sportive riders and pros alike. Sportives aren’t short of checkpoints, so use these shorter goals to keep your head strong when your legs begin to tire. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy it – with plenty of races and time trials on offer these days, there’s nothing like a ride that allows you to lift your head and soak up the scenery with riding buddies – and that’s what summer riding is all about.