Monday, August 1, 2011

Time Trials

So, it seems I’ve become a bike racer …

After 12 weeks of “serious” bike training (and almost no running) I decided to enter the Charlie Baker Time Trial. It’s a 9.75 mile bike race series that takes place in Concord, MA every Wednesday night in the summer and is put on by the Northeast Bicycle Club. And, conveniently, takes place on the very same roads that I bike on during my lunchtime rides from work.

Not me
Now, I have no misunderstanding about where I stand as a bike rider. I’m a novice with a capital “N”. I’ve been riding off and on for a little over 2 years - mostly when I’ve been injured from running. And, lately, that's been quite a lot! I love watching the Tour De France and the amazing riders that survive it. But, I have no idea how to maintain my bike and can barely name its various moving parts.

Nevertheless, I’ve been considering jumping into bike racing for a some time now. It’s been 4 months since my last running race and the competitive juices from doing road races still course through my body - even though my running fitness does not. And, the idea of doing a time trial (as opposed to an actual circuit race) appealed to me mostly because I wouldn’t have to worry about crashing into other riders around me. It’s just me, the road and the clock – What could go wrong?

I showed up at the race site (The North Bridge Visitor Center in Concord) which just happens to be place where the “shot heard round the world” occurred back on April 19, 1775. And, when I arrived, I sort of felt like that rag-tag bunch of farmers that came to face the British back on that fateful spring day - in other words, completely over-matched. Zipping around me were dozens of riders on slick (super expensive) machines, wearing skin tight racing suits and sporting nifty aero helmets. This should be interesting.

Also not me
I registered, paid for my one-day UCI (International Cycling Union) license and headed back out on the roads for a quick warm-up. I’ve run well over a hundred road races and I have a certain time-tested, pre-race routine that I like to follow. But, for this new kind of race, I had no idea what to do to get ready. So, I sort of “faked it” – did 2 miles easy with a few “sprints” mixed in and then headed over to the start line.

My starting position was 11th out of 51 riders and that was set only by the fact that I was 11th in line at registration. So, there was no rhyme or reason to the starting order and the people in front of (and behind) me looked pretty fast. Heck, everybody looked fast! And, I fully expected to get swallowed up by all 40 riders that started after me. The riders in front went off at 30 second intervals and soon it was my time to begin. The starter gave me some last-minute, pre-race instructions and I was off. Well not exactly.

You see, at the start line there is a person who is a designated “bike holder” and (oddly enough) holds your bike while you clip into your pedals. The idea for the holder is that you don’t lose any time clipping in, you just start pedaling right away when the time comes for you to start. Unfortunately, I haven’t really mastered the art of bike balancing and nearly fell over during the hold. Embarrassed, delayed and a little bruised, I “chose” to start the old-fashioned way and gratefully made my way down the road.

That's more like it
The guy in front of me was already out of sight. And, since I had given him a 20 second head start with the whole clip-in debacle (on top of the 30 he already had) the idea of catching him was quickly removed from my focus. My main goals now were to not: burn up, crash or get lost. And, hold off the guys behind me for as long as possible. However, my Mile 1 pace average was 24 mph. Yikes! And, soon thereafter I was passed by a rider two spot behind me. Sheesh! Two miles down and two goals already out the window!

After a while I settled into a comfortably hard pace (around 21 mph) and tried to maintain that. Later, another guy went by me and I tried to hang on to his slipstream. I stayed with him for maybe ¼ mile before he pulled away. And, strangely, I was looking forward to getting passed again so I could try to hang on a bit longer. Towards the end of the race I was getting pretty tired but I also got my wish as I heard the word “left” coming from right behind me.

WVTT Profile - WTF?!
The passing rider flew by me on the outside and I immediately stood up on my pedals trying to catch back up. I managed to pull back some time and worked to hang on to him for almost a mile. We went back and forth a bit before he finally pulled away on the last big downhill. Note to self: work on reducing fear of death. I took the last right turn, “sprinted” the final uphill section and crossed the line completely spent.

My official time was 26:09 which translated to a 22.37 mph average and earned me 32nd place overall (out of 51) and 16th place in the “non-aero division”. I definitely have a lot to learn about this sport but, all things considered, it wasn’t a bad start to my bike racing “career”. And, I’m already looking forward to my next ride at the CBTT and my first long TT at the Waterville Valley Time Trial later this month. From the looks of the WVTT course profile I'm going to need to work on my hill climbing!

Now,  if I could only get me one of those cool looking helmets …


  1. I can hook you up with a cool looking helmet. I replaced my old Rudy Project Syton Comp - if you can fit a Rudy S/M (That is the same size Andy has, also replaced) you can buy either one of ours. Lightly used, as we rarely do any TTs.

  2. Honestly, I'm not really that concerned right now about upgrading my "equipment". I just need to focus on the things I can "do" better: climbing/descending, body position, pedal stroke, pacing, cadence, gearing, etc. If I can improve these areas, then I'll start to think about other ways to shave seconds.