After an excellent dinner and a relaxing evening last night chez Newport, we saddled up again this morning for the TT. By my 10:30 start time the breeze was picking up a bit but it was HOT. Yesterday's road race averaged 23mph over 52 miles, but because of all the corners on the course actually felt quite a huge bit harder than that. Also, yesterday's insane heat had played a role, as had whatever's going on in the left side of my head/ear/jaw. Getting that checked out ASAP. I was hoping that the excitement of the TT would carry my fairly dead legs through the effort, and that riding Claritin clear would help my breathing issues.
Out of the gate, I was rolling well and passed my 30 second guy early on. The first left turn revealed the reason I had been able to go 33 so relatively easily on the first section. Wind. I got passed by my -30 second guy before the right turn to start the rollers and hill. He was in the full TT setup and was rolling wicked fast so I wasn't crushed by this. It was also good to have him for motivation. As the hill began in earnest, my -1:00 guy came by. Another fully set up TT guy who was also rolling strong. The hill kind of felt like crap, not going to lie there. Behind me, there was just a chasm of time before people started coming up. As it turned out, my efforts were good for mid fleet. Not great, but not too bad. Time wise, I wasn't close to the top but was close to very respectable. The wattage was okay, nothing special. About what I can do normally for 20 minutes, but this was 27 minutes. My technique obviously needs some work but my strength is okay. I had been hoping at least for my time to be good enough to be in the top 10 of the Cat 4 field but it was instead just in the top 20. No idea how many of the Cat 3-4 field was composed of Cat 4s but of the people I recognized, all were 3s. With two other fields for 4s to race in and all the upgrade points on offer, I guess most of my field was 3s. It's hard to compare between the two since we raced at different times and I'd obviously had about 25% more hard miles yesterday. What is clear is the some guys (Tim from Bike Rack, for example) straight up ROLLED that TT in Cat 4. The winning time for their field would have done very well indeed in the Cat 3-4 TT. But file it away for future use - the Pain Mountain TT packs a wallop in the back end.
There was a gnawing anxiety about my first hard corner crit since the crash. I almost didn't start. 80 guys on that small course, with enough guys strong enough that maintaining strong position would be a battle. I staged well and rode a few solid laps but was getting really hinked out by being in the group and as everyone knows, that's a downward spiral. Being not even close to aggressive enough meant moving backward, which put me back with the sketch balls and required brutal efforts out of turn two. On about the 8th lap, a fat guy dove the corner on me really hard, took me out to the curb and cost me all of my momentum. A string of guys went past and now I had to close a gap. I threw what I had at getting back up, passed the ice dream fan and took a fast line into the corner where the same freaking guy did the same freaking thing. I pulled myself. My nerve was shot - Austin Powers had lost his mojo. I was clearly incapable of getting to a position to help my team mates and know enough that when you've got crashing on the mind it's time to pack it in. In hindsight, there was a lot of this going on yesterday, which made that race more demanding for me than it should have been. Today's aggressive crit, even the fear I felt before the race began, just made it painfully evident.
The race, in total, was a great experience for me. When you're tested like that by guys with superior fitness in skills, it brings your own shortcomings into sharp relief. I have a good solid base, on which I'll need to develop a lot of the top end. 30 second and one minute intervals to develop the race sharpness that I now lack, and a lot of racing to re-acclimate myself and redevelop the aggressive posture without which I won't be in a position to score in races.
Next up is Fort Richie in a couple of weeks, at which I'll race the 4 and probably the 35+. I won't expect any profound improvements in sharpness by then, but should be able to keep myself in better position so as not to need to dig so deep so often. Several of the guys in the 3-4 field this weekend are on their way directly to the 2 field. Getting pretty far out of my comfort zone this weekend will hopefully help me relax a bit more in the more manageable Cat 4 races to come. Sure, you sacrifice some smoothness in the field, but comparing this weekend to Syn-Fit, for example, tells me that I'll be able to play a few jokers and put myself where I need to be with relative ease.
Hopefully some picture of my getting dropped yesterday makes it to You Got Dropped for my 15 seconds of fame. If not, I may have to submit a file photo. Who knows, I might already be up there. Going to go check now.