Thursday, 12 May 2011

Go Fast Not Hard

Lately I've spent a lot of time being that dink on a TT bike. Chairman May was kind enough to shove his TT bike at me for indefinite usage, so with potentially* a bunch of races with TTs coming up, I decided to try and figure out how to make good use of the thing.

The point of a TT bike is position. Yes the bike itself is supposed to be more aero than a typical bike but the huge majority of form drag still comes from the rider. Put the rider in a position that alleviates that and you should go faster. Of course if the shape you adopt means you can't push the pedals hard, you don't get the benefit you should. On that end, I've got what seems (based on the highly scientifical 'how fast do I cost down known hills' test) to be a decently fast position. I can't quite match the awesomely mediocre wattage in this position that I can on a road bike, but I definitely go faster. Significantly so on a flat road - like 2 mph a lot of the time.

There's both a training and a practice aspect to working on TTs. Training is getting physiological adaptations to be able to produce more power in the TT position. My ass muscles are pretty wrecked when I come back from a session on the pain box. Last night was 2x30' at 85% LT, which demolished the ass meat. The other training piece is teaching your body to hold the position for a long time. I drop my head A LOT when I ride, which we all know is slow as hell in a TT helmet. Can't do that. Thanks to my lovely sinus passages, I need to clear my nostrils quite frequently, so I've learned to do that without breaking form (although I am turning the cockpit of Mike's bike into a SuperFund site as a result). Shit like that.

Practice comes out to getting better at shifting to maintain optimal cadence, and finding optimal cadence in the first place. I've found I'm much faster when I focus on fast feet instead of forceful legs. Not TT related, but I noticed from VO2 hill repeats on Tuesday night that I am decidedly faster when I spin hard for as long as possible, and then stand and hammer out the end. Accelerate standing, sit down until just before the moment of raging burn, then stand for the final push. Not only is speed per watt better while doing that, there is a carryover benefit to the next repeat. It might be different for you. But that's something that's more practice than training to me.

There are also a lot of tricks that seem to get you free or nearly free speed. Dosing out a very short blast to keep momentum high is a huge one. I noticed how elites that I saw doing the Ephrata TT would pound it over the crest of hills, and be up to Mach + as soon as their front wheels pointed down. A dose of pain but with big payoff. There seem to be a lot of those kind of deals where you are trying to keep the flow going. It's like catching a good wave and staying on it, and doing whatever it takes to stay on it. It takes a lot to catch that wave and it will take just as much to catch the next, but staying on the one you've caught will carry you further, faster and at less cost.

I'm not saying I'll ever not suck at TTs. Grayson from DVR was out going a LOT faster than me last night (although I think my intervals were way longer). But you know, if I didn't try while I've got the chance that'd make me an idiot.

*So Killington is going to happen despite some bumps in the road. The one I question is Washington County. With the prologue added, you now have to stay over Friday night or wake up at like 430 on Saturday morning to get there on time. There's no way I'll be anything but a corpse on Sunday if I do the Friday night race so that ain't happening. So ToWC goes from being a pretty mellow thing to a full on weekend of hotel rooms, expense, and life on hold. And if that's the cost, we're thinking why not drive a bit further and go do the stage race in Asheville in July instead. Or a destination MTB race, or something. Green Mountain. We could go to the beach and visit the in-laws and do a fun crit on ToWC weekend, which is an attractive alternate. I know there are those who are feeling all pro about how rhe race is structured but I'm not one of them. So that's the asterix.

Now to figure out how to survive Saturday's impending Poolesville massacre. Sweet.

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