After Saturday’s ride through a mini gale, it was more ‘gluttony for punishment’ this morning at the Charlotteville CC 50 mile TT on the Bentley course. A big field of 110 riders, plus 47 women in a separate event were on the startsheet. But, given the forecast wind and rain, quite a few thought better of it and stayed at home. I could feel proud for riding through the conditions, but I had my own moment of weakness, frantically checking the Weather forecast on Sun morning trying to work out if 0.6mm of rain is enough excuse to give cycling on a dual carriageway a miss.
It was a pretty close call, but, buoyed by Saturday’s ride I thought I’d risk a drive down to Hampshire and have a go at my first ‘fast’ 50. (I’ve already done the Circuit of the Dales 50 earlier in April, but it’s not really a fast 50)
It was windy and chilly. But, not quite as crazily windy as Sat, and the forecast rain never materialised. In fact the sun, defied all predictions and came out to marginally warm up the May morning. I was off quite late at 10.50 but the A31 never seems to get too busy, whatever the time. The traffic felt quite light this morning.
The start is pretty hard. Uphill, into block headwind and some pretty ropey road surface as you get towards Chawton. The best way to start a 50 is nice and steady, but, following the logic of going harder when it’s hard – I started with a big effort, though at a depressingly low speed.
You’re never sure which is worse – battling through a headwind – or the rhythm breaking vibrations of the horizontal ‘trenches’ every 20 metres in the road. But, after negotiating the pits and rivets around the Chawton roundabout, it was time to enjoy the tailwind sailing back up to Farnham. After 12 miles, at least the road surface became smooth.
Just because you’ve written a blog post about the benefits of holding back with a strong tailwind behind, doesn’t mean you will actually listen to your own advice. Somehow after grovelling along at 22 mph – you get carried away when you start flying along smooth tarmac, it’s easy to forget you’re doing a 50 and think maybe you’ll just go really hard and enjoy the speed.
I touched 42mph at some points, and the gradient was only 1 or 2%. It was fun even if not the best pacing strategy.
As the 50 mile race wore on, there was an increasing discrepancy between my perceived effort and power reading. I felt like saying to the metaphorical power meter – what do you mean I’m only 270 watts – I’m going as hard as I can into headwind it should be 330 watts! That’s the problem with cycle racing, you can have all the theory in the world, but sometimes, you can’t put it into practice.
Fortunately or unfortunately the power meter is a remorseless reminder of true effort – there’s no hiding place. The race just felt really tough, and it was one of those days where there’s nothing to do but grin and bear it – grind out a ride and think of it as good training.
In the end I did 1.54 – a personal worse for the course. But, good enough for second place behind Stephen Whitewick (VeloRefined Aerosmiths) who won in good time of 1.52. In the women’s event, Rebecca Slack of Look Mum No Hands! won with 2:04:55 getting the better of 2nd place Bronwen Ewing (Trainsharp).
My first 20 miles lap was at 288W. The second 20 mile lap at 269w. The last 10 miles, probably even less. The average for race was 277. In pure power terms, a bit disappointing, but it wasn’t a day for getting hung up on numbers. It was a day just to revel in getting round.
I did get home to watch most of last 50k of Giro stage – there’s always some who have worse conditions than you (Ireland). Though I did enjoy seeing Ireland bedecked in pink. It was a good sprint, I thought Ben Swift had won, until Marcel Kittel came from about 12 positions back to make everyone else look like a Vet plodding up the A31 into a headwind- it was reminiscent of Cavendish on his absolute top form.
Marcel Kittel is keeping his power numbers to himself, he doesn’t want rivals knowing what power they need to be able to drop him. Well, I bet it’s a little more than 277 watts…