Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NorCal/Nevada District Time Trail Championships 2012

Second place! L-R: Me, Rob Anderson, David Kelley
NorCal/Nevada District Time Trial Championships 2012 (June 10, 2012)
by Jim Langley

Nils Tikkanen and I took the long drive up to Sattley for the State TT Championships last weekend and we had a fantastic couple of days enjoying the beautiful high country around the Donner Lake area and racing our funny bikes in our even funnier speedsuits and pointy helmets.

I've been working hard since I managed a tenth in the National TT Championship last year and Coach Mark encouraged me to focus more on time trialing - since it seems I have some ability there. I've been riding our UCSC repeats on the TT bike and Mark has scheduled Saturday workouts where we do repeats on Swanton Road, that are perfect for the aero bikes too.

These workouts work wonders. This past Thursday on one of the windiest nights I've experienced out there, I knocked another 10 seconds off my Swanton TT posting a 29:28, so I went into the States feeling ready.

Nils on the left. You can see how flat the road is.
I've also been steadily improving my two-wheeled missile and aero tuck. I have dropped my front end close to three inches and narrowed my arms almost as much. And Mark has tweaked my training to ensure I can deliver the steady power required to hammer non-stop for almost an hour. (If you need any time trial training or equipment advice, just ask, because we've probably been there, done that, and we are learning what works and what doesn't.)

Nils has been setting blistering times on the Swanton TT too, has ridden in the 51s up at Sattley in the past and has his Giant Trinity dialed and flying. He had also picked up a spanking-new Castelli speed suit and Giro Selector aero lid for the race, too (same helmet I'm riding). He could have entered the age-group event but decided to sign up for the stacked Elite Men category.

Jim, just before the turnaround.
I signed up for the Masters Men 55-59, my last time competing in this category because my racing age will be 60 next year. Racers seems to sign up late for Sattley and for the longest time the only other person registered was National and World Champ Rob Anderson who had taken almost two minutes out of me over only a 25K TT course up in Bend, Oregon last year at the Nationals 55-59 TT. But, by the morning of the race, a few other big names had signed up, including Mac Carey who I have never come close to in a time trial.

One of the highlights of the trip was staying at teammate Larry and Priscilla Broberg's lovely home only a half hour away from the race course. They took us out for a gourmet meal at The Lodge restaurant and then fired us up for Sunday's racing by tuning in the final time trial of the Criterium du Dauphine on the TV. Watching Peter Sagan barely beat Cancellara was something else and I'm sure Nils had as much trouble getting to sleep as I did thinking about how we were going to tear the cranks off our bikes all Sagan-like in the morning.

Awesome shot of Nils
Before we headed off for the racing, Larry whipped up a couple of amazing lattes for the road with his cool little coffee-maker and Nils drank two for good measure. Arriving at the race, we parked next to another 55-59er named Craig Larsen who had an easy-up shelter that he offered to share if we'd help him set it up. It was nice warming up on the trainers out of the sun. The air was cool in the morning but the sun was already hot.

Time trials are pretty laid-back scenes. There's no posturing or trash talking because there's no place to hide out there on the race course. You either have it or you don't and the clock doesn't lie. So, usually people are talking and getting their bikes ready and warming up pretty seriously. I even heard a lot of guys joking about how slow they were going to go. There were about 150 racers in all, going off in 30-second intervals.

The course is almost dead-straight and pancake flat (compared to anything we have around Santa Cruz). It does rise ever so gently on the way out and descends the same on the way back. There are mile markers painted on the road - 1 through 12 and then there's the turnaround cone in the road and the numbers go down from 12 to 1 again on the way in on the other side of the road (not 13 to 24 as you might expect). I was only passed by three cars over the entire 25-mile ride.

Nils went before me looking super fast in his new kit in his super-low tuck and set a time around 53 minutes. [Note: maybe Nils will have a chance to add some of his race comments]

I left at 9:26 a.m. with three guys in my group leaving before me, including Mac. The fun thing about Sattley is that the road is so straight you can see your 30-second man and gauge how you're going watching him come back or pull away!

Homeward bound - I need to get even lower
I had a watts target and took off a bit conservatively, but couldn't stop looking at that guy in front of me and gradually took it up to around 250 average watts. Coach Mark had strongly advised me to be careful due to racing at 5,000 feet and the effect of the thin air making it feel easy but coming back to hurt you badly late in the race if you burned your matches too early.

So, I tried to keep steady pressure on the pedals and reel in the guy ahead while letting the watts drop to around 243. I felt good. There was a pretty strong wind from the right pushing me toward the middle of the road thanks to my 90mm front Bontrager Aeolus wheel. But I'm used to much worse wind on the Swanton time trial, and I just kept focused on riding straight. Still, by the turnaround I had a minor shoulder cramp from the countersteering I was doing to ride straight.

About 10 miles in I caught my 30-second man and realized I was close to the two guys ahead of him. I kept the pace steady and caught both of them before the turnaround worrying that I might be pushing it too hard, because one of them was Mac and I have never been close to him before in a time trial (he is coming off a really bad crash so I think he's just getting his form back).

I glanced at the time at the turnaround and saw that I was over 30 minutes already. That was frustrating because my first goal was to break an hour. But, as soon as I was heading home I could feel that the going was easier. On the outboard leg it was difficult to hit 26mph and now I was able to punch it to over 30mph.

The ride in started great but quickly turned painful. I was concerned the entire time that I had gone out too hard because my legs started aching more and more, and I couldn't generate the speed I felt I should have been able to.

I've got a 55/11 highest gear on my Cervelo P2 and I spent the whole return leg on that or the 12 and was over 30mph a lot of the way, sometimes 34. My watts were stuck at around 243 though. I just couldn't add any more. I kept watching the speed and gave it everything trying to keep above 30mph. The mile markers clicked off fast, 9, 8, 7, 6 - then I lost track of them because I had to focus 100% on my form and finishing strong.

I did see the 5K to-go marker and then the mile to-go sign. By that point I was breathing heavily and my legs were thrashing, losing coordination. I was afraid to look at the timer but decided to, just to take my mind off the feeling that I was losing it. I was amazed to see that I was at around 54 minutes! If I could only maintain speed I could finish in the 55s - a quality time! So I tried harder still and even stood up and sprinted for the line - more like wobbled since my legs almost gave out when I rose off the seat.

I was super happy to finish in 55:31 for an average speed of 27mph. It wasn't fast enough to win. Rob had a great ride finishing in 54:26 with an average speed about .5mph faster than mine. So he won and I took the silver medal and David Kelley took third with a fine 56:32.

Second in the Districts is my best finish ever so I want to thank Coach Mark Edwards for all his help getting me there, Keith Bontrager for loaning me the fastest front wheel on the planet, Giro for getting me into one of their sweet Selector helmets way back in October, Lightning Cycle Dynamics for providing their trick carbon crankset with 160mm arms, the Bicycle Trip for all the support this year, Wade Hall at The Spokesman for suggesting the shorter cranks, and all you teammates for getting out there every week and pushing me to get better. Thanks everyone!



Nils said...

Congratulations, Jim!

Notes from my race: This season has been quite tumultuous for me and I wasn't nearly as prepared for this event as I was in 2010. Nevertheless, it was great to head up to beautiful Tahoe to race.

I'll be coming back next year with a vengeance, my own wheels, and a power meter. :)

Dennis the Mennis said...

Awesome race, Jim! Truly impressive to see all that effort pay off. And the process of watching your experimentation and training has been very cool. Congratulations!

Ken said...

Congratulations Jim, I knew you were on good form- very impressive. I am curious to learn more about the short cranks.