Saturday, May 30, 2009
An individual time trial is often referred to as a "race of truth." It is called such because team tactics and drafting are removed. Each rider must fend for themselves. This truth is not an absolute, however. A flat TT clearly favors bigger guys that put out raw Watts. A climbing TT will favor small guys that put out high Watts per kilogram. What flavor of "truth" would you like? Both climber and flat TT specialists might do poorly on a technical course with tight turns, so riders with handling skills might come out ahead. Perhaps an honest race of truth somehow mixes all of these elements into one course.
But what about equipment? Pro's pretty much all have the same stuff, get wind tunnel testing, the works. In the amateur ranks, there is wide variation in equipment and how well the rider is fit to his or her rig. I do not have a TT bike. I refuse to go part way by clipping on aero bars. It is an all or nothing deal for me. Unfortunately, equipment makes a huge difference in a fast time trial. There's no way to be competitive with your peer group if you lack the equipment they are riding. To some degree, I resent this barrier to entry. A decent TT setup (bike, wheels, helmet) can easily cost thousands. I can see putting this into a light weight hillclimb bike, as it can be used for road races and everyday riding. A TT bike has very limited utility in my book.
I did the WVTT last year, so my goal was to beat last year's time. The course was extended slightly this year. I used the same bike but with slightly less aero wheels, modest section aluminum Rolf's. I did use my IBC skinsuit for the first time. So all that was pretty much the same. The weather was different, however. It was cooler (cold air is denser, thus slower), and it was windier. There was virtually no wind last year. By 10:07am, my start time, the gusts were picking up pretty good.
My bib number was 3. This meant I was third fastest guy from last year that registered this year and was third to last guy to go off. The two guys behind me were much faster than me last year and would surely pass me early with their TT equipment. One was Patrick Ruane (Sunapee/S&W). Brad Ek (NHCC) was #4 from last, my 30 second man. This was perfect, as I beat him by 8 seconds last year. I figured I would pass him on the climb out, then he'd steamroll by me on the descent back. Whether he'd take back those 30 seconds and beat me in the end was up in the air. Or so I thought.
The WVTT profile. Little ripples at lower elevations are not really there.
I push off, and it didn't take long before I realized I was going too hard. A diagonal head wind had something to do with this. It was taking my speed down and I was over-compensating. The road is quite open and I could see Brad almost continuously. The deal was, he wasn't getting any bigger in my field of vision. I pass my one minute guy, but Brad still looked like he was 30 seconds out. I think it was Patrick that passed me just before the steepest part approaching the Waterville Valley village. He passed me decisively. Then the speeds drop to less than 15mph and all the aero goodies lose their effectiveness. I'm pretty sure I took a few seconds back from Patrick since I gained on him on a constant grade. But once we topped out near the village into a gusty headwind, Patrick and Brad were both gone.
Like last year, riders that were near me beginning the descent put incredible time on me during the descent. Of course, they all have aero equipment. The speeds on the return trip are very high. I saw a max of 43.1mph. Aero is hugely important at these speeds. Unlike last year, nobody passed me on the return. The only two staged behind me passed me heading out, and only one rider I passed was well behind me. Initially, there was nice tail wind heading back out of the village. Much of the course dealt with crosswind. But due to how mountains shape wind flow, we had some more headwind coming the last few km's into the finish too.
I finished with a 49:27.15, almost a minute slower than last year. The course was extended a claimed 600m this year, making it an even 20.0mi (32.2km), so times should be slightly slower on average. But the wind was the biggest factor. Here's some stat's:
70F, calm winds
63F, moderate NW wind
So very nearly same average speed on cooler, windier day. I'll take it. Very good chance I averaged higher power and had a better race this year than last year despite not placing as well. It is interesting to note that I averaged 19.7mph heading out to exact half-way point (right at taking left to loop through village), and I averaged 31.7mph coming back. Combination of gradient and wind was behind this. Last year I had max speed of 38mph, this year 43mph. The average speed is pretty impressive I think considering I rode cannibal, it was breezy and there's about 1100ft of climbing on the course. Don't think I got girled either.
Doing a little "research" on the web, I could expect a full TT setup to boost my average speed by at least 2mph on this course. A boost of just 1mph could have netted me a win in my age category. Does this bug me? Just a little. Does it bug me enough to drop some serious nickle on a TT rig? Probably not. The so called race of truth is more like a race of best setups in the amateur ranks. There are some stage races I'd like to participate in sometime. No TT bike = not competitive in the GC. I keep threatening to make the plunge. Maybe this year will be the year.