Yesterday was the Oregon Team Time Trial State Championships....My favorite/Most rewarding race of the year. I love the TTT because it's not just you against everybody else, teams are comprised of 4 teammates and you have to work together if you want to do well. The clock doesn't stop until your 3rd of the 4 riders crosses the line and to go fast you have to work as a team.
It's still a race against the clock, but teamwork is absolutely crucial.
The other aspect of TTT's is there probably isn't a race out there where you can brutalize your body to such levels and keep going because your team is relying on your help to finish...then sit around after and talk about how great the race was. Basically it's a straight hour of VO2 Max intervals. My Heart rate stayed at or above threshold for the entire 58 minutes we were racing. To put it in simple terms......it just plain hurts...A LOT =)
Last year I raced on our CAT 4/5 team where we finished with a time of 59:28 for the 27.2 mile course. It was hard, really hard but we were able to win the CAT 4/5 class and bring home a State Championship for Portland Velo as well as set a CAT 4/5 course record.
This year I'm a CAT 3 racer and hence moved up to the CAT 3 team. We had a pretty loaded team this year and knew we had a good shot at winning another State Championship this year (our CAT 3 team won last year as well).
Overall, the conditions were good...at least on the surface.
The temps continually rose through the day and at the start were somewhere between 88 and 90 degrees...which is probably the hottest day of the year so far. The wind wasn't too bad with a bit of a cross wind in the 4 mph - 7 mph range with gusts to around 10 mph. So overall...not bad, but the heat took it's toll on a lot of people including several teammates of mine (from both of our CAT 3 teams as well as our CAT 4/5 team).
Our start was good, but as we waited at the start line several teams passed us...which caused some problems on the first lap. We were faster than those teams in front of us and as we came up on them, they failed to neutralize or at least give us room to pass...so we had to keep shouting "On your left" until we were able to get by. We had to do this 4 times on the first long stretch of road. Once we got by them things smoothed out a lot and we didn't run into any congestion like that again the rest of the race. However, that cost our team a good 10 - 20 seconds.
I think part of the congestion at the start put our team in a "Hurry up" mode as we averaged right around 30 mph for the first lap and it was taking everything I had just to hang on. The second lap was still pretty fast, but we settled in and had a smoother rotation going.
Our biggest problem was in the corners where we were inconsistant. On some corners we were perfect, others we had gaps open up and we would have to slow down to re-group.
The first two laps, I was also suffering from a bit of "Heartburn" from a powerbar/energy drink combo that didn't sit well in my stomach, so I was suffering a lot the first two laps. I had the thought of "If I drop off now, will the miss me?" go through my head more than once during the fist two laps. However, I hung in there and kept pulling my rotations as hard as I could.
Coming around for the 3rd lap I started to feel a lot better and was getting into a good rhythm during my pulls and was able to double my pull length with as high or higher speeds than for the first two laps. This was good because one of my teammates was starting to dehydrate and was suffering from a lack of electrolytes (his skinsuit was covered with salt at the end of the race). So his pulls were getting shorter and by the last lap he was just pulling through to hang on...which is exactly what he should have done because having the 4th person in the line still allows extra drafting while the rest of us were recovering from our pulls.
In the end we were able to finish with all 4 riders and a time of 58:30 which is also a new course record for the CAT 3 class. We were hoping to be about a minute faster on the day...but as it turns out, our time was pretty good this year.
We won the CAT 3 State Championship by 3 minutes and 50 seconds and had the 6th best time on the day out of all categories (including 2 teams put together by Land Rover/ORBEA...a domestic Pro squad...one of which we were faster than).
It was a hard day in the saddle....but again, this goes down as my favorite/most rewarding race of the year. It just doesn't get harder than a TTT =)