Sunday was the TTT state championships yesterday and this was my first time racing in the CAT 1/2 (Senior Men's) category. I knew it was going to be a hard race ... and it didn't disappoint!
I didn't get the warm up I wanted due to getting out of the house later than I wanted and having start times earlier than expected. I was able to get in about 30 minutes before meeting up with my teammates and had a good sweat going before putting things away and heading to the start line.
Since I'm a CAT 3 ... this was the first time riding with any of my teammates, giving me little idea about what to expect in terms or rotations, smoothness, speeds, etc. ... however, they had ridden together in many races and TTT's before.
As we headed to the start line we did a little pace-line work (the start was about a mile from the staging area). We didn't really have a plan as far as which riders we would place where and just kinda winged it. We did decide to start with 30 second pulls instead of 1 minute pulls which was probably a pretty good idea.
We lined up, the clock counted down and we were off ... I was 4th man as we assembled and took off, which allowed me a little time to see what the pace would be like.
Well ... the pace was "Insane" from the start ... Out of the gate we were doing 30 mph into a 12-15 mph cross/headwind!
Needless to say, we were going a little faster than anticipated and my HR was through the roof. I managed to stay on and complete my pulls and lead the group up the only short hill on the course.
I fell off the back a couple times ... mostly due to having problems getting in the draft after my pulls. In the past, with a slower pace it wasn't as hard to jump on ... but at this pace you had to be in the draft before you hit the back wheel. With that in mind, I was able to get a little draft off of them and TT my way back up to them within 15 seconds or so ... but it drained me doing this 3-4 times.
After the hill and a couple turns, we had a "Long" straight into a headwind where we averaged around 25 - 26 mph. The pace had settled down, but was still very hard.
The first 11 miles or so of the race was into the headwind/cross-headwind. Once we made the turn we had a hard crosswind from our right and I could feel it pushing me around a fair amount, so I'm guessing my teammates were feeling it as well ... however, we were able to hold a good eschelon through the next 1.5 - miles before the turn back home.
When we made the turn, I was feeling it ... we had been holding 30 - 32 mph in the crosswind section and I was starting to wonder if I could hold on to the end. Then as I came off my pull and drifted back ... there were only two other riders in our group! We had dropped, likely the strongest rider in the group (last years Senior Men's road race champ). During the last part of the hard crosswind section he missed jumping on the last wheel after a long and very strong pull ... not knowing this the next guy took another hard pull ... and he was off the back. The next thing we knew he was 150+ meters back and the others decided to just keep going.
So, at this point ... I had no choice but to try and dig deep and hang on. For a couple rotations I just sat on the back while the other two rotated up front. We had the wind at our back and were rolling along in the 34 - 35 mph range. My HR finally dropped back down into the upper 150 BPM range (it was in the upper 160 - low 170 BPM range during the first half of the course) and I was able to start taking some pulls again.
Over the last section I sat out of one or two more rotations, but was still able to contribute to the effort as we were motoring along.
With 1k to go ... I think we all dug deep and finished hard ... crossing the line with a time of 49:41 over 23.8 miles (just under a 29 mph average).
We didn't know where we finished results wise at the time, but knew we didn't win. We checked with another team and knew we didn't get 2nd either ... so we were knew we put in a very solid effort, but didn't really think we made the podium. With that in mind, the others on the team went out for another ride, though at a slower pace, knowing they have stage races coming up and wanted extra miles on the day.
I stuck around to see where we finished not really having anything else to do that day and wanting to see where we finished compared to the others.
As it turns out ... we ended up 3rd and on the podium.
It was a had, hard race ... and I felt a little bad not being in as good of shape as I could have been. I'm still around 200 pounds (usually am about 10 pounds lighter this time of the year) and haven't hit the intervals as hard due to more base miles since my season hit's it's high point in July/August ... so I start hard efforts again this week.
Anyway ... it was the fastest race I've ever done and was a super hard effort, but I'm happy with a podium at this level. The winners were about 2 minutes faster than us but had two domestic pro's and two of the fastest TT racers in the state on their team ... so I don't feel bad about that.
The TTT continues to be my favorite race of the season and I wish there were a few more on the schedule each year.