Cold weather and snow the day before meant the start of this years Circuit of Pendle was delayed by an hour. A wise choice by the organisers because the Sun broke through the morning clouds treating us to wonderful racing conditions when we eventually got out on the road.
As is often the case with SPOCO’s traffic wasn’t always on my side, but it’s luck of the draw. We’re all in the same boat. I posted a time of 1:08:05, averaging 24mph over the 27 miles and 1,824 feet of climbing for this course. Good enough for 8th place.
The delay probably didn’t my head any good, but I still felt pretty relaxed. I’m becoming a lot more comfortable with racing, the atmosphere at HQ’s, organising myself so there’s no panic before the ride.
However, I was ready to race at my scheduled time of 10:14. I was feeling good and well fuelled. The delay meant I had a bit of waiting around (as did everyone). Time for the fire to dwindle slightly.
Once I got a banana down me before starting my warm up the flames ignited again. I was still up for it today.
Circuit of Pendle
I find this a frustrating course. For the most part it’s decent enough, offering a bit of everything; a challenging climb, fast descents, undulations, and at 27 miles it’s a good distance too.
However, the stretches of road that run through Barrowford are a nightmare. You’re faced with Sunday drivers window shopping as they chug aimlessly through the town centre, pedestrians, traffic lights, and of course busy roundabouts. Today I had to overtake a number of slow moving cars, before finally getting ‘stuck’ behind a Mercedes that was going a bit too quick for it to be worth spending the extra energy to overtake, but not quite as quick as I would’ve been going had it not been there.
Overall, I’m pleased with my pacing today. I have a habit (as does everyone) of going out too hard, but manage to restrain myself well this time. I let myself get a little too comfortable in the effort though and settled into a pace that was a little slower than I could’ve managed. Not much, but I’m still learning where that line is.
With it being a cold day I opted to wear my winter skin suit by Nalini, instead of our Champion System THR kit. The Nalini suit has a fleece lining which kept me warm through the entire ride. Some of the lads I spoke to complained how cold the conditions were but I can honestly say I didn’t notice! I sacrificed aero ever so slightly because I have twigs for arms and the material isn’t as tight on my upper body as it could be. Today though, I’d rather be warm!
I have a power meter but when racing I never look at it now. I learned that lesson last season. Normally my screen would show my time, average speed, cadence, and a few other bits of information.
I decided this time to completely strip everything from my Garmin screen. Opting for simply a map of the route, my cadence, and my current speed.
This seemed to help me focus on the ride and not get distracted, disheartened, or overwhelmed by data. In the early miles I stayed on top of my gear nicely, which was always my plan going in to today. However up the first drag I was reluctant to change down into the smaller ring at the front. Shifting during my warm up was extremely difficult, and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the easy gears on the descent towards Barrowford. I think this is the first place I could’ve gone quicker if I was to do the ride again. I found myself getting bogged down by a gear that was too big for my little legs.
Entering Barrowford at speed I was looking for a clean run through the village. But Lady luck was no where to be seen. Perhaps she was also stuck behind slow moving traffic?
It was going up the main climb out of Blacko that I first realised I had underestimated my own legs (sorry guys, you should’ve spoken up earlier). Towards the top I wanted to start upping the effort a bit. My breathing had remained rhythmic and consistent up until this point and I’d settled into the effort nicely. I got on the bull-horns and started squeezing some extra power out. It felt good. I gave it a bit more. Before I knew it the climb was done and I had caught and passed a number of riders who had gone out before me.
Bombing the hill down towards Gisburn was a lot of fun. There are a few little kick-ups along the way but as I was spinning out my gears at 40+mph holding speed on these short rises wasn’t an issue. Before long I was at Gisburn and again found myself a bit too involved in Sunday traffic. A queue of cars turning in all directions at a T junction meant coming to a dead stop before weaving in-and-out of people’s blind spot and generally being a nuisance to other road users. So as not to lose too many seconds in a bicycle race! Ha.
This was it now though. Most of the course was behind me, what remained was a grippy, fast stretch of A59. And, oh! What’s this? More traffic woe’s. Thankfully the last of the day but on a part of the race that should be super fast possibly the most frustrating obstacle I faced all day. A car stopped in the middle of the road with traffic building on both sides.
My first thoughts were that someone had come off. Thankfully they hadn’t, but yet more seconds and energy were wasted dodging traffic and getting back up to speed.
It was somewhere around this point I was caught and passed by James Gullen. On an absolutely storming ride! I was again reminded that time trialling is a constant mental checklist;
- Am I on top of my gear? Okay, good.
- Could I manage a more difficult gear? Maybe. Try it.
- Is this gear on top of me? Yes? Change down. No? See step 2.
- How’s my position? Could I be more aero?
- What’s my breathing like?
- What’s coming up soon on the course?
It seems to simple. It is simple. But if my adrenaline is pumping and things are feeling slow I can find it extremely difficult to trust this process.
The further into the ride you get, the more difficult it becomes to both remember to run through the list, and also be honest with yourself when doing so. When James passed me I automatically knocked it into a tougher gear and upped the pace. The discomfort in doing so was minor and I held this extra effort for the next few miles to the finish. James disappeared into the distance but it was another reminder that given the choice, the body will be lazy and I had settled into a pace that was too comfortable, rather than pushing myself completely.
I caught a few more riders and the legs felt super strong even into the slight headwind on the run in to the finish line.
I realised I hadn’t been able to completely empty the tank.
Note to self then; DIG IN!
Next week if I don’t arrive back at HQ shaking and on the verge of being sick from the effort I’ll be disappointed. I mean bloody hell, I manage to do that in my garage and out training. It’s about time I trusted myself to do a proper effort in a time trial.
All said and done, I finished eighth (and lost out on seventh by two seconds) in a strong field. I had a much better ride than last week and I’m feeling more confident every time I get on the Shiv.
I’m already looking forward next week. Which is a welcome change to that lingering feeling of dread I’ve had about competition in the past.