The last two weekends have been filled by a succession of South East Women’s Time Trial Series (SEWTTS) events and a pattern is definitely starting to emerge…SEWTTS = rain. For each event it either rained, or just stopped raining or didn’t rain but rain was forecast.
The first of three recent SEWTTS events was the Alton CC Open 10 mile TT on Saturday 28 June on the popular Bentley course near Farnham (H10/8 for those that speak TT code). Initially I had played with the thought of cycling to and from the event as it is relatively local to me, but the forecasters weren’t wrong when they promised rain so I chickened out and took the car instead. At times during the drive up along the A31 the rain was so heavy my windscreen wipers simply couldn’t handle it. When I arrived at the HQ the other SEWTTS women didn’t look overly keen either on the impending aqua biking, but at least we did it (in contrast to a staggering amount of DNS among the men…).
I hadn’t ridden on this road since September 2012 when I did a 25m TT here still on my road bike and was over the moon to get under the hour. The course was pretty much as I remembered it: fast, pretty flat and simply out to the roundabout and back. The perfect course for someone like me who can’t corner or climb very well. Because of the horrendous weather conditions there wasn’t too much traffic on the road and although it was nasty and wet, it felt safe at all times.
The start was delayed for 15 minutes because of the rain, but I doubt it made much of a difference as the rain was soon pounding very loudly on my TT helmet. I don’t know what it is about rain, but as long as it isn’t too windy, I actually quite like competing in the rain. I think it somehow makes me want to go faster, if only to get back to a warm HQ, a cup of tea and a piece of cake as soon as possible! I was chuffed to not only take the women’s win in the event (clocking a new 10 mile PB of 22:15) but also set a new PB for my 20 minute power (271W). Who knows.. perhaps once I have achieved some of my long distance goals, I could train that some more and become a decent short distance TTer? 😉
Here is a link to the strava file from this ride if you are interested.
And here is a link to the pictures from the event (me wearing my new black Castelli skinsuit which my husband kindly gave me for my birthday).
The next SEWTTS event was the Redhill Sporting 14m TT last Saturday (5th of July). At first I wasn’t quite sure whether to enter the event or not, because I had already entered the SEWTTS event the following day (the Richmond Park TT) and I was quite keen to do well at that one. After some deliberation, I decided to give both events a go anyway as the course for the Saturday event looked quite fun. The GS/189, a 14 mile course starting in Faygate near Crawley, is a bit lumpy and twisty, but nice quiet roads (generally in good shape), pretty rural scenery and generally I try to enter the SEWTTS events where my diary allows for it as I like to support this great new series.
It was a pity that this event organised by Redhill CC didn’t get some more entries (both men and women), as it really is a fun course to ride. Perhaps not fast like a dual carriage type of course, but certainly good fun. After a blustery wet morning, the sun actually came out, just in time for my recce/warm up ride on the course. Although the course was generally sheltered, I was a bit scared of the gusts that occasionally came through the hedges, so changed my deep section front wheel out for a shallow one. I was in the fortunate position to be the last woman starting and really enjoyed seeing how many I could find up the road. Psychologically, it really makes a difference when you can overtake people, rather than being overtaken. That is why it so good when organisers lump the start times of all the women together, rather than spread them out through the field. Not only is it more fun at HQ, but being overtaken by man after man isn’t all that good for morale.
I felt like I was going quite well in the event, despite loosing bags of time because I am so crap at cornering that I pretty much had to come back onto the base bars at every single bit of road that wasn’t dead straight.. And then as I made my way up the last little lump with just 0.5 mile to go before the finish.. I messed up a gear change (not sure how) and dropped and jammed my chain. I had to actually stop and turn the bike over in order to fiddle the chain back on (accompanied with plenty of swearing). Of course, I then didn’t manage to clip my feet back in until the 3rd time and once I finally was moving again, I had lost about 1.5 minutes, all of my speed and most of my spirit. Somehow I still managed to take the win (in 36:33) and back at HQ I enjoyed some nice chat with the other SEWTTS women. A lot have become familiar faces meanwhile, but it is nice to also see some new women at each event.
A lesson learned though and my TT bike has now been decorated with a chain catcher! I should have known better really and already sorted that out after the last time this happened when I couldn’t get the chain back on anymore at all and my coach had to push me all the way to the bike shop 😉
Here is a link to the strava file from this ride if you are interested.
The next day (Sunday 6th July) at 6am! it was time for the Richmond Park 10.4m TT. During the last two years I had entered this event on my road bike (without any aero equipment) as part of the London Women Cycle Racing League, but this year I was keen to try it on my TT bike. I live only 20 minutes from the park, so luckily it wasn’t too early a start but with the Holland – Costa Rica game finishing quite late I hadn’t slept all that much either (but hooray Holland won!).
During the week leading up to the Richmond Park TT, I had extended my commute home a bit one evening to remind myself of where the speed humps are and what the climb up Sawyer’s Hill felt like again (it always hurts me). Although I live so close to the park I actually hardly ever ride in it as I often find it too busy with cars and other cyclists and surprisingly even at 6am in the morning there were plenty of regular cyclists who weren’t taking part in the event!
Knowing that I was up against some very good riders, who also happen to know every inch of the park as they regularly train here, I had settled for third at best. Despite rain (again), sub-par power due to the TT the afternoon before and a lowish heart rate (suggesting I hadn’t really put in enough effort), I somehow managed to claim 2nd spot (in 26:16). Rebecca Slack, organiser of SEWTTS, was the well-deserved winner in 25:49, only 11 seconds away from the course record. Rebecca started 30 seconds behind me and at each corner and turn I was very aware of how I might hold her up with my granny like cornering. It wasn’t until I heard how she nearly came off and went cyclocrossing for a bit at ‘Cancellera corner’ that I understood why the expected catch never happened.
Even though it was just by 3 or 4 seconds, I was quite pleased to take 2nd rather than the expected 3rd place, perhaps even more so as it was Maryka, a good friend and club mate, and a rider for whom I have much respect but previously had never even dared to dream of beating, especially not in a shorter TT and certainly not on ‘her’ training grounds.
This raceshape file really shows how we differ as riders both in our physiology and approach. I struggle on every incline, but somehow I am that much faster on the descents (and in parts on the flat) that even the National Hill Climb Champion never quite gained back enough time uphill. It also shows how she really went for it in the last section, whereas I dieseled on as if there was at least another 10 mile to go 😉 Another rider asked me the other day why I was so much faster than she was on the descents. There is only one answer: CAKE! OK, and perhaps chocolate, oh and not to forget about cheese..And in the case of the evening before the Alton 10TT it was champagne 🙂
One of the great things about SEWTTS is that all category winner (not just the overall winner) receive a prize (see link for category explanation: http://www.sewtts.co.uk/p/faq.html). Having won my category in the last three events, I now look forward to a holiday to actually find the time to read three great cycling books!