The time trial, or, chrono format in cycling is one that I am both well familiar, yet very new to. In my previous life as a downhill mountain bike racer (though once a downhiller, always a downhiller), I routinely raced the clock. Me against the mountain. Really, it was me against me, controlling my natural drive to attack courses hell for leather. In this genre, such brazen riding doesn't so much lead to blown legs as blown turns and wild flailing crash and burn ground slamming. For some, reigning in the drive to ride with the throttle wide open takes self discipline and tactical thinking.
Back to the recent present, green bastards Rob and Dave have been speaking highly of their experiences at the OBC's Thursday night TTs for a while. Since I don't think Rob and Dave are nuts, I figured I ought to make an effort to get out and try a race or two this year. With Jim and Alex in the mix this year, the pull grew stronger. Alex has been into the TTs for a while now, and Jim has done a couple other races and a couple triathlons. When Alex sent out an email to the team on Monday encouraging folks to come out, give it a shot, and maybe ride as a team, Jim and I committed. Meanwhile, Neil the Defector (I say this in jest, honestly), and Imad agreed to pair up and take us on. Right on, some friendly competition.
Come Thursday night, Rob, Alex, Jim and I assembled in the Aviation Museum parking lot to register and chat with the diverse group of folks about. One OBC vet had his Cervelo P2 out with a for sale sign, $1699. Great deal for anyone about 6' tall. As Rob had told me, the group of folks out for the race spanned a broad range of age and ability, as did bikes range from full on TT wonder bikes to storied bikes like John Large's single speed track machine. Whereas one might expect attitude and elitism to accompany such specialized equipment, I saw none of it. Just a bunch of folks who love to challenge themselves. There is no posing in the chrono, its the race of truth. As Rob put it, there's no hiding in the pack and saying you were 'right there.' No, you lay it down to the best of your ability and reveal all.
Jim, Alex and I set out about 20 minutes after the first rider, aiming to simply ride as well as we could as a unit. Jim knew he'd be in for a lot of pain hanging on, but he was up for the challenge. No shame, no ego. Just a drive to push hard and improve. And I think that's what we all did. Communication was challenging above 40kph, as the wind noise is so loud. We set out fast, and managed an average right about where I'd hoped we'd be, 43kph, for 21:10 over the 15k out and back course. We were far from a well oiled machine, but for a first attempt, I think we did very well technically. While Jim was put into a spot of bother at a few points, it never crossed my mind that he ought to have been faster or anything of the like. Instead, I took it as Alex and my job to make sure that we paced properly to ensure that Jim's strength was best utilized. So if he was dying while I was pulling, that was my fault, not his. Teamwork is the name of the game. While I see the appeal of hitting the course solo, I think mixing in team efforts will pay off in dividends. For one, any of us can go out and hit the Parkway solo whenever we want. Easy, just do it and time yourself. Sure, its hard to push as hard as race day, but that's part of the mental training. On the other hand, there are not so many opportunities to unleash on the road with a team of 3 or more. Taking up this opportunity achieves a few things.
First, it builds the ever important bonds of trust and mutual consideration between team-mates. These bonds not only benefit the team out on the road, but also transcend the practice of riding and permeate the other aspects of our lives. Second, riding as a team is an opportunity to learn the subtle techniques of effective drafting and rotation. The Aviation Parkway always features tricky wind, and with a team its vital to read it, despite the stress, and adapt. This skill building will certainly translate into smarter riding with any group, and be of particular value in breakaway situations. Third. the team format might effectively counter the pull of the ego to prove oneself. Its not about individual glory, but group effort and success. While I feel like I'd certainly like to find out how I might fare solo, and I will, at the same time I feel like it would be better if, on the balance, if I ride as a team-mate. I feel the allure of the TT, as people predicted I would, after just one race. There are two ways to channel that. I can either start scheming a TT bike, which I really don't want to do, OR, think about how I can encourage other team-mates to come out and ride as a team. As I've stated above, I think there is a lot of merit in riding as a team more often than not. Who knows, perhaps Dave, Rob, and Alex will join some of us non-TT bike riders for a big group effort. I'll put clip-ons onto my Steelwool cross bike. It'd be fun.
If you are reading this going, 'Yeah right Matt, TT might be kinda fun for the really fit folks, but a surely a big sufferfest for the rest.' I really don't this this is the case. Based on the diversity of folks out there, this just can't be true. Everybody feels the effort the same, people simply go different speeds. Vytas, randonneur master, was out there tonight mixing it up, working on recovering from his broken leg sustained last fall. If a randonneur can have fun at a TT, I think there is hope for just about anyone who likes a bit or racing.
So how bout it? Shall we see if we can get a bit of a club/shop/team TTT competition over the season?