Sunday, September 6, 2009

District TTT Race Report

The District TTT was a late addition to the Norcal racing calendar. This was going to be run on the same course as the Altamont TTT back in April with some additional kilometers thrown on to make it a full 40km. The newer section of road wasn't a surprise to me as in-laws live out near the course and I've ridden these roads quite a bit.

There's a reason there are windmills dotting all these hills. It's typically windy and this morning was no different. In fact, it was probably one of the strongest winds this early in the morning that I've ever felt in this area. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As with the District TT in Sattley, I had the same early morning problem. You'd think I'd learn to set my alarm when I'm not tired, but I neglected to pay attention to the AM/PM distinction. Thankfully for me I woke up at 6am otherwise I probably would have missed the race. I quickly checked my iPhone alarm and realized I made the same mistake I did for Sattley. Gotta work this out eventually...

So with my adrenaline was pumping and after slamming a yogurt and banana down for breakfast, I was on the road. Thankfully for me I was staying at my in-laws, the car was pre-packed and it was only 20 minutes to team's meeting spot. I texted Clark to let him know I was going to be a few minutes late.

Upon arriving at our meeting spot, Mike and Dave were waiting for me and it was pretty cool out. Definitely a long-sleeve skinsuit morning. However, no Clark to be seen. Ten minutes pass and still no Clark. I gave Clark's cell phone a ring and no response. Not good, but this race only requires you to have three riders crossing the line. Yeah, I'm already thinking worse case scenario and we haven't even hit the registration table.

We finally make the call to drive over to registration after we waited for twenty minutes. I left a message for Clark and we rolled. We parked and rode up to the registration table to pick up our numbers. Come to find out Clark had picked up his number and was already warming up. I found Clark on the way back to the car and I was very relieved. With almost an hour to warm up I felt much better knowing the entire team was ready.

I brought my tiny arsenal of wheels, but in reality I knew it definitely wasn't necessary. Running a 1080 would have been fun for maybe the first quarter of the course, but with the strong winds it would be too much to handle this deep of a front wheel. In fact, having the disc on the rear was even something I was questioning.

Our team rolled up to the start and just in the nick of time. I quickly heard the starter tell us we only had thirty seconds before starting. Just around the same time the Rocknasium team in front of us had a logistics snafu and missed their start time. Needless to say they were pretty steamed about it, but the rolled on and out of site.

At the start we all clicked in but Dave had a problem. We had to wait and he eventually caught back on. Once all together we ramped it up and were flying. The tailwind had to have been 20+mph and I've never gone up this gradual hill so fast (~36mph). We hit the peak of the climb and then descended at terminal velocity. How fast is terminal velocity on a TT bike? About 54mph! It was probably the scariest moment I've ever had on a bike. That fast, and being whipped from side to side by the wind (every rider after the race I spoke with was just as scared too).

As we hit the crosswind section on Mountain House Road, we quickened up our rotations and echeloned. It was hard to find any calm wind behind the wheel in front of you since the winds were so strong and we were all getting blown all over the place. At the turnaround we lost a bit of time with Dave not being in the right gear.

It was fast on the way out, but it was a death march on the return. The crosswind was now coming a bit more from the front of us and it was really slowing us down. It hurt just to do ~21mph! Poor Clark was starting to feel the effects of the wind the most. Not surprising given he was the lightest guy in our group. We were able to rotate smoothly and let him sit out a couple of pulls to recover.

Turning onto Altamont Road I was thankful I was running my 11-25t cassette. I dropped into my small front chainring and explored all my rear gears to find a suitable cadence. With the straight-on headwind, the 39-23t combo proved to be where I spent a ton of time riding. And it wasn't any better sitting up to climb. The wind would just slam into me and cause me to lose momentum. I spent all my climbing in the aerobars.

Halfway up the rollers to the peak of Altamont Road we lost Clark. I don't like losing teammates in TTT's, but it's part of the strategy to know when to push on and when to wait. With how Clark was feeling it was time to plug on. We pushed through the last rollers and up to the summit.

With just two miles to go it was time to empty the tank! Dave was starting to get gassed so it turned out to be the Todd and Mike show taking longer pulls as we gradually descended down to the line. The last two minutes of the TT seemed to take forever. I think lactic acid probably makes your brain loopy, since I was producing it in spades!

The three of us stayed together and we passed the Rio Strada team (they started 4 minutes ahead of us) right before the finish line. With my vision crossed and my face covered in a mix of sweat'n'snot, I looked over at Mike and we both had the same thought. This was the hardest conditions, and perhaps, the hardest TT we've ever done. Period.

Finishing this race in one piece with all your teammates safe was reward enough. Taking third and being on the podium was just icing on the cake after dealing with these conditions.

So what are some key takeaways with these conditions? First, it might have made sense to use a road bike with aerobars. The handling of the TT bike was pretty scary. Second, running a wheelset like a 404 and not having a disc might have been just as fast. This morning I went out on a ride from my in-laws with my low profile training wheels and the wind was just as strong. It was amazing how much more stable I was on this wheelset compared to the Edge 68 front/disc rear.

Hopefully they'll keep this event on the calendar as it's one of the few TTT's out there and a blast to ride with a strong coordinated team.

1 comment:

Dan Kaempff said...

Nice day's work for you and your mates! Congrats on your podium finish.