Cycling at the highest level is very much a team sport, but in road races it is a quirky dynamic that is quite peculiar to the sport. A team of riders working for the glory of the chosen one. It is the Team Time Trial (TTT) that really exhibits the qualities of a team sport in a more traditional sense. At local amateur level, team tactics rarely come into play, most riders are lone gunmen riding for themselves with the occasional alliance based along social lines. So the State Club Team Time Trials is a great chance for something different. For me, a TTT is different on a number of levels, as mentioned, there is the team aspect and of course the time trial aspect, you against the clock. Short, sharp, but so, so hard.
[quote_box_center]Cycling at the highest level is very much a team sport, but in road races it is a quirky dynamic that is quite peculiar to the sport.[/quote_box_center]
This was to be my second attempt at a TTT, but since I was terribly ill the night before last year’s QLD Club TTT Championships I was dropped after about 2k, this was to be more like my first. So while I had learned some things from the previous year, I was not sure what to expect. Since this is a Club Team event, team members all have to be part of the same club. We arranged a team in M1-3 (aged 30-44) category from our club (Hamilton Pine Rivers Wheelers). Our team was Joris, Bruce, Marcus and myself, all strong cyclists, but with not much experience all riding together. We only managed to get together for one “training” ride, and discuss a bit of tactics during the week, but it was more of a chance to all meet each other.
The course was the same as last year, at Rosevale in the Scenic Rim area. It was an out-and-back course of 36km, not too hilly, but not exactly flat. At the start line conditions seemed great for riding, and it felt like we would have a headwind for the ride out, and tailwind for the ride home. With our start time of 12:30 it was definitely going to be warm and it felt like just a slight breeze. Marcus found a great spot under some trees to set up the trainers so we could warm up. We made our way for mandatory helmet and bike checks(TT bikes have quite strict position restrictions). We didn’t have to wait too long after inspections for our team to get called up.
[quote_box_center]Short, sharp, but so, so hard[/quote_box_center]
Teams were leaving at 2 minute intervals, so we had just that long to get organised and into position. One of the teams just ahead of us had left on “one” rather than “Go” and were going to get a ten second penalty, so we were careful not to do the same. We received a countdown from ten seconds…three, two, one, GO! And we were away.
[pull_quote_center]Ready Set Go![/pull_quote_center]
Bruce was to lead off, and we fell in behind him. The plan was to go out solidly but leave something in the tank to come home strong. The headwind we expected on the way out was stronger than I thought it would be when I rolled to the front. The first climb into a head wind really started to feel like hard work to me. Joris and Bruce were looking strong, Marcus and I were working hard to keep their wheels. Having not really practiced together, I was never quite sure which way we were rotating, and how long we were spending on the front. We were seeing many solo riders, obviously dropped from their teams limping back home. I was determined to not have that happen to me as it looked like hard work. We passed another team, which was a good sign, and gave us some encouragement. As we approached the turnaround point, we were still riding solidly together, but I was glad to know that we were half done, and expected the headwind to become a tailwind.
Once we turned however, it was apparent that it had been much more of a cross wind. Certainly it did not feel any easier heading back towards Rosevale. Joris and Bruce were still taking strong turns. Marcus and I contributing as best we could. Thankfully with about 10km to go I got a second wind as my endurance background came to the fore, and I was able to assist a bit more. The wind was still playing havoc with us as it seemed to swing from side to side, but never from behind.
As we approached the final kilometres, we were down to three, and after a moment’s hesitation, we pushed on. The team’s time was taken on the 3rd rider to cross the finish line, so 3 was enough to finish. Bruce was starting to struggle a bit too, and we had to work hard to keep up with Joris. Eventually we saw the Rosevale sign that meant there was less than one kilometre to go. We managed a feeble sprint, having left everything out on the course as indicated by my average heart rate of 181 bpm. We covered the 36k course in 52:31 at an average speed of 41k/hr. Out of the 28 teams in out category, we finished 11th, just 14s behind 10th. There was only 2 mins between 4th and 12th, so close racing. Congratulations to the Ipswich Cycling Club Team, who were nearly 5 minutes faster than us.
All in all, I was very happy with my first Team Time Trial. The feeling of camaraderie certainly brings a different feeling to the event and sense of purpose. We were fairly evenly matched, and with some practice, I think that we could move up a few spots to end up well in the top 10. I’ll certainly be looking to get a team together for 2014.