Months of preparation had come down to this, a 26km TT that was my focus through winter, before SA champs even and I wanted to do well. I had done tons of homework, sourced the finest equipment and trained for hours and hours in the worst weather the Cape weather could offer.
It didn’t help me that my recon of the “old” circuit in March was worthless, the organizers changed the course after my visit to Durban and I now had n idea of what the route would be like. It looked hilly, but you never know how accurate the GPS files are and how it would actually feel, plus it’s impossible to recreate realistically on the open road. I rode a virtual course on a friends computrainer and it felt crushing. In the end the day arrived and I drove the course on the day I arrived. I was gobsmacked. The climbs started from the word go and didn’t relent until 10km in after 200m of ascent. After that nothing mattered those opening kilometers would decide the race. The final ascent total was 360m and kicked up to 4.5% grade.
The following day I rode the route with friend and rival Rob Quinn. Although the climbs felt better than they looked, it was still going to be difficult at race pace and in full tuck. The route recon left me with more questions than answers, wheel choices and especially how to go about attacking the course. This was not going to be a battle of watts at threshold, it was going to be a tactical assault and really suited the lighter riders. We swapped ideas and headed home.
On the day the wind pushed me into a final choice on wheels. I was to ride the disk rear even with the added weight penalty I knew would hurt my climb. the wind was gusting a bit and from the front left hand side all the way up the climb, but in the race it felt like a dead on headwind the whole way.
My warm up went perfectly, but felt a little difficult at the higher watts, and as I rolled up to the start ramp they were already loading the riders ahead of me, I rushed into the ramp and all to soon was being counted down. I hit the course and went off well, I tried to settle fast and not burn too much in the opening rollers. The downhill into the next big roller offered some time to recuperate but with the headwind I still had to pedal into the climb where I hoped I’d be able to stay on the big blade. I managed until the steepest kick of it and the chain shot off and luckily onto the inner ring, I had to adjust my gears to alter my cadence to suit the much easier gear I was in all of a sudden, then I started hoping against hope that my upshift to the big blade would go smoothly, as the shifting on the O’Symetric chainrings I used was less then snappy, I held my breath and in it went as I crested the climb and onto the biggest of the opening three and up to the plateau at 10km. I was watching my power and burning up but the power was just not there, I couldn’t sustain the watts I needed and my heart rate was sky high.
On the plateau I ground away in a bigger gear and kept my speed up, I turned and placed myself well in the road, catching the side wind and sailing with it in the gusts. This section went by in a blur and soon it was on to the downhill sector which was over too soon and I began the final 2km climb back to the start/finish. I had some energy left and pushed all I could muster without completely blowing before I could make the final sprint and over the line. I had used my energy resources well, and finished in just over 38 minutes. It was the fasted time I had recorded over that distance, including my training runs, but it wasn’t enough.
I finished 4th and was beaten by around 1 minute by a rider that I beat at SA Champs on a flat course. I suppose it’s true what they say and horses for courses this one didn’t suit a heavier rider like me. I think on the day I gave it my all but know that there was some horsepower missing somewhere. I live and learn and hope to be back, stronger faster and better.
I would like to thank my team and sponsors, Aurecon for making the trip possible, Wilier Bikes for the fantastic Twin Blade TT bike, FIT Sports Labs for nutrition over the entire season and for helping me in recovery and building over the winter.
I would also like the thank my wife Lin and daughter Tay for believing in me and also each of my friends and family members that wished me luck and stood behind me all the way.
Thank you Uwe Schmidt for your wealth of knowledge in training and advice along the way, and thank you Andy Lambert for your invaluable help as always.