Top tens for Rob at the Nationals
Rob Sharland achieved his main season goals in August: racing to equal sixth place in timetrialling’s blue riband event, the National 25 mile championship, and then to 10th place the following weekend in the fiercely competitive 10 mile championship. Two excellent rides, but based on Rob’s race reports, collated here, there should more to come in 2016.
As usual I got about 3 hours sleep on Saturday night, writes Rob. I’d gone to a mates birthday that day and not touched a drink despite everyone else tucking in so was annoyed not to be able to sleep. Over time I’ve got less of a ribbing about shunning social events in favour of cycling as I think people (friends) have managed to make the distinction between a ‘cyclist’ who does a few Wiggle events, and one who wants to do half decent in a national level event. They still think I’m odd for shaving my legs mind you!
Anyway, Lucy and I drove up to Marlow pretty early, I wanted to make sure I knew what the turns looked like and to scout the roads for marshals to make sure I wasn’t going to waste it all by going the wrong way, something I’ve managed before after a long drive. I warmed up after having had a solid prep talk from my coach Xav who’d just got in from his effort on his fixed gear. He gave me the lowdown and we talked over how I was going to ride the course and what should and should not be done in order to get the best result possible.
I felt pretty average while warming up, dull legs, but not too bad. I got up to the startpoint and had a natter with Matt Clinton and Andy Jackson, who surely would both be contenders, and took my mind off the world of hurt I’d be about to put myself in. I was one of the last few to start, and at 9.02 AM I was pushed off. I settled down into position and began to think about the task at hand. As usual the first minute I could probably ride at 700w and feel no pain, but you must hold back in these situations. In fact I spent the first 20 minutes riding fairly within myself.
I knew this race was to be won or lost on the 25 minute single carriageway section. One bit of info I’d retained among a wash of forgotten knowledge was Bob Tobin (Bottrill’s coach) saying he thought it would be won with a 48 and you’d need a 49 to be in the top 10 (bang on as we later found out), so when I got to the turn with a middling 29mph average I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I’d done just over 350w and wanted to ensure that I did the second half a fair bit higher. This is something I’ve managed to do quite naturally in races but it’s resulted in me never overcooking myself and always likely getting nearly the best result possible. My split time was actually noticeably slow for my finish time, so maybe I went just a bit too easy!
Into the second half I began to push on. I was debating hitting the lap button so I knew not to let myself slack off, but I decided to just crack on and push as hard as possible. The first half had seen me make it through 6 or so roundabouts without issue, but on the way back twice people underestimated my closing speed (only human I suppose) and pulled out on me and then proceeded to forget where the accelerator was located; twice I was out of the bars motioning at them to put their foot down. Not optimal. Just before the turn back onto the main road and the last five miles I threw up in my mouth, and then over my stem, so that was at least a fairly reliable acid test of my effort – stomach acid mixed with SIS gel in this case.
With 5 miles left to go I started to really wind it up, it was hurting, but with the last possible hold up point done without having to slow down too much I was into the last 3 minutes or so of the race with an average speed of over 30mph, which pleased me somewhat. I pushed as hard as I could, only remembering how irritated I was by such a small margin keeping me out of the top 10 in the National 10 last year (it was actually a fair bit, but 5 secs would have bought a few places). I pushed all the way to the line and stopped my garmin on 49.32, which usually means I would’ve done about 49.30, given I start it about 1.5 secs early and stop it about 1 sec after the line.
Aside from his books, which I enjoyed, I’ve not really paid too much attention to Hutch of late, mainly as he isn’t racing anymore, but he did say something I really liked the other day in a podcast with Mark Florence: “I would decide upon finishing a TT whether I was happy with my time/performance before getting to the HQ to find out what everyone else had done.” So often I’ve been happy until I’ve seen what others have done, I decided today I wasn’t going to carry on with that theme – I was happy with the ride.
I’d managed 357W, which is about 6w down on what I managed in a recent 25 if you take out the ski slope start, and you’d hope probably more like 10w down on what a proper taper should have yielded. I put this down to me not being well that week, so I was pleased to be within 1% of my best despite all of that – though of course Xav said if I had done 11w more, or just 6w more than I have done before I could have been within spitting distance of a 48…
I got up to the hall to find myself with an official 49.33 and tied with Adam Topham for 6th place, so perhaps in hindsight I’d have liked to have been given my 1 or 2 seconds! But all in all I was happy, 6th was better than I’d have hoped for leading up the race, a couple of non finishers may have changed that slightly, but that’s racing – you gotta finish first to have a chance of finishing first and all that.
2nd Matthew Bottrill – www.drag2zero.com – 00:48:24
3rd Kieron Davies – www.drag2zero.com – 00:48:36
4th Joshua Williams – Revolutions Racing – 00:48:45
5th Matt Clinton Mike – Vaughan Cycles – 00:49:03
6th Rob Sharland – Paceline RT – 00:49:33
7th Adam Topham – High Wycombe CC – 00:49:33
8th James Boyman – Farnham RC – 00:49:39
9th Matthew Smith – Team Velovelocity.co.uk – 00:50:01
10th Brett Harwood – Terry Wright Cycles RC – 00:50:15
Though the 25 is described as the blue riband event, I personally prefer the 10 and this year’s course was sure to be a bit more friendly to me than Hull last year. As you will know my main aim for National events this year was a top 10 in both. I managed joint 6th in the 25 and there were a few missing names on the entry to the 10, former clubmate Steve Irwin being one, and Adam Topham who had tied with me in the 25 being another, so it looked promising. In their place however were two others which certainly could upset the applecart: Rich Bussell who Xav has been telling me about for a little while now, and Edmund Bradbury who now as a full time pro with NFTO has been working his way around Surrey and anywhere else he fancies destroying the best times up any and all climbs; he also came 2nd to only Dowsett in the BC TT champs – these were two riders who could well make it that bit harder to get in the top ten, along with all the other talent that enters these events.
Despite feeling ok health-wise for the 25, during the week I picked up a bit of a sore throat, but with a massive over-indulgence in vitamins, salt water to gargle and sleep thankfully I managed to just about get back to normal for Sunday’s race. It wasn’t too far to travel, but not on the doorstep either, just outside Rugby.
The course was great as far as I was concerned, not a lot of traffic, no stupid gift hills, and only one turn. The surface was a bit rough but nothing like as bad as I’d been warned. The only thing that let the day down was the rain. It was pretty wet by the time I started warming up, but given it wasn’t like I would be flying around any bits of it at 40mph, I wasn’t that bothered, I just had to hope my racing tyres would hold out…!
I wasn’t concerned with following the early times, instead I got myself to the start, I had a game plan in terms of when and where to push on a bit, and where the time could be made and lost. I was going to try and ride at 390W for the main, and then push on at a couple of sections where it got a bit draggy.
I started and my legs felt good but the speed wasn’t super high. I knew that I would likely need to do a 19 to be anywhere near the sharp end and that was always in the back of my mind, however when I got to the turn at around 29mph I was wondering if it was a crap day versus when Clinton had set his 19.43 CR, as my power was good till that point. In retrospect I can see that I took the turn a bit too slowly; that and having to tilt my visor every few minutes were the two things I felt I did wrong in the race.
Approaching the 7 mile point I was pushing on up the hill. 400w+ felt pretty hard but sustainable, which at least tells me that the taper had worked as that was not possible in the heat last week. I got to the top of that drag with an average of around 395W for 17 mins or so which is the best I’ve done. The last two miles were quick. I knew not much time could be made up there – having emptied myself a bit up the climb I rode the last couple of minutes under that figure, but I still dragged the speed up a fair bit. I finished with 20.11. I was skeptical it was going to be enough to get anywhere near the dizzy heights of 6th like the 25, but I decided I was pleased with the ride: best power of the year, and bar the visor, no mechanical issues or anything to speak of.
I got up to the HQ and was immediately a bit annoyed. James Boyman had gone 10 seconds faster (5th on the day, great ride!). After us having being so close on Bentley, and of course beating him in the 25, I thought it may be a smaller gap than 10 seconds. Anyway, the really irritating thing was that there were 4 people within 5 seconds of my time (in front of me) and someone on the same time. if I had just not been a girl around the turn, or had had some foresight around the visor I could have dramatically improved my placing.
But as it was I tied 10th with 25 mile Bronze Medal winner Kieron Davies, so not terrible given how strong he is, but when there is a 5-6 second difference between 6th and tenth it always makes you think back to what you could have done differently. Ah well, there were plenty of very strong riders behind me, so it wasn’t a bad showing by any stretch.
Rich Bussell had done the business. A last minute aero session with Xav had seen him able to make the most of the engine he clearly has and he clocked a stupidly fast 19.36 to win from Matt Clinton, who bettered his own CR with 19.41, and with Bottrill in 3rd a further 4 seconds back with 19.45. So this year I was 35 seconds from the winner; last year I was 58. I’ve got better, but I hope there is more to come!
I don’t know when, or which event, but I want to win a medal (individual non age related) in a CTT champs. I think it’s an ambitious goal, but if you don’t set these goals, you don’t have anything to work to. There is a lot I can do to improve, so I think it’s not a total moonshot! Not a lot left this year, one last chance to do an 18 comes in the shape of P881R in a couple of weeks, then probably my last road race of the year with the Handicap champs, which I would love to win after making the podium a couple of years back.
2nd Matt Clinton – Mike Vaughan Cycles – 00:19:41
3rd Matthew Bottrill – www.drag2zero.com – 00:19:45
4th Edmund Bradbury – NFTO Pro Cycling – 00:19:50
5th James Boyman – Farnham RC – 00:20:01
6th Brett Harwood – Terry Wright Cycles RC – 00:20:04
7th Andy Jackson – Team Swift – 00:20:05
8th Joshua Williams – Revolutions Racing – 00:20:08
9th Dan Evans – Team Elite/Paul Bethall Electrical – 00:20:10
10th Rob Sharland – Paceline RT – 00:20:11