Rowsell, Hammer and The Lang Whang Hilly 30Time Trial

During the weekend  I discovered the difference between fantasy cycling and reality cycling, between champion and chump or, to be blunt the difference between the tortoise and the hare.

Don’t let that old aesops fable fool you….the tortoise definitely will NOT WIN in cycling, Acts of God excepting.

The Lang Whang Hilly TT poster

Meet the Tortoise

I had recently  made up my mind to join a local cycling club and was researching clubs and club runs on the web. I came across a link to an advert for the The Lang Whang Hilly 30Time Trial on a road not so far away from me. I looked at it and thought “Hey..that looks good – I’ve gone down that road a few times – its quite fast….maybe I could enter”………1st mistake.

Yes – yes – Yes – In theory – in theory…..I could.

To enter You need to have British Cycling membership and the event insurance that comes with it and…. well…..I’m a member. Great! Fab! Aye. Well….I had read the profile of the route and it concurred with my ailing memory of the last time I went down it during the Pedal for Scotland Sportive 2013 last year. It read something like this :-

“The “Lang Whang”is the local name for the A70 between Balerno and Carnwath. In old Scots it means narrow strip of leather, usually a long leather bootlace.  The road makes up our out-and-back 30 mile TT. It’s a rolling course with sections over 1000 feet above sea level.”

Sounded fine I thought  – So I booked up via the British Cycling website and paid my (very reasonable) ten quid………2nd mistake.

You see, whilst I could award myself 10/10 for wishful thinking, I would get a flat zero for clear and accurate thinking.

Time triallists

Time trialists are stick thin creatures who are fit, healthy, lean, wiry, strong, lean , very light, performance athletes who have trained, pushed, endured pain and extremes of weather , and trapped themselves indoors during the winter months on their rollers or turbo’s to maintain their cadence , lose weight, keep up fitness and be lean. Their bikes will be the lightest machines possible , the riders will be the lightest leanest people possible, who, over time, will all have all been hydraulically altered by rushing air to be as”aero” as possible. Did I also mention that they will be very lean?

Time trialists learn very early on in life to lean in to any current of air, however slight, in order to avoid being lifted of their feet and deposited gently to the ground 3 ft to the left.

Contrast EZPC who is 6′ 2 “, medium build, slightly soft and round in the middle and who at present struggles to get below 95kg or 210lbs. Its an age thing right? Just don’t get me started on that subject.

I have just migrated from my trusty aluminium framed velo ecosse bike with  Shimano R500 race wheels to a lightweight carbon framed Scott CR1 comp, and I’ve been most disconcerted to hear the wheel spokes “ping” slightly when I manhandle it too aggressively during accelerations. I really should check what the maximum weight limit on the wheels should be. I’m obviously at the upper limit! !  I’m  also about as aerodynamic as a brick. A very large brick at that , complete with roundish slumped shoulders and a too-big head that always weighs too much and makes my shoulders hurt.

Yes – I’ve cycled a lot…….So what!

Yes  – I’ve cycled long distances – through 4 different countries even……. and? 

But I’ve never pushed it at pace.

Question :- Does travelling abroad on a jet-plate make you a great pilot? Answer – No…….it makes you a passenger …….So doing some long distance slow paced cycling isn’t going to make me good at track cycling or time trialling is it? NO. So why on earth did I think that I would be great at a Time Trial course? Am I that naive? or Arrogant?

No…No… not at all.. I did think, however, that it would be a good stretching exercise though. I’ve never done that sort of thing before you see….

So come on – it’s worth a go right? Right?

Time to up the ante?

Where’s my spirit of adventure?

Think big, dream large, you know?

If you shoot for the moon you might land somewhere pretty ? That sort of thing…

Yeah right.

Against my better judgement, I’ve entered ….so I better recce the route eh?

Saturday past I did just that – googled it , logged it, mapped my route to it and cycled out to it . I packed my usual small saddle bag with tools, took some gels and cycled 23kms to the start line. I then cycled the route at a good pace (for me) and logged it on my computer.

It was absolute hell.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 23.51.06

Rowsell and Hammer – toe to toe at the World Track Championships 

I watched Great Britain’s Joanna Rowsell claim her second gold of the World Track Championships with victory in the individual pursuit in Cali, Colombia.

She beat five-time champion Sarah Hammer of the United States by 1.2 seconds in a personal-best time of three minutes 30.318 seconds over 3km. Congratulations and a huge well done go to her. It was a trully oustanding effort and she so throughly deserved the victory.

Rowsell, who won gold in the team pursuit 24 hours earlier, said: “I can’t believe I went that quick.

“This has been a goal for a while. It means the world to me.”

Sarah Hammer, Joanna Rowsell and Amy Cure
What got me most was that in this almost 4 minute long track event – performed in perfect conditions on a perfect track with great lighting, air conditioning , riding on great looking beautifully maintained track bikes, the single biggest difference between these two high level performance athletes was their cycling style.
The commentators that I was listening to picked up on this as well. Rowsell shot off the starting frame like a frightened rabbit with its back side on fire. The commentators noted however that Hammer was a “deisel engine ” that started off slow, but once getting warmed up would get faster and faster . Rowsell, as the newbie to world championship level racing was pushing hard from the get-go and the question was – was she going to burn out and throttle back before the end? Meanwhile Hammer was warming up, getting faster with each revolution and gaining time – pulling back and shortening the distance – who would win? You can watch the whole thing on the video clip.
The reality.
Oh the shame of it all. My “time trial” effort was truly pitiful in that I was suffering from the very get go . The course starts with an uphill section that just stretched on and on – I was eying my computer as I went and noted (oh the shame) that I was down to just 7mph on the steepest section of the uphill. I certainly wasn’t setting the hills on fire or anything.  So what did I expect? 
Reflecting back on it – I have to say that I wasn’t really expecting anything at all. It was just a look see.
For one thing  – the course was much hillier than I remembered it. ………And I slow right down on hills – yup – fact. Always have. Something to do with saving energy …..making sure I eek out distance over time without cracking any reserves etc. (as if I had any reserves!).
For another – it was hill after hill after hill…after hill. The profile above says it all…The downhills weren’t long enough to build up much speed and in my feebleness, I didn’t have much oomph to use it to push me back up the other side.
And lastly, the route is very open and exposed to wind. It was constantly in my face as I plugged my way up hill and down dale and was a definite energy sapper.
It was grind , grind , grind. Rather than rush rush rush. Oh well. I guess it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing and pretty flowers – was it? In fact whenever has anything great – cycling-wise – come out of plain sailing easy going?
Going back to commentary speak – I’m definately a diesel engine (non turbo) …stick me on a bike and I can happily potter about for hours and hours and hours – I’ll cover 120 miles no bother and feel good about it. Tada! Hero triumphant over all I’ve surveyed.
Ask me to race 20 miles full pelt however and I’m overheating and knackered after 5 miles – whimpering slightly- goo begining to dribble off the end of my nose- red eyed with the wind – broken – never to be fixed again. It’s not a pretty sight.  When I overheat, my energy levels plummet. If I get too cold on the other hand – it’s just as bad. I’m such a poor wee sensitive soul…….please feel sorry for me.
As it turns out, the time trial event actually clashes with another long distance event that I’ve already booked…The Sport  Relief cycle out of Glasgow to help raise money for charity.
As a longer slower route – it’s right up on my “to-do” list and as its a charity event to raise money for the benefit of others it would be churlish of me to turn away from that for the totally selfish gain of getting a better PB on the Lang Whang. (Thats MY excuse anyway…and one that I will be sticking to…..) It’s got nothing to do with looking like the wide slow tortoise amongst all the hares at the TT …honest really…
Despite all of the above, however, I’m AM still going to go back to that Time Trial route…it’s buggin me now.
Now that I’ve got a benchmark, I’m going to use it as a regular staple for this year to help “grow” my legs and develop some stamina….
Hills Ahoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s