I’ve been doing a local time trial southeast of Springfield, IL (my hometown) for the past five years now. It’s not sanctioned, you get nothing for winning, and results are posted without placings. Similar to our FCTT, New City is truly you against yourself. The course has been used for decades now and measures out to an exact 10.85 miles. Strava says 10.9, but you’re wrong Strava. It’s an out and back course that’s about as flat as a pancake besides a very slight rise after the turn around. The only marker to where the turn around is located is a bright pink “X” painted in the middle of the road. You have to be pretty vigilant or you’ll fly right by it. You don’t pin any numbers on, but rather write your assigned number on your hand with permanent marker so you can yell it out as you cross the finish line to help timers. It is about as grass roots as a time trial gets.
As a matter of fact, New City was the first “race” I ever competed in back in 2009 when I was just getting into cycling. I showed up riding my mom’s old 1980 Cannondale road bike, with gym shorts, hairy legs, and tennis shoes on. I think I threw down a wicked fast time averaging 18 mph or something. As I got into triathlon and riding more, my dad started letting me borrow his TT bike and I eventually got my own. I’ve now ridden with the exact same equipment (maybe a change in skinsuit here and there) since 2010. Besides some variation in weather, everything has been constant. For the past three seasons, it’s been the best way for me to see how fit I really am compared to the past.
I threw down my best time back in 2011 when I had just decided to focus on road racing and stop all that silly running and swimming. Ideal conditions that day left me coming in at 23:37 at an average speed of 27.5 mph. It was a fast day for sure. While I didn’t do New City a lot last season (living in Chicago for the summer), I never came close to that personal best.
Now, I come into 2013 feeling great. I actually have a training plan, a coach, and clearly defined goals for the season. Sadly, these are three things I hadn’t really done in the past. However, my spring target race, Joe Martin, didn’t go as planned. My time trial was purely mediocre. While I did well finishing with the main group on the 110 mile road race on Friday, the third stage was a disaster as I missed the time cut and was promptly cut from the GC, not allowed to race the criterium the following day. It was a bummer, to say the least.
After Joe Martin, I was kind of in limbo. I had come into the race with aspirations for a top 10 on GC and surprisingly watched the peloton ride away an hour into the third stage. I wasn’t really sure if I was as fit as I thought. So, I turned to the testing grounds I had used for years: New City.
I went out there on Wednesday night with my dad and rode a personal best, something I hadn’t been able to say for a couple years. It was the same crowd that I’ve gotten to know over the years, really nice weather, and that same TT feeling of “I want to curl into a ball and die”. I came in at 23:11, averaging 28.1 mph, 26 seconds better than my PR back in 2011. Power was a tad lower than I expected coming off of a cold, but I couldn’t be upset with the result. Better yet, I’m now 35 seconds off the course record.
With an up and down spring, physically seeing that I’m the strongest I’ve ever been is a true confidence booster. This is one of the reasons why I love time trialing, especially on a course you’ve consistently competed on for multiple seasons. Your performance truly dictates if you’re stronger or not. You might pay attention to times of guys you’re usually close to, but for the most part you’re solely focused on if you’ve gotten faster or slower. There’s no luck involved with time trials and there’s no drafting. It’s purely a race against your own mind and body. As Bradley Wiggins has said, “keep turning the screw until it breaks… you never know how high you can tighten something until it breaks.” My target race for the season is U23 TT Nationals in Madison, WI. Time trialing is certainly coming around for me this year and last night at New City only reaffirmed this. Here’s to a good summer of racing.