So I woke up at 4:30AM today and knew that my day had come. The day that I had been waiting for since the beginning of the year. The day that I was going to take my TT bike up to Garden Prairie for aerodynamic testing in the wind tunnel. The only thing to note is that this is not a traditional wind tunnel. Oh no, this is a 40K no holds barred wind tunnel. The kind where spirits are broken, dogs chase you down the side of the road and if you don’t pay attention, the wind will blow you into a ditch and leave you for dead. Hey Leonard, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!
I rode this course last year with another teammate who wanted to do a Team Time Trial. It was windy then and I wasn’t too happy with our time. But hey, this is a TEAM event. Unlike the usual TT where you are responsible for your own destiny, this is an event where you work TOGETHER to ride a fast time. We all know it feels good to drop another rider, but in a TTT the stronger rider HELPS their TEAMMATE. This could be taking longer pulls, leading into the wind, sitting up to give more of a draft profile or screaming loud enough in the last 200 meters so that your partner can’t hear the pain of their lungs bursting and muscles tearing down. Remember, the finish time is taken when the 2nd rider’s front wheel crosses the finish line. So guess what? I figured I’d give it another go this year to see if I could improve.
When we hit the start line, it was apparent that we were in for a battle. The wind was coming out of the West which meant that we would not have a “true” tailwind for any significant amount of time. Instead, we would be battling cross and headwinds for most of the run. We were off at 9:28AM. Don’t get caught and stay on the hunt. That was about the only goal I really had. Leonard and I shook hands as the clock clicked down to 15 seconds. I took a few deep breaths and got my mind in warpath mode. The starter gave us the go and we were off.
The first 5 miles we rode at a decent clip as we judged where the wind was coming from. Since I had ridden the course before and knew that Leonard had a pretty big engine, we agreed that I would set the pace so that I wouldn’t blow up. But once we had the wind figured out and got our rotation/positioning in synch, we began to push with the tailwind and tried to keep the hammer down in the crosswinds. We were making good time and hitting our splits. We even caught some riders as we made a turn onto a long section with high crosswinds. But then things became harder and the work began.
Leonard was running a normal set up (i.e. Eddy Merckx) whereas I was in full blown TT mode. I had been watching my numbers and I was a ways below threshold so I knew I had more to give. Leonard on the other hand had to work harder than me and mentioned that he was feeling it in his legs. So what do you do? I took the lead, monitored our numbers and tried to get us back home on time. My teammate did his part by running on the rivet and doing his best to stay in the draft and echelon when needed.
Our time was still pretty good when we motored over the I-90 overpass headed to the turnaround. But when we started back in the other direction, I began to realize why everyone we saw on our way out looked as if they were in the death march. The wind on the way back was a massive 20-30MPH cross/headwind that caused my helmet to whistle like a tea pot! Our speed took a 7-10MPH hit and I subsequently watched our average tick down from 25.2 to 21 even. At one point I thought I saw Lucifer standing by the side of the road laughing and pointing at us as we rode bye. I think he and Mother Nature were in cahoots today just to make me mad, and that they did!
I tried to stay focused on pedaling and keeping us as close to my threshold as possible. Then we got caught about 7 miles out (this was the first and only catch of us on our run) by our six minute men and I took it personally. From that point on all I remember was a lot of snot, drool and foaming at the mouth. Too bad there was no dog to be found!
As we hit the last rise and crested, we could see the officials truck parked at the finish line about ¼ of a mile out. This is when I began yelling at Leonard like a possessed drill sergeant to hold my wheel and push like no other. As we crossed the line I yelled our number and resigned that we had done the best that we could. While our time wasn’t what I hoped for, it was almost a full minute faster than the run a year before, despite the wind being harder and not of much benefit.
As we rolled back to the car, I told Leonard that he should be proud of his effort. It’s one thing to run a TT with no aero gear at all, but it’s another to do it in gail force winds and still manage to finish. But I can bet you a million dollars that if we do a TTT again, Leonard won’t ride it guerilla!
So for giving it his all, I say thanks to my teammate. My second TT of the year is now in the books and the last one I will que up will be the four man towards the end of the season. Here’s to riding in the pain cave and boy I can’t wait to do it again…well actually I can!