My final preparation event for the Paracycling Road Worlds was at the British Time Trial Championships and in conditions that were more like those I had been used to in the swimming!
Glorious weather greeted me for the course recce’s on the Friday and Saturday and with the wind whipping through the fields at the bottom of the course it looked as though wheel choice might not be a very deep front wheel! I like heading down to a course a couple of days in advance of a race and rehearsing the routine I will go through when recce-ing the International courses. Looking at corners, sight lines, racing lines and how they differ for open roads, testing gears and seeing whether a change to the smaller chain ring is likely. Of course when the weather is drastically different on race day making the right decisions during the race is always going to be crucial and the correct choice of equipment comes into play.
For once the weather forecast was right and by Sunday afternoon and race time, the skies were black and the rain falling heavily. Bizarrely the local news had been warning of hose pipe bans and drought conditions, clearly the rain in the north west of England had not been enjoyed by the population of Cambridgeshire until now!
Rainy conditions change tyre pressure but they also change helmet configuration and there is really no chance of using a visor and being able to see properly. In conditions like today even the best glasses find it hard to cope and so the majority of the field opted for no glasses or visors. I really don’t mind racing in the rain, quite like it really, no chance of overheating and it adds an extra dimension to the racing. For me on this course the rain did present a bit of a challenge on the sections of road with uneven road surface and I couldn’t get any grip with my left hand on the tribars. Everything was so wet it made the bars and shifters quite slippy even with my super grip gloves on. In the end it was faster and safer to tuck up on the start bars and get across the uneven sections of road before getting back in the aero position. It’s not the first time I have needed to do this, so in training I have had Barney sit behind me and tell me when I am in the right position to minimise the extra drag I undoubtedly get from coming off the tribars.
Apart from the uneven surface in places, the course was a good mix of heavy roads, faster sections and a couple of draggy parts that would no doubt decide the race and I was looking forward to the challenge as the route looked similar to what I will face in Roskilde for Road Worlds in just a few days time. Pacing was going to be key for the final section too as the last 3 miles or so was the lumpy section and had a few speedy corners that needed good judgement in the wet conditions.
Not being a seeded rider meant I was in the minute start section and quickly closed down the first rider in front of me, before getting good sight lines on the open sections of the course to some of the other riders in front. I concentrated on riding my own race and not getting too excited about closing down the riders I could see too quickly. It’s always a good carrot to have though and I caught my final rider just before the final climb into the last turn before the finish.
The final time of 47.01 secured me a bronze medal, my first podium finish in a National Time Trial Championships, something I have been just shy of in the past with my previous best finish being in 2009 when I came fourth.
With bright sunshine greeting us after the medal presentation it was time to get straight on the road and a quick turnaround as in 12 hours I will be heading to the airport to join the British team who are already out in Roskilde. Thursday will be the defence of my Road Time Trial title, whilst the Road Race will be on Saturday. Check back soon for an update on these!