Under the scorching sun I nervously awaited my group to be called up to the starting area for the Tour de Bintan Prologue, the dreaded Individual Time Trial. Ahead of me lay 11 kilometres of road that would test me to my limits. My success(8th) at the prologue in Phuket had boosted my confidence, but it also raised my expectations. A dangerous mix that resulted in a nervous wait for my starting time.
I had arrived at Bintan Island by ferry earlier that day, and immediately headed out with Raymond Clement for a recce ride of the course. Even that short 35 kilometre recce ride proved tough. The heat was intense, and the wind was vicious, twirling at will, making it impossible to plan for. Both Ray and felt the heat.
For Tour de Bintan I brought the Sworks Venge, in bid to experiment with something more ‘Aero’. I knew it would help me in the Prologue, but I had little knowledge of how it would help or hinder me on the 153 kilometre course of stage 1. On the boat journey over, the rear derailer had been knocked and cause issues on the recce ride. The guys in the bike depot were able to iron out most of the issues, but it wasn’t perfect. I’d have to manage my use of the 23 and 21 tooth gears.
First lesson of the weekend, learn how to adjust the Di2 myself.
My start time for the prologue was 15:22, which meant I had the advantage of getting insights from the prior riders. Using Best Bike Splits, I had planned a time of 17 minutes 52 seconds, but that was with a steady 15 km/hr NE wind. Early times were coming in around the low to mid 18 minutes. Feedback from the guys coming back said ‘conserve in the first 4 kilometres’.
As I was flagged off I noticed the mode I setup on my Garmin meant I couldn’t see the elapsed time. Fuck! Once I got up to speed, I tried to switch modes while still in the ‘conserve’ phase of the ride. Probably lost some time, but I knew I’d ride better knowing my elapsed time.
The vicious wind that couldn’t make up it’s mind, meant I kept looking for a more aero position. Hoping to hide from anything that might slow me down. I knew that at the 2.6 kilometre marker, I’d turn right into the semi sheltered area amongst the trees and the first small climb.
Pushing myself out to 550 watts, I felt strong as the bike pushed over the first crest and down one of the steepest sections of the course. My goal was to break 60 km/hr on the descent, but I feel short with 55.5 kh/hr.
Yes, in my head I was really thinking about these numbers. My coach had introduced me to Best Bike Splits as a way to learn a course from a GPX file, and play with various scenarios. As someone who is a self confessed geek, it was awesome to play with. It even gave me cheat sheets and I could have programmed my Garmin with a power course.
Understand it might be easy to overdo it with gadgets, software and gear. But at the moment I’m a big learning sponge, keen to soak up all the lessons I can get.
The fourth to sixth kilometre was a technical series of turns through a resort, that also contained the biggest climb. I wasn’t entirely happy with my speed through this section, but figured I could make up time on the final climb.
Coming down the the back of the final climb, my target was hitting 50km/hr. I was shattered to find it myself at only 47. The legs were now starting to burn. This is where the mind can either be your greatest asset, or biggest liability. I had plan, keep the cadence above 100 and I should avoid any down fall. It worked, and it got me through the painful final kilometres.
My body was screaming to slow down, but my mind was focused on pushing harder and harder. When my Garmin clicked over 18 minutes on the final straight, I wasn’t sure if I was shattered or pumped. I had planned for 17:52, but I knew the weather would slow me down. Either way, I dug the final pieces of energy out of my body and pushed to the finish. Crossing the line at roughly 18:35. The time was good enough for 23rd out of 68 finishers.
My legs were pumping with lactate, and my lungs were bursting. I coasted around, spinning out the legs. In Phuket I had learnt to enjoy the time trial, I wished I could have used aero bars. They helped me get a better position in the Phuket race.
In the moments after the race, one can’t help but analyze their performance. It’s natural, plus I was still learning so much. But it can be a curse, as you start to second guess your choices. I knew the Garmin mistake cost me time. I knew I could have pushed a higher top speed in the back section. But would those have blown me for the final kilometres.
It is what it is. I just love racing my bike, and I’m always keen to learn how to go faster.
I had planned my prologue on a normalized power of 300 watts, and I’d gone 306 watts. My intensity factor was 1.15. My average power was 257 watts, and average heart rate of 177 bpm. So I had worked hard. But could I have gone faster?
What did I learn?
- Double check all equipment, that also includes running your computer in race mode.
- Recce rides are so important, giving you the confidence of knowing the turns, the wind, the hills. Without the recce I would have done poorly.
- Time trials are always going to be dominated by guys that can get a great aero position, and maintain their threshold. Know when to go above threshold, and when to go below. This only comes with experience.
I’d love to hear about everyone else’s experience. Share in the comments below