Here in WA, we love superlatives. We live for them. It’s what we’re all about. We don’t need to know it’s been a wet month – we can see that. We want to hear that it’s been the wettest September since 2007. And we trust superlatives, we don’t question them. It’s why we will happily accept and repeat that Perth is the most isolated city in the world without going through the whole rigmarole of looking at a map and finding places such as Ulan Bator or Honolulu. You’ll remember from an earlier post that we even have a radio station that will tell anyone who will listen that Perth is the world’s greatest city but this is no surprise to the residents familiar with our deluge of world’s best things.
And so, without recourse to such trivia as facts or research, I feel no shame in telling you that I am a member of the World’s Most Successful Time Trialling club (see what I did with all those capital letters?). Riders from the WA branch of the Australian Time Trialling Association picked up two gold and one bronze medal in the time trial events at the recent road cycling world championships. Under 23 rider Luke Durbridge and junior rider Jessica Allen both won gold while defending elite women’s world champion Emma Pooley finished an impressive third considering it’s a flat course and she is tiny. I don’t know if these three are all members of the WA ATTA but they have all done more than a few rides with our* club and, frankly, that’s good enough for me.
* I say ‘our’ – I’ve been a member for about two weeks now.
The great thing about time trialling is that you don’t have to be the best or even want to be the best to do it. You can spend the GDP of a small African nation on your bicycle or you can show up with something you found on a neighbour’s verge on large rubbish day and see how well you get on with that. And oddly enough, the slower your bike or the less fit you are just means you get more time to emulate the suffering of your professional heroes.
I’ve done a few time trials lately with my pal Chong and we fit somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I like to think we are amongst the better guys who don’t have specialist time trial bikes. We humour ourselves that we ride in what is known as Merckx class. Our club has no such class but in other time trial clubs around the world, Merckx class refers to people who time trial on a regular road bike, just as Eddy Merckx did before all this new-fangled nonsense came in. I believe some clubs are very strict in their definitions while others are more liberal. Chong and I would fail in the stricter ones as Chong has deep rim wheels and I like to rest my forearms on the handlebars and pretend that I do have aerobars (Mmm – Aero bar). Nonetheless, we reckon we fit into our own version of Merckx class because our bikes would be legal to ride in a road race.
We have good reasons for wanting to use our normal bikes for these events. Getting a time trial bike is embarking on an arms race. The bikes themselves can be quite reasonably-priced. Temptation drove me very close to getting an aluminium Bianchi TT bike earlier this year for only $2800 (yes, if you don’t cycle much, that doesn’t sound particularly cheap but that’s only because you retain a sense of rationality when looking at bicycle prices). But why would you get the aluminium Bianchi when there is a full-carbon option? And you’ll be needing deep rim carbon wheels. Hang on, not for the back one – you want a full-disc carbon wheel for the back. And a skinsuit and pointy helmet. And you can’t be without a power meter. It doesn’t stop. You can see why I don’t want a part of this. I’m not going to win anything on the most expensive bike there is so I might as well not win anything on the bike I have and spend my money on beer (or bicycles for Kazuko but that’s a different post).
So there is all that but there is also the satisfaction of beating someone who has all that gear riding just your plain road bike.
Chong and I have gone TT head to head twice now and I’m largely relieved to say that I have scraped home ahead of him twice. This is a good thing as we seem to have rapidly developed an old tradition of the loser buying the winner lunch at the pub up the road from my house. We seem to be pretty even so it’s only a matter of time before I have to buy lunch for Chong. The next time we ride, we’ll have to buy our own lunches, though, because we have entered a two-up TT at the end of the month. It’s 28km and I’m pretty sure we won’t have anything left in the tank between us by the time we finish.
This weekend I rode a TT but Chong wasn’t there so I cheated. I had to go sailing after the TT and didn’t have time to go home and change bikes before riding to the sailing club so I didn’t want to use my carbon bike and leave it at the sailing club while I was out on the water. Instead, I used my old steel-framed Bianchi Vigorelli and entry-level wheels. I have aero bars which fit on this bike’s handlebars so I decided to use them in the hope they would compensate for the slower wheels.
Some people say time trials are boring but that’s only because they are watching them on television. If you’re actually doing one, it’s not boring at all. I would describe it more as painful. Your goal is to keep pushing your legs as hard as you can but not so much that you run out of steam before the finish line. It’s a big mistake to go out too hard, so this is exactly what I did on Sunday. My first lap was a ripper and I even caught myself thinking: “40kph? I might even crack 41 here”. This was, of course, utter fantasy and by the end of the first lap the legs had a few unpleasant truths to tell me. There were also the dilemmas of whether I should continue puffing and panting or try to slow down for some deep breaths. Should I wipe that trail of snot from my face or would that just slow me down and reappear again quite soon anyway? Do I dribble out of the left side of my mouth in the southern hemisphere and the right side in the north? Karl was kind enough to tell me I looked like I was suffering in the third lap so I may as well be pleased I didn’t bother trying to look cool.
In the end I finished the 20km TT with a time of 30m26s and an average speed of 39.6. The TT association has my average speed at 39.4 but my Garmin also said I rode 20.1km so I think the discrepancy lies there. I’m taking the faster of the two speeds. I was a little disappointed as I have cracked 40kph before on that same bike with aero bars but better wheels a couple of years ago and it makes me wonder if I have improved at all in the last few years. However, I can’t complain and I’ll just have to assure myself that I’ll keep improving this summer.
And after the TT I went sailing. I haven’t been on a boat for a few years but it was opening day at the sailing club and I got invited along so I thought the change would do me good. By the time I had ridden there, I needed a beer so I settled in for some pre-race relaxants.
I assume the guys in the rescue boat had done the same thing as they apparently hadn’t tied it to the jetty very well.
Eventually I was drunk enough to sail, so we hit the water. I was given the job of tying the big sail at the front to the ropes that hold on to it and I’m pleased to say none of my knots came loose at all during the race. Nonetheless, I wasn’t allowed to sit at the back like everyone else.
Instead, I was cutting a bold and remarkably handsome figure up the front bit of the boat.
I was in charge of putting the big front sail up and down but had plenty of time to nap in between.
I didn’t really pay much attention to how we did but I’m pleased to say that we did beat the boat that Pistol was on. They were faster than us and should have beaten us easily but luckily bits started falling off their boat and they managed to sail in completely the wrong direction. Luckily when the race finished it was starting to get dark and I didn’t have any headlights so I rode home instead of going back to the bar so I was able to finish the day with justover 100km cycling, a boat race and not too much beer under my belt.
This weekend the masters cycling is having a two-day four-stage race. I’d probably better stay off the beer for that.