...Or A Series of Unfortunate Events Somewhere Near Chippenham
Sometimes, despite meticulous planning the night before, things don't quite go your way. When it comes to bikes, there's only so much you can do.
Today's Chippenham hilly was to be my first race outing of the season in the slinky new Drag2Zero kit. And so it was, until it was aborted due to a nail induced puncture before I'd even got to the recently renamed and higher statused (is that even a word?) Royal Wootton Bassett, approximately 22 minutes in. That previous sentence had far too much detail in it so I'm putting this one in as padding.
I continued for another 10 mins on the slowly deflating Planete X FMB (*sniff*) to the top of Callow Hill, where I spotted a marshal who directed me to her husband's car. I found it, got in with another rider who had packed due to the cold (and who generously gave me a lift home to Bath), and spent the next 10mins with the heater full on before I could even take my helmet off.
Did I mention it was cold? That was the real problem today. The weather has been insanely good of late, 10-15 degrees and pretty sunny. Why, on Saturday I was out in 3/4s and arm warmers, enjoying the first heating up of spring. Sunday was a different story. A cold rain blew in from the north west and dumped a lot of water on top of us for about 6 hours. By an annoying coincidence it overlapped with the Chippenham hilly. Even more annoying, when I got home to Bath it was sunny and warmish again. We are not amused.
Riding out to the start wasn't too bad as I was fully rugged up. The computer mount separating into two halves (I blame the A4) wasn't the ideal start so I ended up riding purely on feel. The dial on my shoe stopped working too, but the super snug Smart shoe covers held everything in place. They weren't as white by the end of the ride unfortunately.
I opted for no visor on my Uvex as it was still raining when I rode from the HQ to the start. That turned into a mixture of rain and snow when I got under way. I kept blowing on my hands (aero position be buggered) to make sure they kept warm enough to change gear and brake when needed. And despite the nasty weather I was quite enjoying it, averaging 45 clicks (28mph) out to the bottom of Lyneham bank. It was good to ride without seeing the computer, which I'd stuffed down the front of my skinsuit so I at least collected the data.
I kept it in the big ring on the climb as I really couldn't be arsed with the hassle of moving my left hand to the gear lever (did I mention it was cold?). Got to the top and the crosswind turned tail for a wee bit which allowed me to crank it up before the roundabout. 11.8km down and 16'56 on the clock. Annoyingly there were cars on roundabout (thanks Rob for the shout!) and I had to scrub 30km/h off my speed to wait for a clear run, but once I got going again I made some ground back.
It was warp speed all the way to Royal Wootton Bassett: it was still cross headwind but the shelter from the left and gradual descent helped. I finally saw some more riders ahead of me (I'd passed my minute man inside 3mins but there were two non starters before him). But just as I had them in sight, I felt the tyre go on the last descent before the climb over the railway bridge into RWB. I told myself it wasn't flat, it was just the wind and even if it was I'd damn well finish anyway.
I got to the left turn at RWB in 24'14 with 17.3km completed - nearly halfway, and 1'42 quicker than I'd managed to this point last year, although there was more headwind then. When I turned I realised that it was the tyre that was gone. And I began to lose heart. I passed my four minute man at this point and still seemed to be going quick enough to get to the finish. Right turn to Callow Hill (19.8km) in 27'36, headwind up the climb and that's when the tyre went very soft and I gave up. Annoyed and cold, I got to the top in 31'25 - still leading by around 20sec at this point - and stopped to ask the marshal if there was a car nearby. Luckily there was and I got in. See above for more on that.
That was more or less it. We went back to the HQ to see the damage - lots of riders DNFd, several with punctures, and many more didn't bother starting. All up there were 42 finishers with 2011 WTTA hardrider winner and very quick Bath CC rider Rob Pears the quickest of the lot in 56'14. An excellent ride in those conditions and he certainly was cold at the end. Rob Lyne and Paul Jones rounded out the top three with Peter Georgi the only other rider under the hour today. Brutal. Read Paul's excellent take on it in his blog.
On the positive side I did have a good ride up until I didn't. Power was looking like being 13W up on last year despite the rubbish weather. I'm just annoyed I couldn't finish it off! At least my new teammates Mark and Derek and Matt Bottrill had better days to collect a couple of wins for Drag2Zero over the weekend.
Next up for me will be the Rudy Project round 1 at the end of March before things get going a bit more in April.