Since July of last year, I had not participated in a single cycling-only race. I hadn't even been on a team ride with my racing team, Big D Cycling. That's almost a year. Time trials (TT, or ITT) have always been my favorite cycling event, so with the approaching Jesse Blancarte 10k Time Trial, I decided to make my return. With the Spring of the Half-Marathon behind me, it was time to gear up for cycling season.
May 25th, 2014: Jesse Blancarte 10k Time Trial, New Century Air Center, Gardner, Kansas
Category 4 Race: 5.83mi @ 14:36 (23.9mph) (PR); 5th place of 9 (11 pts KBAR/KBAT)
Mercx Category: 5.83mi @ 15:03 (23.2mph); 8th place of 20
The Kansas Best All-Around Rider (KBAR) and Kansas Best All-Around Team (KBAT) standings are the state-specific version of USA Cycling's (USAC) national rankings. Through the Kansas Cycling Association (KCA), a state-wide race calendar is required, listing all of the races in the state that are sanctioned by the USAC governing body. Of that list of races, specific races are chosen (the majority of sanctioned races, really) whereby you earn points based on how one finishes the chosen races. Points are awarded out to 15 places, with 1st place earning 18 points, 2nd place earning 15 points, 3rd earning 13 points, and one point separating each place out to 15th.
For KBAR, points are tallied for each race, and cumulative standings are tracked. It's no different for KBAT, only points are cumulative across all riders on a team. Only Category 4 and higher and Master's Category (50+) racers are eligible for points (in other words, Category 5 racers are not eligible). In the weeks approaching the Jesse Blancarte Time Trials, our team was near the bottom of the six registered teams for KBAT, and I wasn't even on the standings for KBAR (beyond being a Category 5 racer, I hadn't raced all season). At the urging of fellow teammates, we had to give a good showing for Blancarte to be in the running for best team. I also wanted to grab some KBAR points as well. So, the week before race day, I applied for and was granted an upgrade to Category 4. Now I was point-eligible.
I was officially switched from the Category 5 racers to Category 4 prior to race day. I had also registered for the "Mercx Category," a non-point-earning category in which no time-trial-specific equipment was allowed: no time trial bikes, no TT helmets, no TT handlebars, no TT jerseys. I figured it would be a great way to get some more competitive TT experience in, extra training miles in the legs, and time with the team.
Race day came, and the weather was gorgeous: 78 degrees at race time, mostly sunny, winds out of the south at around 12mph (which would make the trek in a bit rough). The course was a simple out-and-back route heading north from US-56 Highway on New Century Parkway past the New Century Air Center, with the turnaround at 151st street and back. The finish line would be in the west lane of New Century, right underneath the US-56 bridge. Though often termed a 10k TT, it actually runs a little under 1km short at 5.83mi. Elevation change is minimal, at only 141 total climbing feet (although claimed numbers range from 84 to 178 -- either way relatively flat with no real climbs on course). Parking and registration was located at the New Century Fieldhouse.
It was good to be back with the team after such a long hiatus. Though Tour of Lawrence will likely never see my face again, I missed criteriums and road racing. Perhaps a larger-scale comeback is needed?
First-rider would be set off at 9am. I suited up in a full time trial jersey, tacked on my number, put on my shoes (with aero covers) and readied the bike for a long and slow warmup. This would give opportunity to ride the course as well, a course I was familiar with, but hadn't ridden in well over a year (so, basically, a pothole check). The course was as I'd remembered: flat, straight, minimal elevation change. I had some issues with shifting, having recently removed and cleaned my rear cassette (must have thrown off the alignment a little bit), but a few quick adjustments during my warmup, and things felt smooth once again. I was also wearing new tires for the event -- something you should NEVER do -- so I tried to get as many miles to break them in before setting off to the start line. They felt fast and smooth. Though heading back south was a bit tougher than I'd expected given the southerly winds, this should be a pretty fast day.
To let the Master's set off first, I arrived at staging at about 9:15am, more than ready to go. I eventually got staged at about 9:45. As the rider ahead of me set off, and I staged at the start, steward holding my rear wheel to keep me vertical, waiting for the final countdown, I started to grin ear to ear: I'd missed this. 5-4-3-2-1-
The run north was fast, hitting sustained speeds above 30mph. Normally you'd take in to account the tailwinds helping you out, and tame yourself from pushing too hard, but this was not even 6 miles. I had to give everything I had the entire time. Before I knew it, the turnaround approached. I reached it in only 6:30 time. Keeping in mind the new-ish tires (and there fore relatively slick tread), I gave myself ample time to slow before the turnaround (and also, I had a history of braking late at TT turnarounds and locking up my rear wheel). This time, no lockup. At the apex, I mashed out of the saddle, and immediately got hit in the face with a stiff breeze. I hunched over further, still out of the saddle, but didn't feel much progress, so I sat back down, arms in the aerobars, getting as "small" as possible to the wind. My speed still suffered, as would be expected by the wind.
For each of the minuscule ascents back south, my speed took another tiny hit. I made sure to take as much advantage as I could on the "descents," and just bide my time on the "climbs." By 4 miles, my leg muscles felt soaked in battery acid. 1 mile to go, and the finish line started to appear. 500m banner to the right, and I opened up a sprint out of the saddle, remembering quickly that the headwind negated any speed gains with the added exposed surface area. I sat back down and mashed through the finish line. 14:36! Even for only being 5.83, that was still fast -- just under 24mph average, and a personal best for the distance (at least, in competition). Although, again for only being 5.83mi, I was toasted. 14:36 would be enough to take 5th place on the day, halfway down on my only 9-rider field. But still good for a solid 11 points for me and my team.
I changed out of my time trial skin suit in to normal road racing skivvys, removing my shoe covers, and took off my TT bars, transforming my bike in to the road racing machine it was built to be. It may not be the prettiest time-trialing rig, but it was a gorgeous road bike. I would grab a slow warmup before the Mercx Category race over an hour later after my Category 4 finish. I snapped a quick picture during warmup of the bike, open fields in the background, and set off for staging once more.
My Mercx Category run was nearly identical to my time trial run, save for an added 27 seconds to my finishing time. I felt just as strong going in, and just as toasted coming out, which goes to show how much difference aero equipment makes -- particularly those TT bars.
Overall on the day, I had fun, cavorted with teammates, and earned some KBAR and KBAT points -- a complete success. Immediately after, I would sign up for the Kansas Time Trial Championships only two weeks away, in Walnut, Kansas, AND for the Tour of KC New Longview Criterium three weeks away in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Both would score extra points, x2 and x1.5, respectively. I was back.
JESSE BLANCARTE TIME TRIAL METRICS (CAT. 4 RACE)
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