Team HBH in the British RTTC National Championship 12hour TT

Gereden op: zondag 23 augustus 2015
Afstand: 394 kilometer
Coureurs: Niels Spoorbiels

Club member Niels Langhout recently undertook the enormous task of riding the RTTC National Championship 12 Hour Time Trial. Here in his own words is Niels’ account of this epic undertaking.

“Team mate, Rob Tomlinson and I were talking a while back about our goals for the year and what we were planning for next year. I wanted to mainly focus on my half distance triathlons and maybe even do a full distance. Rob was thinking about going for the 24hr TT as one of his main goals for 2016. To push Rob a bit, I told him to sign up for this year’s 24 hour and recon the course, work out strategies, understand how it is organized and get a general feel for what the event is like. To push him a bit more, I told him that I would enter the event as well if he would.

 

A leap into the unknown

A few days later we had both signed up, not knowing what we’d gotten ourselves into. Rob started ramping up the miles on his bike and turbo trainer. I continued cycling as I normally do. July 18th came a lot quicker than expected. It was Race Day. We both started the 24 hour time trial and we both failed to finish. Around midnight I had to stop the TT. I got stomach cramps after 10 hours and lost all will to continue when I saw that it had started to rain, which was going to continue throughout the night. Rob continued to ride until about 2:30 in the morning. The conditions were truly horrible. Apart from failing to finish I did enjoy the 24. The atmosphere was great and I love pushing myself to see what I am capable of. Lots of lessons learnt, mainly around:

  • Pacing strategy
  • Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. Energy gels are disgusting
  • How to prep the bike for a 24hr TT
  • One bike, or two bike strategy?
  • Clothing. I expected a brilliant day and didn’t even think about the temperature drop at night
  • Mental toughness: the longest I have ever been on a bike was 13 hours during the Marmotte.
  • Don’t drive home straight after the event, but arrange for a place to stay.

 

After that failure, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to do anything like this again. Rob told me he had already signed up for the 12 hour TT. I wasn’t sure yet. About a week later Rob and I were talking again and I saw the big Sotonia CC 12hour TT trophy in his living room. Rob had won it last year. I thought to myself, why not have a go at that? And at the same time make it a bit more of a challenge for Rob. I signed up, booked a hotel and forgot all about it. Before I knew it, it was 22nd of August.  A lot had happened in the meantime. Rob had arranged a whole support crew. Penny, John and Liz were going to support the two of us. Handing out bottles, energy gels, etc. All looked good. Unfortunately a couple of weeks prior to the race Rob crashed into a curb and busted his shoulder. He was out. I thought about pulling out as well, but since the hotel was booked and non-refundable and the race was paid for, there was no going back. I had to go ahead with it.

 

The big day

Before I knew it, it was the 22nd of August. I drove up to Farndon, just south of Chester. We all met at a camp site where Penny and John had their caravan. Penny had prepared a brilliant pre-race meal, and we were discussing race strategies. By we, I mean Rob, Penny and me. John and Liz weren’t really interested as long as I made it back safely. The pressure was on. One rider and a support crew of four. After a few beers (2), I headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

The next morning at 4:30 my alarm went. I shouldn’t have had those 2 beers. Put my cycling gear on and had some porridge. Off to the start. My start time wasn’t until 6:49, so I was there bright and early.

12hr_tt_start_2015

 

The start was at Lynn’s Café at the junction between the A41 and the A49. Apart from lots of cyclists and a union jack on the roundabout, this was just a normal Sunday morning. Penny and Rob arrived at app 6:15. I was ready: shoe covers on, gloves on, helmet on, food in pockets, bike prepped, and bloody nervous. Finally it was time to go to the start. It was 6:48 and the marshal started the countdown: 30 sec…. 10 sec…… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… And off I went.

“Don’t go too fast, don’t go too fast”, I kept telling myself. I always go away too fast. The plan was to do the first couple of hours at a slightly higher pace (wattage) and then settle down to a more sustainable pace. The first hour I averaged 37.7 kph (23.4 mph) at 261 Watts. It felt good. The weather was getting better and temperatures were slowly rising.  This was also the first time I tried to receive a bottle whilst cycling. I have done it before, but that was in France using my right hand, so this was quite different. I saw Penny in the distance and remembered she told me to slow down and then grab the bottle. I disagreed and decided to grab the bottle at full speed. At over 40 kph I grabbed the bottle. My hand slammed into the bottle and ripped it out of penny’s hand. My grip wasn’t great, so it went flying. The cap came off and I was left with no drink. Luckily Rob was standing 20 meters ahead, so I hit the brakes and slowed down to a comfortable 20 mph and was able to get the bottle. Lesson learnt.

6:49 – 11:30: The first 100 mls I did in 4h34m. I was well ahead of schedule. Nutrition still felt OK. Have a gel on the hour, a bar every half past the hour and drink a bottle during the hour. Just focusing on these three thinks was enough to keep me occupied during the first couple of hours.

11:30- 13:30: I was starting to struggle. My legs didn’t feel OK anymore and I realized I had started out too fast. My average had dropped to 35 kph  (21.8 mph). Just keep going. Temperature was rising and got up to app 24 degrees. Mentally these kilometers were the toughest. You are not even half way and already struggling.

I tried to stop and get off the bike for just a couple of minutes when I was getting new bottles from Penny and Rob. They would not allow me to stop. Before I even came to a complete stop, they urged me to continue. They were ruthless!

12hr_tt_Penny_2015

Penny Cossburn on pit crew duty

13:30 – 17:00: It had started to rain. Not just the odd shower, but continuous, torrential rain. I was still cycling on the A41 and the A49, with lots of lorries. I could hear them coming up from behind. All I could do was hold my breath and pedal on and hope the spray and wind wouldn’t blow be off my bike. It wasn’t really cold, as long as I kept pedaling. I kind of enjoyed it… for the first hour or so. After 16:00-ish it dried up and they started to direct the cyclists ti the Quina-Brook finishing circuit.

17:00-18:49: Finally on the finishing circuit. This sort of means that you have finished. Even if you stop now, you will get a result in the final ranking. Weirdly enough I considered this a milestone. Your mind does strange things after 10 hours of cycling. My legs were shattered and I was struggling to keep my power above 200 Watts. My average speed had dropped to 33.5 kph (20.8 mph). There was no energy left in me. All I could do was grind on keep going. One of the ladies (number 46 Crystal Spearman who finished 3rd woman) that had started just in front of me overtook me after I had overtaken her somewhere during the first 100 miles. I initially tried to hold her wheel, then decided it was probably better to keep her in sight and finally agreed to just let her go. Nothing I could do about it. There was nothing left in the tank. Mentally I was still OK, since I knew I had made it to the end. Physically there was no “umpf” left. I only had one pace and that was it. When it got really close to the 12 hour mark, Penny and Rob started to follow me on the finishing circuit in their car. I almost made it to the third timing point when the clock went through the 12:00:00. I had done it!

18:49 onwards: I got off the bike. How strange it felt not being clipped in. Straightening my back felt like bliss and was agonizing at the same time. The realization hit that I had actually finished the complete 12 hour time trial and had done 394km, which was 6k short of my original target. I had a great sense of achievement and disappointment at the same time. Lots of mixed feelings. The 400k mark was so close and yet so far away. I was getting quite cold within seconds of being off the bike so I was very grateful when Rob put a towel over my shoulders. I wasn’t talking much. My legs were a bit wobbly. I just wanted to sit down in the front seat of the car. After a couple of minutes I helped Penny to get my bike on the roof of the car and we set off back to race HQ. I had something to drink and was starting to feel better. It takes some time to actually think about what you have done during these 12 hours. Your world shrinks to just you, the bike and food. You don’t really think about what else is going on.

 

The support

Rob and Penny did a great job supporting me. Apart from just feeding me, they made sure I wouldn’t get off the bike (they only failed once after 100 miles for a couple of minutes). This sounds like a small thing, but of the 12 hours, I spent 11 hours and 55 minutes pedaling. I would not have been able to do this without them. They spent most of the day chasing after me, handing me bottles, gels and bars. They shouted at me when they past me in the car (mostly Rob) and urged me back on the bike before I had even stopped to get some drinks.

In the  weeks that followed, I went back to my normal routine. A bit of swimming and trying to hold onto the back during the tri-ride on Saturdays. Swimming was OK, but cycling was a different story. My heart rate would go up significantly faster than normal.  I had aches in places I never thought possible. For example the muscles between my ribs hurt for about two weeks whenever I was cycling. I had a tingling feeling ring finger and pinky on both hands for about half a week.

Would I ever do a 12hr or 24hr time trial again? Absolutely, but I would do a lot of things differently. I might actually train for it!  With a bit of luck we can get a Sotonia CC Team together. Rob and possibly Dan Edwards are up for it. I know I am.”

Niels

 

Strava link to activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/376478830

RTTC National 12 Hour Results: http://www.timetriallingforum.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=103510

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