After the aborted and bitterly cold Chippenham hilly at the start of March, things completely changed for the first round of the Rudy Project series in Northamptonshire. Sunshine, a light nor easterly and no punctures! And a respectable third place, 40sec behind my Drag2zero teammate Matt Bottrill, who beat young gun Sam Harrison (100% ME - Alex Dowsett's old team) by 14sec.
The course isn't that far from Drag2zero HQ in Brackley. That meant we also had local boy Paul Welsby riding, which thanks to his 14th place in the vets gave us the team prize. If anyone needs a pair of Rudy Project sunnies, give me a yell...
19 miles, tricky distance when you're used to pacing for a 10 or a 25. The course was a rolling out and back jobbie on quiet roads near Litchborough. There wasn't a great deal of flat - unless you count the crests of the hills - which made it difficult to pace. You had to be able to vary your effort and match it to the gradient. Go too easy and you lose too much time on the hills, go too hard and you'll lose too much time everywhere else. It's about as far away from a dragstrip as you get.
I got up at silly o'clock ('cos we lost an hour) to drive out and pre-ride the course. I think it was worth it, although it was a mad rush afterwards to get kitted up in time for the start. Once I did, I felt fast and hoped that would translate into a decent ride.
The first part to the turn was 10.5 miles, tailwind but with more climbing than descent. I enjoyed it, thought I was going at about the right pace and managed to get to the turn in 21'55. By clocking a few people coming back I could see I was up on those who I thought would get close. But after 5 minutes of the return leg, I went off the boil a bit. Yes it was hurting but my mind started wandering. It's a race, it's meant to hurt!
That was compounded by a horse box turning in front of me with about 3 miles to go. It pulled away but I knew I'd catch it on the last descent, which I did and had to scrub off some speed. Frustrating but it's part of TTing on open roads, and there was no way I was going to pull any risky moves. Of course as soon as the road went up again, the horse box's superior horsepower made it pull away again, this time for good. I did my best to get up the 1 mile drag without losing any more time and finished off the race quite well.
I wasn't initially thrilled with my time of 40'52 as I figured closer to 40min would have been possible. But it turned out to be a decent ride, with Matt clocking 40'12 to win it and Sam Harrison pushing him close with his 40'26 - I'm sure we'll hear more of Mr Harrison in future.
All in all a very good day for the team, with Derek Parkinson winning the Border City Wheelers SPOCO to boot.
I'll try and get it together for the second Rudy in a few weeks, as it's of a similar distance. In the meantime, I'm doing the Kinetic One 10 at Castle Combe on Wednesday and the Good Friday 10 on the V718 on April 6. Both Derek and Mark Holton are riding that, so if it lives up to expectations we might be in with a shout of a team comp record.