My Time Trial Report – by Willis Wong

Although the time trial is meant to be a race which tests only the physical abilities of a rider, I do believe there is a heavy psychological effect that goes with it. For example, before the race, “will I beat my last time?” or even “Will I beat this guys time?” or more importantly, “will this guy beat MY time??”. All that goes through your head before the ride. During the ride, the question changes to “Am I beating my last time?” or even “will I lap the person ahead of me?”, or more importantly “will the person behind me, lap me??”. And then when it’s all over, despite all these questions, there can only one answer. And that answer will be the truth. How’s that for a head game?

The morning of my time trial, I made sure to drink alot of water, because the time trial route was so short (6 miles) that I could get away with not carrying a water bottle (an extra pound weight). I would have left my pump and spare tire off too for the weight savings, but that would have been silly getting a flat in the middle of nowhere with no way to fix it. The final weight savings was to go to the bathroom as many times as possible beforehand. The reason for my attempts at weight saving were because I had installed a clip on aero bar, to try to cheat the wind a little, but at the cost of about two pounds weight. Extra weight would surely hurt me in the hills, but I figured the aerodynamic advantage would be more valuable than lighter weight. Wind resistance is the number one enemy in this kind of ride, and not gravity.

I’ll admit the other reason for the aero bar was to intimidate a bit. I also purposely wore an old super small jersey so that it wouldn’t flap around in the wind. I wanted to look and feel fast. Of course the downside to using special gear for this race was if my time didn’t improve, I would look pretty stupid. So the gear was somewhat of a motivator to perform harder.

I was definitely surprised to see Nick show up with a road bike. He’s one of those natural athletes and up until now would be very competitive with us on his mountain bike. We always knew with a road bike he would be an absolute terror. So showing up the day of a time trial with a bike he hadn’t even tried out yet, well that will open your eyes a bit. However, I wasn’t intimidated because I never really considered myself a challenge to Nick, since he’s always going for the number one spot, which means his only competitor is Dino.

Back to my story: When it was my turn to start, I rolled up to our starting line, and our official starter (Anthony) and got my stopwatch ready. As he counted down for me to leave, the tension rose, and I could see my heart rate going up. He yelled out “T-minus ten, nine, eight…” and then when he hit “one…” I asked myself if he wanted me to go on one, or zero, or would he say “go”??? The split second seemed like forever, but then I heard him say “GO!” and I pushed off for my first crank, hoping to clip in on the first try…. Luckily I hooked the pedal cleat right where it had to go and engaged the lock with a loud “clack!” and I was off. I stood up for a few revolutions and tried to accelerate as smoothly as possible, shifting up to a gear big enough that I could start breathing hard riight away. A quick glance at the heart rate monitor showed 150bpm, so I then got into the aero tuck position and slid forward on the saddle, just like I saw in the magazines…

My strategy was to take advantage of the aero bar positioning and stay in the tuck as much as possible. I wanted to prove that the aerodynamics would matter. This sacrificed a bit of my normal riding position, so I felt a bit awkward and maybe wasn’t using my optimum pedal stroke. Also, my lungs were a bit squashed in the hunched over position, so I don’t know if I was breathing all that well either. I think I was hyperventilating within the first 30 seconds. It didn’t feel good. But I wasn’t doing this to feel good.

With my labored breathing I was able to maintain 19-22 mph on most sections. My heart rate was pegged at 178 bpm most of the time. Having that really kept me from getting too far over my limit. I recall from the last time trial that I pushed way too hard and felt like throwing up several times, causing me to slow down considerably. This time, with the monitor, I could see real time when I was pushing it too much, and could ease off slightly when necessary.

I didn’t attack the hillls as hard as I wanted to. I think because I preferred to stay in the tuck position (bad for hillclimbing) but at the rate I was going, I didn’t have a whole lot to attack with anyways. I passed by several cyclists, walkers, and joggers along the way. They must have thought I was crazy, riding in that tuck position all nutso by myself.

At about the halfway point I saw the flash of a white jersey turning up ahead. Could it be Hilario, who started two minutes before me? I never imagined I would catch up to him. But once I came around the corner and saw him up ahead, my thinking had changed completely from “how could I catch him?” to “I must pass him!”. Hilario is no pushover. So I figured if I caught him, I must be making pretty good time. I just kept my eye on my heart rate and tried to concentrate on my spin. If I pass him, great. If I don’t, at least I saw him, and my time should be pretty decent. As I cranked on in pain, I saw another figure come into focus. It was Val, who had started two minutes before Hilario. He had just passed her, and by the looks of it I would pass her as well. At that point I thought I must be doing warp speed to catch two riders. But little did I know that Val had chain problems (sorry Val!) and also stopped to give a woman directions! So I yelled out “Go Val!” as I passed her, and pressed on for my second catch. It wasn’t until the very last section that I did catch and pass Hilario. The final downhill right before the Deer Creek Wall. That’s where we always start our sprint. It’s a steep descent, with a bump at the bottom, and then a long straight hillclimb into a headwind.

Right after the bump, I whizzed by Hilario and shouted “C’MON, MAN!” to try and get a good reaction out of him. I figured it would be good if we raced each other up the hill to finish strong. And then I stood up and tried to pound up the hill, hoping my comment wouldn’t give him enough strength to pass me at the finish. As I climbed, it hurt, everything hurt. Unfortunately, I never heard Hilario on my tail, but that was ok just the same, because I had given all my energy to the ride, and there was nothing left for this sprint. Strategically, that was exactly how I wanted it to happen, because the amount of time I would have made up for in the final sprint would be minor compared to the energy being equally used over the length of the course. So I was glad to feel spent. But riding so hard that you have no kick makes you feel really slow at the end. So I stumbled across the finish line gasping for air and wanting to sell my legs for new ones on eBay, because they were very very used up. I stopped the stopwatch, noticed the time, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I knew it was over and that i had given it my all.

Not until we compared times afterwards did I realize how well I did. I had improved my last time by over a minute. I’d attribute it to the aero bar and use of heart rate monitor to maintain peak effort without going too far. Overall, it was a worthwhile test of mind and body. The race of truth.

6-17-2003 Time Trial Results

  12/3/02 rank 6/17/03 rank Time Difference Rank Difference
dino 18:48 1 17:50 1 0:58 0
willis 19:36 4 18:25 2 1:11 2
nick     18:42 3      
kevin 19:18 2 19:00 4 0:18 -2
tom 19:30 3 19:24 5 0:06 -2
hilario 20:52 5 20:05 6 0:47 -1
gregg     21:28 7      
val     25:15:00 8      

So the time trial came and passed. Nick arrived at Incyte at 10:45 with his new Trek carbon-fiber 5200 that he just purchased on Ebay, I had expected that Nick would show for the time trial on a new road bike to give himself a better chance to win. We all rode to Deer Creek and established the finish line then rode to the the starting line. Here we took off in intervals of 2 minutes, starting with Nick then Val, Gregg, Hilario, Willis, Tom, Kevin and Myself. Anthony and Hanz were there to assist on the start for each rider. As each rider waited their turn to ride, Anthony gave a count down, which in turn made some of the riders anxious, including myself. All the riders started out on a full sprint looking strong and intimidating. When I finally started my ride, the first approach was a turn on an incline. By this time my legs, lungs and throat were burning, as I continued with my ride my thoughts were on the pain I was experiencing and thinking I could be “dust”( you know, in trouble on defending my rank). I felt my age and fatigue already catching up to me, and the ride was just beginning. My thought was to press on and just give it a good shot, thoughts were going through my mind that I was going to be beat by at least one or two guys. My breathing was deep and almost hyper-ventilating. The feeling of a large bellow in my chest trying to feed more oxygen through my body and legs to calm the burning that seemed useless. As the ride proceeded, I had actually caught Kevin in my site, at first thinking I was doing well. But knowing Kevin is such a strong rider, the next thought was possibly something was bothering him and he was struggling. I decided I would not get too excited and falsely lead myself on using Kevin as a gauge on my time. As I Turned onto Deer Creek, I noticed my time to be in the low 16:00, thinking that I was going to possibly finish in the high 16:00. This gave me a lot of encouragement but still not knowing how everyone else finished. As I started my sprint downhill and approached the incline, I felt the strong headwind and really slowed my momentum. I could see Kevin just finishing ahead of me and all eyes were on me as everyone anxiously waited for the time of the last rider. As I crossed the finish line, I heard someone ask my time ( I had posted a mark of 17:50), as I mentioned my mark, I heard a collective “awe”. This gave me a hint that I possibly had come in first and successfully defended my time. When I turned around and gathered with the group, I was told officially that my mark was the winning time. This was a good feeling but didn’t alleviate the pain and fatigue I was going through until I had caught my wind. I remembered why we only do this once in great while, “IT HURTS AND IS VERY TIRING”!

Today is it! This is the moment of truth. Today is when we do the time trial, we will see how much improvement we each made from the first time trial while adding more participants. This will apply more pressure on each rider as the unranked riders will play a huge role as wildcards. Truly I think the top three position is up for grabs and rankings will change. The first time trial, I posted a time of 18:48, good enough to post first out five riders. I believe this time is not good enough to hold, I will have to be better just to stay in the top three as will everyone else. I myself have improved physically and and my endurance have improved in the last 8 months, this is what I offer for todays race. From what I’ve seen, just about every rider has improved physically through training. We shall see the results after todays ride. There will be no drafting, this will be a true physical test of who the strongest on a somewhat flat course, I say this because a climbing route is totally a different route which will require a different skill and physique and the rankings of todays time trial will not apply to a climbing time trial. Eventually, we will have to test the rankings of a climbing time trial. I have an idea how that ranking will end up…My goal is to successfully defend my rank, this will be a difficult task as a few riders are very strong and experienced. I will try my best and the riders that come ahead of me will truly earn their ranking.

So lately, the rides have been very interesting. Tom has been very aggressive and actually making challenges. Its funny, if you ask him directly if he will put up a challenge to a particular rider, he chooses not to answer or be subtle about his answer. But as the opportunity arises he participates in the challenge. As he approaches a particular spot where most sprints and challenges occur(members of “Wheely Cool” knows where these stretches or short hills are), Tom pretends to hang back and gives some excuse why he’s lagging. What he’s actually doing is waiting for the particular rider he is about to challenge, stays behind that rider to conserve energy and to draft and as that rider makes his move, he jumps behind that rider, drafts a bit and attempts to sprint or attempts to catch you off guard for the win.

Today I helped Hilario out by drafting in front of him, the challenge was to come from Hilario at Sandhill. As we approached the downhill before the Sandhill climb, I began my sprint downhill to catapult Hilario up Sandhill. I had approached 42+ mph, expecting Hilario to ride my draft, there was a separation that was created between me and Hilario, Tom was looking for this and took advantage of it and jumped in between Hilario and I and rode my draft. I believe that Tom was actually conserving and waiting for me to make my move to ride my draft, thinking the challenge was coming from me. This hill is a favorite spot to sprint and test other riders strength, skills and endurance. Tom stayed with me, followed by Hilario and Willis, until I gave way to Hilario and Tom for their challenge. Hilario appeared to make his move by pulling aside Tom and actually getting a small lead. Willis and I observed, to our disappointment not much happened, as if both were waiting for the other to make his move. With Willis growing impatient, Willis initated a sprint and past both Tom and Hilario in hopes of triggering a sprint from both riders. I had thoughts on following Willis but decided to stay back to see the whole race develop and watch the outcome from behind. Once Willis had passed Tom and Hilario, Tom got out of his saddle when he reached a predictable marker (last speed sign on the hill) and attempted to catch Willis and initiate his power move on hilario. This triggered Hilario to initiate his sprint, but to my disapointment, Hilario was too tired to put up a challenge and sat back down.

Knowing from observing Tom’s strategy the past few weeks, I decided to test his actual sprinting skill. As we descended from Sandhill and crossed Highway 280 overpass, Willis had initiated another sprint, seeing this, I myself sprinted and took a wide approach as I passed Tom. I did this knowing that Tom would try to jump in my draft to attempt to stay with me. To his discouragement, by the time he had jumped in my tracks, I had sprinted too far ahead of him and had eliminated his opportunity to draft behind me. This resulted in him getting left behind, basically negating his strategy and strength. I felt if he wanted to show his sprinting skill, he would have to do it on his own energy.

The point to this story is, if you expect to challenge or fend off Tom, don’t let him hang back to rest, or hang back with him to rest and eliminate fatigue while he atempts to stay somewhat fresh, don’t let him draft on you, and don’t let him think your predictable (thinking that he may know your gearing sequence). I noticed that he will not attempt to challenge on a long steep climb or after a long constant fast pace, gravity and fatigue is a problem to his strategy. I think at this point you can see the whole picture.

It was a good challenge. I do see what Tommy Eugene is trying to accomplish. Everything will play out on June 17th.

TOday was even cooler than any day in the whole week. There seemed to be a lot of bikers today than any day of this year that we rode. We met up with a few riders near the top of ELENA. About ten or twelve all bunched up just enjoying the day. We took the new Elena route. A few of the riders we met came up with us and we chatted a bit. JAeik Song came with us today. He’s a guy from our cats team who used to ride consistently . IT was Paige’s last day of riding with us. She will be moving on to another job next week. Nothing really eventfull to tell about the ride until the end on Deer Creek. Tom seemed to have a plan today that we did not know about till we came up on Deer creek. Again it was for Dino. He mumbled to me as we were making a left on Deer Creek that he was tired today and we could have it today. BUt hold on right about at the start of the downhill, tom made a move to the front. Dino followed right behind then willis then paige and myself. Paige held back while i came down with the guys cuz i could see what was transpiring. Tomm still looked like he was just going to take it easy. He was just seated and yet he was pedaling and picking up speed. Dino seemed to be waiting for Tom to make his move . However it never came. Dino must have been frustrated of waiting . He initiated the move towards the top but then Tom matched his move when he made his. THey seemed to be neck a neck from a parallax point of view. Tom was pedaling so hard that his front tires were coming off the ground. Willis stayed behind tuck down but i wasnt sure if he was trying to catch up or just be close enough for the view. It was a close finish but i believe Dino Took it. I guess today was just not the day Dino says his name of which i know Tom was saying to himself ” whats my name Dino???!!!.. It was a great ending to ride dedicated to Paige who picked the route. I think this battle is just the beginning . I think one word was spelled out today clearly. R-E-S-P-E-C-T…..

Todays ride was great. Twelve riders went out to take the elena route. There were new riders with us which made it even better. Everyone did great except there were a couple that sustained mechanical problems . Anthony’s bike had his chain come off twice during the worst time of the ride while going uphill. Willis being the team mechanic though rode back and helped him out. Lynn was also having brake issues and could not be resolved on the ride so they played it safe and took the shortcut instead fo the big hill on elena. The exceptional riders again for being new riders were Val andChristina and surprisingly the most improved from the last ride was HAns . He really spun all the way eventhough he said he was dying and legs were burning. Chuck was again flying on the downhills even tucking down to increase his speed. I would not want to be in front when he’s going down. I guess i cant describe who all these people are individually but describing their accomplishments is enough. Doing this ride for the first time is achievement in itself. Howard is another new rider with green wheels . I think he rode before because he did alright through the ride. The pace was surprisingly fast even with new riders. We made it back under an hour. The temp was around 70-75 degrees and very comfortable compared to yesterday.

I started the day with no intentions of riding hard, just trying to get back into shape from a long hiatus. However, as we draw nearer to the time trials, I feel that the friendly competition is building and the mind begins to play tricks.

My choice of the “Moody” route today was somewhat of a test, so that I could gauge my aerobic capacity as well as leg strength. Both would be needed for the extended climb up Page Mill Road.

I felt awkward on the bike at first, like it didn’t fit. Last week I had purposely moved my saddle forward and up, to try to use more quadricep while spinning. My previous setup for several years was the saddle far back, and lower, to use more calf and gluteals. It served me well for low RPM mashing, but I am trying to develop a better spin and higher RPM. The new saddle position actually may have been the cause of my near crash last week. I took a familiar corner way too fast, and the bike came out from under me, very abruptly. In a split second my line through the corner changed several degrees, and my bike wobbled and hopped around. Luckily some instinctive balancing or divine intervention kept me from falling over while still going 20mph through the turn. I was shaken more after the ride, just at the thought of crashing in that turn.

So as we rode up the steady grade of Page Mill Road, I found myself right next to Dino and keeping a good pace. There are two switchbacks that allow you to see down the hill how far of a gap you have on the people behind you. The first switchback showed us with a substantial gap over Kevin, Paige, and Hilario. With that, I could tell Dino and I were pushing it slightly. But I felt ok, so decided to keep it up. I could hear Dino breathing very loudly as we crawled up the hills, matching shift for shift. For most people, heavy breathing is an indication of suffering, but Dino is just a loud breather by nature (and sometimes uses it as an intimidation tactic) so I was more inclined to monitor his pace than breathing, to guage how well I was doing in the climb. My legs got heavy pretty early on, but my lungs were working well, so I stayed with him despite my loss of conditioning. There were a few times where I felt good enough to shoot ahead, but decided there need not be a challenge today.

This decision was not set in stone, however, as an opportunity to break came up. A car had passed both of us, and I decided to get a pull off the car. Not necessarily a draft, but more of a pace to match. I accelerated as soon as it passed me, to try to catch up to the car. Most people don’t do this move, so I knew I could open a gap on Dino. The idea was to initiate a chase, and that would push me to climb the last bit hard to avoid him catching up. But what really happened once the gap opened, there was no chase, and so I was left to mentally battle myself to the top of the hill. And I think the mental struggle was more stressful than a physical challenger. Combined with a bit of trash talking right before the ride, I decided to release my agressions by cursing out Dino once he reached the top after me.

The ride down was very scary for me. Either it was my fatigue from the climb or my new saddle position, or loss of confidence from the near-crash last week. I felt the bike continuously coming out from under me on every switchback on the way down. It was like learning how to ride all over again. The farther forward position and higher saddle height might be putting less of my weight on the pedals and more on the saddle, which would not be good for a descent. I’ll have to mess around with it more.

Today Willis chose to ride Paige Mill to Moody route, this is a steep climb and is an exhausting ride. I felt pretty decent myself regardless of doing a fourth ride in five days in which two rides totaled 77 miles for me. Willis and I were at the front of the pack, consisting of Willis, Myself, Hilario, Paige and Kevin. Willis hasn’t been riding much the last three weeks due to an illness and ankle injury, Willis mentioned he didn’t feel strong, so since this is Willis’ strongest ride, I decided to stay with him as long as I can and see how strong he really was. With flying colors he showed me he was strong and pounded me the last 200 yards of Paige Mill. When I got to the top and Willis and I caught our breathe, I complimented him on a good climb. His response was “you A-hole, you pushed me!” With a smile, I replied ” I wanted to see how strong you really were”. With that, I felt that by June 17th, Willis will be ready for the ” Race of Truth” as he put it. Paige came in strong also, about 50 feet behind me and looking strong on her new, shiny, fast Trek 5200. The rest of the ride, we all took it easy and enjoyed the pace back to the office.