Relax. 5. You’ve got this. 4. Come on.
As the commissaire counts down to the start of my National Championships Time Trial, my heart feels like it’s beating in my throat. The start list is stacked with the country’s best riders, including yellow jersey wearer Daryl Impey of Orica-Green Edge. The next 40km is going to be a devil’s game between the clock and my body and every small detail that has gone right or wrong in the lead up to this morning spins through my mind.
3. Push it. 2. Let’s do it. 1. Go.
A big sprint off the start ramp gets me up to speed and my mind is immediately focused as I nestle into the aero bars. I gingerly negotiate the first few corners that are still soaked from the early morning rain and remind myself to ride my own race and not go out too hard. I try to put the other riders out of my mind but it’s hard not to get swept up in someone else’s race. With only 30 second gaps between each rider, you can see a few riders up the road and you can definitely feel the one chasing behind you.
Within the first 8km, HB Kruger, who had started 30 seconds after me, passed me. My plan was to start out easy and build, so now was a test of discipline. A quick glance down at my power meter reassured me I was on track with my plan so I matched his pace and settled in for the remaining 4 laps of 8km. In the later stages of the time trial, I planned to take back the time, hopefully as he will be fading.
The disk was singing behind me as I ploughed ahead averaging over 44km/hr. In turn, riders began to appear in front of me and I systematically overtook all but one of the 9 riders who started in front of me. Picking off riders keeps you going but with each pass my legs burned more and more as I forced them to maintain the speed. Feeling the increasing ache in my legs each time I sprinted out of a corner was a blatant reminder of the effort taking its toll.
I started the final lap with the realization that it was now or never to get my 30 seconds back. I hit it hard in the final few kilometres but it’s not enough. I cross the finish line and there isn’t time for disappointment, only relief. I can feel the pain in my legs slowly fading as I freewheel and let my legs dangle. Next, I get my aero helmet off. It’s been pressing on my ears for an hour and now that my legs have stopped hurting I notice it.
I finally stop and unclip and it’s over. There are only two emotions at the end of a time trial: happiness or disappointment. There’s nothing else in between for the race of truth. For me, it was happiness. I finished 8th overall in the Elite Men’s Race and that result was enough to know the hour of pain was all worth it.