National Senior Games Time Trial Race Report

My fourth race of 2015 was the National Senior Games Time Trial Championship, held in Hugo, MN, on Saturday, July 11, on a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) undulating, out-and-back course. The weather was warm, humid, and windy; temperature was 79 degrees, humidity was 68 percent, and the wind was from the southeast at 10 mph. The course was oriented south-north, so there was an angled tailwind outbound and a glancing headwind inbound.

I completed a 50 minute warmup, and rode several blocks to the start line with about 10 minutes to spare. I planned to be conservative for the outbound leg of the race, with the tailwind, since it appeared the course gradually inclined to the turnaround point. Then, I would gradually accelerate back to the finish line with the elevation decline offsetting the quartering headwind.

I smoothly accelerated away from the start line at 1:46:30 PM. I had driven the course the previous afternoon, but had failed to recognize the subtle incline to the course at the half-mile mark through the halfway mark. Consequently, I seriously misjudged the effort required, despite the tailwind, to maintain my speed and cadence for the outbound leg. I probably lost any chance at a podium finish within the first 0:03:30 of the race. In that time span, my speed dropped from over 25 mph to barely 21 mph. Cadence dropped from over 100 RPM to 78 RPM. I reached the turnaround point in 0:07:55 (23.54 mph average), well off the pace for a podium finish.

The inbound trip, into the quartering headwind, was only slightly faster at 0:07:53. I finished with a time of 0:15:48.40 (23.59 mph) for 11th place out of 42 finishers. Average cadence was 94 RPM; maximum cadence was 116 RPM. Average heart rate was 143 BPM (105 percent of threshold); maximum heart rate was 150 BPM (110 percent of threshold).

The winning time was 0:14:05.0 (26.47 mph average). The first five finishers had times under 15 minutes with average speeds over 25 mph. The time difference between 6th place (0:15:29.4/24.07 mph) and 18th place (0:16:00.2/23.30 mph) was only 31 seconds.

Race Replay: 2015 National Senior Games 10 km Time Trial

My failing was twofold. First, I failed to recognize the significance of the gradual incline in the course outbound during the previous day’s reconnaissance drive. I should have ridden the course on my bike. Second, I failed to shift into gears that would allow me to keep my cadence/speed at the target level despite the undulations and gradual incline in the outbound leg.

In addition, I had over-estimated my competitiveness based on my previous race result on a flat, fast course. I now know to expect that national championship race courses will be technically challenging, not flat, fast “speed-fests.” My last five races of this season are being held on courses that are undulating or include rolling hills. They will give me the opportunity to learn when to shift gears that is a prerequisite for a podium finish at the championship level next season.

There is no race report for Sunday’s 5 km time trial. Since it was obvious that I was outclassed by the podium finishers in the 10 km race, I started my 1,300-mile trip home a day early.