Report by Paul Elcock
(Editors Note – Pauls event reports are an extremely honest account of his own day, he’s worth following on Strava for these alone!)
The National Closed Circuit TT Championships were held at Thruxton this weekend, and GS Henley/Athete Services TT Rider Paul Elcock headed over…here is his report;
Somewhere in the back of my mind I had singled this out as a Target. The idea of a motor racing circuit, no traffic, maybe even some racing lines and hard cornering being needed sounded cool- it was about finding speed as much as the limit and that appealed. The TT’s I had ridden in competition had mostly gone wrong- only the ITT in Sardinia (giro Sardinia) had gone well, albeit on a slow bike. I wanted to perform well at one National TT this year, but what with Road events, getting ill, or just being too far away, one by one they passed by. Certainly for me, if the head doesn’t latch on and laugh in the face of the ridiculous- its a waste of time competitively. I had no right to think I could be competitive at the sharp end based on prior results, but I knew that so much had been left on the table, both in terms of my riding performance , and an eye opening into the world of aero courtesy of ASTT team mates.
Road Season done, good miles in the tank and fresh off an amazing 5 days with Azur cycle tours near Nice, which I had used with an eye to buiding up for this TT (i.e a good balance of cruising/ tempo/ FTP and a dash of racing). The plan was have a crack at this closed circuit- go full bore with the bike (borrow fast stuff that was set up well for me), and treat like the last chance to prove the theory. No Power (although that could have been useful in the headwind climb – the Quarq (power meter) had broken) . Ride purely on feel- not just of the limit- as you’d do in a flat fast TT, but more on the balance between how I felt and the sensation of speed (something you largely ignore when relying on a power meter in my experience). On a circuit with significant varying power demands i think this helps you find a rhythm- your maximum rhythm. Certainly i was fine tuning the efforts each lap, and probably really only nailed the last few laps. No warm up as such- turbo resistance packed up. I think the annoyance and mild panic got the HR up pretty well though. I needed a warm up-hadn’t ridden Saturday or indeed much at all during the week.. a good warm up was the key. Certainly several laps of the car park warm up area, steadily ramped up the annoyance as I realised it was a complete waste of time. A short ride out of Thruxton onto some truly dreadful road surfaces got the HR to the point I knew at least the adrenalin system was awake- seething. Spin back to the start– its gonna be a cold start. Everything else was perfect though, bike, wheels, even the helmet borrowed had tested well on me.
Out the Gates into the first complex of corners speed felt good – clearly from a tailwind, bike felt confident- other riders ahead clearly not. I was closing quickly on most out on the circuit – it was a case somewhat of joining the dots, whilst not getting distracted off onto parts of the circuit that made no sense. It kept it more interesting than a road TT- not that the pain ever allows a TT to be anything less than visceral. Having started “cold” the inevitable was I had gone a bit too deep initially, certainly by the time I had made it up to the chicane (uphill into a block headwind) holding way too big a gear, the legs were pumped full of lactic. I coped initially, but come lap 2 when I tried a similar style I faltered- needing to shift down to clear the legs at the point I should have been shifting up and accelerating. Lap 3 I was trying to redeem the situation and really just settle- scavenging for speed still- but trying to relax with what I had learnt rather than the floor it and see what happens approach. Come lap 4 I was confident I could open up a little more in some sections, and lap 5 was just a perpetual question of at what point the body overules the mind. I think i took it pretty deep that last few minutes. Certainly I haven’t seen 190Hr for a while. I was happy with the ride, had felt hooked up the last lap for sure, and got it all out. No more can be done.
The favourites rode a good hour after me, and for sure the wind seemed to have picked up even more. That’s a pity- but I can’t do anything about seeding or wind. The result was I managed to take the win by 13 seconds from Chris Fennell , with Jason Bouttel in 3rd another few seconds back. Very close in the top 5. I’ll have to up my game on these TT’s next season- not that I can do the Jersey justice- but I will fight for it.