13th July, 2003, Team Time Trial or The Tarmac Ballet  


Team Absolut fielded two teams for the 13th July, SACA time trial.  There was a serious attempt to field three teams with an all-woman team included, but that fell through when most of the lady Absoluts were sick.  T@ had real problems fielding a 2nd team in the Open category due to the Port Dickson Triathlon - it pulled away some of our stronger members. Despite that, an Open Cat team and a Rojak team (MIXED) was formed and sent out against the clock.  The Rojak team managed 4th place while the Open Cat team managed 2nd place.  The race ran smoothly and the results were out very promptly this time.


The race course was identical to the Individual Time Trial that had taken place a month previously.  This time, however, the cyclists started out in teams of four with time taken on the third person.  Teams in the Rojak category had to finish with all four.  It rained almost all of Saturday, the 12th.  In the morning, the weather threatened rain with heavy cloud cover.  This had the effect of lowering temperature to the low thirties (although in the morning it felt much cooler and I brought arm warmers just in case) with a slight breeze.  It was going to be a fast day!

This time, the teams started out at 1 minute intervals.  The speed skaters were again present to do their individual time trial.  Its very good to see cooperation between different sports federations, especially those that are struggling minority sports.  This helps to lower costs for everyone and so we can have more races all around!

The race starts at 8:45 am with the roller bladers going out for a 1 lap race.  They complete and the cyclists start.

"Let me ride in the wind!"

Last year I faced time trials with trepidation. I feared them because I focused on the pain.  Lately, I realized that it was a matter of the mind.  If you really want to do your best, you will adopt a totally different attitude.   This new attitude was inspired by Lippy's famous words at last year's Team Time Trial. "Let me ride in the wind," he said.  "I love it!".

A team that knows how to run a Team Time Trial is a beautiful thing when out on the course.  It is like a dance.  A ballet.  Professional Team Time Trialling is often very smooth, with rider after rider taking his turn in the wind before peeling off.  Of course, amateurs like Team Absolut can only aspire to do that, but we try our best to emulate our heroes on the road.

No amount of training will remove the pain of H+ ions building up in your legs.  But training makes a difference in the perception of that pain. You learn to focus on the important things and ignore the pain.  Plus doing a lot of races helps.  The whole process of getting ready for a race becomes routine and it is good for your nerves.

I decided to become ambitious about my attack against the clock.  I read up on how to position oneself on the bicycle.  At the ITT, I got the saddle height right but maybe not the fore/aft and I was a potato masher.  For the TTT, I think I might have gotten both correct and I was spinning a very comfortable 90-95 rpm in a smaller gear but going much faster.  What a difference a cm or two can make!

I also plotted to buy speed with little cheap gadgets.  Hence, my Met Pac IV helmet and my CH-AERO wheel covers. I would have liked to get a tri-spoke wheel but man, that is one very expensive piece of equipment.  I got the latest Profile aero bars (the Split Second) which had very comfortable arm-rests compared to the Jammers.  Shoe-covers and a skin-suit.  For my front wheel I decided to stick with my Velocity Deep Vs (with 32 spokes) instead of my brother's Mavic CXP-33 (24 spokes).  The reason was that I was that I felt that the Deep V's were much more comfortable.  And because of the speed strips along the course, I decided against those 19mm tires and used regular road racing 23mm Bontragers.

Before the Individual Time Trial, I actually spent four weekends practicing with my equipment.  And I did not use my heart-rate monitor.  I have been learning to use perceived exertion for a few months and it seems to have a positive effect. Looking at my photo on the left, I think I can get my back even more horizontal if I had a bike 1cm smaller (the bars are already flush with the headset) but then it might not be so good as a general purpose road bike.  Still I am very pleased with the position.  I don't think I can ask for more with my current bike.

The Sluts Prepare!!!

A lot of folk in TeamAbsolut was very enthusiastic about racing in the team category this time.  Like Gingerman says, "Its a good way to learn about yourself and your teammates!".  I had no doubt that T@ could perform reasonably well - why?  Our Thursday Torture Trains were very much like team time trials!  T@ is a group that rides together weekly in paceline formation!  One could say that we had been training for such an event for years.

Not only were T@ people enthusiastic about racing, they were also enthusiastic about coming down to watch and support the race.  Coach, stick and wanker made the effort to come down and drive a car with spare wheels.  Coach, as always, can be counted on to take some very good photos.

We had only two specific trainings for the time trial - both, however, did not go very well.  For the first session, I felt hypoglycemic after 3 laps and after the second session, we all felt quite tired.  So we went into Sunday's event with fingers crossed.

The Rojak team almost did not happen either!  After the 2nd training ride, the members of the other Open Team felt that there was too huge a gap in fitness and decided to call it off.  Then, while the Absolut Council was sitting around supper and teh tarik, we found that we could cobble together a Rojak team!  A few late phone calls settled the matter and T@ would send 8 persons against the clock.

The Sluts Race!!!

Now we had two teams.

The "Rojak" Team was composed of Fango, Oldman, Beef   and Teo Yong Siew.

The Open Team was composed of myself, Lippy, Porky and Holyman.

Yong Siew was the lady veteran in the team.  She only recently joined us after  laying off cycling for many years.  She was in the National Women's Cycling  Team in 1991 that won a Silver at the SEA Games.  Sunday was actually her  10th year anniversary since her last race!

Oldman and beef are two of the foundations of T@. Over the past three years, they had been  studiously gathering up stray cyclists that they meet on the roads and trails  and that is mainly how T@ recruits members.

This haphazard method of recruitment has yielded some very surprisingly strong  riders. Lippy and Fangio are examples of two such cyclists.  Lippy got to be good enough at riding he made it to the National Team.  Fangio was another such rider and he has good power output.  But he got involved more as an official and so had not had enough time to train properly.

Holyman is another such 'stray'.  However, because of religious reasons,  he does not ride his bicycle on Sundays and has never made an appearance for  a weekend race.  Hence, his nickname is Holyman.  This was the first time he  had made a special extra effort to appear for a Sunday Race!

The Rojak team started out first.  They had one close shave when Fangio touched Oldman's wheels.  They lost even more time when Yong Siew had a flat tire.  However, our vigilant support crew was on hand to facilitate a wheel change.  They managed to come in fourth despite the time lost on a wheel change.

Our Open Team had put quite a bit of thought into our lineup.  Lippy, Holyman, myself then Porky.  We tried to maintain this lineup all the way with Lippy doing the initial acceleration after every U-turn. We opted not to sprint away from the U-turns.  Our first lap was not very fast - perhaps 41 kph, and it was no surprise that the power packed Cycleworx team (of Nick Swallow, Kale Buornerba and Arab and Evan) caught up with us after one lap.

That was a bad moment.  I had not thought they would catch us so quickly.  To compound the disaster, Porky got into trouble because he had not done enough warmup!  Porky got shelled.  I waited for him but he told me it was all over.  I got up to Lippy and we decided that we were already too committed to have to wait. Somehow we managed to keep pace with the 4-man cycleworx team and when Evan blew up, we realised that they could not lose us!

I was super eager to overtake them then and there, but Lippy reined me in.  We decided to use Cycleworx for pacing - they kept glancing back to see the Sluts hot on their tail!  We realised that we had lost 1 minute to the top team but what about the rest?  Geylang, Cycleworx 2 and others probably still had 4 men!  They probably couldn't beat Cycleworx 1 but they could eat into our time.  Nothing to be done but to keep hammering.  It was a strange time trial.  I felt no pain of any kind although, after the race, Fangio commented that my eyes looked blood-shot!

Major kudos go to Holyman.  For a guy who has been training inconsistently, he  showed real class working with Lippy and myself to peg Cycleworx.  I guess having Cycleworx in front gave us a type of pacemaker.   On the third lap onwards, we tried to cut them on the return lap but they  would always bring the speed up ever so slightly when we were beside them  making it an arduous exercise.  And every time we cut them they'd cut us back.  This was really obvious on the fourth lap.  I cannot remember how many times  we cut in front of each other!!!  Maybe that had an effect on bringing the  speed up.

Well, we ended  up 2nd overall, 1 minute and 1 second behind Cycleworx.  Not  bad for a bunch of Sluts.  Man, this is my highest placing ever in the Open  Category.  Sure feels funnily good despite being the first loser and all....  Our average was 43.7kph (according to Lippy) and last year we could not even hit 40kph!!!


Now that the Team Time Trial is over, the major season event for T@ is over.  We still have two road races but those will be hilly races and not something T@ flatlanders are good at.  We shall see.

Major kudos go to the organizers this time.  The results were prompt.  There were drinks to go around.  It was one of the most well organized local races that I have attended since I started racing in 2001.  Chan, the Race Director, did major good work this time!

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