Following is Stuart Birnie’s summary of his first sub 4 hour 100. An excellent performance Stuart and thank you for letting me copy your article on to the Willesden Blog. Miles Back
Oof.. 4am alarm in order to get out there in time to start. Everyone I’d spoken to had said the F1/100 was going to be pretty fast so I’d decided to drive out and try for a sub-4hr time and then tack on some training afterwards to keep El Coacho happy. I’m glad I did because it was a nice course and I finally went under the 4hr mark, knocking another 5 minutes of my PB set the previous week. I was pretty close to setting a PB for 50 mile as well with a 1:57:15 split – that will have to wait.
With pre-race faffing I almost didn’t make my start slot, having to go back to the HQ for another pin for my number (thanks to the woman who helped in there – your pinning was lucky!). I ummed and arred about adding more air to my tyres and chose not to with another rider saying “it’s all about the comfort”. I would have to agree with him as I hauled butt over to the start line, arriving just as the starter called out 20 seconds to go for my number! Not quite the smooth warmup I had at the Hounslow. Out of the blocks I rolled, trying to calm my pace down, knowing pacing is crucial.
Once again the faithful Foreigner team were out cheering and replacing my bottles as needed. I’d made some small adjustments to my bike and position before this race and was trying very hard to maintain my aero position. It seemed to be working as I was on pace for a sub-4hr ride from the start. The same thing happened at Hounslow though so I knew not to get too excited as the final hour would be critical. My glasses took a little bit longer to be covered in sweat and salt – presumably due to the 3.5hr earlier start compared to Hounslow – still I found myself throwing them at Scherrit preferring to be able to actually see where I was going.
There were some bad patches during the race but nothing too critical. The key thing was, there was now about an hour to race and still a good chance for a sub-4hr time. Perhaps the difference this race was that I really wanted it – coming close to a goal is a great motivator to actually achieve it and to be honest I was getting tired of 100s and my poor team mates were getting tired of the early starts!
Looking at my power data for the final hour there’s definitely a sharp ramp up in power. Over the course of the whole race it’s lower than Hounslow but the final hour is much stronger. Maybe I could’ve given more, earlier but whatever, now it’s time to put the hurt on. I remember #75 coming past me on the A421 ‘finishing circuit’ so I knew there were faster riders than me but all I wanted was the sub-4hr. This time the finish line was etched into my brain the first time past it. Not long to go now.. what the? Temporary traffic lights in the distance! Argh, they were green and I KNEW they would change to red before I got there. Sure as, the lights changed to red. I was still rolling towards them but had slowed substantially. It was totally clear so I could’ve just busted through them but couldn’t face being DQ’d for it. I was almost on the lights and they changed. GO GO GO! I accelerated away from them and was soon up to the Black Cat RAB where I got some cheers from the team again.
No let up now. I know I’m going to go under 4 hours but how much?
“Just get over this long rise and then there’s a fast downhill. Tuck in and pedal fat boy”
“Rider ahead, lift it, catch them, pass them, go go go”
“RAB is clear, fast through it, short rise, where’s the bloody finish?”
Team yelling at me as I try a bit harder, desperate to spot anything on the roadside that might be the line. There! Final effort and done.
I’m never quite sure what time I do as I stop my computer soon after the finish. Ditch my lid and ride easy back to the HQ.
Thanks to Tim Davies for letting through my late entry. Thanks to Scherrit for enthusiastically helping out once again and big thanks to my poor girlfriend who hates early starts and driving but did both to allow me to race and ride home.
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