Sunday, I raced the 2009 edition of the Stony Creek Time Trial. I didn't feel particularly well-prepared for the race, but I still had some reasonably high expectations.
The preparation problems revolved around just not riding enough after my trip to California, and that my legs were still very sore after what I thought would be a pretty easy workout Friday night.
In the past, I've gone with the strategy of holding back a little at the start of a time trial, and then (hopefully) speeding up as the race goes on. In the distant past, I've also gone out too hard and blown up in time trials. Anyway, what I've been finding more recently is that it works better for me to go a little harder at the start, to psychologically set the intensity level for the race. So, that's what I did.
The format of these MTB time trials is that pairs of riders go off every 30 seconds. So, I went out pretty hard, as planned; the guy that started with me seemed content to draft me on the grassy start. Maybe this should have bothered me, but I'm not sure there's a huge aero advantage to be had at the speeds we were going, particularly behind me ;) . Once we got to the gravel road, he dropped me pretty quickly. The good news was that I could see that I had nearly reeled in the guy that started 30 seconds ahead of me (there was just one, the other guy didn't show up at the starting line).
Everything went fine through the first water-crossing, and then I passed my 30s guy just before a short section of singletrack. He was still close when we hit the first big climb; I pushed hard over that climb and dropped him. Even though my legs felt bad, it seemed like I was doing OK. Just after that, the guy that ended up winning my class passed me.
I hit the first long section of singletrack, The Pines, and backed off just a bit. I rode it about how I usually do, which is probably not aggressive enough. I got passed by two guys.
Basically, that's how the race went. I pushed hard on the two-track, and backed off a little on the singletrack. The passing I mentioned above was the only passing that happened. Later on, I did run into the guy that started with me. He had some problem with his chain that he'd just fixed. Once he got going, I didn't stay with him for long.
Anyway, I finished in 1hr 1min. It's a little hard to compare this time to my 2006 time, since the trail is now a little longer, but in 2006 I did the race in 1hr 4min. I guess I'm a little disappointed that I didn't finish in less than an hour. Despite the sore legs and rustiness, I actually felt like I raced OK, so the time surprised me a bit. Maybe this is a case of letting a bad result ruin an otherwise good race, I don't know.
There really wasn't one area that I can say caused me to be slow. My fitness seemed OK (despite the sore legs), although it could always be better. My singletrack riding was OK for me; it's still a relatively weak point, but (at least at Stony) I don't feel totally outclassed like I used to. I did a pretty good job of staying focused mentally. I think it's a case of going just a little faster everywhere, which would add up to going a lot faster overall.