Events: Route 29 Summer Time Trial p/b Merrill Lynch Wealth Management of Princeton
(2018) When one mentions a cycling time trial, inevitably someone spouts out its other name: the race of truth. It is a discipline I sorely missed over the past few years after relinquishing my beloved time trial bike. It was sold because the Route 29 time trial had sought existence elsewhere on account of the poor road conditions. Today’s race, put on by Bridge Velo, saw a healthy turn out of 150 riders across numerous categories. I entered the ultimate race of truth.
I miss the days of pointing my time trial bike to New Jersey’s border road of Route 29, a north-to-south passage with generous shoulder space and fast passes. It was – and still is – a road perfect for such a machine. In any direction the route will undoubtedly make you a faster rider if you let it. In its simplicity comes complexity. It would be so easy to sit up for just a few seconds and regain composure after redlining for several miles. That hesitation could mean the difference between winning and not setting foot on the podium. Despite its gentle undulation, route 29 can break a time trial rider.
In a cathartic way I also miss the time trial bike set-up. To go fast on a time trial bike one must be as uncomfortable as possible. To be comfortable on a time trial bike equates to a lack of economy on the bike. Perhaps time trial specialists tear through a course because they are trying to get to the finish seat the fastest. I felt purification through suffering. The faster I went, the more pain inflicted, the better I felt.
I’ve often thought if America wanted to put on a proper professional cycling event, like the Tour de France, route 29 would be a perfect time trial stage. There are no technical turns that TT bikes struggle to handle. There are no climbs outside of a TT bike’s design. Many people find time trial stages boring, so why not have a TT stage that mimics the firing of a gun? This road is meant for TT bikes.
For the Route 29 Summer Time Trial powered by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management of Princeton I opted for the ‘Eddy’ class. The race of a truth has a race of truth within in. The Eddy class is attempting the time trial on a regular road bike with no aero equipment. I am sure I made a couple people anxious by not maintaining the pins. For the race, too, I decided to ride from the office of creakybottombracket.com down to Lumberville, PA, cross the pedestrian bridge into New Jersey and the registration table. I signed in and pedaled north 8.5 miles to the starting line.
It was perfect to race. The temperature was forecasted to be about 70 degrees at the start. There were no clouds. There was a tailwind. Nearly the entire ten-mile course would be in the shade of trees that line the road. The final bonus was the lack of humidity. This was certainly personal best conditions.
I rode north with Kurt who was excited to try out a new skinsuit for the event. As he rode ahead I picked up another rider who came from Brooklyn Heights to compete. There were numerous riders who decided to park at the finish line and ride to the start. My gate time was set back from the 8:00am event start. Pedaling north was enjoyable while watching riders blazing south looking for the finish line. Masters flew by. Two recumbents rode south. A handcycle followed them. The juniors raced in the drops with their jersey shoulders flapping. The women followed the juniors. Then the men followed.
Getting into the starting line was simple by ordering ourselves into numerical order. People could be heard asking what their number was. Some guys asked several times. I felt anxious that my start time and the amount of starters didn’t match. Yet my time came up on the screen, the holder held me upright, the countdown commenced and I took off with the goal of going from point A to point B as fast as possible.
Rohan Dennis once admitted to often thinking he had started out too hard and that he had blown the effort in the first mile. Here I was sprinting away from the starter dismissing the notion I could be trying too hard too soon. I told myself to settle in and to save some power for the final kick.
What’s there to say about a time trial to make it sound exciting? I was riding as hard as I could while pummeling the voice in my head telling me to pull it back. I kept watching my thirty-second rider get farther into the distance. I told myself to stay within the effort. I covered the first quarter of the race fairly quickly and feeling like I was in a bubble. Along route 29 is a rails-to-trail that hugs the Delaware River shoreline. Whenever I felt like the effort was going uphill I would glance to the right and see the trail down below a few feet. Twice it looked like the road was lower than the trail. For the most part, this route is downhill.
The route is so familiar to me that I picked out landmarks. Shortly after covering the three-mile mark I felt the need to move to the right a bit. No sooner did I do that than my thirty-second rider passed me. Stay within yourself I thought. A couple miles later my one-minute rider caught me. I was pummeling the voice telling me to get frustrated. That’s one of the beauties of the race of a truth: the effort blocks out much of the negativity. I recognized the final mile before Bulls Island where registration was. The finish line was about one mile beyond the park. By this point a TT rider had dusted me off as well. I was still feeling involved in my effort. The route had finally emerged into the daylight.
I crossed the line and stopped my computer. This made me feel professional. I took a moment to get myself composed and turned around to head home. Route 29 is a general cycling favorite. Heading back to Bulls Island I was part of a pack of TT finishers, weekend riders who happened to be on route 29, and some hybrid riders avoiding the rails to trail mentioned previously. Strava’s recording of the effort revealed more than four thousand registered cyclists on this route. I said farewell to Kurt and rode up the grinding hills back to the office. I relived each mile of the effort, the first time trial I raced in over five years.
I miss those old days of time trial bikes and rocket man feels. Today’s effort was satisfying on many levels. This isn’t the last route 29 time trial of the year so there are more chances to go faster. Being passed by two riders meant there was no way I would have podiumed. I enjoyed my return home except for the climbing. Just like the race of truth I had told people I would be home by 10:00am. I rolled into the driveway two minutes later than promised. Time trialist tendencies die hard. They even permeate their way into life. Next time trial I’ll shoot for a finish time two minutes sooner. If I’m one minute late, I still went faster than before.