Thursday, April 9, 2015

The 2015 Cossie Club Easter Tour

There's been no shortage of road racing in the Wellington region this summer, what with the inaugural North Island Series starting way back in September, and club races on an almost weekly basis before, during and since.

It was nice to see the promo for the 2015 Easter Tour pop up, and with it the opportunity to exorcise a few demons from last year's somewhat catastrophic event. On a more positive front, two weeks out from Club Nationals, this would also provide an excellent training opportunity, and a chance to get some good hard miles into the legs.

With that in mind, and with probably the best racing form I've had, entering A grade was not a difficult choice to make.  As the entry list grew, it was clear I was going to be totally out-gunned, but in many ways that made life less stressful in the lead-up to the event.  My task would be to endure as much as possible, without the stresses that come with trying to race for a win.

The event was due to start on Saturday in Martinborough, but the remaining two days would be in Upper Hutt.  That made the logistics somewhat simpler - coming home for a decent night's sleep and additional grocery shopping on the Saturday evening seemed like a no-brainer.  Good Friday isn't without its challenges though, and I was careful to stock up on Thursday.

My alarm went off at 5-something, never a pleasant occurrence, but I was keen to get away by 7am.  My TT bike and Colnago were on the back of the car, along with Sarah's Trek.  Khulie was my companion on the drive over to Martinborough, while Sarah was once again riding her new Cannondale Super Six over the Rimutakas - a ride she'd done for the first time the weekend before en route to the Wellington Centre Champs event I was doing.

Khulie and I arrived in Martinborough in good time, which was just as well when I discovered my rear tyre had past its use-by date.  As luck would have it, I not only had time to replace it, but also had a new tyre with me - the last thing I'd fired into the car on the off-chance it would be useful...

That done, there were only a few other small jobs to do: two numbers to be pinned onto a jersey, transponder into the bike, and a quick spin to warm up the legs.  We were briefed just before 9am, and then it was time to hit the road.

Briefing.  Photo: Mark Sowry

Stage 1:  100km

For our first course, we had two laps of the Martinborough-Millars circuit - a 50km anticlockwise loop which heads out towards Masterton on Longbush Rd, before crossing over Millars Road and returning to Martinborough on Ponatahi Road.

The A grade field was a nice size - 34 starters - which made for a bit more space on the road than we'd had when the NI Series bunch had come through (about 3 times as many riders).  What it lacked in size, it certainly didn't lack in quality, with some serious local fire-power in Dan Waluszewski, Andy Hagan, Brendan McGrath, and the organiser and past winner, David Rowlands (among others).  The local contingent were joined by top-notch out-of-towners including winner of the 2015 Tour of Wellington, Taylor Gunman, multiple age-group medallist Aaron Strong, and even a world champion, Luke Mudgway - co-winner of the madison at the Junior World Track Championships in August 2014.  Oh, and 5-time winner of the NZ National Championships, Tour of Southland winner, and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, Gordon McCaulay... 

I soon regretted not doing a proper warm up.  No sooner had we dropped down out of Martinborough to cross the Huangarua River, than the road tipped up and the pace went on.  Getting dropped crossed my mind, and I had to dig rather deep to prevent the unthinkable happening so soon in the event.

Whether the pace settled down, or my legs, heart and lungs warmed up - or a nice combination of the two - things actually became more manageable.  It was nice to be in a bunch of such class, and I focussed on following wheels, and made no attempt to get my nose in the wind.

A small group was clear by this stage, as per the norm for the road races we see on TV, and the bunch rode just deliberately enough to keep them in check.

The first ascent of Millars Road went OK.  It was even better than OK until just near the very top, whereupon the pace of those in front of me seemed to ratchet up - relatively speaking at least.  It could well have been that I was simply starting to fade.

I was in company over the top though, and I put my mass to good use, and exploited those around me too, and we were all soon safely reconnected with the main field. 

As we turned south towards Martinborough, nasty cross winds announced themselves.  Stronger riders than I were doing the same, and the pace rose and fell as various attempts to get away were controlled by everyone behind.

There was a sprint prime at the end of the first lap, so naturally the pace went up and it was again a matter of following wheels, and hoping like hell to stay in touch with the person immediately in front, willing them to do the same.

There was little opportunity to recover before again we were crossing the river and heading uphill.  This time I didn't have the goods, and lost touch with the front of the race.  Fortunately, I was in company, although I kind of wished I wasn't since some were keen to try to chase back on.  I managed to hold on just long enough for the group to decide we weren't going to get across and ease off (or, to run out of steam).

Things settled down perhaps too much, and the undulating terrain through to our second and last climb of Millars Road was quite comfortably negotiated.  Despite the bunch being 15 or so strong, only half a dozen of us seemed prepared to take turns at the front, and it looked like we were in for a long morning.

That all changed once we hit the cross-wind section, and I might have been excused for thinking we were racing for line honours.  The work I'd done earlier (plus all the hanging on for grim death I'd done in the first lap) had taken its toll, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the endless surging. 

A highlight was seeing Sarah and Khulan on their bikes coming towards us.  I was particularly relieved that Sarah had made it safely over the Rimutakas, particularly given the strong winds.  I gave them a big smile and a wave, and then it was back to business.

At one point the distance between me and bunch opened up to an uncomfortable 20 metres or so.  I had Rivet Racing buddy, Jase on my wheel, and he was looking ragged too.  I was ahead though, and put as much power as I could muster into the pedals, and dragged us both across the gap. 

As we both sought shelter from the riders in front, I had a bit of bad luck.  I was caught by a nasty wind gust, and ended up off the road.  The good news was that I was on a driveway rather than in the grass, or worse yet, a ditch, but unfortunately it was strewn with chunky rock.  As I blundered my way through the worst of it, an insurmountable distance opened up, and I knew I'd done my dash.

I wasn't completely alone for the rest of the stage though.  Young Calvin and I battled the wind together, bitching and moaning about the tactics we'd both succumbed to.  He and I agreed that minimising the time lost to the front was paramount, but we would say that, wouldn't we?  Jase and one other rider were dangling ahead of us, though they motivated us little more than the thought of stopping.

Moments before the line we passed the spot where I'd gone down in a screaming heap the year before, and I said a quiet thanks that I was upright this day.  Then, thanks again that Calvin didn't challenge me to a sprint, and we rolled across the line side by side.

I deemed the ride back to the hall a sufficient warm down.  Before too long results popped up, and I was somewhat pleased to see that I'd only lost 5 minutes.  We'd covered the 100km in 2 hours 25 or so.

Stage 2:  14.6km Individual Time Trial

I was really excited about riding the TT that afternoon.  Last year I'd turned up to this Easter Tour with a brand new TT bike, only to withdraw from the race without riding it.

This year, the TT was the second stage, not the fourth, and this time I was still in one piece.

In between shovelling food into my mouth, I swapped the transponder from my road bike to the fork of my TT bike, swapped the front wheel over, and moved the crankset with power meter in the left crank onto my TT bike - necessary so I'd have power data by which to pace myself.

Sarah and Khulan were soon in attendance, and we joined Jase and his wife Ginny for lunch at one of the local cafes.  Once we were done with eating, we sauntered back to the car, and I loaded the TT bike onto my stationary trainer, and got organised for a warm up.  We'd finished racing at about 11:30, and so my 3:19pm start time made for a decent rest, and there was never any need to rush. 

I tried to ignore the power numbers showing on my GPS unit.  I'd had one bad experience already on the trainer - a combination of leaping on it 15 minutes after getting out of bed, and the sensation of riding through treacle had conspired to keep my power numbers well below what I was used to on the road (despite pedalling my guts out).  Knowing I'd need to triple the force through the cranks fairly shortly still made me wonder where that extra oomph would come from.

Ten minutes or so from my start time, I took the bike off the trainer, and fired my rear wheel in.  A wheel of outstanding pedigree, coming to me by way of Dan Waluszewski, but Joe Cooper's originally.

The sensations on the road were a lot more confidence inspiring, and were useful to offset the fact that I'd be starting a minute earlier than David Rowlands - I'd been his "minute man" at the Centre Champs the week before too, and he'd mowed me down after one and a half laps.

Coach Joel and I had talked about what an appropriate power target would be.  I had horrible memories of the Vets' Tour where we'd not taken into account the flogging I'd had in the stage before the TT, and I completely cooked myself in the first half of the race. I'd also overdone it at Centre Champs and I was keen for that not to happen again.  I reminded myself of the three rules of time trialling:  1. don't start too hard; 2. don't start too hard; and 3. (you guessed it) don't start too hard.

And he's off!  Photo: Mike Thomas
As it was, I was too conservative off the line, and after getting up to speed, I cruised downwind before my average power dropped to target and I started digging in.

I swallowed and got a nasty taste of vomit - a good sign?  Unfortunately, that grossness would be with me for the duration, but I was pleased to note I could get away without swallowing too often...

The course wasn't quite a rectangle, but was close to it.  Strangely, there was only one horrible section, and it was relatively short.  For about 100m or so, we were battered by cross winds, before turning left and riding into a block headwind for perhaps 3-4 minutes.  The next left turn took us back to the Martinborough Square, and although parallel with the nasty bit of road, shelter from the houses made life a lot easier.

I popped up off the aero bars for the left-right-left through the square, and then it was back down to enjoy the tailwind. 

Stage 2: TT.  Photo: Mark Sowry

Pacing-wise, things seemed to be going OK, and if it hadn't been for the weird vomitus, things would have been almost perfect (in a self-flagellating sort of way).

The rest of the race didn't exactly pass in a blur, but with an average speed of just under 43km/h, the course went quickly by.  The short run to the line came with a nifty tail wind, and it was a nice way to finish, up off the saddle, squeezing my legs dry.

I felt like I'd ridden well enough - or at least, I didn't feel like I'd screwed it up, as I plainly had at centre champs.  When the results finally surfaced, I was proud of my top-10 finish.  Taylor Gunman was the only rider under 19 minutes, but he gets paid money to ride his bike!  Rob Stannard (about the same age as my daughters) was next at 19:06, followed by Aaron Strong, living up to his name with a 19:21.  Dave was next - he hadn't mowed me down this week, though he'd had a last minute technical problem which meant he wasn't chasing me anyway.  Then Andy Hagan, Luke Mudgway (not wearing his rainbow stripes), Jason Thomason, and myself, with a time of 20:08.

Angus had an awesome ride on his new rig - great to see - though I think Jase's legs were still dwelling on Stage 1.  

I had a quick spin before loading our four bikes onto the back of the car, and making the drive back to Wellington.  Sarah made a delicious mushroom risotto while I swapped cranksets again - my tolerance for doing this is more than enough to counter the extra grand I'd need for another left-hand crank.  The last task before dinner was to replace the crank's battery, which inexplicably had only lasted a few rides.

Sleep came pretty easy that night.  Two down, three to go.

Stage 3:  87km

It was nice to have a shorter drive the next morning by virtue of Upper Hutt hosting the day's stages, not to mention the extra hour's sleep afforded to us by Daylight Savings switching off.  We were based out of the Cossie Club - a very grand facility which would have been a Workingmen's Club in a less-PC time.

Sarah was on marshalling duty, and once she'd been briefed on her role for the morning, we drove together to her station, and I rode back to the start.
Our course for the morning was six laps of the Wallaceville-Mangaroa circuit - a fairly mellow climb (in the giant scheme of things) up into Whitemans Valley, and then a steep and moderately technical descent back into Upper Hutt.

We were neutralised through to within about 500m of the start of the first ascent, which was a shame, since it would've been nice to have some effort in the legs before tackling the hill for the first time.

It was also a shame to see Brendan McGrath picking himself up off the road a few corners from the top, having fallen victim to someone's erratic riding.  On a great ride we'd shared earlier in the week, he'd told me that he'd only crashed once in 22 years of racing.  Such a pity he hadn't been able to maintain that excellent record. 

I managed to stay upright, and to hold on, just.  My nervous focus then switched from the climb to the descent of Mangaroa.  I hit the bottom with decent momentum, but was near the back by the top.

There was a fair bit of corner-cutting going on as we plunged down the hill, and it was difficult to keep in touch while sticking within the rules of the event (not to mention those of common sense).

As is always the case, the front of the race sprints out of any corner, and the accordion-effect hits those at the back worst.  I had to bury myself to stay with the bunch, and by virtue of the short 14.5km lap, and the convoluted nature of the approach to Wallaceville, was still reeling from the effort when the road tipped up again.

I knew the writing was on the wall well before the top, and I tried to tread that very fine line between giving enough to stay in the game, and not self-destructing in the process. 

Stage 3:  about to crest Wallaceville Hill for the second time of 6.  Photo: ATPhoto

Over the top, I had a short chase to get onto the wheels of Jase, Josh Page, and young Jordan Lewis.  We weren't the last up the hill, but we were well down on a large group of almost 20.

Josh thought we had a decent chance of getting back on, and also seemed to think shouting at us was going to improve our lot.  Fighting back on is unpleasant at the best of times - you've just been dropped, presumably because those ahead are stronger.  Then, you work harder than they are to try to catch up, knowing that if you do, things will soon after get bad again.  In some ways it's quite frightening, and almost self-destructive, punishing yourself in order to facilitate others dishing out even more punishment.  But, that's the sport, I suppose.

I did what I could, but when I finally let Page him go, it was a relief to have some peace and quiet again.  To his credit, he did manage to bridge.

Jase and Jordan were a little way back by this stage, so I waited for them, and then we started lapping it out.   We weren't even done with the second lap, and we still had quite a bit of riding ahead.  A threesome is not particularly fun, particularly when taking short turns at the front, as we were.  You get a few seconds rest before having to accelerate back onto the wheel.

Just before the base of Wallaceville, we noticed that a bunch was just behind us. I rode the climb at what felt like a sustainable pace, only to find that I was alone at the top.  I neither waited, nor picked up my effort, but instead went into TT mode, expecting to be caught before too long.

Apparently I had 20 seconds at the top that time, and 1:20 the next, and 2-something on the 5th ascent.  It was somewhat lonely, but I was glad just to be able to ride at my own pace - and particularly on the descent of Mangaroa.  On each of the last three times down that hill, there was one rider or other being tended to by first-aiders, and I was glad not to be caught up in any of it.

Stage 3:  4 lonely laps almost over.  Photo: Steve Bale
Things got harder and harder, but I managed to keep plugging away, passing Matt Harrop on our way out of Whitemans for the final time. I finished in 19th place, losing almost 15 minutes to the winner of the stage, Andy Hagan.

Stage 4:  55km Criterium

I really wasn't looking forward to the afternoon's stage, and it had been one of the reasons I'd continued to work hard in the morning.  I was fairly certain I was going to struggle, and I feared not getting much of a workout.

I've only done one criterium before, on the Westpac stadium concourse, and I'd totally sucked.  I was dropped almost straight away, by virtue of being unable to corner fast enough.

I'd hoped to get a chance to practice the course in between the C and B-grade races, but D had been late to start, and there was no down-time on the course at all. 

Instead, I spectated for a while with Sarah and my parents, who'd also brought Kaitlyn and Khulan out with them, before suiting up and getting my now-pretty-trashed legs warm again.

I've been told numerous times that it's paramount to ride at the front of these things, but my aversion to the fast cornering and the resultant poor performance make me reluctant to grab a spot which ultimately causes a split in the field.  So, I went in to the first corners at the back, and with no less than ten 90-degree turns per lap, was on the ropes by the time one lap was done.

By the time I passed my dear family for the second time, I was on my own.

Determined to get a good workout, I tried to make up for my lousy cornering by pushing on in the straights.  We'd started so late that the race had been shortened to 40km or so - while we were racing on closed roads, at the stroke of 5:30, our carriage would turn in to a pumpkin, so to speak.

The distance amounted to about 18 laps, and by the time I'd started the last of these, I'd been lapped by Gordon McCauley and a bunch of about a dozen or so, but wasn't last.  Perhaps foolishly refusing to sit up, I'd plugged on when others had chosen to count their losses, and conserve energy for the final stage the next morning.

Stage 4:  out the arse, but pushing on.  Photo: ATPhoto

With one lap to go, I was told to stop, but figuring they'd lost track of the fact that I'd been lapped, I kept going.  Half a lap later I passed the same spot, and I was slightly gutted to be ushered off the course with only two minutes or so left to go.  I was surprised to see a small bunch finish at around the same moment, but respected the organisers' need to get the road clear so it could reopen.

I felt slightly embarrassed about my technical ineptitude, but had enjoyed in relative privacy my family's Mexican Waves, African Dances, and other assorted cheering - the virtues of being dropped!

The grandparents departed, leaving Sarah and I with the kids, and en route to dinner at Satay Village we made an attempt to drop bike and gear off to David Rowlands, who'd crashed on the final descent of Mangaroa at the end of Stage 3.  He wasn't yet home from hospital, and we had his cell phone, so were unable to call him.  Instead, I put a message on Facebook:  "David Rowlands, your phone and clothes are at my brother's place in Newtown Ave. I've got your bike and wheels."  This elicited the hilarious response from my father which is too good not to share:  "Evokes images of the naked cyclist, on foot and off net".  Quite so...

We didn't have a lock in the car, so took Dave's bike and my own to dinner with us.  We couldn't quite see them clearly from our table, so finally I got up and used my hoodie as a makeshift lock, a double-knot in the sleeves for good measure.

I made sure everyone in the acquisitions committee lifted Dave's bike before it was loaded onto the car again, and then we made for home.  As luck would have it, the phone rang only a few minutes before we got home, and I promised to head back to Newtown after a shower.  Although his phone was at my bro's only a short distance from Dave's, and his bike was probably going to be surplus to requirements for a good while, I'd also been asked to collect some wine for prize-giving, and it was that that I felt most obliged to do.

David was remarkably lucid for someone who'd dislocated his collar-bone from where it hooks in to his shoulder.  I noted he was still in his riding gear, and remembering how I'd struggled to undress after dislocating my shoulder a few years ago, nervously asked if he needed any help.  He didn't, which was probably a relief to us both!  On the other hand, he was keen to hear how the afternoon's stage had gone, and we chatted a bit about the challenges of event organisation, before I headed home.

Despite feeling quite rooted, sleep didn't come particularly easily that night, but I'm sure it was a hell of a lot easier for me than David, and for that I was grateful.

Stage 5:  129km

The day before, I'd contemplated talking to Joel about the merits of not riding the final stage.  I was starting to wonder if I would do myself more harm than good, and spending the public holiday with my family had some appeal.

But, when the morning dawned, there was never any question in my mind that it was time to go racing.

Sarah was on marshalling duty again this morning, but not before sneaking a ride in of her own.  She didn't have much of a head start on me, but had ridden almost as far as the Dowse Interchange by the time I passed her!  What a machine she's turning in to!

I'd turned a few heads answering to "Sarah?" at the marshall briefing, but once she arrived, passed on the necessary instructions before getting myself organised to race.

Before long, rumours started to circulate that the race had been shortened.  I checked with Jorge Sandoval, and he told me two laps instead of three.  This was a relief - I'd psyched myself up for three laps and three ascents of Blue Mountains, only to realise that the finish was at the top of Blue Mountains necessitating a fourth climb.  I was glad that the count was back down to 3.

At the briefing immediately before the roll-out, no mention was made of the course, but we were told the distance was 110km rather than 129km.  I was unable to reconcile this with "one less lap", and perhaps foolishly concluded the distance was wrong - after all, this would be easier to mistake than "one less lap" which seemed to me pretty plain.

We had a much longer distance to ride to the base of the morning's first hill, though the gradient and duration of the hill suited me less than the Wallaceville climb.  The pace wasn't crazy, but it was too much for me, and I rode at what felt sustainable, rather than focus on what was going on around me.

I went over the top with a decent sized group, and we soon got to chasing the riders ahead of us.  This was effective, and we were in touch before the turn-off to Te Marua came.  A while later, I was pleased to see Dan and Jase appear in the bunch, and had a good smile at the thought of Dan chucking the after-burners on with Jase tucked in behind.

I quite enjoyed the out-and-back section, pleased to discover that the climbs were short and not too steep - in many ways perfect little power climbs for a rider like me.  On the other hand, the descent of Wallaceville was fast and slightly nervewracking, and I had to bury myself at the bottom to close the gap which I'd allowed to open near the bottom.

About half way to Silverstream, Rob Stannard, wearing the yellow jersey, threw his hand up and nervously looked back, willing the wheel wagon to be right there to get him straight back in the race.  It might have been my imagination, but the pace seemed to go on, rather than come off, and I was surprised to see Rob back in attendance by the bottom of the climb. 

As before, I let the front go, and ticked the pedals over as best I could.  This time I crested with a smaller group, but it was clear we were going to chase together.  We got tangled up with some cars, which probably helped, and I got whipped in the face by an overhanging branch on a left-hand bend, which didn't help.  We made it back on though, but not before the race-winning split had occurred.

Again, I felt good on the Te Marua leg, and did more than my fair share of work. The descent went better, and again, I worked hard through to the bottom of the hill.  "Well, that's the end of the road for me", I said to Andy Hagan, who replied "pace yourself, we've got another lap".  W. T. F. ?!?!?!

I looked at my speedo, and sure enough, we were only at 85km or so.  And, with a straight Blue Mountains-Wallaceville loop, we'd clock up another 25km.  It looked like only one Te Marua leg had been cut out, and, it looked like I was in trouble.

The climb was a fairly miserable affair, and the 20m gap to three riders in front, including Gordon McCaulay, might as well have been 200m.  I was cooked, and made no attempt to bridge.  By the time the down-valley run started in earnest, they were basically out of sight.

On my own again, I knew that keeping my work rate up was the best way of getting to the end of the event.  The sight of Sarah in the car perked me up a bit, and when she did a U-turn and drove past, I jumped and claimed a sneaky draft for a few moments.

Nearing the left turn towards Wallaceville, I caught Jordan, and we sheltered one another for a while.  A marshall waved us down, and as we came almost to a halt, C grade flashed through the intersection in front us, having just finished their own loop out to Te Marua.  I shouted back to Jordan to hang on, and took off after the bunch, figuring that was going to be the fastest way home.  Soon after, we were tucked in behind them, obligation-free.

Just like the A-graders had, these guys sprinted out of the corner at the bottom of the hill, and I was sad to see Jordan hadn't been able to keep in touch.  Unlike the A-graders, the heat soon went out of the bunch, and from time to time I contemplated pushing on.  Logic prevailed though, and I figured I only had enough energy to look like a dick attacking them, and certainly not enough to successfully break free.

I was fascinated to see how the final ascent would go, and in particular, whether I had enough gas to follow these guys.  Despite the two bananas, three jellies and a bit of energy drink I'd consumed almost one lap earlier, I had only had enough power to stay in touch for about a quarter of the climb.

Not only were my legs shot, but also my upper body, and I grovelled my way to the top, all the while wondering if I'd have to walk.  I was saved that ignominy though, and completed the race atop my bike.

I'd lost almost 13 minutes to the stage winner, Taylor Gunman, since the base of the second ascent, most of those in that unexpected last lap.

Sarah soon appeared at the top on her own bike, and we rode together down to the car, before driving back to the Cossie Club.  A communication break-down with the grandparents had Kaitlyn and Khulan still back in Karori, so we stayed only long enough to inhale a burger each.

* * * * *

As they currently stand, the GC results make it look like I had a pretty bad time of it, 17th out of 19 finishers, and over 41 minutes behind Taylor Gunman, who did enough on that last stage to grab yellow from Rob Stannard.  The Stage 4 results have me still in last place in the criterium, but I'm not sure fixing those would have any material bearing on the GC placings.  

In the context of the finishers, 17th place might not look like a great result, but it's notable that there were 15 starters that didn't finish, placing me (just) in the top half of the field.  Various fates befell the 15, including falls, but the one I feel worst for is Angus, who took Jorge's "one less lap" announcement literally, handed in his transponder at the end of the third climb, and made back down the hill for the Cossie Club. Well done to him, and indeed to all those who started this tough event. 

A few days on, my legs are feeling slightly revived, and after a very therapeutic ride in the rain this morning - riding through Takarau Gorge with Sarah, watching the river rise was the perfect antidote to a general sense of fatigue, upstairs and downstairs - I'm now feeling ready for my final hard training sessions before the Club Nationals late next week.  Oli's just built a brand new front wheel for my TT bike, and Joel's been taking good care of my physical preparation.  

The 2015 Cossie Club Easter Tour didn't kill me, so it's sure to have made me stronger.  I'm really looking forward to unleashing next Thursday...


  1. Another great saga - a vomitus of verbiage, if you will. Great work, brother. Love your work.

  2. Great stuff John, enjoyed sharing some grupetto time with you!

  3. Good effort John. Reading you Road Racing stories brings the memories back and gets me keen.... but then I think of all those hours putting in the miles; well that doesn't scare me too much, but wouldn't now where to find the hours any more.

    Aren't the three rules of time trialling: 1. don't start too slow; 2. don't slow down; and 3. (you guessed it) don't slow down? Well, I wouldn't say tohse rules served me well but I either had very good or very bad results in time-trials, which may be explained by my version of the rules!

    Keep it up, and good luck for the nationals!