Jeremy Vennell of the BISSELL rode his way into 8th place, 59 seconds down from stage winner David Zabriskie (Garmin-Ceverlo), making him the only domestic rider on a Continental team to not only crack the top 20 but the top 10 on the Amgen Tour of California Time Trial.
Does that prove that he is one of the top time trialists in the USA and maybe the world? “Yeah, I hope so.” he replied hours after the stage. “Not too many other time trialists out there that I didn’t race against today. I’m really happy, I’m right up there.”
Though his result was an improvement from the 2009 TT in Solvang on a similar course in 2009, it is not a surprise. Vennell is the 2009 New Zealand Time Trial National Champion and consistently finishes top 10 in NRC race. He keeps his skills up by training once a week on the TT bike, with full weeks of TT training leading up to the World Championships.
“You get to spend some time on the bike, it helps.” he said about his training. “It was my first ride on my new bike today, a few little things but mostly really good. I think I can definitely improve.”
Vennell was quite satisfied with his ride on the 24-mile (15km) course which started off immediately with a climb. Riders also had to contend with gusty winds on the back side along with corners and descents.
“I managed to set a really good tempo right from the start of the day.” he commented. “You start out from the gate and straight up the hill so the heartrate goes up to the roof by the beginning and then you just try and hold that to the finish. It’s a really neat course, my favorite time trial with the hills and the flats, and the corners, the wind, a bit of everything today. It was a little bit dangerous with the gusty wind, you got a bit scared sometimes with the wind pushing me around, fighting your bike a lot down the last 10 k[ilometers], it was quite exciting.”
Vennell loves the rhythm changes on the course. “You don’t have to be battling with your mind the whole way, at least it’s breaking it up. If you go with a long straight road, all you are doing is fighting with yourself.” he explained. Corners, using your energy on the climbs, all things that Vennell enjoyed. “It makes that a lot more interesting to do and more enjoyable and the roads are cool with scenery as well.”
The trickiest section for him came at the start of the stage. “I found that I was going real slow when I was going on the long straight in the first 5 K, you come ripping down the fast descent , you’re flying and next thing, you feel that you were going a lot slower, with the wind pushing you around all over the road. You just have to keep thinking that you’re doing alright.” Vennell laughed.
In hindsight, one thing he would change is run with a shallower deep front wheel, especially with the gusty wind on the descent. He thinks it would have made a big difference.
Vennell pre-rode the course in the morning, in order to visualize how he would approach all the technical aspects. “I plan out what I’m going to do, each stage of the race, how I’m going to take certain corners, where I’m going to be using most of my energy. Hope you don’t crash because you know how fast you can take certain corners as well, you go out on the brakes or can you take the corner on your aerobars, that makes a big difference there.”
For Vennell, it is simply about “just pushing yourself the whole time”. With so many changes of rhythm on course, recovery can be the difference.
“When you have a bad day, that’s what happens, you push too hard and you can never recover. In a good day you can push and still recover with the changes of rhythms, you go from pushing a small gear to massive and try to turn that over, that’s very hard to do.”
Vennell followed a pretty relaxed routine the morning of the time trial. “I rode the course and sit around for awhile, eat some sandwiches, try to not fall asleep.” he chuckled. Then some work to focus him mind and a 20 to 25 minute period on the trainer about 45 minutes before his start.
After having his bike inspected, Vennell sat in the start house with other riders, waiting but staying relaxed. “I had a good chat with another Kiwi, Greg Henderson actually, about how he chased me down on the last stage.” he laughed. “And we talked about a few different things. I’m pretty relaxed and then I start thinking about the job at hand.”
Vennell and his BISSELL teammates have been racing quite aggressively in California, making into the break every day. “The team has gone really well this year, the guys are just willing to sacrifice themselves for each other, and willing to be aggressive and put it out there. That’s what it takes, not be afraid. I think we’re just really enjoying it.”
It was Vennell’s turn on stage 4 with its four KOMs. And the following stage, Vennell put in a late race attack in Paso Robles.
The 30-year old thinks that having a time trial after long hard days of racing suits him.“I could wake after a hard day like yesterday and still have the legs. Most of the time, I manage to do alright after a few hard days on the time trial. I don’t know, you race against the highest GC guys, they are recovering better than I probably am, so that maybe that puts me at an disadvantage as well, who knows?
Will it be Vennell’s turn again to go into the break on the Queen Stage with the finish on Mt Baldy? He laughed and replied “we’ll see”.