Tom Hutchinson’s 2020/2021 Season Round Up
After joining the team in August 2020, I’ve now had a chance to experience a full season with Team Bottrill. In this time there have been some noticeable changes to my approach to training and racing due to a refinement of my 2021 targets, which at first inevitably took a little bit of time to get used to. Whilst most would be apprehensive of change, I embraced it and put my full trust in my cycling coaches who I respect and look up to. This turned out to be the best move for me to continue to improve effectively and efficiently, as prior to joining the team I had already started to find myself unconfident about how to identify my own weaknesses and which path to adopt. Whereas previously I found that because I was relatively new to the sport, any path I committed to seemed to yield improvement given my capacity to improve was so big, however, as I got faster and stronger it became clear to me that I needed a more tailored package.
It quickly became apparent that a key factor in going faster would be to reduce my coefficient of aerodynamic drag, despite me thinking I was already “aero”. The data suggested that I was in fact miles off where I should be when it came to a real-life scenario. This is something we’ve worked on hard on over the last 18 months, with the biggest change for me resulting from a bike fit with Matt, where the whole cockpit was rearranged. Despite being in the wind tunnel and fine tuning my position before riding with Team Bottrill, it was clear that whilst that position was aerodynamic, it wasn’t sustainable so that didn’t translate well to the road. With the target this year orientating around the longer races, this was something that needed to be fixed. Once racing commenced, discussed later, it was clear from the data that the hard work had finally paid off and this is something I would now always have up my sleeve.
Turning attention to training, I found the sessions set by Simon Beldon exciting and rewarding with clear and steady progress each week which kept those pedals turning. Believe it or not, I loved every minute of training throughout winter, particularly as the allocated sessions were interactive and new to me, offering a little distraction from any physical effort. Reflecting on this, I had an almost clear run throughout from November to January without many setbacks at all.
In late January I set up my Time Trialling bike, having not been able to ride it since my last race in mid-October the previous season. A series of severe weather fronts hit the UK in February which forced me to train on the turbo trainer inside my uninsulated garage. Geared up in bib tights and long sleeve jersey I used this time to focus on dialling back in my aero position on the TT bike. At first it was inevitably difficult to get used to but slowly and surely after spending almost 3-weeks flat out on it, things became a lot easier and power was back up where it should be. Once the weather eventually cleared, I headed back outside on the road bike but, presumably because of the bike change, I started to develop a series of niggles starting in my lower back, moving to my hip and eventually my ankle. Having experienced a bulged disc in my back in 2016 when I used to row, I was relatively comfortable dealing with injuries. However, coupled with having the perfect winter's training it was of course difficult to see the numbers somewhat dwindle away in front of your eyes. Many athletes will understand that pain, but you must keep focus.
After a lot of physiotherapy and off the bike conditioning work, I eventually got back to a position to start training properly again, at which point the race season had commenced. This somewhat restricted the potential training capacity, however, to me this highlighted the upmost importance of a solid winter's training. Luckily as noted above, I felt like I had a good winter under my belt, and this also meant that I wasn’t worried about taking time away from training when my body was telling me to do so. Whereas in the past I perhaps wasn’t as mature as an athlete as I am now, and I probably would have just pushed on and potentially been unable to compete for the rest of the season. Luckily, with advice from Simon and Matt we were able to balance the training well during the coming months which evidenced in my season’s performances during training and racing.
My main target this year was the Best British All-Rounder (BBAR), of which the story is documented in my previous Blog https://www.mattbottrillperformancecoaching.com/single-post/best-british-all-rounder-bbar-2021-tom-h . Main performances this season were winning the men’s individual BBAR title and bronze in the National 12-hour Championships and the team win in the National 50 Championships, alongside personal bests in my 50- and 100-mile distances, with the latter being the race of the season for me. The BCDA 100-mile event in September was the race I knew I had in me but struggled to deliver in previous races, for various reasons but most notably due the niggling injury which usually flared up during hard efforts. As a result, I’d find myself subconsciously pacing my races cautiously.
What I had in my favour, all season in fact, were the gains I’d made aerodynamically speaking. It just so happened that for the last race of the season it all came together and with each mile that passed and with the average speed ticking over 30mph adrenaline allowed me to push on and with the prospect of the BBAR win on the cards this was an exciting recipe. Matt describes it well in ‘The Winning Formula’ interview with Giant Bicycles “it’s like a charge going through your body”, I felt like this was the first time I could truly relate to this expression since I started time trialling in 2017. I must now take this experience to 2022 and apply it to every race, to keep pushing the boundaries of what I’m physically and mentally capable of.
I am of course delighted with the progress I’ve made over such a short period of time, and I hope it continues. As always, many thanks to everyone at Team Bottrill and the sponsors for investing resources in developing my potential as a time-triallist. My preparation is now underway for the upcoming season and the scary thing to me is the knowledge I’ve accrued during my time working closely with Matt and Simon. Going into next year, I’m more confident and now able to identify what I need to do to build on the 2021 season.