So, in desperation, I'm trying to replicate some semblance of those rides here at home, on the trainer.
Okay, I admit I also rode outside, twice even, but the cold really zapped me. Both times I cut my planned rides short (by an hour), and both times I was a total wreck for hours after the ride.
Those rides reminded me why I like training out in SoCal - riding in 40 or 50 deg F warmer temperatures really makes a difference.
At any rate, I realized I do something through the season, something that I knew I did, but I never really made it "official" by writing it down.
It has to do with fitness, speed, and saddle height.
This is how it works. There are three seasons in my year, the Early, the Mid, and the Off.
I tend to be unfit. I can't make repeated efforts - one short jump will force me to recover for the next 20 minutes. I lack speed because I lack power. I mean, yes, I can pedal fast but I get winded. I can push a big gear but I blow up.
What I do is I start making up for this lack of fitness by raising my saddle a bit. It allows me to rotate over the saddle just a touch, flattening my somewhat weak back, settling me in nicely in the drops, and giving me a more TT-oriented position. This gives me a bit more top end speed, at the cost of some longer duration power.
Now I'm getting better on the bike. I feel pretty fit. I want to make a few efforts in the race, beyond just sitting on wheels. My torso is pretty strong again, and my legs are strong enough to stress my abs. In fact, when I do a hard sprint, my abs are the most sore muscles afterwards.
At this point I have much more power in my legs, and I want to take advantage of that. I drop my saddle, a millimeter here, a millimeter there. I typically drop it a full 5-7 mm by the end of the season. This gives me a much longer power stroke because I can pull back and up so much harder.
The speed remains because I have the power. Now I don't have to sacrifice power to get some top end speed.
As the season rolls off the calender, I really back off on the intensity. My rides might be faster than a vacationer riding to the news stand for a paper, but not by much. I usually wear cooler weather gear, tights and knickers, and feel a bit constricted when doing so. The lower saddle position works well, giving me more room to move around and such.
I don't do much adjustment at that point, but my saddle stays at the lower position.
So what's all this mean?
Right now it's early season. I managed to "re-discover" raising my saddle in the last couple weeks, first tentatively raising my saddle about 2 mm. I did some longer trainer rides at that position and it worked well. I felt like I wanted to raise it just a bit more, so that's what I did - for another 3 mm worth.
That was last night. And it felt awesome. I felt much better in the drops, much more comfortable, my legs moved freely, and I didn't have any telltale back-of-knee pain indicating that I went too far.
It might have helped that I wore my 2012 kit for the first time - shorts, jersey, wind vest, socks (which aren't new to me), even my cap. I felt vaguely BMC-ish, with its the red/black scheme, but it's all good. Maybe it was watching BMC in the 2011 Tour, I don't know.
And in case you were wondering if you read right, yes, I wore my wind vest while on the trainer.
I have a fan, yes, but I was feeling a bit chilled, and the best combination of warmth and coolness was to have the fan on low with the vest on top of everything else. My arms and legs cooled me off but my torso stayed warm.
I think my saddle is about as high as it can get so any gains from here will have to be gotten the good old fashioned way - I'll have to earn it.