Fast forward to Round #1 of the 2009 Masters TT series in Wangaratta. John was on the start list in A grade so was the rider to watch. I still didn't know who John was - and he came in over a minute down on my A grade 1st place time. At round #2 John was seeded mid pack and I was chasing Matt Chessum, seeded #2. I had Chessum within reach on the home straight of that TT so I thought my time would be safely in front of the field by 45 seconds or more. I ended up with the win, but with a notable 2nd place getter, John Cain, only 20 seconds off my time. While reading the result sheet, and not knowing who John was, I let out "Wowa, John Cain is making a come back!". Over my right shoulder stood a large figure who replied with a short but stern, "I'm just warming up". Just standing next to John makes you feel about four feet tall on a good day, but at this time I was hovering somewhere around 2 feet. If his reply wasn't delivered with a cheeky grin I would have been even more embarrassed.
In the 2009 State TTT our Hawthorn team were only 6 seconds faster than the CCCC/Celtic boys over the 32km course. Silver for us, Bronze for the CCCC/Celtic boys. After the podium presentation and shaking hands the exchange with John was, "See you in Wang John", with Round #3 two weeks later in Wangaratta.
John is a quiet guy, a gentle giant (on a Giant bike), at this point we not had much more than the brief encounters above. So while I was warming up not far from him at Wang sale yards, I let out "SO ARE YOU FIRED UP JOHN!?".... I got a smile in return, and return fire, something along the lines of "You're peaking too early Shane". Mind games in sport - even TTers will try it on. I laughed it off. Another good A grade battle and John was nudging closer to my time of the day, only 15 seconds in it this time. In a sport where the 'one percenters' count, John and I were battling for a lot less than that! Two weeks later Round #4 back at Newstead was proof, John and I only separated by 5 seconds! Which, after doing the math on the exact time is 0.33% difference in time.
Round #5 was the 2009 Victorian Masters TT Championships. Comparing times when we're in different age groups can have slight variations as the start times can be over one hour different, and conditions can change... but surprisingly our consistency of times doesn't. John took the MMAS4 state title with a 28:08 and I took the MMAS1 state title with 27:52, only 16 seconds in it! That was the end of our battles for 2009.
In 2010 the Masters TT series was back with some kind of unified string-theory tacked on to level out the playing field across the age groups. CSV can do what they like with standardising times or categories, I don't mind... but the one true measure of form was how I'd go against the time posted by John. Our first battle in 2010 was going to be in the Geelong Club Tour, stage 2. Unfortunately I had an 'off' in a road race in Geelong during stage 1, so the afternoon battle against John in the TT didn't happen. While in Geelong Hospital, Stuart Vaughan, Steve Young and Co slipped in past the night nurses after visiting hours. They wanted to know how bad my breaks were, details, details, all I wanted to know was who had won the TT. John Cain did. Good Stuff!
The 2010 Masters TT series started a few weeks later on my 'home course' in Kew. Mick Day took the series win with John only 6 seconds down in 3rd place. Good to see my TT rival up there on a course not suited for such a giant. The Ballarat Arch-to-Arch TT was called off, then the Lancefield TT was called off, again no battle stories from there. The week later John's TFM-Celtic team took gold in the Victorian State Masters TTT with a blistering time 3 minutes faster than the HCC squad I was in. This was my first ride after my crash in May, but it is impossible to compare individual results in a team event. That would be left for the CCCC Phillip Island TT in late July.
Philip Island was our first head to head battle of 2010, and my first ITT back. I thought I had a good ride, getting the highest power and average speed figures for any TT I'd done before. After locating John to compare times he asked me, "So how much below 24 did you do?". Oh bugger, I did a 24:08. John ripped out a 23:55. Only 13 seconds in it, and John took home the showbag of goodies for the win. If I was going to lose, it best be to someone who's results push me to keep getting faster!
Our next head to head battle was the 2010 Victorian Masters TT Championships back in Wang. It'd been 12 months since we were last there but it seemed like only yesterday. After parking the car and walking towards rego the first person to greet me with a handshake and smile was John. He was asking how I was going, all while I was checking out the two super-slick Giant Trinity TT bikes on the roof of his car. John posted a 26:00 for the MMAS4 title, I posted a 25:41 for the MMAS1 title, 19 seconds in it this year - doesn't get any more consistent than this does it? If John posts a good time and I'm somewhere near it, its conformation everything is well, and vice-versa.
John didn't ride the 2009 Masters Nationals last year in Canberra but had kept a close eye on the times and results, his attention to detail was evident when he asked about my winning time in MMAS1 and how I felt (the truth being it felt crap), "Yep, thought as much". John does his homework, he compiled a table of rider time analysis for the Newstead TT in August, comparing times from the past three years. The field was decimated by David Pell (Drapac) this year but John's table compared apples with apples, not apples with F1 engines. The explanation that accompanied the table was spot on - comparing your own form to that of your peers.
Yesterday was the 2010 Australian Masters Road TT Championships in Ballarat. 20kms against the clock on roads we'd both scoped out prior to race day. With the big fields, John's start time was a lot earlier than mine, so during my warm up I found him and asked his time/speed. 25:06 and over 45km/h average. Damn fast. Really fast. And I knew what I had to beat to be in contention for the unofficial time of the day! "You'll be fine, you'll do alright" was the reassuring words from John as he was watching his stopwatch noting the finishing time of the other MMAS4 competitors. Always on the ball! In the wash up of correct overall times (no thanks to the CA timing system) I rode the course 20 seconds ahead of the time John posted. The consistency continues, and we're both on the right track.
So, who is John Cain? John is my #1 TT rival. He's also one of the nicest guys you'll meet in cycling, and as of yesterday John is the Australian Masters 4 National Time Trial Champion for 2010. Well deserved John, and I bet you're just warming up!