Monday, August 4, 2008

What to do next... after a terrible Cunningham Classic performance

2008 Cunningham Classic

Basically, I survived another Cunningham Classic! Sadly, a survival effort is pretty much what my race was after kilometer 60 and a day that started at 4:40 am and ended at 6:30 pm, including 150 km of riding and 310 km of driving. Fun? I hardly say this when talking riding or racing but Saturday wasn't much fun.

Got up a little earlier to get a head start but managed to leave home 15 min late. The "race" started as I had one hour to pick up a friend on the way and meet Adam in Gatton, 100 km away. Lots of driving fast to get there and organise the cars for the trip back from Warwick. Long story that can be told another time...

How it unfolded... (Ha!)

Once again, the starting area in Gatton was packed with riders, support and spare vehicles, commissairs, parents and wive's cars. I am not sure how many riders entered the event but I learned the Masters B field had to be divided in two due to the high numbers, almost 70. The Masters A bunch, which included 10 Elite women, was bigger than usually, with 47, which in a race like this is a good thing. And in a day like Saturday, when the south-westerlies were howling across the plains, even better.

Our race started in a fairly civilised manner and we spent the first half hour watching each other and trying to stay close to the front. It was unlikely that an effective attack would happen before the climb but there were, still, a few riders going up the road just to be brought back again and again.

My plan was to attack on the climb and win the KOM but unlike last year, I wanted to wait as long as possible and then hit once. Having driven part of the course earlier, I knew there were a few obstacles on the road, one being a 50 - 75 m stretch of dirt road. Perhaps a good spot to go.

And I did get to the dirt in front of the bunch, enabling me to take the best line in the beginning. Unfortunately, others had the same idea and before I reached the end, the bunch was overtaking me and I ended up on the soft part of the track therefore loosing lots of places. When I got on the asphalt again, I was half way down in the group.

That's when the speed picked up. A couple of guys got away, including another HPRW rider whom I wouldn't chase. I waited for one of the Ipswich riders to start the chase and jumped on his wheel. It worked in a way, we made the connection with the two guys but that's as far as we both got... we both blew up and sat as the two guys got away again and half of the bunch came pass. That was the sign that I didn't have the form for that race... it was going to be a matter of surviving the ride to Warwick.

For the next few kms, I sat at the back trying to recover and hoping to get through the feeding zone without an incident. I also knew that another attack was going to happen on the next rise, as it happened in previous years. So, after grabbing a bottle, I started moving forward to avoid loosing contact if an attack took place.

I felt good and didn't have any issues coming forward and managed to stay out of the strong head wind for the next 10 km. Then there was the left turn onto the Highway, and BANG a full on attack. Eight riders started to pull away and the two riders in front of me didn't manage to keep up. The strong cross wind and few seconds that it took me to get around them was enough for a gap to be formed and I couldn't get across any longer.

So, with 36 km to go, I was in a group of 4 riders trying to stay in touch with the 8 in front, basically hoping that they would get disorganised and would slow down a bit. Not a chance, it was up to us, who now got joined by two more riders, to get across. Better odds but after doing a long turn at the front, a couple of guys came around and hammered down this hill leaving me behind. Thanks!!!!

Now, with 30+ km to go, a massive SW crosswind, solo riding, hardly

averaging 26 km/h and without any chance of catching the group of chasers, I was having thoughts of turning around and heading back to where the car was parked. I convinced myself to keep going to finish the race.

Thirty minutes later, or a lifetime as it felt, I noticed a couple of riders catching me, Simone Grounds from Lifecycle and a Sunshine Coast rider. A great sight!

In the group of three now, two of us had the same goal, finish the race as soon as possible. For some reason, the guy decided not to work now, leaving 80-90% of the driving to us. That was fine, just seeing the female rider working really hard gave me the strenght to push harder again. We were then travelling at speeds up to 40 km/h. Soon, we started sighting riders ahead of us and we just wished they were wearing the orange colour numbers... our colour.

We caught and dropped a few Elite B riders, a couple of U23 before we sighted the first orange number. Unfortunately, within a couple of minutes, I recognised the pedalling style of one of the riders. My mate Adam got dropped of the chasing group. My job now was to drag him to the finish with us. But that proved to be a little hard as he seemed to have had it by then. In the process, the newly formed group of three decided not to wait. Not again!

Three or four kms to go and there I was, chasing again. Funny enough, the Sunshine Coast rider decided to make things harder for me and started to work again. He made it clear as he kept looking back to see how far back I was. Sorry but that pissed me off... After all that, he wanted to beat me to the line for 14th or 15th place. That was a negative!!!

I kept chasing and made contact with 600 m to go, went around the corner in fourth wheel and let the Elite B rider go. I didn't want to beat the female rider so I just sat there watching and accelerated to the line with 200 m. Simone came with me and having dropped the guy by 20 or 30 m, I slowed down before the line and congratulated her for her strong ride.

Distance: 96 km
Time: 3h14min38sec
Av.Sp: 29.6 km/h
Av.HR: 158 bpm

Finished! Next thing, a 46 km ride back to the car...

What to do next...

Sunday morning, and after a 9 h sleep, I decided to check my Rest HR with the intention of evaluating my form after an event like that. Shock stroke me as I counted 55 beats for the minute. I checked again. This is the highest I have seen in years. Or I am really out of shape, or I am going to get really sick...

As the Sunday got a little warmer, Sandra and I got on the bikes for a short and easy ride to the Bay. It wasn't very nice on the legs for half of it as Sandra was still testing her power output gadget, it seemed. After warming up I tried a couple of hill efforts, now checking if I had anything left in my legs. It felt good! So, I can now start thinking on my next race... Probably the
Birrer Memorial in two weeks.

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