Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Grafton to Inverell cancelled!! / Shoulder issues

The decision has been made, I won't do the 2008 Grafton to Inverell Classic. Sadly, I called my team mate, Aaron, to give him the bad news. Yes, bad news they are as I have been planning to do this race for a couple of years now and had talked him into it.

He didn't take it too badly, in fact he told me he hasn't done the necessary training for it either and was happy to give it a miss. That makes one of us... It made me feel a little better but not completely satisfied with the decision... Yes, complicated!

When I first learned of this classic race, 3 or 4 years ago, it became the subject of many conversations with John Flynn during our training rides. He said that, with the right training I could do well on the 225 km race but also said that if I wanted to do it, I should do it as soon as possible. His reasoning been, it was only going to get tougher as I got older.

Scary but true! Three or four years later and I am postponing it again... As I wrote before, I could do it just for the experience. I could do it to learn about the course, learn how my body would take such a long race, learn about the logistics and find out if my training was of any help.

Good reasons, then came the collision with the van and I am off the bike... The result of the incident was a badly injured shoulder and a deeply bruised leg (I can't see the bruise but it hurts like h..l). Sure I could ride a bike and I did it for a week, perhaps even race with an injured shoulder but, for my surprise, my shoulder and leg got worst in the second week.

Having had a similar injury on my other shoulder four years ago, I know how long it might take to have it back to normal. Firstly, it is a hard injury to treat and secondly, I do a lot of lifting in my job... Well, not for a while now!!! Last time, it was a MTB accident. It took me over 1 and 1/2 years to have my right shoulder back to normal . During that time I experimented with many different types of treatments, the final one been a heavy dose of cortisone, or steroid hormone, injected into the Bursa.

At the end, I think I just learned how to cope with pain. A good thing if you are a cyclist...

Great, but I am not interested in going through that again, this time I want to have it heeled as quick as possible. So far, I have seen 3 doctors, none of them a shoulder specialist and one of them been a vocational health practitioner. I have been given some anti-inflammatory, a few exercises, a referral for a physio and X-ray and Ultrasound requests for a possible Rotator Cuff tear... S..t!

The good news, no broken bones. Next step: X-rays and Ultrasound of left shoulder joint.

This Saturday, I will be a volunteer for the club's 100th year celebration race. I will take the bike and will do a few km to get the legs spinning... that's me in not training and not racing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The setbacks and decision time...

It has been an odd season, to say the least.

So far, I haven't got even close to the goals I had set for myself in terms of race results. Perhaps, I have set them too high for a Masters A level and didn't train hard enough to come up with the cash...

The training program I followed in the beginning of the season was an experiment. I had a limited amount of time, before the start of the season, therefore no time for Base Training. I went straight into a power increase mode, with strength and speed exercises, making sure it didn't make me too tired. Short high intensity rides were in the menu.

It did work to a certain point. I was able to finish every race in the top 10, finished the tours,
Tablelands and Sunshine Coast, in 6th place overall and managed to give the big hitters a bit of a fright in a few races. But, I never felt that I had that "something extra" needed to finish it off in any of the events.

I am aware of some tactical mistakes I made, I am also aware of some nutritional factors in some of the results but in general, I didn't feel strong enough to put myself in real contention for a podium place in any of the races.

Then, there were the setbacks. This year, I got sick more often than the previous years and in many occasions it took me longer than my usual couple of days to recover. It might have had something to do with "another" experiment. For this year, I decided not to take supplements in form of pills and tablets and relied solely on what I get from a good semi-vegetarian diet. Something else to research on and perhaps have modified for next season.

Being sick not just slowed me down in terms of training but, also, stopped me competing in some major races. I missed out on the State Championship (Road and ITT) and the Club ITT Championship. These are important races in the calendar and are also events in which less team tactics are used, giving individual riders a better chance in their age groups.

Then, when I got over all that, mentally and physically, and decided to focus on the positives and concentrate on the next goal, came the
accident which is keeping me completely off the bike. The next race being (at this stage!) Grafton to Inverell, a tough 225 km race which includes a 17 km (970m) climb on the Gibralta Range and less than 27 days away, isn't looking too promising now, is it? XXXXXX

For this race, I put together a 75 days
"crash training" program with lots of climbing, a few long rides building up to the race distance, short recovery rides and some local hard races. It looked good at the time but browsing through my training log today, I realised I have only done around 1/5 of the scheduled training so far... and I am off the bike!!!

Last 39 days of the program, prior to the big event (20 September)

OK, time to do some serious evaluation around here and make a final decision on racing or not racing the BIG event. For the injuries sustained in the accident, I will see a physio and hopefully get some positive advices. I have been on the bike after the crash, and felt good but I am presently having some real issues with my neck, shoulder and a deeply bruised leg. Chances are that I will miss a few more days...

If I was a professional rider, and I wish that was the case, the D.S. would come to me and would lay down the plan. Probably, it would be something like: "Skip the Vuelta, get better and stronger and lets focus on the next major event, or even the next season!". As an amateur racer, I have to think that just doing the race, and hopefully finishing it, could be an experience I could use for next year's preparation.

One might ask, how complicated can training and racing at this level be... Well, this is part of it, the "... AND MORE" of this blog.

Lets hear from the physio first!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Training on new roads and nutrition for long rides

After a deserved day off the bike, if I may say so, today was put aside for a long ride and some experimenting with food and drink intake. Going by what I experienced last time I rode this route and distance, I really needed to make some changes and concentrate on maintaining my energy levels high for the whole ride.

Some research on the Net and a few calculations last night and I came up with the rate of 50g of carbohydrate per hour to get me home in good shape after the 5 h ride. I made a list of the goodies I needed to carry with me and EAT during the ride, sometimes a difficult thing to do.

  • 3 gels (75g)
  • 2 biscuits (44g)
  • 1 EFS bar (40g)
  • 2 Sport drinks (90g)

I still needed to refill the bottles with water and buy sports drinks on the way to keep the fluids up for the whole ride.

The distance was the same, around 140 km, but I decided to make it a little harder by changing the route to get a bit more climbing done.

I must say, getting out of bed wasn't an easy task. Having stayed up late, watching the Brazilian football team get a beating by the Argentinians, I woke up this morning with a kind of hang-over. I also had a lot of pain on my left shoulder, the result of the terrible encounter with a van last week. The weather was a little strange also, it didn't look like the day was going to get warmer in a hurry. Twelve degrees it was...

Remembering that I had made a plan to meet with Stephen for the ride, I managed to jump out of bed, have breakfast and get dressed with everything warm I had. Luckily, by the time I went down the stairs, I started to defrost a bit and I decided to remove the sleeves on my jacket and leave the full-finger gloves behind. On the bike at 9:10 am.

I met Stephen at the Bus Stop on Old Northern Rd, and the first thing I said was: You must be cold! He only had a pair knicks and a jersey on, so I sarcastically asked if he knew where we were going and for how long. I must feel the cold more than everybody else...

The Ride

I started the ride taking it easy and saving a bit of energy. Stephen might have had different ideas and seemed to want to have the ride done as quick as possible. Ha!

If I haven't mentioned yet, Stephen rides a bike like the one I had when I first started, 2 kg lighter maybe, still a 11.5 kg steel frame with down tube shifters and 25 mm tires fitted. A good commuter but a bit of a tough machine to ride nowadays. Surely, he was going to ride much harder than me, without trying.

The course we took wasn't easy with its rolling hills, rough surface, climbs and trucks flying pass doing crazy speeds. All got better as we hit Dayboro and started the 7 km climb to Ocean View and from there 70+ km of country roads and very low traffic.

We rode 25 km of roads completely unknown to us which is always exciting, managed not to get any punctures, found a shop when we needed one and didn't 'hit the wall". Definitely, a ride to be repeated. Next time, a little faster!!

Distance: 140 km

Time: 4:55

Total climbing: 1518 m

Total descent: 1514 m

AvSpeed: 29.8 Km/h

MaxSpeed: 64.7 Km/h

AvHR: 135 bpm

MaxHR: 164 bpm

The Course:

Bunyaville State Park - Eatons Hill - Lake Samsonvale - Dayboro - Mt Mee - Campbells Pocket - Moorina - Narangba - Strathpine - Albany Creek - Bunyavile State Park

Food and Fluids:

  • 2 x 750 ml Gatorade
  • 1 x 750 ml Water
  • 2 x 600 ml Powerade
  • 2 x 41 g Powergel
  • 1 x 65 g EFS bar
  • 2 x 35 g Oat cookies
  • 1 small cheese scroll

Total carbohydrate intake of around 400 g, higher than I had planned but useful for post ride recovery.

Great ride, good company and a definite workout!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The training "week"

It has been a good eight straight days on the bike, one to go. Maybe.

My training blocks have 9 days and not the normal 7. I've set them up this way because of my work roster-pattern (6 on/3 off) as it makes easier to schedule long rides and rest days. So, the training blocks ( Transition, Build 1 x2, Recovery, Build 2 x2, Recovery and Peak) are all longer than normal. It is an experiment and I am hoping that it will help me getting to Inverell next month.

The "week" went like this:

4th ride: Friday, a commute to work and crash on the way back.

See previous post.

Dist.: 24.4 km
Time: 0:59
AvSpeed: 29 km/h
MaxSpeed: 48.4 km/h

5th ride: Saturday, another commute and a couple of laps at Nundah with Sandra.

Another very early start and very cold morning to be on the bike (4:30 am). Still, it amazes me that it only takes a couple of minutes for me to start enjoying the ride. As I get closer to my destination I start wishing that I had another 25 km to go.

On the way home, I stopped at Nundah to meet Sandra. She was doing some tests with her Powertap. Tired, I ask her if it was OK to head straight home. Up since 3:50 am...

Dist.: 31.9
Time: 1:19
AvSpeed: 27.5 km/h
MaxSpeed: 47.9 km/h

6th ride: Sunday, Zupps Circuit with Sandra and commute to work.

The Zupps ride starts at 6:30 am every Sunday, it is a fast ride which normally becomes an unofficial race. As we are in the middle of winter, meaning cold mornings, we chose to sleep in and do the same route after 10:00 am. I used the ride to do some big ring efforts with a tail wind and some spinning on the way back with a couple of up hill sprints (also on big ring). A very nice ride with Sandra.

Then, a good lunch and a commute to work for an 8 hours shift, returning home at around 11:45 pm.

Dist.: 114.5
Time: 4:02
AvSpeed: 28.5 km/h
MaxSpeed: 54 km/h

7th ride: Monday, another commute to work.

No time to ride in the morning, I did a fast commute to work with a nice tail wind, averaging over 32 km/h.

Dist.: 26.7
Time: 0:55
AvSpeed: 29.1

8th ride: Tuesday, Clear Mountain/Bunia Road and commute to work.

Time to get a little serious. On the bike at 9ish and off to Clear Mountain. I wanted to ride around 80 kms for the day so I took Bunia Road to return home. That also meant more hills...

This ride is (can be) a hard one when you push all the way on the hilly terrain before hitting the bottom of the steep 2 km climb.

I ended up doing 60 km of hard riding and an easy commute to work. Coming back at 10:30 pm was probably the hardest thing. I had 4 layers on to keep me warm.

Dist.: 87
Time: 3:12
AvSpeed: 28.5 km/h
MaxSpeed: 69.5 km/h
AvHR: 131 bpm
MaxHR: 160

It has been a good "week" but also tough with the low temperatures in the mornings, and nights, plus the crash as a bonus. We had some strong winds as well so it was all a bit of hard work, which is good if you are training for road races, even in SE Queensland.

I wrote I had one more to go... No, I might not do that one and rest for the long ride tomorrow. The body is still sore (shoulder and neck) after the crash, it might be asking for a break. I will take the time to clean the bike, wash some cycling gear and... Guess what? Yes, watch some Olympic BMX races on the TV, hoping that the Australians do well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Commute to work and Crash Training...

"How do you feel?" asked Stephen, still looking a bit pale for what he had just witnessed.
"I don't know, really!" was all I could come up with, still trying to get to grips with what had just happened.
"Angry? Embarrassed? Sad?" he insisted, placing a hand on my shoulder. A first.
"Maybe not angry, maybe not embarrassed, but a little sad" trying hard to recall the details of the last minutes.
"Don't be embarrassed." Stephen said as he sat next to me, on the small traffic island.

For the next ten minutes we just watched the lights turning red and green and the cars stopping and going. Little was said...

Crash Training

My day started at 4:00 am with a quick visit to the bike room where my riding clothes laid next to my racing bike (see sidebar). I started having second doubts on which bike to ride but found a couple of good reasons to ride my old bike to work. One, being that Stephen rides something similar. A quick black coffee, all the gear on my back and on the road at 4:35 to meet Stephen for the easy 13 km ride to work.

Eight and a half hours later, we were on our way home, this time in an understandable hurry. A strong head wind on Airport Drive got us working from the start. We took some hard turns, keeping the speed around 36 km/h. It was hurting. Cars went pass doing 100 km/h.

Reaching the second roundabout and thicker traffic, our game started. Drafting, going around, it was our turn to go faster. We have done this commute hundreds of times, mostly solo. We know the ride and the traffic very well. Doing it together only made it more fun, and slightly more competitive.

Strong head wind again on East-West Arterial, fast left turn onto Sandgate Road, and a stop on the next lights. Up the little climb along Park Road and the fast down hill towards the "S" bends at Gordon Park. I know the lights, their timing so I don't need to unclip. We approach the Gympie Road intersection, the light is red. Slowly, we moved to the front. Stephen dropped a little.

I noticed a white van at the front (Uhm!). Green, the van went. The female driver in the second car didn't react so I jumped. In one second I am on his wheel(s), another second and the break lights came on and the van came to a full stop. And so did I... hard!

There was a kind of silence, everyone around watched, just watched. I got up, looked at the bike lying there and looked for the driver. There he was, still in the van, looking through the mirror. Then, he waved and drove off.

All I could do was pick up the bike and get out of the way of the cars. I felt I was interrupting the flow of things that afternoon. The rest was like after any other crash. Look at the bike, look for blood, inspect the helmet and start thinking of a way to get home.

I laughed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2008 Olympic Time Trial / Training for Grafton to Inverell

Individual Time Trial in Beijing

That was such a well deserved win for Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss man, like many in his CSC - Saxo Bank Team, has built such a good form this year and, this is my guess, with the main focus on assisting Carlos Sastre win the Tour de France. He had a great Paris-Roubaix race, a win in California, Tirreno-Adriatico, a couple more wins and then the Classicissima Milano-San Remo. And now, he will return from China with two medals - bronze and gold.

Gold this time

Training for Grafton-Inverell

After nine days off the bike, I am now back in training and somehow optimistic on my preparation to what it is said to be the toughest road race in Australia. It is easy to say that after a couple of days of riding on fresh legs but all I want to do is to build up some strength for the climb and endurance to last the distance (race details).

In fact, I started the training four weeks ago and got sick in the third week, second of my Build 1 period. After that, I was scheduled to have a Recovery week ( 9 days should be enough...) and get into Build 2 part of the program. That's where I find myself now, with lots of strength work and climbing to do.

1st ride: Wynn Road and Clear Mountain to test the legs

Dist.: 53 km
Time: 1:53
AvSp.: 28 km/h
MaxHR: 164 bpm

It was good to get out and do a bit of climbing, Clear Mountain is one of my preferred hills around here. So close to home as well. I can't remember how many times I have climbed the front of it with the two short steep punches. I am now hitting the back, which is longer and has different gradients, allowing for different types of exercises. Grind it on a big gear or spin up the hill on race speed. I love it!

2nd ride: Wynn Road, Dayboro, Ocean View (Mt Mee Road)

Dist.: 103 km
Time: 4:05
AvSp.: 25.3 km/h
MaxHR: 159 bpm
AvHR: 120 bpm

This was a great ride with Sandra, which doesn't happen very often these days because of my odd working hours and weekend shifts. We had planned to do a longer ride but decided to make it shorter so we could get home and watch a bit of the ITT in Beijing. With the change, I decided to do strength work by riding lots of kms on a big gear (40 kms of the undulating course including the 7 km climb).

Heading up Mt Mee road

I felt very comfortable the whole time but still, I felt the symptoms of my flu which affected my breathing slightly. On that, I did some research on the endurance supplement I am taking at the moment and found that it contains Cordyceps Simensis, a substance that has been noted as an immune system suppressant and Rhodiola, which might raise Rest Heart Rate. As I said before, I've had a flu for weeks now and have experienced the highest Rest Heart Rate in years...

I sent an e-mail to the manufacturer and have received a reply in which they recommend that I stop taking the supplement until my flu is completely gone. Then, start from scratch again. It is a shame because I have been feeling the benefits. In the Heart rate issue, they believe the supplement should give the opposite reaction. Time to do some experimenting again.

3rd ride: Airport Drive and Nundah Circuit

Dist.: 43.8 km

Time: 1:35

AvSpeed: 27 km/h

Today, I was back on the bike for a simple commute to work. Well, it was a bit of a challenge as well as the temperature was around - 15 degrees... Just kidding, but it felt like that. On the way home, I paired up with Stephen, a friend from work, and stopped at the Nundah circuit for a few easy laps. Did I say easy laps? Stephen is relatively new to racing but doesn't know how to ride a bike slow. The easy laps became sprint efforts. We were joined by Sandra a few laps later and the session just got harder (the competitive cyclist, I will call her).

In the evening, it was time for some superfood, Quinoa, and a glass of a new discovery in the Shiraz range, this one coming from McLaren Vale, South Australia. Delicious combination!!!

Just to finish tonight, I need to mention how good Sandra is getting with her snapshots. Since she bought her camera, she has taken hundreds (or thousands of shots?) and I can see heaps of improvement on photographic skills. Good subject also...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Great Wall of China, Great Races in China

Some great cycling in Beijing.

Men's Race - 245 km

In the men's race, the smartness of the Spanish rider, Samuel Sanches, was a clear factor on the order they crossed the line. In my view, Andy Schleck deserved a medal for all his efforts in the breakaway. Unfortunately, racing can be like like that and often those efforts don't pay off. Much like the category I race, coming fourth doesn't mean a lot either.

In a brighter note for Team CSC-Saxon Bank, and Switzerland, Fabian Cancellara showed us again what a strong rider he is. I told the guys at work, where I watched the race (I must say, they looked after me and let me watch the whole race!?!?), that he could win the race with a huge effort in the last 2 km, as he's done in the past. And off he went...

But he made one mistake, I think. He slowed down and looked back when he went pass Rogers and Kolobnev. He was going so fast that he could have gone straight pass them and possibly straight pass the first group again, had he kept going. Perhaps the climb ahead put some doubts in his head, if he knows what that is... Super effort, deserved the medal!!!

Fabian's bronzed legs

Then, this photo, worth much more than one thousand words...

Sanches smiles as he sees the Gold line ahead

The results:

1 Samuel Sánchez (Spain) 6.23.49 (38.362 km/h)

2 Davide Rebellin (Italy)

3 Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

4 Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)

5 Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)

6 Michael Rogers (Australia)

Women's Race - 126.4 km

I was hoping to see Oenone Wood on the podium this year but it wasn't to be. I don't know how the race developed as I couldn't watch it, there was an important AFL game going one somewhere in Australia. Fair enough!

Later, an emotional Sandra described the finish as a powerful and inspiring display of determination by Nicole Cook, as the Welshwoman never gave up and crossed the line ahead in a sprint finish with Guderzo and Johansson.

Saddly, I haven't even been able to watch a replay of the finish as there was no Australian riders in the leading group... That's the way it is! But I found this photograph of the Welsh powerhouse as she approached the line. It shows the moment she realised she had won the race. And what a Champion she is...

Cook screams as she sprints for Gold

The results:

1 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 3.32.24 (35.706km/h)

2 Emma Johansson (Sweden)

3 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)

Next, we will have the ITT races, promising to be equally exciting by all means. My question: can Fabian Cancellara get the Gold Medal? I think he can.

I can't wait!!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

2008 Olympic Games: Why isn't Adam Hansen racing the TT for Australia?

Only a few hours left before the Beijing Olympic Games start with the opening ceremony and the usual fireworks display. This year it promises to be the biggest ever as the hosts are the inventors of the science of pyrotechnism. It makes me wonder if the city of Beijing needs any more smoke in its atmosphere...

It is also one day for what most of us (readers of this Blog) are apprehensively waiting for, the cycling races. Ok, I shouldn't be so narrow minded and should watch all the (don't really know how many) different sports and support all the Australians, and all the Brazilians, and all the Germans, and all the South Africans, and all the Portuguese, and all the Cubans, and all the... Or should I, based on my limited-political, limited-social believes, boycott the games by not watching them at all?

Still, a few other questions to answer...

1. Who is going to get done for doping?

I will get sworn at for starting with this one. Of the road cyclists, it might be someone that I think had a chance to win and/or I claim to have been following their careers for a few years... This year, so far, I went for
Ricco as my favourite climber in the TdF and for Sella in the 2008 Giro. S..t, I pick well, don't I? If Carlos or Andy get done, it is going to be the collapse of my world...

If we talk Track cycling, I find hard not to mention the Chinese. It is a discipline in which huge muscles are necessary, reminding me of the female swimmers that came out of that country in the 90's. It is also such an old culture with such an ancient history in "natural medicine" that they can create something that would work as well as EPO out of any endangered African animal's pubic hair and get away with it. How would any doping agency ever know that certain "exotic chemical" even exists?

So, I wasn't going to post any names and/or get involved in any arguments on BSNYC's blog but one name keeps popping in my mind, and I am sorry for that. I also better copy and paste to get the spelling right or Groover will tell me off. Here it is: Stefan Schumacher for one of the races... Or both?

2. Should Beijing (or Chinese Government) be allowed to have the Games with their terrible Human Rights records?

As I watched a morning TV show, some radio personality was asked if there should be more protests or talks regarding China's policies on Human Rights during the Games. His answer was that we should all forget those issues (the people put in prison for no reason, the problems with Tibet, the Chinese involvement in Darfur, the treatment their own people receive when "progress" knocks on their door and tell them to p..s off ) and get into the spirit of the games. At least they are using old roads for the road race but the answer is/should be No!

3. Is Cadel Evans brave enough to take his little dog to the Chinese city, taking the risk of having "it" kidnapped and served as an European special? Or will he take "Skippy" instead?

In the Herald Sun, I found a piece written by an Australian journalist who went to Beijing a few weeks before and was reporting on some of his pre-Games experiences. This one was on a visit to an exclusive restaurant where the "local specialty" was dog penis in some kind of soup where a small turtle floated and struggled for its life. His point was that the piece of dog anatomy didn't have much flavour unless dipped in some kind of soy or sweet chilli sauce.

Nothing else to add. Just hope the athletes know what is in those McDonald burgers served in the Olympic Village.

4. Why isn't the Australian Time Trial Champion racing the same event in the Olympic Games?

I thought it would be the right thing to do but they put Adam Hansen on the bench and let Cadel Evans make a decision first. Perhaps they should give Cadel a break, or give us a break. There was so much on Cadel and about Cadel in July that the guy was getting intolerable. His tantrums, his security, his complaints about his own team, everything was getting into too many people's nerves. And I like the guy but if all the focus in the race for gold will be on Cadel, it is going to be really boring...

5. What do Chinese cyclists do after a Sunday bunch ride? Or should I say, Noodle Ride?

I think it is a valid question. And why not, a noodle soup with some rice dumplings and a few green leaves will be a healthier option than the usual double-shot skinny Latte I order after my rides. Back to China, cycling as we know is growing very rapidly. Trek has set up a few concept shops around and at one point even made sure there was a Chinese pro-cyclist in the Discovery Team. So has Starbucks, with dozens of shops, which makes me think a Chinese cyclist will be more likely to order a double-shot rice-milk Latte.

What ever happens, once again, it is going to be the best games ever...

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.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Next: Cunningham Classic

A couple of sessions on the trainer, an extended commute to work (45 min), another commute maybe and I am ready for tomorrow's race. The Cunningham Classic is one of the hardest race on the calendar, maybe the hardest!

It is not the distance, it is not the climb. Maybe it is the windy open roads on the plains but what really kills me is the logistics for this race. Because the finish is nowhere near the start of the race (94 km away to be exact) riders have to organise a drive back to the start somehow. Some might say: "toughen up and ride back the 94 km", but when you have a hard race, trying to win and not just sit in, riding back is not an easy thing to do. All your energy has been used by the end of those 94 km.

Tomorrow, I will have to get up at 5:00 am for a 9:15 am start! Breakfast, packing the car, driving 240 km, getting ready for the race, signing in and warming up (never get the time for that!) are few of the things I will have to do before the start...

And warming up is needed for this race, that's if I want to get the prize for the KOM this year. Last year, I broke away from the bunch with 3 or 4 kms to the top, got chased and caught by one rider with a km to the KOM and outsprinted for the prize. He knew I had dragged him up the climb for most of the 1,000 m and promised to share the cash with me... Yeah, I believe you. Never saw a cent!!!

People often say: - It's not a hard climb!

I say: - Depends how fast you want to go!!

From there, it was a race for survival as I didn't get on the break away of 6 or 7 riders and chased really hard with another 7 riders for over 25 km. Finally, I got dropped from that group and finished somewhere in the top 15, I think!

Frankly, I don't think I am in better form this year but I feel fresher (not as many races in my legs) and I am hoping to race smarter too. Conserve, conserve, conserve and then hit them hard! I will also try to organise a team of club riders to make things a little easier this time. We might be a team of 4, including Adam Harrison and Andrew Patton, both having a good season. So, if we work together (the 4 A's), we will have a chance of getting someone on the podium.

Have a meeting before the race. Another thing to do before 9:15 am tomorrow.... I better start organising myself a bit... I will wash the bike, lube the chain and other bits, I will make my list of things to take and very importantly, I will decide on what I am going to eat and drink before and during the race.

Have a great weekend!

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