Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 Tour Down Under Video

My TDU project is finished.

Initially, I wanted to write a long post, starting with my flight(thanks Virgin Blue!), my meeting with my mate Phil, the party at Stephen and Jane's, the South Australian sea and landscape, the wines and gourmet cheeses of the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Barossa, and naturally: the stages of the Tour Down Under.

I wanted to write about everything but that would have been a very long post, perhaps too long. And perhaps too personal as a lot of this journey had to do with my return to Adelaide after almost 16 years.

Hence, the decision to put together a video with some of the images of the trip. I just hope that it gives an idea of the TDU itself and what a great experience it was.

Enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tour Down Under, Adelaide 2009

We arrived back in Brisbane a couple of nights ago. Even though there is an old saying that it’s always nice to get back home, I wish I was still driving the big Apollo camper and following the Tour Down Under with Sandra.

Can’t they make the race two weeks long? No, it is OK the way it is for an early season stage race and it gives us the opportunity to save a bit of our holidays for other events and our own races throughout the year.

The Tour Down Under was the second pro event we’ve been to, the first been the 2007 World Championship in Stuttgart. That was an exciting event but the TDU is by far the best of the two. I haven’t been to any of the Grand Tours but have heard a lot about them. What one might like about the TDU is the easy access to riders and the opportunity to see the peloton in different parts of the beautiful course. I did like that.

In Adelaide, my days started with a short drive to the start (I didn’t take my bike due to an injury) to check the team’s set up and catch a glance of the old and young riders. Then, I would drive to a spot to watch the bunch climbing or fighting for sprint points. There, I would meet Sandra who would be experiencing part of the course on her bike or I would separate from her as she would set off to one of the climbs herself.

Another short drive (quicker when in Phil’s car) and I would stop at another spot where no more than a hand full of people would be waiting for the race. Or, to where thousands of people would be already waiting for Lance and the peloton to come by. Either way, it was more exciting then I ever expected to be.

Lastly, we would head to the finish and with luck witness the final efforts by the lead out teams. Unfortunately, most of the time we were a little late for that and couldn’t be bothered as the crowd leaned five deep against the barriers. Great atmosphere still, as live music, cafes, food stalls and a diverse variety of entertainment were found a short distance to the finish line.

Nevertheless, been able to sit down for a Pale Ale or retreat to the camper to celebrate the end of the race with something to eat and a glass of local wine made up for missing the final throw. That way, we were also able to avoid the traffic back to Adelaide, as thousands headed home or to their hotels.

To me, this trip to Adelaide had a little more significance than just going and watching a pro cycling event. Having lived in Adelaide when I first came to Australia, 22 years ago, I do have a special place in my heart for the old town. And, it is in Adelaide that some of my best friends are. Add the opportunity to show Sandra a bit of my “old life” to all of the above, this trip was something I will remember for a long, long time.

Looking forward to the 2010 edition of the Tour Down Under, on my bike…

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 Tour Down Under

These are my first two days at the TDU in Adelaide.

Thanks to my mate Phil in Adelaide for putting this fun clip together.

Enjoy it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Training Plan & Coaches, recovery and the Tour Down Under

Training Programs

Just over a week ago, I wrote something on building a training program. Now, I would like to explain some of those points in a slightly more detailed manner. It is all based on my own experiences so feel free to comment.

Rider’s Experience is the first point I would want to look at when choosing a program. Novice riders, experienced riders, male and female riders, junior and master riders and all the possible combinations require and should have different programs. Not stating anything new here but it is important to remember that we all have our defining features, as groups or as individuals.

Starting with beginners (any age), I don’t think this group should worry about a training program at all. It is a time to discover cycling as a sport and to learn what we all like about it. It is time to meet other riders, start doing bunch rides, learn about the equipment and to start racing.

It is time to have fun. When the real training starts later, some of it won't be too much fun...

More experienced riders, let’s say with a year or more of saddle time, should have a better understanding of the sport and should have a better idea of their needs (as in need to improve) and wants. At this level, bunch riding should be easy and correct race grade found.

Here, a training program can be introduced, preferably a program which will work on long base miles to start with. I heard a lot of people saying that we need to have those long miles in the legs from the beginning. Also, that it takes two or three years to build those legs and engines to achieve maximum results. In a way, that’s how it worked for me.

I am not going to write much about junior riders because I believe it is group that needs a specialised methodology due to the demands of the sport and affects on their general development. I would say, go out there and have fun or get a coach who has the know-how.

Now, the Masters. I could talk about those a bit… If the rider isn’t a beginner, it is likely that he/she is coming from another sport. That helps but as age comes into it so does a number of other things. Some positive, like a good knowledge of how we can push that engine of ours. Some not so positive, like the history of injuries and a slower recovery rate.

Great time to have a training program. Particularly if racing hard for a whole season or entering a big event of some kind is the goal. And aiming to win a couple in the process…

A program including more specifics and lots of recovery time might be ideal for those who are also likely to have a little less time because of work and/or family commitments. Some do prophecy that less miles and more time in the gym can be good for “us”, too.

Then, we can go to female and male riders. I would dare to say that they are also very distinctive areas. There are some specifics on the training of the two groups and choosing programs and coaches should take them in consideration.

There are many books on training programs and the good ones have specific chapters on the groups and sub-groups. Buy a couple of those. Cycling clubs have “club coaches”; try to find one that is actively involved with the sport.

One last point, some of us will respond differently to certain training programs, it is important to experiment to find out what works best and that might take time.

Waiting for my training

I haven't been able to train this year, really. I just keep watching my cadence drop (120 rpm)during my high cadence efforts and my heart rate going up. That's enough to make me think that something isn't right and the best thing is to pull back and wait.

The week has been reduced to two sessions on the trainer, that's half of what I was doing. OK, there was Xmas and NY, a third cortesone injection on my shoulder this week and coming up, a little holiday. I might as well relax and wait.

Session #1

Session #2

I am starting to think that I should not call it training anymore, not even a maintenance routine.

Injury Management

That sounds pretty fancy, doesn't it? I am on phase three now, meaning that I had a third injection of cortisone on my shoulder and have now three to four weeks to pump up the exercises without too much pain. In theory anyway...

The good news? With a bit of luck, I will be back on the bike in three weeks.

Tour Down Under

The biggest cycling event on this land started today. A very fast criterium race took place on the streets of Adelaide and the winner was Robbie McEwen. How amazing is that?

A bit of the McEwen magic

But there is much more to come - TDU info. Unfortunately, I won't be able to post much (or at all) in the next week because I am going to head that way to become a full on spectator. I am hoping to follow the race with Sandra in a camper and make the most of our time in Adelaide to visit a few friends and check the place out as well.

Will have a lot to tell when I get back, meanwhile, Safe Riding!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Australian National Championship & Columbia Pro Kit in the Tour Down Under

Lots happening at the moment, mostly very, very exciting.

In Australia, we have just crowned a few national champions in what seems to have been amazing hard racing at all levels and the two disciplines. I am not going to write any race report as I wasn't there but I will mention a few things that I gathered.
First, the double gold by Carla Ryan, a great effort. No wonder she has a contract with pro team Cervelo Test Team. In the ITT Alex Rhodes finished just over .5 of a second behind Ryan and Kathryn Watt, a forty-something y.o., came third. Another highlight was Sunshine Coast rider, Shara Gillow, taking 8th best time and a silver in the U23 category.

Happy Carla Ryan crosses the line

In the Men's ITT, Adam Hansen failed to deliver his promise of a double and came 11th to Michael Rogers gold at an amazing 47 plus km/h. Second place was Cameron Meyer, .06 sec behind.

The Road Races seemed pretty tough as most riders in the Men's and Women's didn't even finish. Carla Ryan smashed the field and a 30 years old bike mechanic from Sydney, Peter MacDonald, beat two pros (and team mates for Columbia/High Road) in a sprint finish. Now, that's the way to win a National Championship!

What a feeling!

Team Uniforms

A couple of things on that.

Firstly, just a personal observation, I noticed that the riders in the National Championship are allowed to wear their pro kits (full of adverting logos) when, in a State Championship or Open event in my town, commissaires and club officials make a big fuss when riders don't wear a club kit. I've seen riders have to turn their jersey inside out to be able to compete... Perhaps, the pro riders just cope with the fines that we, mortals, can't afford to pay. The inconsistency of the sport, I guess.

In another note, who wants to wear a pro kit like the one below. It is the ugliest kit I've seen by a pro team. I can even imagine Hincapie, who has his own cycling clothing label (as a New Yorker would call his brand) opening the package and going:

- I am not wearing this s..t!!!

OK, if you are getting paid big money, you might just try not to look in the mirror before a hit out...

Tour Down Under - it's not all about Lance

Back in Australia, the Pro Teams have arrived in Adelaide for the first race of the International calendar, the Tour Down Under. That's exciting!

The event keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more pro riders using the stage race to start putting some fast miles in their legs. Perhaps even more than that as they are saying they are here to race hard and win. If so, it is going to be huge!

This year, Sandra and I decided to head down to watch it. Not just that, we are going down to visit some old friends ( I lived in Adelaide for seven years when I first came to Australia) and attend a friend's 60th birthday party.

I won't be taking my bike but Sandra will. She will meet with a few friends and probably ride everyday. I will be driving around in a camper, first to the starting line to see the riders getting ready and their bikes, then along the course to meet Sandra somewhere and witness as much as I can of each stage.

It is going to be great. One thing I am hoping for, is that the 2009 Down Under Tour doesn't become an event totally focused on Lance Armstrong as the media and organisers push for exposure and the big dollars.

My training

Not much to report. A couple of sessions this year is all I could manage. Yesterday, I jumped on for just over an hour with the intention of finding out where I am at and using the data for the start of my training after the Adelaide trip. One good finding was that my HR is not as erratic as it was at the end of last year, perhaps to do with the slowly diminishing Hay fever.

Another session this afternoon, one tomorrow and then a break as I will have some shoulder treatment done, which will certainly put me out of action for a couple of days. But all good!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Building a Training Program for Cycling

I won't find a better time than now to sit down and work on my training program for 2009. For people focusing on the summer crits and track, it could be a little late but for me, aiming for the road season, it is the perfect time. I am still nursing the injured shoulder, and not sure when I will be able to get on the bike so I have moved the beginning of my Base for the end of February.

As mentioned too many times on this blog, I can and have been on the trainer a lot since October last year. Like many, I have slowed down considerably during the festive season and now find myself struggling a bit to get back on the trainer. With that comes the extra weight, which brings those nightmares of never being able to loose the extra kilos and get back to my race weight.

Funny how we can be so negative about things. Now, choosing to look at things in a more positive way, I am having a good rest and I still have plenty of time to finish with the last details of the program. And the extra kilos? Lets call them "reserves" for when the hard training begins.

The first thing I have done is choose the type of program, which can be an overwhelming task on its own. Based on my experience and having a good look at what has worked for me and my past results, I decided to use a program based on Heart Rate indicators. It has a long Base (4x4), Build (4x4) and Race (4x4) format which will take me to my main events (events A) at the end of the year.

For some one, thinking about doing the same, I wrote this basic list of points to consider before choosing the program and getting the pen on paper for the long, long process.

  • Experience - there are programs for beginners, experienced, juniors, masters, etc. Choose one that matches your own experience;
  • Level - what level (grade) are you going to race, there is a big difference in between "C" and "B" and "A" grades on Open events, even at masters level;
  • Type of racing - we can race all types of events but we must be prepared for the events we enjoy the most. Crit racing will not prepare a rider for the ITT State championship;
  • Lifestyle - training and racing isn't just about getting on the bike and riding. A lot of time is needed for recovery (we need more sleep), massages, gym work, stretching sessions, bike maintenance, travelling to events. It becomes THE lifestyle and family and friends need to be supportive;
  • Finance - be ready, it is not cheap!!!
  • Health - Basically, with all the strenuous physical work, the body gets a little tired and chances of getting sick can increase. We don't just need to sleep more, we need to eat more and healthier.

Ok, the list could be more complex, in fact as complex as one wants. A couple of good books will come really handy for the whole process and there is a lot of stuff on the Net... or a coach, they can be good. Ah, and a big desk.

Programs based on Heart Rate monitoring are a bit old and not the in thing but they are still largely in use. The truth is I am still waiting for my SRM power meter sponsorship to get approved, so the Polar will do for now.

The program I chose allows me to race all year around. To me, that is an important feature as I enjoy racing and believe that the more I race the more I learn about myself and about tactics. And, as it is all supposed to be fun, I can have fun all year around.

Having experimented with a couple of training methods, I am confident that it (with a couple of modifications) will work for me. I have a good idea of what has worked in the past and what my limiters are, important considerations when putting training programs together.

If I don't win the World Championship... there is always another season!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008/09 & an Anniversary worth mentioning!!


A strange year it was. Lots of ups and lots of downs, different type of training and some hard racing until the incident... I just hope to remember it as a positive experience, a learning experience. It ended like this:
"I couldn't finish the year without one last ride on my bike and on the road, the invitation for a Xmas Eve Ride was just too good to refuse.
Came the morning of the 24th and I was already awake when the alarm went off at 04:10. With Sandra, I was on the road at 04:50. Yes, I was a little nervous and had to have two goes to get my right foot clipped in as we left the house and made our way up the hill.
Looking back at my Polar files, my last logged ride on the road was on the 15th October. Shit... there were 10 weeks apart. Ten weeks off the bike. Ten weeks, or 51h and 45min, of pedalling nowhere. Not the worst thing that can happen to someone but a little sad if riding your bike somewhere is one of the things you like doing the most.
But it didn't matter anymore. On the first descent, we got to 45 km/h in a windless and cool morning. It felt so good! Next, it was heading to town, meeting the bunch, doing a little loop around Mt Coo-tah and heading back to town for a coffee, or two. With the thought of that ride been the last one for a while, all I wanted was to have a good ride, and for everyone else to have the same. And we did!

Then, there was Xmas itself. I am not very big on those sort of celebrations and I am not convinced that shopping until you die has anything to do with John Lennon's birth day... Yeah, I did go to a catholic school.
Hence, it was just a matter of a few calls to family members, a couple of e-mails and SMSs and something on the here. Apart from that, quality time with Sandra, who was on holidays, and crossing a few things off on the list of things to do were the priorities.
We headed to Sydney for NewYear's Eve and to spend time with old friends, who kindly put us up for a couple of nights in their beautiful city apartment. I was very excited with the opportunity of finishing the old year and starting the new one somewhere else then home.
Once in Sydney, a visit to a couple of bike shops was inevitable and turned out to be very pleasant experiences. There was a lot of stuff we don't get up here and we witnessed how the "Fixie Thing" is developing in Australia. Much bigger in Sydney and bigger again in Melbourne we heard..."

At the LBS/coffee shop in Bondi

Sandra and the SOMA cap she had to have

Old friend, old habits...

Our view of the Sydney fire works can be seeing here.

Waking up in Sydney and going for a walk at Coogee Beach with another thousand people was actually a good thing to do on the first day of the year. It was a beautiful and warm day, everything and everyone looking so colourful.
Back in Brisbane, with a few more days off work, it was time for relaxation and a bit of planning for the year ahead. One thing that came up was the desire to get back in doing some photography and as I have been looking into getting a compact digital camera for a while, it was also time to go shopping. Not Xmas shopping!


And here is the new toy, small and light for the pockets on my jersey, all the features I wanted and a quarter of the price I have previously budgeted for:

That brings me to this blog's first anniversary, as the camera was a gift to the blog. To make things more interesting for 2009, I am about to start a new blog. In view of keeping AMRcycling for the training and racing part of cycling, the new blog will be for everything else. Of course, it will have a heavy connection to bicycles but it will also have other things... and lots of photographs.

For 2009, there will be more training and racing here, and more graphs, and a little less of everything else.


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