Friday, September 18, 2009

2009 Grafton to Inverell (Part 1)

The final stage of my preparation for the Grafton to Inverell was the easiest one. I had done the training I wanted to do, the bike was working perfectly and Sandra and I had all we needed in terms of nutrition for the big race. It was then a matter of staying well hydrated and keeping the carbo loads up for the next 20 hours.

Driving down, 420km, was reasonably quick. It became very scenic once we left the Gold Coast and crossed the Tweed River. All very green, good (fast) roads and, of course, the excitement kept our minds eagerly focused on getting to Grafton.

One stop on the way, Byron Bay. The colourful town seemed to be buzzing. Colourful tourists and colourful locals filled the streets, shops and restaurants. We decided on a funky Japanese restaurant and gorged on sushi, seaweed salad and tempura rolls...

Carbo loading in Byron Bay

Once in Grafton and after checking into our "exquisite" accommodation, we drove to town to register and catch up with friends. It didn't take too long and soon we were searching for more carbohydrates and a glass of wine, or two (for Groover).

At registration

Happy support crew

Race Day

It was only when I arrived at the start that I realised how big this event really is. There were hundreds of people, officials cars, moto-cams, spare vehicles, police, radio and TV crews. I guess that is what it takes when they have to safely escort three separate races (300+ riders) on 228 km of roads. What a huge job!

I felt good that morning. I had just ridden 10 min behind Sandra in the car and the legs felt better than they did for the whole week. On the ride, I reminded myself that I was there to finish the race, with a bit of luck in the first group, and to enjoy the climb of the Gibraltar Range.

Ten minutes to the start, there was not much to do but ride around circles and wish everyone a safe race. It was nice that Sandra didn't leave when she was supposed to and managed to drag me for a little ride and a coffee fix. Just what I needed to get my mind into race mode.

We, a 130 plus Cat 3 bunch, left just before 8:30 in a happy and well-behaved manner. We were escorted through the town and out to the Gwydir Highway. At some point then, the Chief Commissaire signalled the race was on. The pace picked up a bit but not by much. Like me, everyone must have been repeating the words Conserve and conserve many times in their heads.

The route ahead

By kilometer forty-eight we had already climbed 700 m. The front guys then decided it was a good time for a nature stop, a first for me apart for what I have seen on television. Cool, it was a shame I didn't need to...

A few more kilometers, with the bunch averaging 30 km/h, I started to watch for the riders that looked like climbers and the ones that looked eager to start an attack. I chose to follow the wheel of someone I met and knew was an experienced Grafton to Inverell rider and made sure I was eating and drinking.

Suddenly, there was a gentle tap on the shoulder and Peter's voice telling me it was time to move to the front. Peter and I had done a couple of training rides together (Brian Ferris rides), I trusted him and wasn't going to think twice. It's not an easy task when you have 30 or 40 riders in front of you.

We were close to the bottom of the climb when I finished my drinks, just what I wanted. I was well hydrated but needed to make sure I got a bottle for the climb, at the neutral water station. The best way to do that was to be at the front. And that turned out to be my move.

The climb - blood, sweat and tears

I noticed two riders ahead and decided to join them. Aaron was one of them so I hoped he could stay with me. But it didn't happen that way so next thing I am at the water station alone. I took one bottle as the road ahead looked steep and curvy. I decided to push it on.

The Gibraltar Range

A couple of minutes later, I am climbing by myself, still. A great feeling, I must say. I averaged 175 bpm for the next 2 kilometers, 90+% of my max, I was pushing it on! I decided to slow down a bit and settle into an easier rhythm (165 bpm) for the rest of the climb. That would get me over in one piece.

With about 7 kms to go, the result of my earlier effort manifested itself in form of terrible cramps. Panic time, so close and I was going to stop and get caught again, just like on the Cunningham Classic climb, a few months back. I chose not to and went into a pain management plan to survive and get to the KOM alone.

Next, the race officials came past. I looked back, trying to see how far the bunch was but there was nobody. A motorbike came next and offered a bottle.

- No thanks but where is the bunch?

- Don't worry, you've murdered them! Handing me some gel and speeding away.

Surelly they weren't trying, I thought. But I didn't care, I wanted to be the King of the Mountain for once.

I saw Kevin on the side of the road. He yelled something that I didn't understand. I think it was something nice. I pushed harder and short after I spotted two officials on the side of the road. I asked if that was the KOM and got a couple of thumbs up.

Kevin's photograph

I crossed the line. The two guys were clapping for a moment but then there was silence.

I took a deep breath and told myself: - You did it!

Then, came a scream: -Fuck, you did it! Or two.

And silence again. I felt so good, I wished Sandra was there, and Toby, and all those friends who helped me to get there.

It wasn't hurting anymore. I let a tear roll down my face.

Distance: 17.69 km
Time: 52min 16sec
Av HR: 161 bpm
Max HR: 178 bpm
Ascent: 965 m
Av Speed: 20.3 km/h


Colin said...

Have been waiting all week for a report Alberto. Thanks. And again, sensational effort-congratulations. I am sure all at HPRW are very proud of the great achievement however apparently you are now the only entrant in the Hillclimb event on 26 September. Everyone else has withdrawn.

jaman said...

Great report mate,
I can gladly say that I had a front row seat to see your move at the bottom of the climb.

Well done for staying away to get the KOM!

You deserve it!

Anonymous said...

Dear Alberto !
Das ist aber gewaltige Strecke und da spreche ich meine Hochachtung für Deine leistungen aus ! Congratulations !
Es sind wunderschöne Foto´s und eine gewaltige Landschaft !Hat man beim Wettkampf überhaupt ein Blich für diese schöne Natur ?
Ich bin begeistert !
Your parens in Germany Rita und Hans-Jürgen

Cameron Senese (n=1) said...

Very inspirational post, congratulations on nailing the climb!

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