Monday, August 30, 2010

Pakistan Flood Emergency Appeal with Triple J

I try to make this blog as much cycling related as possible and mainly about my fairly minuscule existence in this now cycling-captivated world. But, while listening to Triple J on my way home another day and learning how massive and how devastating the floods in Pakistan really were:

"The United Nations estimates over 20 million people are suffering and homeless as a result of last month's flood - more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake."

I decided to vary my course and put something a little more consequential in here, hoping that the word can keep spreading around and help can keep getting to the folks in Pakistan. Once at home, the first thing I did was get into the JJJ's website. I then started thinking how much a donation would mean to me. It was simple, I chose not to purchase the training tyre I needed ($50 on-line or $75 at the LBS) and donate the money. Done!

Now, to help everyone else on how much to donate, I designed the Donation Chart (above) where cyclists, and doesn't matter where they are, can find themselves in one of the categories based on the groupset they run on their bikes. From the groupset they can find how much their donation could be. Easy!

Just a few points to make it proper:

I) If you have more than one bike (cycling families included), go by the best groupset found in the household;

II)If you have Ultegra/SRAM Force or better, and don't race your bike, donate as if you were running Record Super 11 X2;

III) If you drive a 2008, or newer model BMW in Brisbane, donate $89 and use the other $10 to enter one of the local crits where you can rub shoulders with some of the best riders in SE QLD.

And listen to JJJ, it keeps you young!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Apologies to the guys and girls at SKINS, I DNF(ed).

I do need to apologise for not finishing the C400 Gear Trialists Challenge. Although it was not a requirement for trialing the gear, I said yes to Matt (SKINS.UK) as the challenge seemed like a good idea, and fun.

The challenge was to do three stages of the TdF (not quite!) solo and then send the results and Garmin files (which I couldn't do because I don't own one) to SKINS. There was a 15 km time trial, followed by a 120 km mountain stage and a 150 km flat stage. They would then, put all together and announce a winner.

It was happening during the actual Tour, so everybody was busy working on the Tour, watching or riding the Tour 21 stages (
TourDeVelo). For us here, it was in the middle of our road racing season. It made things roll a little slow at all ends.

I got to do my time trial in this closed circuit (
Nundah) and wrote about it here. Perhaps not my best time but I was happy with it and very happy about the C400 cycling gear. After that I had to get straight into race preparation and, unfortunately, could not fit the two other stages into my program.

A couple of days ago, I found the results of the challenge published by another blogger - Velolorunner. Apparently, he received the results from SKINS, I didn't.

Well done, everyone!

Curious, I returned to the SKINS website but didn't find anything until I got to their Twitter site and then a Facebook page with a few photos. But that's about it. So the project has ended.

I hope SKINS got enough publicity and feedback on the C400 Cycling gear. The stuff is cool and I loved it. I am looking forward to trial their recovery gear now!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting the "Eddy Merckx" factory

Often, and particularly when watching the sun rise, I try to imagine how the surf would be like. An old desire of having been born in Hawaii and not Copacabana usually comes to mind. When I left Brian's place that day, I knew that he, also, should have been born elsewhere. Somewhere in Europe, perhaps in Belgium.

- Contador!
- Mr Merckx!
- Welcome to the factory!
- Gracias!

The greetings at the door were our usual ones, I knew then, the man I met racing his titanium Eddie Merckx bike a few years back was the same fit, tall, not too skinny figure welcoming me into his home (the factory) that morning.

I could've prepared a list of questions if I had known I was going to have coffee with a legend of Australian Cycling. That became clear as we casually spoke bicycles, racing, training, Europe, club and team racing, partners (both of us have European partners), while looking at hundreds of medals, several bikes, wheels, tool sets, posters and photographs. Some signed by Eddie Merckx, who Brian believes should be the King of Belgium.

He showed me a cabinet full of old magazines and log books containing hundreds of thousands of ridden miles, average speeds, gradients, temperatures, tyre pressure... you ask! I didn't go into those but I asked how many racing licences he has had. Forty-eight Australian and two International licences he said. They were all kept in very good condition and next to more photos and various bike "Owner Manual" booklets.

There was the "Campagnolo Tool Cabinet", his mother's old dressing table he said, with a Campag crankset affixed to the door. I didn't open it, there were tools neatly placed every where. The ones he liked mostly were also branded "Campagnolo".

Displayed on another piece of furniture was a 56T chainring. I think the one he used for the 1974 Grafton to Inverell, the year he won the 228 km race. He hasn't won it again but he has been going back every year for one of the hardest races in Australia.

We entered the shed (the gymnasium) and there were more posters, more bikes, weights, massage devices created by him, a radio... It was all there for his daily, sometimes twice daily as Maria joins him for an after dinner stretching session. He told me how important it is to have a proper and complete training routine.

The time went so fast (they say it always does when we are having fun) and Brian wanted to quickly make coffee so we could sit down and have it with the fruit cake he baked - Great riding food! he said - before going out to have his shoulder checked by his doctor. He wasn't happy about it as he might have raced the States Championship with a torn muscle.

I left the factory thinking that Brian wasn't just an interesting man with many cycling stories, he was funny, ingenious and gracious. OK, he is mad about everything cycling and everything Merckx but he is, foremost, passionate about life. That's what I learned.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One point in a points race... Good for me!

Another week of recovery before I get back to training. I had planned to stay off the bike for the whole of it after the State Championship race but changed my mind when I heard the HPRW Points Race was a fundraiser for the Smiling for Smiddy event.

I sent a few emails out and decided to race and support the fundraising, helping my friend Mick who has been doing a great job organising and riding the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge. So, on Friday evening I was on the rollers for one hour just to give the legs a spin.

Having done one of those races before, I knew how hard it was going to be. Last time I had a go at trying to steal a few points for our team and ended up getting four second places, and no points...

This race was much harder. Somehow, a large number of elite riders turned up and the fact that all the entry and prize money was going to the Smiddy folks didn't make the race less competitive at any time. It was full on from the word go with riders battling for points on every single lap.

Women's action at Nundah

Points races are a sprinter's delight unless someone with super-power shows up and breaks away for ten or more laps to take the win. I am neither. And we weren't racing as a team like last time, we were all there for a good cause and fun (!?!). My goal was to be able to get one or two points, perhaps get a break away going with a couple of others.

Well, I did get away with someone on my wheel for three-quarters of a lap and got my point. I was happy, although I have the feeling the peloton just let us go for the one point.

Week Thirty Three: Recovery
Time:  3 h 50 min
Dist.: 105 km

Nine weeks for Grafton to Inverell, and counting...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Like in a bike race...

Go Green

I found a little piece of paper this morning, it read:

"While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions. Consequences are governed by natural law."

Although there are so many variables that results are invariably unknown, like in a bike race, we need to make decisions on how and when we are going to take action.

It feels right to be part of the action, always.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The training, the racing, the week of the Championship

I started to write this post last week but sometimes things just don't turn out the way we plan them. That's OK!

After weeks, or months trying to get back to a good form, I finally started to feel that I am getting to the level of competitiveness I was aiming for. It has come at the right time and I even finished a couple of races with the leading riders, which does give me an inner sense of contentment.

It has been a little frustrating at times but it doesn't mean I haven't been happy racing, or training. The grade I am racing in has changed. Some riders left, some riders joined because they are old enough and can't handle the Elite ranks any longer and some riders just got put there because of their good performances in lower grades.

That's the way it is and it is not a bad thing. But it has turned it into a harder grade to race. Personally, I have to work harder (smarter, my son once told me) and I have to make sure I conserve enough for when things get a bit hotter in the races. So, I have changed, and that can be seen as a bad thing.

Racing a bicycle is exciting stuff. The one thing I don't like is that the peloton (and I hope BikeSnob approves the use of such word here) still hasn't progressed in terms of etiquette. We are now coached like pros, we dress like pros, our bikes are pro bikes but we seem to believe, still, that win at any cost is the attitude to have.

Wrong! It might even be the attitude of a few pros but they are riders who get small contracts and that's how they end. That's also the attitude of the drug cheats but I will leave that alone, for now.

There is nothing wrong with exchanging a few words or a bit of a touch to let the other rider know that you are there during a race. But we have to be able to show a bit of etiquette and apologise or just clarify our actions afterwards. It is not that difficult and would demonstrate a little panache, not weakness.

Andy and Alberto

Back to the week that just ended, the week leading to the State Championship, I had a real hard time just getting on the bike. In fact, I only went for one ride and that was an easy 3 hours ride on Wednesday. The cold weather, the injury and the early shifts at work did bash me around a bit so I chose not to stress about training and have lots of rest.

It didn't turn out too badly at the end. I had a good time, I raced hard (same did others) and didn't get any cramps. More importantly, it was a pleasant race (if you know what I mean), people just rode how they wanted and to the best of their ability, no condemnation was employed.

I didn't win but I finished second. What else can I say?

Well, I can say it was a beautiful morning from the start.

Week Thirty Two: Race
Time: 5 h 09 min
Dist.: 155 km

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The New and the Old

Sandra wrote a short post on cycling routes for her blog. She mentioned her tendency for taking the same routes on her rides. I do remind her of other routes, forgetting that most of us do the same things for one reason, or another.

Yesterday, we took a mixed route, I wanted to discover some of her routes but wanted to take her away from the traffic, which seems not to bother her as much. We left home fairly late because of the rain in the morning, and decided on a two to three hour ride to Redcliffe and back (my program said 3 h). Why not? It was the EKKA holiday and we had no infants to get show bags for.

It is nice to be able to do rides like that and discover new roads and stop at new places.

During the ride, we met Kim and her slightly loaded touring bike. She looked as she had to be somewhere, in some kind of a hurry. Sandra overtook her but I couldn't help myself in saying "G'day!" and engaging in a brief conversation.

- Nice bike! Doing some touring?
- It's OK, your bike is cool! Going to Redcliffe.
- Nice! Where did you start?
- I am staying in Brissie with friends, I came from Melbourne.
- !?!
- It's nice and warm here.

I am glad we weren't training or in a bunch ride and had time to stop and have a chat to Kim, who found her love for cycling when commuting to work while in London. On her way back home, she decided to come to Australia and visit friends but she chose to fly to Melbourne, buy a bike and ride to their place, here in Brisbane.

She saw Sydney but she loved Byron and wanted to ride to Alice Springs but her friends weren't going to let her. She wasn't convinced but she trusted them.

We had to keep going. I told Sandra that the new Hornibrook bridge was finished. That made her happy, she loves new things and she never liked the old one. I did but that was going to be something new for both of us.

The Old Hornibrook bridge is a bit iconic and has been used by riders for years. It is the nicest way to come back from a ride around the Bay and it has also been part of the famous Zupps ride for many years (at least for the 4 or 5 years I've been doing it).

In one side we have a smooth ride on a brand new (quite sterile looking I think) bridge and on the other side we have a bumpy ride on a full of character, soon to be destroyed old bridge.

So, what bridge are we going to take for now?

Monday, August 9, 2010

2010 Cunningham Classic and riding with Eddie Merckx again...

Another Cunningham Classic happily raced.

Did I say "happily", even though I didn't win, even though I cramped to a point that my legs felt like two lumps of wood? Well, I didn't get dropped this time (or did I?) and finished with the front bunch. AND, team mates got a second and a fourth.

Always a tough race

We started this race with a good plan and a commitment to stick to it no matter what. There were two of us to do the work at the front for the first 90 km, covering moves and keeping an eye on any breaks, and three riders sitting back and saving for the last five or so kilometers and the sprint. And no attempt to get the KOM was to be made. That was the hard part but that's pretty much what we did.

There was a lot of activity from the start but everything got shut down by us or someone else. One more team and perhaps another six or seven riders shared most of the work and we averaged 36 km/h for the first 30 km.

A couple of riders got away at some stage and were left there to do their own thing, and get tired. One of them managed to keep going and got the KOM. Having raced for the KOM three times, in previous years, and getting second twice, I knew it would be too taxing so I just paced myself to save energy.

Still, it all went a bit crazy with a hundred meters to the KOM as everyone was trying to avoid getting dropped on the next descent. We were doing 45 to 50 km/h for the next 4.5 km.

Next was the feed zone and a nasty 2 km climb. It only averages 4.5% but if you are not at the front on this one, you might earn a long solo ride to the finish... 46 km away.

Guess what happened to me? Half way up the climb, while putting my food and drink bottles away I hit someone's rear wheel and stopped. Yes, feet on the ground, 0 km/h for a whole eternity watching the bunch go. I couldn't clip in (stupid grey KEO cleats with the rubber bits on them!!) and get going quick enough so I decided to get off, turn the cranks to shift to an easier gear and try again. I heard someone and felt a push, which got me going.

Food and bottles away, I tried not to panic too much. I recognised I rider at the top of the climb, he was the tall guy on the Moots. I screamed and he got on my wheel. Ahead, another rider. I looked back and the Moots was gone. All going so quick.

Again, I recognised the guy ahead and I tried to leave him behind but he was fast getting on my wheel. We worked together for 5 km when he said we were going to make it if we could get to the cars. We averaged 44 km/h but only made it because the cars slowed down, because the bunch slowed down. In my mouth, that taste from the week before.

A couple of breaths and I was moving closer to the front, I had a bit more work to do. Unfortunately, that idea proved very costly and at the 70 km mark cramps started to appear high and around the quads. S..., they hurt! All I could do was try to breath through the pain and try to keep going. I think I have become fairly good on pain management and recovering over the years...

I did carry on covering a few moves and even tried to get away at one point after that but I could only do 10 or 15 second efforts. It was too painful. And it was just to get the other riders to chase, and hopefully tire, giving our guys a bit more room in the final kilometers.

It did turned out well, perhaps a little early but with about 8 or 10 kms left, our two sprinters started moving forward to play their role. It was great to watch from where I was but all I could do was hang on in about ten or twelfth position for the rest of the race.

The final kilometers were tough. There was the usual "win at any cost" situation coming from behind and I ended up pushed off my line by a rider before the last corner. I did get back but there was no way of getting through and I saw no need to sprint for 12th or 15th... I just took a back sit and watched it, at 50 km/h.

Then... there was the ride back. Tough too, but with a good bunch this time.

Riding with Brian "Eddie Merckx" Ferris

I had organised a recovery ride to Elimbah for the next day, also to check the State Championship course. At around 6:00 AM, and in the coldest morning this year (6C at places), I was off to meet Brian and friends.

That wasn't easy but I couldn't let anyone down, especially Brian, who said he would wait for me. And riding buddies who wait for you are becoming too rare these days...

Week Thirty One: Race
Time: 15 h 45 min
Dist.: 455 km

It is time for recovery and for some healing this week. The cramps from Saturday left my quads in bad shape and the tough riding stressed the N&B a bit.

Next Sunday, we will all race the State Championship Road Race, looking forward to that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Am I peaking?

A week of mostly easy riding has ended. In fact, it has been like that lately. I dropped the hours and the intensity of the rides leading to a couple of races.

This week, I did one easy ride with friends, a session on the rollers, a short hard ride, another session on the rollers and I am now ready and peaking for the race tomorrow.

Peaking? How do I know?

Well, I can tell I am reaching my peak by the way I feel on the bike. Right now I am feeling pretty good, apart from the old issues with my N&B (let's call them that from now on). Better than that, I am feeling very well in general, healthy, happy and super excited about racing tomorrow.

This race is going to be tough, it always is. Chances are, I am not going to win but that doesn't bother me. What I want this year is to be able to finish with the front group and have lots of fun. That hurt kind of fun...

Now is time to start preparing for the race. You know... bike, clothing, food, drinks, spares... What am I going to eat tonight? Tomorrow morning? I make a list sometimes, still, I take much more than I need, just in case something changes. That is me.

Happy cycling!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Recovery week and a hard, hard time trial...

... but I had the red hot chilli peppers on!

The combination of racing the whole last weekend and then going back to work for very, very early shifts might have taken a bit out me this time. For three days, by the middle of the afternoon I was feeling like I was running at half speed, on an empty tank.

I managed to get the bike fixed by the guys at Fusion by Tuesday and late that afternoon I jumped on the rollers for an hour. To my surprise, the legs felt good, spinning nice and freely but I just couldn't wait to get off and go to sleep.

Skip Wednesday, it was a write off. On Thursday, after a sleep in, I got out for a short, high intensity ride before heading off to work in the afternoon. My time for the Bunya Rd run was pretty good, a sign that I was getting back to normal.

Next morning was a bit of a drag, a joke really. One of those when very little gets done and suddenly I was late for work. A two o'clock start, mind you. The roller session lasted a whole SIX minutes after I had spent more than one hour looking for one nut and attaching the TT bars back on.

Then came Saturday, morning of the Club ITT championship race at Closeburn. Up early, breakfast, racing wheels picked up by Adam, SKINS gear on and I was off for a one hour warm up ride (Yep, along Bunya Rd I went!).

A good crowd had already gathered by the time I got there. Unfortunately, only four riders in my age group showed up. I decided to race for the day's fastest time. Very ambitious of me but what the hell...

That meant going all out and possibly retching at some stage of the race.

As sick as it sounds, that was my idea of pushing hard. And it did happen. The computer was showing 29 minutes something when this acidic taste came up and hit the back of my throat. Done, I just had to keep it up (or keep it down!?!) for another fifteen or so kilometers and, with a tail wind, sprint on the down hill finish.

Around fifty one minutes, twenty five seconds by my calculations. Officially, nobody knows yet...

(4Aug10 - Official results here)

Easy two and a bit hours today. I did stuff around earlier (TT bars off!), got a puncture on the way and didn't make it for coffee in town, where Sandra and friends were waiting. The rest of the morning didn't feel right.

This coming week is final preparation for one of the major races in SE Queensland, The Cunningham Classic.

2008 and 2009 races

Week Thirty: Recovery
Time: 8 h 10 min
Dist.: 224.5 km

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