Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tour of the Scenic Rim, raced!

Should I leave it like that?

No! Firstly, I have been getting an overwhelming amount of hits on AMR Cycling, thank you. Secondly, because it was a perfect weekend of racing and spending time with friends and I need to keep a good record of it! I just wish it was a bit more than a weekend, perhaps a whole week, perhaps even seven races in the Scenic Rim.

Sandra and I managed to get away with little delay (my standards!) on Friday and arrived at Lake Moogerah, the camping ground, with plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the new place. We had enough time to set up camp, if we can call it camping, prepare the bikes, cook dinner and relax in our rental motorhome. Yes, dinner was some sort of pasta dish!

Lake Moogerah is about seven kilometers from Mt Alford, location of the first two races. The ride on Lake Moogerah Road was fast and a good warm up for the races. However riding back after each stage was a little challenging with the steep little climb in the middle.

The Racing

Stage One was the 15 km time trial. The course was really well chosen by the organisers (Goldstars Cycling Club) and set in a very beautiful area. It wasn't the most demanding course and conditions were perfect.

My run was disapointing. I did feel good for the first half, where I could probably have gone a bit harder. I managed to catch one rider, who started 30 sec before, but felt shattered when caught by another rider, who started one minute after me and kept riding away...

I placed 19th, with a time of 22 min and 18 sec.

After a small meal, I headed back to Mt Alford for the first road race. Sandra's race was a little later. My group had to do three laps of the lumpy 20 kilometers course. This is a course where I have struggled in the past but this time I was prepared to give my best shot and do my best to help our team's best GC rider.

The climbs on this course were too short for me, they suited the more powerful riders who, in the first two laps got over them much quicker than me. However, I managed to be at the front at the critical times and avoided getting dropped on the descents.

On the third lap, most riders seemed tired and slower getting over the "lumps", my light weight might have given me a bit of an advantage then. I felt good and was ready to try a move in the final 1500 meters (a small incline into town), hoping that the chasers would drag my team mates to the line.

It didn't happen that way as the bunch became very compact with two and a half kilometers left, and there were no gaps to get through. Our man finished fourth and I was a couple of seconds behind, 13th on the line.

On Sunday, we drove the motorhome to Roadvale, start and finish of my 90 km race. On the way there, we had a chance to see the climbs of the final kilometers of the 30 km circuit. These ones were longer and I imagined myself gaining a bit of time on most riders if I made a move with four or five kilometers to the line.

My mind was set! Still, I put myself at the front (with another four or five riders) for a good part of the race, just trying to keep the pace high and stopping anyone trying to get away. I did feel a bit tired when we crossed the line for the second time and had to start conserving for the end of the race.

My plan seemed to be going well and I felt good with 20 km to go. Unfortunately, my rear derailleur cable broke and I could no longer use all the gears, finishing the race with two choices, 53-12 or 39-12, which wasn't the best for hanging with the bunch when things pointed skyward. They were barely good enough to get me to the line.

Nineteenth on GC, or should I say eighteenth?

That is racing... And we love it!

Week Twenty-nine: Race
Time: 11 h 25 min
Dist.: 301.5 km

Friday, July 23, 2010

Like Red Hot Chilli Peppers

We are off for some terrific racing and a beautiful weekend. Sandra has organised the camper and the camping ground by a lake somewhere in the Scenic Rim.

Racing this time might be a little different and I might even be racing with the engines running close to 90%, unlike
The Battle when I felt heavy and slow on the hills.

And talking Battle, I still think my time (and everyone else's after me) was wrong by about 30 seconds, due to a mistake by the time keeper. It wouldn't have helped me one bit on the final results but it's mentally taxing when you put a lot into a race and find yourself way down on the result list.

Never mind, it is time to go all out again and to prove myself right and place in the top 5 by the end of tomorrow's 14.5 km race against the clock. That is what I think I can do.

My preparation has been good and the course suits me. It will be a matter of having a good day on the bike. The other races? I will think about them tomorrow.

I just want to race this weekend as if I had red hot chilli peppers in my legs... once again.


Monday, July 19, 2010


Some days are better than others.

What ever it is that I have left from my
awkward landing nine months ago, does like to manifest itself from time to time. Most of the times, I choose just to ignore it because I know it is not going to go away soon. But sometimes, this manifestation takes me to a point of... Imbalance.

No, it doesn't hurt as much as the pain we like to inflict upon ourselves when playing the games we play, like pushing on the climbs we like to climb. This is different, it is deeper, even though it has no obvious reasons to be there, it is there. Some times for tiring hours.

When it is like that and it is cold, it leads to a weakening of the surrounding framework. Neck and back muscles give in and hurt, that lactic acid type of hurt. It burns... I then know, it is going to be a not so good day. I need to rest. A shame, because the legs feel good and I could put a bit more work in.

However, I am all set for the Scenic Rim. The last seven weeks were great. With great rides and lots of fun, I have managed to do what I planned and now I can only hope that it will all come together comes the race.

Sandra and I will be driving down on Friday and will camp somewhere nice for the weekend. Really looking forward to that!

And to to finish on a good note, a beautiful little song by Diesel.

Week Twenty-eight: Recovery
Time: 9 hours
Dist.: 266 km

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Tour and I...

8:45 PM
I am already in bed, falling asleep. No riding but a busy day. Back to work in the morning, after days off.

11:38 PM
I am awake, might as well get up to check what is happening in France.

11:50 PM
In France, 52 Km to go, Hushovd gets the sprint and points.

00:56 AM
Vino attacks his gruppetto on the climb.

00:59 PM
Rodriguez attacks the group with Schleck and Contador.

01:00 AM
Contador jumps after Rodriguez and drops Schleck and everybody else.

01:02 AM
Contador reaches Vino, Rodriguez on his wheel. The two keep going. Vino can't follow.

01:04 AM
Rodriguez outsprints Contador, who gains ten seconds on Schleck. Not enough to make the Kazakhs happy!!

01:10 AM
An early finish! I head to bed, will be getting up at 3:45 AM!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday afternoon at Nundah...

I did pick a nice afternoon for the 15 km TT Challenge. I just wished that I wouldn't find too many people on the track, the place is known for getting busy early in the mornings and late in the afternoons.

It looked like only ten or so riders were keen enough to be out on the track as a strong, cool wind blew on the track. A couple of familiar faces were doing their training on the circuit. The chatting made my 25 min warm up go quickly. Already kitted up, it was just a matter of donning the REAL tt helmet and pushing the red button.

As antecipated, the wind dropped slightly just as I was about to start my twelve or so laps of the 1,200 m circuit. Still, every lap was a...

OK, I can put a tick next to the 15 kilometers time trial.

21 min 57.9 sec

Mailmans Track and the Skins Challenge

As I have mentioned the "Tour" and building for the tour a few times here, I better say this is our little local tour. As much as I would like to be at "Le Tour", this one is the Tour of the Scenic Rim, a three stage event in SE Queensland.

It feels like it is all coming together for it. My training has been going well, I haven't had any more injuries to add to my customary nigglings, the bike is almost set and fast and I will be racing with a bunch of great riders as team mates.

In times like this, I feel like jumping in a time machine and roving to race day. But the preparation hasn't ended yet.

Monday's rest day was followed by a short/high intensity ride. I did my usual Bunya Rd course with an extra little climb, Mailmans Track, to give the systems the nescessary intensity for the session.

Mailmans Track is a 2.3 km stretch of road in the middle of a bush rich area. One could imagine being hundreds of kilometers from the city (I always do!). It undulates for the first 1,500 m and then ramps up to an 11% gradient for the last 800 m. Enough to hurt the legs and get the HR over 80%.

Yesterday's ride was different, it was about getting hours on the saddle at low intensity, calling for a flat course. Good time to put the TT bars on and work on getting them right.

On the 3 h 45 min ride, I think I spent more than two hours on the bars. I am stunned how we can keep the HR down and a fairly high average speed like that. With all the traffic-light stops, bloody twenty of them, I averaged close to 30 km/h for the 112 km ride.

Today, another couple of hours of high intensity on the program. Coincidently, the folks at SKINS.UK have organised a fun TdF Challenge for the C400 Cycling gear trialists. It is a three race challenge, where participants spread around the globe will be doing their own thing and sending their results to SKINS.

The winner will be offered a two year contract to race... Just kidding!! It is all about fun (and hurt!) and trialling the C400 Cycle Gear.

The first one is a 15 km TT, on a flat course. Just what I need for today and in preparation for my next race. I will be heading to the Nundah Criterium Circuit for my etape, perhaps the only bit of flat terrain around here and away from traffic.

Whilst on the subjects of tours and challenges, a keen cyclist from the UK has started his own - the Tour de Velo. He is riding the whole TdF route solo, just two or three days ahead of the peloton. That's 3,640 something kilometers, a truly great challenge!

Keep up the good work, Quentin!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trialling Skins C400 and building for the Tour with epic rides....

It has taking me longer than I wished to start this post. But we, that is all of us living outside the European time zone, have an excuse for under-performing in one or two of our usual activities this time of the year. After all, a remarkable Tour de France is happening and most of us are watching it at some odd hours of the night or morning.

I did write something like "... avoiding the Tour de France" in relation to watching it on TV but being part of such an adaptable race, I have found a way around it. Yes... I have watched most of the stages live!

It hasn't stopped me training or going to work (just!) and it certainly didn't stop me putting the new gear on to start the trial for our friends at Skins.

Epic Ride #1

So, after a high intensity ride that took me to Clear Mountain for a few repeats, the next ride - and first ride wearing the C400 compression kit - was planned to be 115 kms at low intensity. I chose to head out to Dayboro with a friend, slowly get up to Ocean View and come back via Samford. This route presented a variety of terrain and road surfaces to really test the new gear out.

Peter, a non-competitive but super keen cyclist, came out to play. These times, I realise how valuable it is to have friends who are able to come along for those long sessions, especially during the week and in the middle of the day.

We spent most of the ride to Dayboro splitting on the climbs, re-grouping and rolling down the hills together. Peter is a slim six foot something guy, obviously a lot heavier than me so the rolling hills and climbs aren't his best allies. Still, he was not disturbed when climbing Mt Mee Road or when I gave him the news, during our coffee break, that from there and after the 25 km stretch to Samford and Highvale, we would be hitting the bottom of the Goat Track climb (2.6 km dirt road) and head to Mt Nebo, adding a few more kilometers to the ride.

We ended up riding over 128 km, ascended more than 2000 m and averaged around 26 km/h. I did a little more than the low intensity ride planned but had an epic fun.

The C400 compression kit was really impressive. Although I first thought the compression jersey could have been a bit small, it felt good on the body and didn't create any restrictions while on the drops or climbing out of the saddle. The bib shorts felt like they could have been a little tighter on the legs but they were perfect everywhere else. The chamois looked a little thin at first but again, I had no issues with my butt or any important parts in contact with the saddle after almost five hours on some rough roads. This gear is fantastic!

Three more rides added another 4.75 hours to the training (Clear Mountain, Bunya Road and Sandgate rides) but no racing on Saturday. Still, there was a high intensity 54 min ride that evening, from home to Sandgate - average speed was 34.7 km/h. I was late to meet Sandra and a few friends...

Epic Ride #2

Sunday was the day for another long/low intensity ride. I ended up joining the QSM Team ride, with twenty or so members, this time exploring Brisbane's north side and some of my own training grounds.

I loved that but again, the intensity was higher than what I have planned for as the terrain was fairly hilly for parts of the ride. I should have known better. I had also the impression that this new gear made me push a little harder, in the end it is about testing it, isn't it?

We finished back in town for a coffee, some of us clocking around 100 km and others a little more as they added a quick Mt Coot-tah loop to the legs.

After chatting with a few friends (answering a few questions on the C400)and having my coffee, I decided on a quick ride home for a beautiful brunch Sandra had planned for us.

Not much time for anything else and I was heading for work, tired. After all, it was the end of a good week of training. For the second time, I had tried the new kit and again, it exceded my expectations. It felt good. The jersey moulded so well to my body that I even forgot I was wearing it. The pockets are nicely placed on the back but I found them small for the long rides. I like carrying my food!

Week Twenty Seven: Build
Time: 16 h 30 min
Dist: 450 km
Ascent: 4,350 m

Today was a rest day (rest day for the guys in France also) and I feel well recovered. The legs are showing no sign of fatigue or soreness. It looks like the C400 compression gear has done its job quite well.

Just no sure if I want to wear anything else from now on...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Compression garments for recovery... and now for even better performance.

The expected call from Carlos Sastre asking for my assistance to win his second maillot jeune "nunca" came. The Twitter from Lance Armstrong didn't happen either (or I missed it, Sandra!?!?). All I can say is they will have a difficult time even getting to Paris in this year's Tour...

However, a short and exciting email hit my Inbox a week or so ago. It read:

"Hi there,
My name's Matt and I'm working on some cool stuff with Skins (makers of sports compression wear). They've asked me to find enthusiastic and dedicated cyclists to trial their new C400 range which, surprise surprise, is for cycling. I've been reading the AMR Cycling blog and see that you are involved in competitive cycling. I would love to offer you some kit to trial."

How could I have answered this email without sounding like like an eleven year old who just learned that his birthday presents would be arriving two months earlier?

A couple of days ago, Sandra brought this package home. - Don't cut yourself, again! was Sandra's instruction as I, scissors in hand and like an eleven year old, tackled the plain looking box containing what I hoped was the "cool stuff". In it, I found three dark, stylishly designed smaller boxes, one for each of the C400 Cycle garments sent by the guys from Skins.

As I removed the gear from the first two boxes, I realised I had in my hands the most high-tech bib shorts and jersey in the market today. Man, this stuff was really cool. The third box revealed a light weight Mesh Tank, those one can wear all year around. That's me!

True, I have been wearing compression gear for three or four years now and I can't emphasize enough how good they really are for post-ride recovery. It is not all I do for my recovery. I try to ice my legs after long and/or hard training rides and races, do my stretches and I pay a lot of attention to my post-ride nutrition.

And at this time of the year, when it gets a little cool around here, I find easy to wear them 24/7, practically.

Now, as we see in almost every sport, this technology has moved to improving perfomance during training and competition as well. How it all works? Well, the guys in the Skins Lab can give us a good explanation, I am just going to put the cool stuff on and ride... longer, faster!

Thanks guys!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Forgetting the World Cup and avoiding the Tour de France

When these two huge events come together in the same year, it can equate to sleepless nights, bad nutrition and higher intake of caffeine, flu's, ineffective training sessions and probably a decrease in productivity at work for weeks and weeks.

I tried, and will keep trying to avoid that this year. I missed the Brazil X Holland game (how convenient!!) although some kind of internal clock woke me up in the early hours of that morning. I chose to go back to sleep (even more convenient!!) as I had planned to be on the bike by 5:30 AM to meet riders from the team and do a couple of hours before the weekend's race.

The week had been quite solid with three rides (8.5 h) juggled with very early shifts at work. There were two high intensity sessions (
Clear Mountain) in there which left me with sore legs and the need for an easy recovery ride before the weekend. A River Loop with Sandra and a bit of socialising around town kept me honest with my needs and bouncy enough to head to work later that day.

Racing for the weekend was the 
HPRW criterium at Nundah, which attracted more than 60 riders to battle the strong wind in a hour long race. The QSM Racing Team had a mixed group of riders (U17, Masters A and B, Elite B) in A grade, which in itself had riders from Elite class, Masters A and B, Elite B, down to the "sit in" type who enjoy watching the race from the back of the bunch and then having a go in a sprint for 15th or 20th place.

Gathering at Nundah

Preparation time

Donna and Sandra

We didn't start our race with a plan. The goal was to get some racing intensity in the legs and look after each other if required. Of course, we all did more than that. We were very active during the whole race, tried a few moves, covered everything we could and by doing that we kept our crafted sprinter, Adam, a little fresher to finish it off, which he did nicely.

My work

Sam and Adam on the money

Once more, my week ended with the Zupps ride. And again, I pulled out after one hour and one short effort. Then, one and a half hour to get home and spend a bit of time with Sandra who sneakily avoided getting out of bed earlier to a morning which I thought was the coldest this year so far (7 degrees at some spots).

Week Twenty Six: Build
Time: 17 h 50 min
Dist.: 482 km

And on the Tour the France... Well, last night I stayed up to watch it on SBS and managed to stay awake for most of it. I had a few snoozes and ended up missing the last 5 km and the crazy finish in Brussels. Recovery day today so I thought I would give it a shot but from now on, I will do my best not to watch it live and will just stick to highlights and watch videos on the Net (steephill/TdF). Healthier that way.

At least until they get to the Alps!

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