Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A local road race (from the vorb files)

It's been nice to feel a bit of power in the legs over the last few weeks, and it hasn't been hard to remember how wonderful it feels to be moving quickly on a bicycle.

I didn't do anything else last week but commute, though I really rate my two short rides per day. I am convinced commuting maintains my ability to get on a bike for a few hours, and hum along with very little "training".

I'd agreed to meet Monolith in Karori last Saturday morning, although I had an offer too good to refuse - if I was to drop my HDD recorder into work, a colleague would record the Olympic Road Race on it via his Freeview set. (I collected it the next day, and it clocked in at a mighty 19GB!) Hoping the Mono would either see my post on vorb, or understand, I drove into town, handed over my recorder, then dragged the bike out of the boot.

A southerly was blowing, but it wasn't raining much, and at about half eleven, Monolith, Slackboy and I headed north from the end of Thorndon Quay. It was my first time along the Hutt Rd since the Memorial Ride, and I missed all the space. The tailwind was nice, though the water on the road lead to some very chilly spots. The three of us rode at a steady pace, sometimes two abreast, and mixed up the lead a bit. At one point, Ricky and I let Monolith "steam" ahead at times.

Beyond the Silverstream bridge, we were able to admire all the snow on the hills behind Whiteman's Valley. The image conjured up a fair bit of concern as well. We were all pretty damp, and while it wasn't overly cold riding, we knew we were going to cool down pretty fast.

We'd planned to stop for a bit in Upper Hutt, and after circumnavigating H20 Extreme, we found a decent looking cafe, and Monolith picked up a bit of glass. We grabbed an outside table in a lovely, sunny and sheltered spot. I scoffed a bagel, and a bowl latte, Ricky a plate of bacon and eggs and a hot chocco, while Dave mended his puncture, and ate a banana. We finished, and with a bit of urgency, headed off. A quick stop at a nearby petrol station, and a call from Joel suggesting we get a wiggle on, and we headed over Mangaroa Hill towards the start.

After a brief pause to admire the storm passing through the valley, and all the snow on the far hills, it was a quick descent to the valley floor, and registration.

Despite the waiting being cold, there was a nice vibe at the start line. There was a decent sized bunch of people, many vorbers, and many otherwise familiar faces. People all seemed to be in a good mood, and there was plenty of chatting while we waited for the starts. Great to see the overlap between the Wellington MTB and road communities.

To the racing then... It's funny how I know the weather was shithouse, but it doesn't really seem like such a dominant aspect a few days on. Anyway, we rolled off the line, a reasonably quickly got a decent paceline going. The first corner, then the hill made it hard, but we communicated well, and most people pulled through. It was great to have Tom Paulin in the bunch, who never shirks work, and ThingOne and Monolith were both strong riders making their way up from Break 2 last week.

Just after the turnaround, it was a shame to see Joe Chapman with a wry smile on his face. He'd put in such a huge amount of work last week, I'd assumed he was just sitting in this week, but alas, he'd been shelled out the back. I almost came a cropper on a narrow right hander - I was in the outside line, and just as we moved into the turn, a car appear coming towards us. We all went wider, and I had to get through a pothole and then onto some wet grass. I then found myself safely back on the tarmac, but with my bunch accelerating away from me, and my bike in a shitty gear. I managed to limit the gap to about 30m, and decided against letting them know I was gapped. Instead, I put my head down, and worked pretty hard to get back on as quickly as I could. I took stock at the back of the bunch for a couple of minutes, and then got stuck into my work again.

Up cowpat hill, I found myself at the front of the bunch, and thought it was probably a good idea to go fairly hard up the hill, and reduce the size of the bunch a bit. There was another guy who must have had similar ideas, and I urged him on. A couple of glances at my speedo showed speeds over 40km/h on some of the flatter parts of the climb. If only I'd looked back, I would have seen the effects on the bunch, and the half dozen or so riders still with us.

Instead of surveying the damage, I simply put my head down, and put all my eggs in one basket. I was first to the left hand turn, though I didn't take a great line, and ended up worrying a little about the white center line. With little left in my legs, I stayed seated and pedalled as hard as I could, but with little intensity. Nonetheless, having clear road in front of me, at least I could just crank away. The inevitable happened, and a few dozen metres from the line, ThingOne came past me on my left. I could sense someone on my right fading, but then both he and I were overhauled by the eventual second placed rider coming at warp speed. I was good enough for third on the line. It felt good, though I was a little frustrated at my inflexibility to adapt to what was going on around me - indeed, in my inability to even check...

Soon after the finish, my body started to seriously complain about the cold. I had a mostly dry set of clothes to change into, and got a lift back to town with my parents! A bowl latte and a serving of apple crumble at Leuven was just the thing!

Wainui next week... Last year I went at a kilometre, and surrendered a decent gap in the last 100m to finish fourth. Sounds a little familiar...

Originally posted on vorb

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