Sunday, September 28, 2008

Centre champs, chump (from the vorb files)

Today was another reminder how unforgiving road racing can be. I made a bad mistake, at a bad time, and all of a sudden, the race was over for me...

Today's race - the Wellington Center Champs, out at Otaki - was a bit of an afterthought. I generally spend Sundays with Kaitlyn, which is why I've been doing the road races and not any of the XC races in Welly this season. For some strange reason though, I thought I'd make an exception for this one. At a huge political toll (negotiations with Katy's mum), I freed up the day.

Setting the alarm for the morning was much more taxing than usual - my watch alarm was set for 5:30, on winter time, and my cell phone for 6:30, on daylight savings time. Usually I'd just use my cell, but I had no confidence that it wouldn't somehow know about daylight savings, and change the time on me...

I was half expecting to hear rain, but there was none when I woke up. Toast, and tea, and I was ready to go, arriving at Joel's place in Whitby just before half seven. We stacked his bike into my car, then continued north to Otaki. We timed it well, and all the preliminaries were done without too much fuss. Joel timed his warm-up perfectly, and arrived on the line 30s from the gun.

As soon as we were underway, Joe Cooper shot away up the road. The course undulated eastwards to start with, then turned north into a series of short, awkwardly steep climbs - not really small ring territory, but almost. With a tailwind behind us, the course veered around to the left, before a rough bridge and then a rail crossing deposited us onto SH1, heading south. Joel had attacked on one of the milder climbs, but had not been able to bridge to Joe. We could see him up the road, as we cruised into the wind - I found myself alongside Steve Pyne and said "we'd be doing him a favour to catch him" - Steve replied "yeah, but not us!" with a wry smile on his face.

Before long, we had finished our first lap of six, and soon after we turned into the first climb, with Joel looking on - holding his front wheel - clearly punctured, in his hands. The remainder of the lap was a curious one. It seemed to go a lot quicker than the first, but we rode much more slowly. I don't quite remember where, but we caught 3 riders who were on their first lap and had been dropped by their bunch. Such was our pace, that we got attacked by not one, not two, but all three of them, on the upwind leg! I think it was Sam King-Turner, just on my wheel who let out a small laugh, once, twice, thrice...

At the start of our lap 3, Steve Scott and another decided enough was enough, and accelerated around our new companions. I too thought we should get clear of them, so went after Steve, with the bunch sitting in behind. At this point, I had a brain-fade...

As we turned left at the bottom of the climb (Joel was no longer there), I was still hammering after Steve. He turned to me and made some sort of disparaging remark about a lack of work ethic. Whether or not he intended it, he gave me all the ammo I needed to work myself over. For the next five or six minutes, I slogged away, until, about 300m from the highpoint of the course, the bunch attacked me, and that was that. I had no response, and then and there I was gapped, and gone. I had some hope of chasing back on, but of course the pedestrian riding of the previous laps didn't eventuate - with me out the back, and 2 or 3 riders with a 10-20 gap at the front of the bunch, no one had any incentive to wait around. As I turned into the wind, the bunch was out of sight. And so, not even three full laps into a six lap race, it was all over.

Funny how different this sport is to mountain bike racing. I reckon I had the equivalent of a small crash, whereupon I'd get to scrape myself up, jump on the bike, and keep riding, having lost a minute or so. Not here - I weakened myself unnecessarily, the bunch knew it, and punished me for it - and good on them!

The day was not a complete right off though. The weather was beautiful, and the course kind of nice, so when I completed my third lap, and found Joel leaning on his bike at the Start/Finish line, I suggested we ride another lap. He borrowed my pump and got his tyre up to pressure, and then we toddled off. At the end of that lap, I grabbed my wallet and a bit of food from my car, and rode south, while Joel drove back to his place. As I left, the bunch were just about to finished their 5th lap. Joe Cooper was back in the fold, and the pace looked to be pretty casual again. Steve Pyne gave me a "what the hell?!" gesture, to which I responded with a smile and a salute (an actual salute - go figure).

It turns out Otaki's about 50km north of the cafe at Pauatahanui. My legs weren't feeling particularly flash when I left with 64km on the clock. 2 hours later I was leaning my bike up against the cafe, having enjoyed a nice sunny ride down SH1, and over Paekak Hill. A panini and bowl latte later, and a nice chat with Ian Peach, I was off to Joel's place. I arrived there with 120km and four hours showing on the speedo, and feeling like I'd had a pretty tough day at the office.

What's next? Who bloody knows, but I suspect a little less of this graded-scratch racing. Simon had suggested I do my first endurance ride of the season, knowing from experience that that's the best thing for my Akatarawa Attack, Karapoti and Alpine Epic chances. In the end I got that (mostly)... Slowly but surely it's sinking in that I'm not that well prepared for this sort of racing - certainly not at A grade level. Nor is this sort of racing doing me much good since I'm not preparing for Taupo or anything similar. Next time "Simon says", I reckon I'll pay a little more attention...

Originally published on vorb

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another learning experience (from the vorb files)

It's been a bloody long time since I've ridden that far!

I met way_downsouth and Hollywood in Karori around 11:30, and we rode out to Eastbourne. Karori was pretty still, but it became clear that the ride from Wainui Coast to the finish was going to be tough with a northerly wind. We registered, and then rode into Eastbourne for a coffee. I was peckish, and without checking the time, first ordered a brownie, and then swapped it for a bacon and egg sandwich (much to the waitress' distress  ...)

Time had marched on, so we headed back to the start line in time for briefing, and a bit of sifting. It was nice to catch up with fellow vorbers - Grant, Joel, and Oli, as well as a whole lot of anonymous lurkers

It was nice to watch A grade head off down the road, and then line up with B grade. The pace to the bottom of Wainui Hill was sedate to say the least. I almost came a cropper (and almost took someone down behind me) when a rider in front slowed down and swerved on the first steep section, John Atkinson went off the front, using his chicken legs to good effect, and three two more went after him. I rode side by side with Steve Pyne, at a nice easy, but honest tempo. The riders in front didn't get too far away, and though Steve bridged to the two ahead by the top of the climb, I was happy enough to take it easy - no metallic taste in the mouth for me today (unlike Tuesday). One of the nice things about being able to climb hills at the best part of 90kg, I roll down the other side hellishly quick. I find that in a nice tuck position, I can work up a fair head of steam, and I caught the three ahead before the bottom of the hill.

We were joined very soon after by a 5th rider, and with at least 400m clear of the bunch (I gave up looking back for them), we quickly got into a pace line. Shortly after the finish line, we caught John, and the 6 of us worked well to the coast. It was great to see Joel safely entrenched in the A grade bunch. Almost immediately after the turn, our pursuers went past, and my immediate reaction was to sit up. They were so close (a few hundred metres), and strong in number. We all cruised for the next while, and despite this, the bunch seemed to take an eternity to pick us up. When they finally did, things slowed down even more, so at least they'd suffered on their chase.

The next hour and a bit were rather curious. Sometimes we rode quickly; mostly we rode slowly. Few people worked. The second lap to the coast was a little frustrating for the presence of a few A graders who'd been shelled by their bunch. For the most part, they seemed content to take wind, and rotate with the few B graders who were working, but well into the final leg, one was up the road working with a single B-grader, and a second time same B-grader, plus two others, and a different A-grader. It wasn't the end of the world, but a little frustrating so close to the finish.

In any case, either someone said something to them, or by their own volition, within a few kilometers of the finish, the A-graders rolled back, and it was all on. As usual, I really struggled to hold wheels at this point, and benefitted greatly from the short-lived nature of the attacks, and the fact that when they collapsed, the pace dropped right down. In the approach to the tip, I had a lovely sheltered position about 15 back, and though I was worried that I had nothing much left, at least I was sheltered.

A few hundred out is a lovely little dip, and I swung around the bunch quite aggressively. Again my 90kg paid dividends as I worked up a great bit of momentum, and was second at the bottom of the dip. The first time I'd ridden this finish (last year in BP2) I'd blown spectacularly, and was photographed sprinting with my hands on the hoods - this time, down on the drops (harnessing my glutes... whatever...) and managed to hold second place through to the line. Though a very satisfying result, I found it all a bit perplexing having felt so low a few minutes earlier. I guess those attacks took their toll on everyone...

Check out a video of the finish!

After a short roll through to the bottom of the hill out of Wainui, I packed the Roubaix back into Mum and Dad's car, then hit Petone for a coffee. Then, home for a bath!

I'll be interested to see how the legs hold up at "Whole Lotta Led" tonight. I'm looking forward to Simon getting back on his bike, and some sifty endurance rides through the countryside. And maybe some interval sessions so these races don't feel so damn unfamiliar...

As always, cheers to Oli at Roadworks, and Simon for trying to instill some patience in me!

Originally published on vorb

Saturday, September 13, 2008

And then the wheels fall off (from the vorb files)

Today, I had one of my most disappointing races EVAR!

I lined up in A grade for the first time, although I'd had one relatively successful start with Scratch in the final round of the Balfour Pennington Series.  It was quite a quick start, heading north from Gorrie Road, over cowpat, to Maymorn Hall, for the turn around.

My legs never felt good, but my technique really sucked around the sharp corners and the turn. Each time, I had to chase hard to get back on, and each time took its toll. Over cowpat heading south, I got gapped, and the three riders in front of me themselves had been gapped (ThingOne, Tom Paulin and Steve Scott). Chris Kendall was on my wheel, and unbeknownst to me, there were at least another four behind him.

Chris and I chased the three in front for what seemed like an eternity, and we never really made any headway. They were about 100-200m up the road, tantalisingly close, but getting no nearer. About 5 minutes away from the Avian Road turnaround, I simply gave up. I was focussing on catching them - it seemed like a decent goal - but I realised I'd given pretty much all I had to do it, and the ill-fated attempt had me spent. I failed to hold Chris' wheel as he pulled through, and I pulled the plug right then and there.

I rode on to the turnaround, somewhat embarrassed at the sight of the bunch and their pursuers, Chris on his own, charging along. Shortly after the turn, the foursome approached, and Al Crossling pulled around to ride home with me. We chatted, and rode like we might on a cruisy long ride, had the (now) three remaining A-graders blast past us, and finally we got caught by B-grade, who we tucked in at the back of for the few kilometres back to the school, where my support crew were waiting to cheer me on. At least they were able to support the others out there doing it tough. We watched A-grade shoot past well into their second lap, and then B-grade some minutes later. Then, a ride back to the finish to announce a DNF, and watch the sprints...

What went wrong? The simplest answer, and perhaps the easiest for me to stomach, is that I was outclassed. Excuses? Maybe my nutrition and sleep weren't really up to scratch over the week. I'd not done much riding since BP4 on account of being busy, and all the damn rain. I can't expect my unexpected form at BP to look after me for ever... I hadn't had a decent warm up - 20 minutes of low intensity riding with Chris (!!!!).

Simon asked me what went through my mind at the moment I was dropped. I told him I wasn't sure, but I certainly didn't process the various scenarios of giving everything I needed to get onto Clive's wheel vs spending the next 20 minutes in a 2-up time trial, and then DNFing.

Lessons? I either need to get my cornering sorted, or be at the front when we go through. I need to ride my bike more often. I need to eat properly. Blowing a race, and then pulling out really sucks. Not a proud day for me today. I'm really not sure I can say I gave it my best...

Originally published on  vorb