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

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