Monday, August 31, 2009

Biking (from the vorb files)

Managed to get out on a few rides in the last few days. In fact, in the last four days I've ridden four different bikes. Friday was my bog-standard commute to and from the end of Lambton Quay, on my trusty commuter bike.

On Saturday, I popped my Raleigh 29er single speed on the back of my new bike carrying wagon, and drove out to Eastbourne with my girlfriend Carly. We had a decent northerly behind us and made quick work of the ride out to the lighthouse. Unfortunately Carly resisted all my taunts about racing etc, and so I had to be grown up for the large part. We sat for a bit at the lighthouse, and did a little bit of poking around, collecting a couple of neat pebbles - half greywacke, and half quartz (or something white and hard...). We then saddled up again, and rode a wee way towards Baring Head, before taking the first left hand 4WD road. After a couple of gates, we headed left again, then gradually climbed up a wee valley on to the ridge above the bottom lighthouse. Turning left, there are a few pinch climbs before you reach the second Pencarrow Lighthouse, and if you can stand up in the wind, some stunning views across the sounds, and of Wellington Harbour.


Instead of returning down the 4WD road, we took a funky little singletrack which ended up getting pretty steep and rocky. Carly was on foot, and coped with it admirably, while my big wheels lapped it up. We then popped down a steep bit of singletrack back to the coast. From there it was a bit of a grovel into the headwind back to the car. I was on point, and Carly sheltered behind me, only a couple of times silently popping off the back.

We followed the ride up with a coffee and some stunning caramel slice at the [insert name with Chocolate in it] cafe, just before Days Bay.

I hadn't intended to ride the PNP race on Sunday, but the opportunity arose, so I dusted some Long Gully (MTBO) mud off the Epic, gave the chain some lube, and put a bit of fresh air in the tyres. It was quite a luxury being able to walk to the race venue to register, then pop back home for a couple more slices of toast. The race itself was less luxurious. My lack of a decent warm up had me in the hurt box soon after the start, and lack of mountain biking was apparent when we hit the singletrack. Nonetheless, it was great to be out, and I was enjoying the ride. Karl Ratahi passed me at the top of Nikau, signalling the first of the Vet 2 men. Matt Farrar wasn't far behind, and my old mate Simon caught and passed me in between Missing Link and Aratihi. It was nice to see he was working very hard. I hung onto Mike Thompson's wheel up Aratihi, until he slipped on a rock, and we almost both ended up in a pile on the ground. He repassed me on T3, where I rode like a complete muppet, including taking a dive off the swingbridge which I rode on to far too half-heartedly to make it stick...

It was nice to be back on firm terrain again with Zac's track, but my muppetry came back on Ridgeline, and at the top of the descent into the wee saddle before the climb to the high point, I went down. Kerei Thompson pointed out it wasn't a good time for a rest as he blasted past. I was still out of sorts when I hit the climb, and shifted under load into my biggest cog at the back, and had a complete loss of power. I had a momentary flashback to the last times I'd ridden the Epic... *fall off and step on rear wheel at Belmont, run out of time to see Oli before Long Gully, derailleur hitting spokes in Long Gully race, conclude bent dropout still* I really do shake my head at myself when I've failed to take advantage of Oli's considerable skills. I've had so many bad experiences with repairs around Wellington in my time as a cyclist, with the exception of Oli, it's very hard to go past him... Lesson learnt... What a mong I am, not making the most of priority service of such quality...

Anyway, at least I was at the top of the hill. I shoved the chain in my back pocket, and rolled down the hill. It was quite fun, focussing on maintaining momentum. A couple of times I really needed that chain, but managed to get out of most spots without bloodshed. Ridgeline Extension was slower, but I wanted yet another race finish under less than ideal conditions, so I turned down ryda's kind offer of a bike.

Before long, I was pushing my bike up the small rise in South Karori Rd for the second time during a PNP race. The first time I was rather seriously blown, and struggled to stand up when I finished... This time, my legs were fine. Stu Houltham looked at me rolling down the road at about 25km/h in a full-on tuck as if I was a bit weird... I lost about 5 or 6 places on the road section, and it was nice to finish.

Today, I worked from home, and by the time 3pm rolled around, I'd made good progress on my work, and the sun was out, so I treated myself to a ride on the Roubaix. It is so lovely and light, and it was a pure pleasure to ride it through Makara, Takarau Gorge and up to the intersection of Ohariu Rd and Ironside Rd. There, I turned around and rode back home.


It was a rare sort of ride for me - not often I go out on my own and sift... As always, it was bloody good to get out.
 Originally published on vorb

Monday, August 24, 2009

MTBO, CX, and RD (from the vorb files)

Hindsight is such a marvelous thing. I've done three races in the last two weekends, and in each one, I could have done with a bit...

Last Sunday, Simon and I drove North, and turned off SH1 just after the Waitarere Beach turnoff. We were headed for the third round in the Wellington MTBO series. I had my Giant XTC in the back, fresh from a bit of loving by Oli at Roadworks. As usually happens, I'd taken it into the shop for one thing, only to be told that it was fine (and implicitly my diagnosis poor), but on the other hand... That's why I love him so!

Anyway, MTBO is my favourite discipline, and today was to be a fixed order event. You're given a map with controls marked on it, and you get a couple of minutes to mark the sequence on the map, before setting off. This race was the first at which I'd had electronic controls. Rather than clip a card with a unique clipper, each control has a little hole in the top of it, into which you place a small card, which sits on your index finger. While a little bit strange at first, it was comfortable to ride with, and great to "clip" at controls. And, the beauty is, you get splits in between controls afterwards, as well as instant results at the end.

Anyway, I had a pretty good ride. The terrain was virtually flat, and suited me well. The 4WD roads in the forest were mostly on a grid, and I found the navigation pretty straightforward. I generally chose the thicker lines on the map, which generally translate into faster riding, even though sometimes less direct. Of course, it's impossible to make the correct choices all the time, and occasionally I got it wrong. In those cases, it's probably better to keep going than to turn around and try a different route. The day went well for me, and I took out the win, a few minutes ahead of Ian Paintin. I had a bit of luck with Bryce Lorcet doing the course in reverse, though recording a faster time than me. Sadly for him, his result didn't stand, as the game's completely different in reverse...

On the way from the event, Simon pointed out a funny looking cow. She was walking backwards, and looked like she had a stick stuck up her bum. It turned out not to be a stick, but the front leg of a calf. We stopped the car, put the hazard lights on, and spent the next quarter of an hour witnessing the miracle of life! She had the head out before she lay down on her side, and delivered the calf with some big, but silent, efforts. She lay there unmoved. We sat in the car nervously waiting for some action. After a few minutes we saw an ear flicker, then a bit of movement in a leg. After what seemed like an eternity, the calf shook its head, and Mum leapt up, and started licking it. She had clearly been waiting for it... Had we waited a little longer, no doubt we would have witnessed its first steps, and feed, but pikelets, cake and coffee were calling... A quick stop in Levin, and then homewards. We were so engrossed in conversation, about 29ers I think, that we missed the turnoff to Petone, and had to double back from Thorndon, such is life. If anyone's interested in the splits, here they are ... 47&ct=true Hopefully they activate the RouteGadget function which allows animation of the riders in race time...

I had a pretty quiet week on the bike, though did manage a pretty neat ride with Simon one lunchtime. We climbed Mt Vic 3 times using 3 different routes. The first was the Kio Bay zig zag, hooking into another one somewhere in Roseneath. Then down the new singletrack to the bus tunnel, and up Upoko Rd. Strangely it seems much steeper in a car! Finally, we rode up Hay St before hitting a path up to Palliser Rd, and before I hit the wall. One day I will mash my way up there successfully if it's the last thing I ever do!!!! Warning, it's STEEP!

I planned to do three cycling events in the weekend: a cyclocross race in Totara Park, the ride in town, and then BP4 out at Miramar. For a hoot, and for logistical reasons I thought I'd do them all on the same bike - my Giant CRX commuter bike. Although one of my cheapest bikes, this is the one I use most, and probably couldn't do without. It's basically a Giant OCR, but with more space around the fork crown and stays for larger volume tyres, and with little v-brakes, and a flat bar. Saturday was the first time I'd put Maxxis Locust 'cross tyres on it, and damn it looked pretty choice! If only I'd know what racing 48 minutes on it over a rough grassy park, I'd have been out on the XTC again... The bike absolutely rocked on the gravel section, and I could just manage the short steep climb with my 36x27 (or 25?) each time. The 4 wee barriers per lap were not too difficult though I was probably doing too much running by getting off my bike too early, and getting back on too late. Before long, I felt really sick, not so much from the exertions, but from all the jiggling around - contributed by the steeplechase action, and the lumpy grass with the narrow, high pressure tyres...

I was passed by Nick_K about 30 minutes in, and Davo shortly after. He made me giggle by screaming "sifter I'm coming inside you" as well as giving the crowd a good laugh too.

I couldn't quite hang onto Marco or El Jefe on their MTBs in the final part of the race, and ended up in about 9th or 10th I think. I was the last rider on the course, having missed out by a few seconds on being lapped for the second time by Nick.

After a brief prizegiving, the bike went back on the car, and we set off for Miramar.

I didn't have a huge amount of time before the first start, but it was good to catch up with a few familiar faces, and connect familar faces with familiar vorb-names.

I'd made a small number of bad calls in the MTBO. I'd made one bad call in the cross race. Here, I can't even count the number of bad calls I made. Firstly, I had a freaking fantastic race bike sitting at home. It goes fast. Instead I had my commuter bike, granted one of the fastest commuter bikes in the west, but still a commuter bike. Secondly, said bike had the wrong tyres on. Instead of small fast road tyres, it had fat slow knobbly tyres. Thirdly, I'd raced in the morning, and gone pretty hard. Fourthly, rather than do a bit of research into the relative speeds of the bunches, I simply decided to drop one group into Break 2. I didn't consider that I'd been dropped by Break at the very end of BP1, nor that I'd been dropped by Break about half way into BP2. I didn't consider that Break 2 aren't that much slower than Break, nor did I note the trickle down effect of riders over the series which saw Scratch riders in Break, and lo and behold, Break riders in Break 2. Fifth, I didn't consider how the bunches were all going to group up, so starting in a slower bunch wouldn't be the end of the world if a faster group caught up. Finally, I paid little attention to the fact that my legs were rooted, and that no matter what group I'd entered in, I was going to struggle, even if I'd been on a motorbike... Get the picture?

The start was tricky with a line of traffic to negotiate at the Give Way sign. Around the cars, straighten up, and bam, there goes that wheel. Within 30 seconds of the start, I was having to work much harder than I was capable of, and I desperately tried to hang onto any wheel I could find. Less than 2km into the race, I was pinged off the back, with about 36km or so to ride. My folks, who've really enjoyed watching us all race on the road were at the bottom of Awa Rd to cheer us on. I was relieved they didn't think I was in a breakaway!

I got about 30 seconds riding in with Break around about Shelly Bay. Tony the Tiger gave me a nice shout, so I was able to increase my pace to theirs moments before they came past. Scratch came by a few minutes later. I made no attempt to speed up...

A guy caught me somewhere near the end of the second lap. To that point I'd been struggling to maintain 30km/h on the flat, but was determined to work hard until the end. It was nice to have some company, and we took turns for a bit, before I again went into self preservation mode after the small hill in Miramar. I was ever so slightly stronger on the Awa Rd climb, so when we got to the bottom, I suggested he sit in for a bit, and took a decent turn towards Scorching Bay. In a small bunch, I think I prefer long turns to short frantic ones where we're desperately trying to pass each other. Toward the end of another pull, we catch a lone rider, and he ends up in second wheel, with my mate in front. A gap opens, and I'm on my own again. No matter, not long to go now...

The climb up Maupuia was pretty tough. About half way up, I see Mum and Dad driving down. They'd been driving all over the place trying to work out where the hell I'd got to! I had my first win in Break on this climb, in 2007, and last year I'd started with Scratch and finished 5th across the line, ahead of the likes of ThingOne, and series winner Lee Evans. This day, I was faster than only a handful of riders, and almost last across the line! All in all, I'm sure this will prove a useful experience, and one which I will not readily forget. I can't promise it will never happen again, but I will endeavour to turn up to the next gunfight with a gun, rather than a stick...

Tomorrow, I'm doing my first short Akas loop of the season, anticlockwise from the Hutt side of the Haywards. Hopefully Alex and I get around before the weather craps out...

Originally published on vorb

Monday, August 10, 2009

More road race fail (from the vorb files)

Saturday dawned a lovely day for a ride, and the crowd at BP2 certainly reflected this. I'd resisted the temptation to ride out with the Revolution boys, and hitched a lift with way_downsouth, Kah and Hollywood. A quick coffee stop in Aro Street, then straight onto the motorway. A short queue at registration, and we were ready to rock and roll. I had time for a short warm up back to the top of Wallaceville hill, and was able to check out the ride into the finish line where someone had come a cropper in the ditch on the way to the race... Poor blighter.

After a good rev-up on the line by Glenn, there was sure to be no slacking in the large Break bunch. There were a few of last week's Scratch cast offs, and Roadworks compatriot Joel, who miraculously had neither hair-dos, nor birthday parties to contend with this week...

The start was brisk, and we formed what almost resembled a pace line from the get go. About half way up cowpat, I was following Alex Revell and another, and found myself unable to get past. Instead of easing up, I kept hammering away, and before I knew it I was red-lining. I was last over the top of the rise, and had to make the best of my 90-odd kg to get back on before the flat. There was little respite before the short climb over Mangaroa, and by the time I hit the top of this, I was really struggling. The descent was rough, though I managed to pick OK lines. True to form, I slid off the wheel in front around the corner at the bottom and had to dig deep to regain it, the guy in front doing the same, etc, etc.

The race for me was done when the bunch started drafting a small truck. I was last in line, and probably about 15 riders back, and with absolutely no shelter from the truck, I suffered for the few minutes we were on. I didn't look at my speedo, but I'd estimate we were in the low 50s for 2 minutes or so. Too much for me, alas. When we hit the Wallaceville climb, I started to slip back, and about 2/3 of the way up, popped of the back of the bunch. I had company from Glenn and Ross Watson until Mangaroa where I couldn't quite match their pace.

Craig Lawn and one other passed me at the bottom of Mangaroa hill, and a short while later a bunch with Joe Cooper in it. At the bottom of Wallaceville, Scratch had lined me up. I slowed and went really wide in the corner, thinking they'd take the inside line, but I got a fright when they came around on both sides of me. I maintained a sensible pace up the hill, and worked hard from the top to the finish line. I didn't sprint, but was working hard to the line. Cheers to the guy on the right who eased up as I did, perhaps thinking it slightly impolite to draft for the last kilometre, and then sprint for 40th place or whatever it was... (unlike the guy on the left!)

All in all, a good hard workout. Given the lack of riding from March to June, I'm pretty pleased to be where I am. I can feel soft bits getting less soft, and my legs starting to cope with more. It was pleasing to see my lap times were almost identical.

Finally, I had a nice ride home with way_downsouth and Gerard. At the Silverstream lights we watched a bunch come on to SH2, and had to chase for quite a while to catch them. I always love SH2 in all it's smoothness, and slight downward gradient. With a tail wind, it was great to tick along in the low 40s for a while. We eventually caught them near Lower Hutt, and had a sheltered ride home. I was ready to stop by the time we got to Karori though.

No BP3 for me unfortunately, though Kaitlyn and I might go and watch. MTBO at Waitarere on Sunday though.

No need to take the bike to Oli for a once over, but it's tempting to see if he can pop me up in the stand, and give my legs a quick tune!

Originally published o vorb