2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Crit Racing (SKCC) Port Melbourne

Yesterday was the first day of the SKCC summer crit racing down at Port Melbourne.

To be honest, crits scare me a little bit. Speed is normally very high and being in D grade, there are usually riders of varying ability.

With the speed being what it is, combined with tight cornering it is always in the back of my mind that an accident could happen at any moment.

It didn’t help that the roads were wet when it rained halfway through our race and inevitably, crashes did occur – in my race, there were two.
I went reasonably well, but in hindsight I should have moved up more aggressively on the last two laps.
I was about 12-15th place around the last corner and from there there’s not much that you can do and I didn’t bother contesting the sprint.
We started with close to 50 riders, the pace was high and it never let up. By the end, there was only about 15 of us left.
(Photos courtesy of SKCC, Facebook and Flickr)

One of the early laps, bunch is huge, notice some riders are even smiling – I’m right at the back, in the sky blue helmet

Second corner, this was where the two accidents happened

Coming around again, moved up into the middle of the bunch, hiding from the wind

Sheltering behind the guy in front of me, saving as much energy as possible. Still on the hoods so I can get a better view of what was happening in front. Notice some guys are popping off the back.

Poor guy, no longer smiling

Another guy who couldn’t keep up the pace. Speed was high, only a few attacks but it never lets up and once you pop off the bunch it’s really hard to get back on

Faster than lightspeed? Ludicrous speed!

Ignore the heart rate reading on my Strava data- it was never correct, if it was, I’d be having a heart attack!

Amy Gillet Gran Fondo Prep

The Baum has been cleaned and the chain lubed up. All in preparation for this weekend’s Amy Gillet Gran Fondo.

I hope the weather stays sunny for the weekend, but even if it doesn’t I’m sure that a weekend full of riding and socialising with like minded people will be an awesome experience.

A few baby wipes later and the Baum is back to it’s shiny best!

 

Rock n Rolla Gold chain lube is great stuff

Northern Combine Sunbury Trophy Race Report

Wind.

I hate wind. Headwinds are bad. Crosswinds are worse. On Saturday I got my a$$ handed to me by both! Happy rider? I think not!

Courtesy of Cycling Profiles

We’re about two thirds of the way through the Northern Combine winter road season and I’ve raced on most of the circuits at least once – so I pretty much know what to expect. This course in Kyneton, however, was a new one for me. The profile looked challenging but not overly difficult. There were some mildly challenging climbs but these were very short, and the longer climb, at about 2.5km long, was only at an average of under 5%. How hard could it be?

The weather on the day was atrocious. A lot of wind and very cool. Thankfully the rain managed to stay away and all we got were a few light showers, but for the most part it was a dry, but very windy race.

As we gathered together at the start I chatted with my mate, Mark Bailey, about the course and how I thought that the wind would play a major part, more so than the course itself. On this count I was half-right. The wind was definitely a huge factor, but the course itself was challenging enough in itself.

The Sunbury Trophy Race was in a scratch format so myself, Mark and the other 20 or so D-graders would all start together and ride around the course three times, total distance of about 63km.

After the usual pre-race briefing we headed out westwards with a slight tailwind. At some very early point one guy attacked but no one was interested in chasing him, it was way too early and the wind would make it nearly impossible for anyone to ride solo all the way to the end. We left him out there and then turned left at the first corner and started heading north. This section was relatively flat but we were getting severely buffeted by huge crosswinds. We started to echelon across the road and staying to the right of the rider in front of you gave the best protection.

The rider that attacked off the front came back to the group at this point. He later launched several other attacks and he was obviously a very strong (and very pro-looking) rider but strangely, he pulled out after two laps. He was either mistaken, thinking it was only a two lap race, or as someone else suggested, perhaps he was a triathlete on a training ride. We’ll never know, and we didn’t have to worry about him any more anyway.

After the cross-wind section we turned left and started heading upwards. This part was more sheltered so the wind had less of an impact but it was weird, I think the landscape must have been slanted upwards because it looked totally flat but a quick glance at my Garmin revealed a 7% gradient. The final climb also pinched upwards right at the top and approached 9% which wasn’t shown on the profile. It was definitely a lot more challenging than I expected and although we all crested the climb together, plenty of people, myself include, were breathing very hard.

Thankfully we then headed downhill towards the finish line. Even though we were riding into a headwind this section was very sheltered and very fast. Being downhill all the way to the line meant that the final climb we had just left would be crucial.

I’ve said it before, but training rides just don’t compare to race pace. The frontrunners in our group were relentless all day, and after we had gone around again I was starting to feel a bit tired. There was one Brunswick CC rider who launched a big attack off the front at the start of the final lap and I started the chase to bring him back in. We gave him a bit of slack at the start of the final lap but it was clear that he was fairly strong so we had to work quite a bit to reel him in. It was a stupid mistake on my part, because I started to use up too much energy. Energy that I needed for the final climb. As it was, we caught him at the end of the cross-wind section which is about where I started to lose touch with the main group. I was still within touching distance and we made the turn into the final climb but my race was done. I had had enough and knew that I wouldn’t have the legs to contest the finish so I eased up and watched the main field ride away.

The one huge positive of the day was that my mate, Mark Bailey, a fellow Hawthorn CC rider managed to take the win! Awesome effort Mark. Here are his words to describe the final moments of the race:

4 of us (the 3, 4 and 5th place getters of last week) broke away on the final climb of 2.5kms. We agreed to take a turn each at the front to consolidate the break at the top. Once we saw the Commissar car behind us we new we did not have to worry about any sprinters coming over the top. I took 3rd wheel and stayed there until 50 metres before the finish. Second wheel launched his sprint on the outside which was the wrong side so I immediately went on the inside out of the wind. As soon as I did I was faced with a huge pot hole (lucky I have been practising bunny hops) but I knew I had it almost immediately and took it by a length.

Also Wayne (Wayne D’Agostini, Coburg CC, finished 2nd) lead all the way up the climb, I bludged second wheel. The last couple of hundred meters Anthony (Anthony Somers, Brunswick CC finished 3rd) took the front, I think he said he was stuffed and would not be able to contest the finish but would lead Wayne and I out. Wayne was the one who was unfortunate to have attacked on the windy side. What a cool bunch of guys to race with.

Here here Mark! The other rider who broke away with Mark and the others was Justin Knott from Sunbury. He lost touch right at the top but still managed to bring it home and take fourth place.

I managed to chat with all of them afterwards and can only agree with Mark that it’s absolutely fantastic to race with these guys week in and week out. In D grade at least there doesn’t seem to be any big egos, we’re all out there racing and loving every second of it.

My mate, Mark Bailey on the far left, heading up the final and decisive climb. He would go on to win his first Northern Combine Race! Well done Mark!

Doesn’t look like it but this section was about 5% gradient

Chatting with Wayne D’Agostini from Coburg CC about how to get permission from “The Boss” before buying new bike shiny stuff

As with every race this season I am learning something new:

  • Read the wind! Get maximum protection to save energy
  • As Mark described, don’t go too early, stay patient and attack as late as possible
  • Don’t work hard on the front unless you have a very good reason to
  • Train properly – this could be the difference between getting dropped, and getting a win!

On the last point above, Mark recommended to me Kelly Coaching – they have helped design a program for him which is obviously paying dividends. Every week Mark is looking stronger and fitter.

He also recommends the book, “The Cyclist’s Training Bible”, by Joel Friel. Apparently Kelly Coaching’s program follows closely what is in the book.

My Strava data from the race can be found here.

For reference, here is Mark’s winning race data here.

Climbing Mountains

We’re leaving winter behind us here in Melbourne but I’ve never minded the cold weather. The wind I hate, but cold weather is… well… cool.

Happy Riding!

Courtesy of Competitive Cyclist Flickr Stream

Tokyo Bike Shop Visit

After selling Fereshteh’s Pony Bike single speed, it had been a project of mine to find the right replacement bike for her.

Funnily enough, as Fereshteh pointed out to me the other night, she has actually owned more bikes than me – four against my three! That’s not right!

Anyway, the next bike for her had to be the right one – we didn’t want to spend more money buying yet another bike after this one so we were determined to take our time and get it right.

Randomly, we had originally seen a very nice looking bike locked up on a street somewhere and upon closer inspection I made a note of the bike’s name,  Tokyo Bikes. The bike was a step-through frame. A nice clean colour, nine gears and stylishly simple.

This bike was almost perfect, and in the end, Fereshteh was willing to compromise a bit on her preferred build spec (she had wanted a single speed) so we decided to head down to Tokyo Bike in Collingwood for a closer look.

It was a very nice store, totally unlike your normal bike shop. It reminded me more of a store that sells designer items for the house, it definitely had the right boutique-like vibe that we were looking for.

Fereshteh test rode several of their bikes: the step-through model that we originally saw (Bisou) as well as their singlespeed (SS) and another model (CS).

Arty test ride

In the end she decided that the Bisou step-through was the one for her and she put in an order on the spot – in pink of course!

The staff were very friendly and helpful, overall our Tokyo Bike experience is highly recommended.

Bike locks

I think she prefers the step-through

Lots of options

Northern Combine – Northcote CC Trophy Race

Last Saturday I lined up for the  2012 Northcote Keith McLaren Trophy Race in D grade.

The race was held in Broadford, Victoria, same course as the Alf Kimpton Handicap that I did several months ago.

However, the weekend’s race was in a scratch format so while the course was the same, the race itself would be ridden differently.

One difference I made to my bike was to keep my 25-tooth cassette on instead of swapping it over to my 29-tooth. I figured that there was only one steepish hill which was only short anyway so the 25-tooth would be fine. This turned out to be a correct assumption.

The race was held in almost perfect weather, sunny, cool and only a slight south-westerly wind. This meant a crosswind for the second half of the circuit which, combined with the rolling terrain, made the race painful from the beginning.

There were about 20 starters in D grade and we all rolled off away from the line together. There were no major attacks at the start and we all rode into the long gravel section as one big group.

Fun times! The gravel section involved both uphill and downhill sections, the downhill especially was tricky but fun. I found myself “drifting” on this part with my rear wheel sliding out a bit as the course curved away to the right. Riding on gravel in a big group at race pace was certainly interesting. My Baum lost a bit of paintwork on the downtube as a result of the gravel… I’ve got spot paint that Baum provided to touch it up but I think I’ll leave it. For me, the Cubano has now got even more “character”!

It was with both regret and relief when we left the gravel and rode back onto the long bitumen straight. This was a very fast narrow straight section that we all flew down and then headed up the first and only major climb. 8.4% for only 400 metres. No one was willing to attack on the first lap but everyone still rode this climb aggressively. With the pace high, nobody eased up so we all flew up the climb. As I predicted, the 25 tooth cassette was fine and I reached the top in the top 10 as we continued on without pause. I think at this point there were a few people who may have dropped off the back, but for the most part, the group was still fairly large and managed to stayed together.

The second part of the course was through rolling sheltered hills and into a bit of a crosswind. It was at this point that I suddenly realized how hard the race was. For some reason I thought that I could take it easy and draft along on the back but this was proving to be incorrect. I think the crosswind made it harder to draft and with the race pushing along at a fair click it was taking quite a bit of effort to stay amongst the front group. But I figured that if I was suffering then everyone else was suffering as well. I was determined to stay at the front for as long as possible.

As we crossed the line for the start of the second and final lap I was hurting but feeling relatively ok. I was worried about my cramping issue but so far it hadn’t made an appearance.

Whoops. Spoke to soon. As soon as we hit the gravel section again my calf muscles started twitching. Great… not! My mate Mark Bailey and I managed to ride at the front along the gravel and this helped the cramping to a degree because being at the front meant that I could keep the power down on the pedals (which always seems to help my cramping issue). As soon as we left the gravel I pulled off and let the others ride through before hopping into their draft.

We then approached the steep pinch and this is where my race was decided.

I was about 10th wheel approaching the base of the climb. My mate Mark launched an attack and everyone in front of me responded. I tried to do the same but with my cramping issue my quads locked up and I couldn’t summon the strength to stay with them. As it was, I sat back down and just concentrated on turning the pedals over without cramping and reminding myself over and over not to panic. When I crested the top I passed a guy in Team Kosdown kit (his name was Conrad and it turned out this was his first race ever) who was puffing and panting an awful lot. I told him, “Don’t panic, we’ll work together and get back on”. He laughed and said, “Maybe you can, I’m done!”… so I kept riding past him and looked ahead to see the front group only about 30 or so metres in front of me. I looked back and saw Emma Payne (one of only a few girls racing in D grade) and a Sunbury rider coming up to me.

The three of us then spent the next 10 minutes racing at top speed, swapping turns, pushing ourselves to our limits just trying to get back that 30 meters to the front group. God it was frustrating! We could see them so close up the road, but they were hammering, and we obviously had to ride faster than them to get back on.

In the end, only Emma and myself managed to latch back onto the front group. One of them commented to me after the race that we were lucky to get back on and truth be told, I didn’t think we’d make it. In my head, I knew that my effort although admirable, would cost me dearly in the end.

And so it proved.

The rest of the race was a sufferfest. The guys never eased up, it was just push push push all the way to the finish line. Every slight incline required maximum effort on my part and each of these cost me more and more. I guess I had more matches than I thought but they were being burnt up very quickly!

I was hanging on by a thread and finally, with about 500 metres to go, I exploded and lost touch. It was the second last hill and the finish line was in sight but my legs refused to go any harder and I went from 30 km/hr to about 10km/hr in a heartbeat. I watched the others ride away to contest the finish as I limped towards the line. Emma was also unhitched at this point and we both commented to each other how we knew that our effort to get back into the front group would cost us in the end.

Interestingly enough, with a few seconds rest my legs recovered and I accelerated away to claim a top ten finish (I don’t think Emma cared, at least I hope not).

God it was tough.

My mate Mark Bailey managed to snag fifth and another friend of mine, Ross Clark managed to get second. Well done boys! We hung around for a bit at the finish line and watched the other riders come in. It was at this point that I realized how hard our guys had been pushing it. The rest of the D graders limped over the line up to 20 minutes behind us – and that was after we were all together at the start of the second lap. It was only at that steep pinch where the race was split to pieces. So, another race over and another valuable lesson learnt!

Lessons learnt:

  • Read the course profile and identify where you think the race will be decided (sometimes this is obvious, sometimes it isn’t)
  • Try and stay in the front group as long as possible, this gives you the best chance of a high finish
  • If you are dropped you need to decide straight away whether it is worth the effort to get back on
  • If so, don’t hesitate, just go but manage your effort; don’t just go all out straight away, raise your tempo but give yourself enough wiggle room to recover and then go hard again
  • Never panic, stay calm and try to make rational decisions
  • Read the race – sometimes there is brief lull on the front, this is the best time to eat or drink or perhaps, attack! (Note, if you attack while the guys on the front are eating or drinking then be prepared for some harsh words directed your way!)

My Strava data here

Some random photos of the race courtesy of Jo Upton

Thanks for reading. Happy riding :)

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