Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Time off....

So, as you might remember from my last post, I was about to take a 2 week break after the Tour of Coleraine finished. I did that - and I think I really needed it.

After this break, I started riding again. I did just relatively light training rides, for a couple of weeks. And then, two weekends ago, I went mountain biking and managed to have a rather nasty incident. At the top of a tricky rocky climb, I lost control and ended up rolling 18m down the side of the hill, after going headfirst into a rock. Luckily a conveniently placed prickle bush was there to stop my fall.

My helmet worked beautifully (see above), but my back and neck have been quite sore. I also had to have 5 stitches just under my nose. Thankfully, I am on the mend! On Monday I rode around the block, and yesterday and today I've commuted to uni via bike, which has been nice. I know that the more I ride and stay active, the better everything will feel, as long as I don't push it too far. I'm hoping to do some easy 'proper' riding this weekend. Also, in the midst of all that I managed to get a cold, but I'm over that too!

After all of that.... I have no idea what my fitness is like!! Probably pretty crap. I'm going to ride some more for a couple of weeks and then do a MAP test to see where I am at.

I am not sure how my road racing season will pan out now. We'll see.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Race Report: Tour of Coleraine

Okay, here is my Tour of Coleraine race report -- finally!!

The Tour of Coleraine was last weekend. Its a three stage race: two on Saturday and one on Sunday. Coleraine is a town about 500km from Adelaide, just inside the Victorian border and south of the Grampians.

Stage 1: 94km road stage

After an epic pasta feast on Friday night (cooked by 'Magic Man' Merlin and Lachie), we awoke to a very damp looking Saturday morning. To add to the fun, there were 50km/h winds forecast for the area. Fun times were definitely ahead.

There were just over 50 of us at the C-grade start line. We received an interesting pre-race briefing: "Okay C-grade. Every year you guys crash on this stage. This year, try not doing that." Hmmm.

The stage started with a fairly long climb out of town, but this was done under control behind the lead car. So we rode at a nice steady pace. At the top of the hill the flag went up, and we were racing.

Remember that race briefing? Yeah. Literally two minutes into the stage and BANG! Six guys on the ground, bikes in the air. Swear words all around. Me riding on the dirt to avoid the carnage. Okay, well that was our crash out of the way, I suppose.

The group came back together again, and things felt pretty easy. I was feeling optimistic.

We hit the base of the first K.O.M. at about 15 kms elapsed distance. Here was my thought process: Okay they are going pretty quick. Surely they will let up soon. I'm drifting back. Okay now they are going faster. Oh shit!!!

About five of us found ourselves off the back already! We hammered it after the top of the climb and managed to get back on. All good.

So the next few short and sharp climbs repeated this process, until I found myself well and truly off the back of the lead group. I was in a pretty fast chase group, and then they really put the hammer down and I was out the back of that group too.

I caught up with an A-grader who had been dropped on the first climb of the day, and we chatted for a while. He was apparently off to Belgium in a week's time to race kermesses, and much preferred a good hearty cross wind to anything resembling a hill.

The last chase group on the course finally caught up to me, and we worked together for a while over the second KOM, but there were only three of us together at the top. There was a nasty section of roaring crosswind and horizontal rain, and one of the guys fell off the back. Two of us remained.

We worked together most of the rest of the way, including over the final KOM. I did lose him by accident in the last couple of kms. I finished in about 3 hrs, an unknown amount of time behind the lead group (short story: the time keeping was very unreliable, to say the least).

Stage 2: 36 km (20 lap) criterium

After finishing so far down in the first stage, I decided it was time to act like a non-contender and make a doomed, suicidal, move.

We did one practice lap of the criterium course, and when the flag went down, I attacked as hard as I could. After two corners I glanced back: a gap! Of course, I had no chance at all, but I was off the front.

After one lap I was still clear, and then a rider broke clear of the field and came across to me -- the guy in the yellow jersey. It was at this point that my legs said 'Um, sorry, we're done', and I exploded spectacularly, just managing to latch onto the very rear end of the field as it came streaming past.

I sat there at the back, grovelling. Every five laps there were intermediate sprints for time bonuses. So on lap nine, the pace really ramped up, and without even realising it, I suddenly had a bit of a gap in front of me, and it wasn't getting any smaller! Oh crap.

I was in the offthebackistan again. I rode solo for another three or four laps before the field lapped me and I got pulled off the course. That's okay. In the criterium, any riders that get pulled off just receive the same time as the slowest finisher.

I was pretty disappointed that I was dropped, but thoroughly enjoyed my two minutes of idiocy off the front.

Stage 3: 71 km road stage

Just 71 kms and it would all be over! Unfortunately that's all I could think of on the start line.

The stage started again with a neutralised climb out of town, and then we were on our own. This time, there were no crashes. We started off on a long, straight stretch of highway, with bit of a crosswind.

I found myself towards the back end of the field again, and decided I'd go take a look up front, just to see what it was like. I moved up, using another rider for a bit of a draft on the way. I managed to slot into fifth wheel -- it felt like a nice place to be!! I felt much more at home towards the pointier end of the pack.

One thing I noticed. The guy in the yellow jersey had four or five teammates, and they were all sitting around him. Seriously. It felt like USPS controlling the Tour de France. Later on, I was told that they were an A-grade team in Melbourne... so at least I know why the pace was so hardcore the day beforehand.

My time near the front ended when someone attacked, and sure enough, one of the teammates jumped after him. The pack kind of swarmed around me and I drifted towards my rightful place at the back.

At about 30 kms in, we negotiated a fast descent, which was followed a few kilometres later by the first KOM of the day. It was like a wall. You can probably guess what happened next.

I won't go into the details of the rest of the stage. But suffice to say, it seemed long, boring, and painful. I finished a long way back, and that was it. I finished.

The good bits

I had a really good weekend away with six mates. We talked about pretty much nothing but racing, and watched Tour de France DVDs over ridiculous amounts of food. Great stuff.

The course was fantastic. Although there was the occasional foray onto main roads, the bulk of the racing was done on sealed, single lane, back roads. We could use the full width of the road (we didn't have a choice -- they were literally one car wide) and the scenery really was beautiful.

The criterium course was also great -- it was a six turn layout, but the turns were very wide and there was no need to stop pedalling at any point when you could use the full width of the completely closed circuit.

I learned that my form is not anywhere near where it was a couple of months ago. This was confirmed from the power data. I think this is due to a few things -- but I think recent lack of motivation has played a big factor. The simple fact is that I need a bit of break. So with that, I decided to take two weeks off the bike. I'm one week in already, and its been very refreshing!

I'm not sure if I'll be back for Coleraine next year, but I now know this: you must be in very good form to be competitive in this race, even just in C-grade. Because A-grade is really an elite level competition, the 'regular' A-graders filter down into B and C grade. And although A-grade is the only official teams competition, both B and C grade appeared to have strong teams controlling the race.

Thanks for reading -- there may not be any race reports in the near future, but you will hear from me eventually!

(PS: Photos thanks to Andrew Crowe and Tom Altree)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cobbles and Kangarilla

I really do love the Tour of Flanders. Last night I stayed up watching a Eurosport feed with dutch commentary. I saw the first decisive moment when Cancellara and Boonen got away, but managed to fall asleep with about 30 kms remaining, only to wake up in time to see the sprint for 56th place or so. Cancellara was probably already showered and doing press conferences.

This year, PACC had representatives in both the men's and women's editions of the race: Stuart O'Grady and Carly Light, respectively.

But let's not forget your humble author's days as a cyclist on the cobbles of Belgium:

You can see that I ran a rather 'unique' setup for the spring classics, opting for 'reverse drop' handlebars, mudguards, and a luggage rack to assist with domestique duties. Also note the headlight, just in case the driving rain became too intense to see. I also chose to defy UCI rules and ride sans-helmet.

My teammate, Danny, in a solo breakaway:


These were taken in Brugge in 2006, the starting location for the Tour of Flanders - and yes, we did see the start of the race! We then watched the rest of it in a bar full of chain smoking Belgians, who went absolutely crazy when Tom Boonen won. Fun times.

Anyway, back to reality...

There was a certainly a big turn out on Saturday for the road race of the season. There were roughly 40 entrants for C-grade, about double what I would usually expect to see!

The race was four laps of the 17 km circuit. Rather than a blow-by-blow account of the whole race, I'll sum up some of the defining moments for me:
  • On the second lap, a rider tried to exist in a space where there was no space, and almost went down -- right in front of me. Somehow he held it up though, a maneuver which involved putting his foot on the ground while still in motion. I don't know how he did it!
  • My Times-7 transponder attempted to go into the spokes on the descent on the third lap. I had to pull over, tear of the mount, and then chase for 10 minutes to get back to the pack.
  • On the same descent, fourth lap, young Alex King's front tyre blew out. I was sitting a couple of bikes back, and the ensuing chaos saw me riding in the gravel at 40 km/h for a short stretch. It was a little hair raising!
So after all of this, I was quite happy to finish with the bunch! The race finished together, with a bunch sprint for the remaining 20 or 30 riders. I tried a last minute attack but had no legs left, and frankly, even with good legs I don't know if it would've succeeded. The field was strong. I ended up leading the bunch into the final corner, sprinted for all of 100m and then promptly exploded while everyone went around me.

Very happy to be racing road again. Very very worried about the Tour of Coleraine which is coming up in three weeks time....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Last two crits of the season

Time for a couple of very brief race reports!

The last two criteriums for the 'season' have passed, and the first road race of the year is in just two days time -- woohoo!

The second-to-last crit was at Whitmore square, two weekends ago. C-grade was a pretty big field, about 30 or so. I attacked from the gun and managed to stay out for a few laps. After that I sat on the back for a while recovering, and attacked again with about five minutes remaining. Unfortunately the pack weren't having any of my nonsense and I couldn't get away.

On the last lap I wasn't in a position to sprint, so I sat up coming into the last two corners. Unfortunately there was a crash on the final corner, with three guys going down and people diverting down side streets to avoid the carnage! Happy to finish upright for that one.

Later in the afternoon at Whitmore square, I had a go at the consolation wheelrace -- a three lap handicap smash fest. I started off 180m. I managed to sit on the bunch in front of me for the first lap and a bit, and then a bunch of us went around and started hunting after the front markers. We probably didn't do this soon enough, and the folks up the front stayed away to take out the placings.

The final crit for the season was on Sunday just gone, at Regency Park -- seeing all of those trucks brought back memories. It was a pretty drizzly morning, and so it wasn't surprising to see all of seven entrants for C-grade.

We got the whistle for a preme sprint after just 7 minutes, which Clayton Marsland managed to win. I stayed just behind him and kept going after the finish line. I yelled at Clayton to jump on and we worked together off the front for a lap or so. Things came together not long after this, and I sat in the bunch until we got the bell for the final lap.

I tried for a last minute effort - just after the first corner, without a bit over a kilometre remaining. I got a small gap but Colnago-man (I'm not sure of his name) pulled me in and then drove it hard to the finish line. I had nothing left in the legs, and rolled in for 6th place.

Seventh place was taken out by Clayton - who had crashed earlier on one of the corners, gotten up and done a solo time trial for the last 10 minutes or so of the race! Solid effort.

We hung around for the presentations, and after they had concluded, the skies really decided to open up, and I ended up with a pretty grotty ride home in the rain!

So that's it for another summer season. Winter approaches, and brings with it the suffering and pain of road racing -- bring it on!!

This weekend is the Allan Smith memorial race at Kangarilla: four laps for C-grade, 62 kms in total. There are three short but steep hills every lap which can really split the bunch up. Its always a very interesting race course, and a good race of attrition.

The weekend after that is State time trial championships, which I have entered. Of course, I don't have a chance against the big guns that will be there (e.g. Chris Martin, who probably has an FTP of something like 450W), but its a good chance to see how I go against the clock. At 50kms long, its not going to be pretty...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Race Report: Pursuiting at the State Champs

Okay, so one of the main reasons that I've been doing a bit of track lately is that I wanted to ride the pursuit at the state championships. Which I did on the weekend.

I have been thinking about this for a while -- I did the pursuit at the last state champs in December 2008, and was a bit disappointed with the time that I set. I was on a borrowed bike that was too big for me (a rarity in itself) and didn't pace myself very well.

What is a pursuit? Its a 4000m race, with two riders starting on opposite sides of the track. If you catch the other rider you win. If no one catches anyone, then the fastest time wins. The distance is long enough that you can't rely on sprint power to get you through, but short enough that you can't just settle into 'TT' pace (i.e. lactate threshold). You need to use your total aerobic capacity, in order to do well. What does that mean? Suffering!

From my previous experience, and from talking to others, I knew the following: the first few laps should feel easy, the middle laps feel pretty horrible, and the last kilometre absolute torture. That's how it should feel if you maintain a constant pace for the whole thing.

The fun started on Friday night with the qualifying rides. Basically, the fastest two riders would go through to a final race for gold or silver, and the third and fourth fastest riders would race each other in the final for bronze.

There were a grand total of four of us riding (five entered, but one didn't show up - Logan!), so we were all guaranteed a spot in the finals, our qualifying times would just determine what medals we were racing for.

The other competitors were Will Dickeson (very PRO dude: former Savings & Loans rider, and has just signed with Jelly Belly in the US), Dave Miller (kick-arse sprinter and Star Wars fanatic) and Pete Davis (strong rider who signed up for the pursuit but didn't realise it, and was really just at the track to do the kilo earlier in the night!).

Dave and Pete went up first. Dave qualified faster, riding a time of 5:11.722 (those decimal points will become important later, trust me!). Will and I were riding next. I knew Will would probably do a better time than all of us, so I just had to ride a faster time than Dave in order to make to the silver-gold final.

Marky G, still on a high from winning the Masters4 750m TT, was kind enough to lend me his very cool retro Zipps for the occasion. He also lent me his teardrop aero-helmet. Here's a shot of my bike just before the race:

Gemma K was kind enough to offer to 'pace' me, by standing at the start/finish line and indicating each lap whether I should go faster or slower in order to set a given time. I had her pacing me to a 5:10 schedule - this was about the time that I thought I could do: 19 seconds per lap, and a 25 second first lap to account for the standing start. Incidentally, if I could keep to that schedule I would just beat Dave's time. I assumed that Gemma would not lead me astray, despite the fact that Dave is in fact her husband!

One of the cool things about racing at state champs is that they get out the electronic starting gates and timer, complete with a beeping countdown and synthesized starting 'gun': BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP PKSH!

Off we went! I started out right on schedule, and the next couple of laps were a little bit up on schedule. The pain had not set in yet. However, gradually it did. After a few laps I was right on schedule, and then I started to full a little bit behind. Will passed me with about 6 laps to go, but we both kept going because it was qualifying, so we had to set times.

Sure enough, with a kilometre to go the pain was really setting in! I recall trying not to drool on the track. My breath felt hoarse. I could taste a bit of blood! Then it was over. I looked up at the clock.


It couldn't have been much closer! I'd qualified about 0.2 of a second slower than Dave, so it was off to the bronze medal final for me!

A couple of days passed (seriously, the finals were on Sunday morning). Off to the track again.

I was riding against Pete for the final. Although his qualifying time was not spectacular, there were many reasons for that: he had just gotten off a plane, didn't know he was doing a pursuit, and had just done a kilo! He also didn't have aerobars on for qualifying, which is probably the most important bit of go-faster equipment for these sort of events.

On Sunday Pete was looking much better rested and he managed to procure some aerobars (from the source of all loaner equipment -- Marky G of course!). I was actually a little worried that he might put in a full on sprint effort at the start and catch me before I could even get started! Pete is a much faster sprinter than I am.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP PKSH! Off we went again. This time Gemma was pacing me to a 5:05 schedule as I thought that I may as well try and beat my earlier time. I tried to ride a much tighter line on the corners, as I'd been told that I was a bit high on the track in my qualifying rides. Stay on the black line!

Sure enough, the pain set in about half way through. I was up on schedule! At this time I managed to get far enough ahead that I could see Pete. This was good inspiration, and I lifted the pace a little, and managed to get past him. Unfortunately this probably put me a bit into arrears, and my pace dropped off rather rapidly in the final kilometre. Final time: 5:11, again! (not sure of the last few digits, but they weren't as relevant this time!)

Yay, I got a medal! We even got to do the whole podium presentation thing, although I had no idea what was going on (for future reference, I believe its: drop head for medal, shake hands, get on podium and look humble, get onto top step with winner, join hands and raise them for photo, shake hands with other podium getters, jump off).

I was happy with the times I rode, and I beat my December 2008 time by 25 seconds. Oh, and it turns out I wasn't just 0.2 seconds off silver, but 0.2 seconds off gold, as Will didn't race in the finals!

My goal for the next state champs will be to go under 5 minutes. With more training, and a bit more track-specific work, I'm pretty sure it can be done.

I encourage everyone to do a pursuit sometime - horribly painful, but very rewarding!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Race Report: inter-club track at Edwardstown

I went to Edwardstown again today for the inter-club track day put on by South Coast Cycling Club. What a great event!

Things didn't look good initially, it was a drizzling a bit when we arrived and most of us were thinking that it would get called off due to the weather. Luckily things didn't go the same way as the Bendigo madison, and the racing got under way, despite a slightly damp track.

The day started off with a one-lap (485m) TT. I rode this on my 'warmup' gear of 86", mainly because my start seems to be my weakness in these sort of events. As a result, I started fairly quick but I might have spun out a little bit towards the end. But all good. After this I switched over to 92.6", which I used of the rest of the day.

Next up was the teams sprint, club vs. club. Teams sprint is three riders per team, each rider does half a lap at the front and then peels off on the straight. So the first rider does half a lap, the second rider one lap, and the third rider the full one and a half laps - their finishing time is the time for the team.

I got to do three of these! I rode with Ben & Richard for the first team sprint. I was the first rider, then Richard, then Ben. We got off to a bit of a messy start but pulled it together and managed to beat the guys on the other side of the track.

Shortly after finishing I lined up again to be second rider with Marky G and Logan. Marky G has a very quick start, and I lost his wheel initially. He waited up for me, then really wound things up once I was on his wheel. I was definitely in the hurt box by the time I finished my turn, and Logan finished things off nicely. I think we won that one as well -- I can't remember! It was only the times that counted though.

Ben, Richard and I had done well enough with our first attempt to ride in the final for 3rd place. This time we swapped Ben and Richard around, so that Richard would be finishing. I started again. We started together a bit better this time, and managed to win the race for 3rd place.

Next up was the team pursuit - 6 laps of pain, 4 riders per team. I rode with Ben, Bec and Logan (in that order, with me starting at the back). We started off well, maybe a little too hard -- perhaps we were still in team sprint mode! Logan put in a big one-lap turn at the front for his first turn. The rest of us rolled through doing half-lap turns. Unfortunately Logan faded a little on his second turn, and then dropped off the back with one lap to go - we kept going without him as the time is taken from the third rider across the line. Our team finished pretty well - although we were beaten by the Central Districts CC team on the opposite side of the track (who were all rather strong riders). I would really like to do team pursuits more often, there is a lot to them in terms of pacing and keeping the team together. I think they're an excellent challenge.

I'm getting tired just writing all of this up!

Okay, so the race after that was a graded scratch race, nice and simple. B-grade was a big field. About 2 or 3 laps in I put in an attack which helped launch Ben off the front of the group. Shortly after doing so my legs said to me 'Sorry, we're done' and I was spent! Ben managed to stay away out the front, but was beaten by Rob Laing from Fatboys CC who managed to bridge over to him.

Finally we did the 'Adelaide Cup on Wheels' -- a two-lap (roughly 1km) handicap, with a round of heats for each grade, and then an all-in final.

For the B-grade heat I was given a rather generous handicap of 75m -- I was starting off at the front of the race! I started okay and lead the race out until the very end when 3 or 4 riders who had been sitting on came around me. The top six of us went through to the final.

In the final I was given 120m, not a huge gap given that there was some serious A-grade talent lined up behind me (including Matt Glaetzer off scratch.. famous for his negative-angle aero tuck). Dallas Z from PACC was just 5m behind me, and as the gun went he got off to a much better start, and I slotted in behind him.

Dallas ramped things up - he was out of the saddle accelerating hard for the first half a lap! We quickly passed the front markers after the first lap, and then we were at the front of the race. On the final corner I came around him, I was the leading.... my legs had barely anything left in them but the finish line was within sight! With about 100m to go Mick Young and Kyle Franson got past me for 1st and 2nd. I came in 3rd place. Can't be too sad about that! Dallas gave us all an awesome lead out.

Suffice to say, I'm rather stuffed after all of that!

Central Districts CC managed to take out the club contest - I think that their impressive amount of junior riders helped them with that! Port Adelaide CC came in second place, with South Coast CC coming in third.

It was good to get some track riding in as I'm signed up for the individual pursuit at the track state champs this weekend. Suffice to say, my time will not be amazing, but I'm doing it for the experience and 'fun' of it! Looking forward to it.

Power data from last weekend's crit

A few people have asked about seeing power data from last weekend's crit. Its not a secret, but its also not particularly interesting!

Here it is:

Pretty uninteresting! There's a surge at the start, and then I settled in. The little bumps are due to varying my effort with the wind. You can see the speed and power are inversely related. the little drop-off midway is when A-grade passed me and I sat up a bit to let them go past.

Average power for the 41 minute race was 313W. From this I would estimate that my FTP (1hr maximal power) is about 305-310W.

I'm quite happy with this, given that I estimated my FTP at around 265W back in October when I first tested it (although I suspect it was a bit higher in September towards the end of road season, and then I had a break from training 'properly' for a month or so). Since then I've been structuring my training mostly around raising FTP, with a mix of long road rides, tempo rides, and intervals done at TT pace - mostly 2x20s.

One of the really cool things about using a power meter is being able to track improvements in such an objective way.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Race Report: PACC 125th Birthday Crit at Wingfield

Today was a very special race for the Port Adelaide Cycling Club - a criterium to celebrate the club's 125th anniversary!

PACC members were out in force, and I don't think I have ever seen such a huge gathering of black and white jerseys before. A lot of new members who I didn't recognise! We all got together at the end for a photo, which should appear on the PACC forums in due time.

The crit was at the Wingfield industrial park circuit: around a kilometre long, a rectangle with sweeping corners that you can pedal all the way through most of the time. A stark contrast to the last couple of races I've done, which have been very technical circuits.

We rocked up just as the juniors racing was starting, and all PACC members were given our very own 125th birthday commemorative bottle opener - sweet!! The entry fee for the race was a gold coin donation, which was also fantastic. It was sort of self handicapped, and I put myself into B-grade as that was where everyone else was that I usually race against. Our race was to be 40 minutes, plus two laps.

I've always enjoyed racing at Wingfield, and have even won a couple of club races there before. Both of the previous times I've won, I've left it until about five minutes to go to make my move. Initially, I thought I might try the same thing, but something also was in my head -- a while ago Pete at BMCR told me that if you attack from the gun, often people don't think you are serious and do not try to chase you down until its too late. I have tried this occasionally in the past, but have not committed to it or have been chased down pretty quickly.

Well I've been feeling pretty good lately, so I decided to attack at the start of the race, commit to it as much as possible, and see what happened.

There were about 15 or so of us lined up for B-grade, mostly familiar faces. A couple of members of the Korean National women's track team were racing with us, they've been in Adelaide for the past few weeks and have been regulars at many races.

I clipped in as quick as I could at the start and took off -- the first lap went pretty quick as I was trying to get a gap. No one chased me initially - excellent! I pushed it pretty hard and soon 5 minutes had gone by, I was quite surprised that I hadn't been caught, and then I thought to myself "what the heck am I doing out here?"

There wasn't any other option, except to put my head down and go for it!!

We were on the course at the same time as A-grade, and they conveniently managed to wedge themselves between the chasing B-grade group and myself for a little while. It always helps if the chasing group can't see you!

After a while, 20 minutes came up on the clock and I was really starting to wonder if I had chance. The chasing group was still within sight on the longer straights, I could usually see them just entering the straight as I was exiting it. On I went...

A note on pacing: Two of the straights were into the wind, and the other two straights had a tail wind. In these situations, theoretically, it is always worth putting in more effort into the wind, and putting out slightly less effort for the downwind sections. Essentially you get more 'bang for your buck' for energy spent riding into the wind. I was clicking up one or two gears for the downwind straights, but was putting out about 50W less.

The suffering really began at about 35 minutes in, I was waiting desperately for the bell to be rung. I was passed at this point by A-grade again, who had split up into several small groups.

Finally I got the bell, and really stomped it for the last lap! As I crossed the finish line I got a bit carried away and gave a big victory salute - but what the hell.... I don't win races very often, especially not with a solo 40-minute breakaway!! Probably the last time I'll get away with that for... I dunno.... my entire life!

Your initial thought might be "yeah sure Daniel, you were just sandbagging a lower grade!". A couple of things in my defense: most of the other riders in B-grade were all people I would usually race against in C-grade open crits. Everyone in A-grade today were B or A-grade open riders, so I definitely would've been stepping it up to race against them. Additionally, there were at least one or two other riders in B-grade today who probably could've done what I did today -- I train with them and they regularly make me hurt! I'm fairly sure that if the pack had rolled some hard turns they would've pulled me in. Maybe they were just being nice to me!

The morning concluded with a group photo, followed by a rather impressive looking birthday cake (if only it were vegan it would've been even more impressive!).

Finally, in particular: well done to Sam and Pete for 2nd and 3rd in B-grade, and to Barn Dogg for 2nd place in A-grade against some tough opposition! Nice work gents.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Race Report: Salisbury town centre crit

Another late race report! This one is for last Sunday's criterium at Salisbury. I was in two minds about whether to race this -- I'd heard reports that the course was probably going to be a bit sketchy, and Salisbury seemed like a long way to ride for a 20 minute race. I got up on Sunday morning, had breakfast, and couldn't think of anything better to do. So I decided, why not...

I'm glad that I did. The course was around the Salisbury shopping centre, and they'd setup quite a bit of stuff to keep spectators occupied around the start/finish line, like a BBQ and an area where some trial mountain bike guys were doing their thing. So there was kind of cool feel too it.

Unfortunately there was a very small turnout for the graded races, with a grand total of seven of us lining up in C-grade. I knew pretty much everyone, and the two recently juniors-turned-open were probably the guys to watch (Kyle & Alex). The only person I didn't know was a guy on a Colnago who'd just come up from D-grade (where I'd seen him win with a long solo breakaway).

We decided at the start line to ride an 'easy' first lap because none of us had really had a chance to ride the course. Off we went.

The course started on a very narrow section of paved road, lined with barricades. There was a hard chicane to the left, and then we turned right at a roundabout, taking the long way around! This was probably the hardest bit of the course. We then rode straight through another roundabout, out to a 180-degree turnaround. This sent us back to the second roundabout where we turned left, this was followed by two 90-degree right handers to get us back onto the first straight. The second of those right handers was on paved road with a very tight exit, and so some serious care had to be taken!

We started out pretty quick, with Kyle, Alex and Colnago-man taking some hard turns at the front. I sat in fourth wheel and the other three settled in behind me. The 180-degree turn was probably the hardest point, and it took me a few laps to really get the hang of it - I always seem to take these turns too wide for some reason.

The next bit of this race report is for Alex B -- who has promised to buy me a beer everytime I go off the front in a crit. Little does he know, I have gone off drinking for a while, but he can buy me an orange juice or something.

Anyway, I did attack once during the race, just after the 180-degree turn. I hit it hard on the straight and went waaay too hot into the left hander straight afterwards, only just managing to avoid putting myself into the concrete median on the exit of the corner. Whoops. I stayed clear for a bit under a lap, but didn't get a huge amount of distance on the guys chasing. I don't know if this qualifies me for a beer-slash-orange-juice!

After that we were all together again and I went back to about sixth wheel for a lap or two. We were about 13 or 14 minutes into the race according to my computer, so I thought given that it was meant to be a 20 minute race, I'd sit back and then move up in another lap or so before the bell -- well the bell rang right then!

On such a tight course it was pretty much impossible to do anything after this. Kyle, Alex and Colnago-man got a gap on the rest of us as we neared the finish, and I believe Kyle got the win. Lesson learned (again): stay at the front, stay at the front, stay at the front!! (and don't trust how long the race is meant to go for)

The A-grade and Teams races were quite entertaining, with some superstars showing up to race: Bobridge, Meyer, Durbridge, Hepburn, Dennis... basically the Australian teams pursuit squad, who I think are all in town to train up for the Worlds in March.

We witnessed a very sneaky tactic by Jack Bobridge and Gene Bates - during the teams race warmup lap, they pulled off the course after about 100m and doubled back to the start line, so that they could line up at the front! Those two and Rohan Dennis ended up breaking away very early on and were never caught.

Port Adelaide Cycling Club's 125th birthday criterium is on tomorrow at Wingfield, I'm pumped for it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Race Report: Omnium at the Superdrome

Firstly, I really did mean to update this blog earlier but have been flat out over the past couple of weeks (really!).

Anyway, here is a belated race report for the PACC track meet at the Superdrome, held on Wednesday last week.

The night was an omnium, which is typically a series of five events held in the same day/night. In each event, you get as many points as your placing. For example, if you come first, then you score one point. If you come 17th, then you score 17 points. At the end of the omnium, the rider with the lowest amount of points is the winner.

A typical omnium consists of a points race, scratch race, time trial, flying 200m sprint and a pursuit. The flying 200m and the time trial obviously suit the sprinters, the pursuit and the points race suit the 'enduros', and the scratch race probably suits the enduros more but can also suit a sprinter. So, essentially the omnium overall favours an all-rounder! (Note: the "time trial" in track parlance is 500-1000m long, nothing at all like a road time trial)

I was pretty keen to do the omnium for two reasons: one, I was inspired to race at the Superdrome again after watching some of the track nationals the week before, and two, I had never done a flying 200m or a TT before, and I thought they might be fun. Unfortunately there was no pursuit in our omnium, which makes sense given that most people probably wanted to be home before midnight!

There were three grades, and I was smack in the middle in B-grade, along with 12 others. I chose to go with a 90" gear (50x15) for the night, as that has felt the most comfortable for me racing B-grade at the Superdrome in the past. I don't usually bother with changing gears for different events, mainly because I'm lazy. For reasons I won't go into, my rear track wheel was axle-less, but luckily Alex B was able to lend me one (complete with tied-and-soldered spokes and a Gatorskin tyre!).

It was a very hot and humid night! There was sweat literally dripping off of me just getting my bike ready. I was pretty careful to drink a shite-load of water for the rest of the night.

As mentioned in my last race report, I haven't done a lot of track lately, in fact it had been about six months since I'd ridden on the Superdrome! Fortunately I felt at home almost right away while warming up.

B-grade started off with a 30-lap points race with sprints every 6 laps. My strategy expert informed me that I should attack from the whistle. Hmmm, why not? And so I did... I got a gap pretty easily and managed to hold off the field long enough to get the first sprint points. I swung up at that point as I was suffering pretty hard and didn't feel like I could keep going at a pace sufficient to hold off the group. In hindsight, perhaps I should have stayed out there because the others may have sat up a bit after the sprint for second place. Something to try next time.

I rejoined the group and pretty soon we were coming into the second sprint. I managed to just edge into fourth place, getting myself another point. After this sprint, Ben P decided to go on the attack and flew off the front of the pack. We wouldn't see him again until he lapped us about ten laps later.

At this point I was pretty tired, and finding it very hard to respond to any surges and the sprints. I wasn't able to get any more points, but I finished the race in third position overall.

The next two races were the new experiences for me - a flying 200m, followed by a 500m time trial!

For the flying 200m I got some advice in the pits to try a bigger gear. All I had on me was a 14T cog, so I put that on, bringing my gear up to a rather large 96.4". When I went for the sprint, I had a lot of trouble winding this up, and in hindsight I really should have just stuck with the 90" and spun it out. My time was a rather sluggish 13.47 seconds, good enough for eighth place. I know that I sprint better at high cadences (on the road anyway), and I'm sure I could pull off a much better time than this if I did it again on a smaller gear.

The 500m time trial was a standing start. Needless to say, I went back to my 90". I recieved some good advice beforehand from one of the experienced track guys, John Z (I think). I think that technically my time trial was pretty good - I stayed out of the saddle until the second corner and tried to get up to speed by then. After that I just got aero and felt the pain! Unfortunately the result was not particularly great - another rather sluggish time of 41.36 seconds, good enough for ninth place this time.

The final event for the evening was the scratch race. One of the other riders ramped the pace up fairly early on, and a lap after he swung off, I tried to put in an attack but with my legs a bit faded, I couldn't get clear and ended up dragging around the bunch for a fast lap or so. Another lap went by and then Ben attacked off the front again, unfortunately I was still recovering from my earlier effort and couldn't go with him. The rest of the race went a bit poorly for me, I stuck at the back, and struggled whenever I needed to accelerate. My lack of track fitness was showing I think! I finished at the back of the remnants of the main pack for seventh place. Ben stayed away to win the race.

At the end of the night I finished up eighth overall in the omnium, which I was happy enough with. I could have raced scratch race a bit better, and obviously my sprint times would need some work too if I was ever going to win one of these things! Looking at the results, the top 3 riders all placed fairly highly in every race, which really shows that the omnium is all about consistency and being a good all-round rider.

The night was incredibly well organised by PACC, I'm a bit annoyed that I haven't attended any of the Superdrome track events earlier in the season. This week is a Madison night, with a keirin and a points race for the people not doing the Madison. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it, but it sounds awesome!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Little Italy

Within about an hour's ride of Adelaide, there is a somewhat unknown climb, commonly referred to as 'Little Italy'. I don't know where this name came from, but it seems to have stuck.

Little Italy is one of the coolest climbs in the Adelaide Hills. Its relatively short, but quite steep in places. It starts in the bottom of a valley near a creek, and weaves its way up the hillside with a beautiful view of the valley below.

The road itself is actually called 'Burdetts Rd'. Here's how you get there.

Ride up to Norton Summit, and go straight ahead at the town, towards Ashton. Just before the hill up to Ashton, take the left hand turn down Marble Hill Rd. This will dip down, and then climb up a bit. After the little climb, you will come to a road on your right called Pound Rd, turn down there.

As you descend Pound Rd, it will bend to the right and turn into 'Knotts Hill Rd', this is all good.

Now I want to make something clear: be careful on this descent! It starts off innocently enough, but there are some nasty off camber corners that can catch you out towards the bottom. Really, I don't want you to kill yourself, so  please take care the first time you ride down here. In winter there can be moss growing on the road too, which makes it extra slippery.

When you reach the bottom of the descent, you will cross over a concrete bridge, at which point you need to start braking pretty hard, because just around the corner you will be turning right onto Burdetts Rd (a.k.a. Little Italy)!

The climb itself goes up the side of the hill, then weaves its way past a few houses. It kicks quite steeply towards the top, and then levels out as your ride past an orchard on your left. It will probably take you about 10 minutes or thereabouts.

When you get to the top of the climb, you will find yourself at the town hall for Basket Range, on the main road to Lobethal. If you turn left here you can continue on to Lobethal, if you turn right you will go back up to Ashton. Both are very nice options.

I have ridden this loop many times and count it amongst my favourite rides in the Adelaide area. Its a pretty hard climb, so its good training too!

Here's a photo I took while riding up Little Italy one morning during the winter (hence the greenery):


Monday, February 1, 2010

The importance of intensity: a tale of two rides

A few months ago I acquired a Powertap, and began using power in my training.

For those of you who don't know, power is a measure of the rate at which you are exerting energy, and is measured in Watts (W). As a rough guide, most trained cyclists would do somewhere around 100W when riding slowly, 200W riding at a brisk pace, 300W when riding hard, and up to 1000-1500W when sprinting. Simply put, it's a measure of intensity, or how hard you are riding at any given moment.

The story I'm going to tell is an illustration of why measuring intensity is very important for cyclists, if we wish to measure our training load in any meaningful way.

On the weekend of the 9th and 10th of January, I did two rides. Both rides left at 7:00am, on the same bike, in similar weather conditions (bloody hot!).

On the Saturday I rode with a few mates who all race in B-grade, one grade higher than me. We did a very popular route through the hills - from Adelaide up to Norton Summit, then Lobethal, and home via Gorge Rd. The total distance was 69 kms, in a time of 2hrs 25 mins, at an average speed of 28.5 km/h. The other riders were stronger than me and I was on my limit at many times during the ride! My only respite came when one of the other guys got a hunger flat and we had to slow down while he consumed copious amounts of sugar.

On the Sunday I was after a more relaxing pace, so I went for a ride with another group, along the flat roads by the beach. We took it quite easy, and had a nice lengthy coffee stop. The total distance for the ride was also 69 kms, in a time of 2 hrs 20 mins, at an average speed of 29.5 km/h - almost exactly the same time and distance as the ride on Saturday.

Obviously, the two rides were quite different in terms of how physically demanding they were. And yet, if I were tracking my training by kilometres or hours ridden, they would be 'objectively' the same! So, just how different were they?

Fortunately I had recorded both rides on my Powertap. The program I use to analyse my training data is called Golden Cheetah, and it is able to calculate a metric called 'BikeScore'. BikeScore is similar to another metric called Training Stress Score (TSS), which is used by the very popular program called WKO+.

Both BikeScore and TSS are measures of the training load of a particular excercise session. You can sort of think of them as being duration multiplied by intensity, but a little more complicated. Under both of these metrics, a score of 100 is meant to be the training equivalent to riding a one hour time trial as hard as you can.

So, in terms of the overall training load, the best way to compare these two rides is to compare the BikeScore (or TSS) values for each. What were they?

Saturday: BikeScore = 170
Sunday: BikeScore = 80

As you can see, that's quite a difference! In fact, the Saturday ride had a BikeScore of more than double the Sunday ride! i.e. the training effect of the Saturday ride was twice as strong.

What is the moral of this story? If you are to measure your training in any significant way, you should not just record distance and time, but also intensity. This measure of intensity can be as simple as a percieved rating between 1 and 10, or as complex as logging every second of your journey with a power meter. Either way is far superior to distance and time alone!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Race Report: Australia Day Track Racing

On Tuesday it was Australia Day, and South Coast Cycling Club put on a day of track racing at the Edwardstown velodrome.

I was a little hesitant entering the event, as I haven't ridden track in about six months! But it seemed like a good way to spend the public holiday, so I signed up.

The other thing holding me back was a mysterious flat tyre that had appeared on my track bike since the last time I rode it. The tyre is a tubular, so I wasn't too keen to replace it. Fortunately once I pumped it up, it didn't go flat again, so I'll chalk it up to a random deflation.

The forecast was for 33 degrees, a fairly warm day. I headed down to the track with my housemate Ben, who had also decided to race. We got there quite early and got in a decent warmup. This was very helpful, and I realised that I hadn't forgotten how to ride a track bike after all!

The first race was a two lap handicap race, one of three heats before a final later in the morning. The top six from each heat would go through to the final. The Edwardstown velodrome is about 480m in length, so it was basically a 1000m race. I was starting off 70m, i.e. I had a 70m headstart on the fastest rider.

There was another rider off 70m as well, and another right behind us at 65m. Dallas from PACC was holding me at the start line. I got off to a quick start thanks to a stellar push from Dallas, but I ended up dragging the other two around the track most of the way, and we got rolled by a large bunch right at the end. So I didn't make it through to the final.

The second race for me was an 8-lap scratch race. Ben and I had both been placed in B-grade, and decided we would team up and try and breakaway. The race was 8 laps long, and we decided to go early, on the back straight after the first lap.

Our race went to plan somewhat - we broke away from the field on the 2nd lap, and quickly started trading off turns every half a lap. We pushed it hard, but the pack caught up to us just as we entered the last lap. Oh well, we tried!

Next up was another handicap race as as a qualifying heat, this time a four lap, or roughly 2000m race! The added length would certainly make things interesting. Again, I started off with two other riders very close by, at 130m. Dallas gave me an almighty push, but this time I slotted in behind the other two, determined to let someone else pull until the end.

We actually traded turns and caught all but two of the riders in front of us. Our group was caught by a very fast rider coming off scratch, and I jumped onto his wheel as he began to pass our group on the last lap. I was sucked along to the finish, and came in around 5th place, enough to qualify me for the final.

Before we went on to the final, it was time for a 12-lap motor paced scratch race. In this race, the entire field has to sit behind a motorbike, and each individual rider can only spend a maximum of 1/2 a lap behind the bike before they have to pull off and reintegrate into the field further back.

My race did not go quite so well - I took a turn after about 6 laps and when I tried to get onto the back of the field again I couldn't quite get up to speed! I decided not to smash myself and to save my legs for the handicap final, so I let the bike go. In the end, about half of the riders essentially got dropped from the bike, so I was kind of glad I wasn't the only one.

The final race for my day was the 4-lap handicap final. A lot of us with about the same handicap had made it through to the final, and there were actually three of us stacked up at the 130m mark. One of the riders just in front of me was Ian Fromentin, who is actually taller than me and a great engine to sit behind.

Ian took off hard, and another rider jumped on his wheel, followed by me. After half a lap, Ian attempted to pull up the track, but the rider behind him just half-followed him, instead of pulling through! Grrr! Ian took another half-lap turn and pulled up, but the other guy just tried to do the same thing again! Very frustrating.

Eventually he pulled through and took a turn, then I did a turn at the front. However, due to our slow start we were swarmed by the scratch group at this point, with just over a lap remaining. I hung onto the back, but couldn't get anywhere near the front for the sprint, unfortunately.

So that was it for the day! The A-grade guys did an elimination race, won by Pat Marcucci, who apparently had a flat tyre as he crossed line. Impressive stuff.

Despite my lack of results, the day at Edwardstown was great fun. I really need to do track more often!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hello and welcome

Ah, the first post on a blog. The one chance to be self-indulgent and talk about the blog itself. And mention the word 'blog'.

Why have I decided to start this? I like to write, and I like cycling, so I thought I'd combine the two.

The majority of the content here will be on cycling, with a focus towards Adelaidean bike rides and races. I'd like to share some of the cool cycling routes around Adelaide, as well as the occasional race report.

Why the name? Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing that we have in common is weird tanlines. At the very least, we have one tanline on the upper leg, and one on the upper arm. If we are really dedicated, we might have a sock tanline and a glove tanline too - maybe even a little tan-spot where the velcro strap on our glove loops across.

All of this conspires to make us look ridiculous when these tanlines are exposed for the world to see. But they are the mark of a cyclist, whether we like it or not!

Hope you enjoy the posts to come.