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.