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...