Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A hefty weight to carry...

Next week, I am going to make my first cycle-commute into work since 'the accident' - nearly 10 months ago!!  So I have decided to take a few 'baseline measurements' so I can loosely track my progress as I re-enter the cycling world.  

This morning, I did a weigh-in to see where I would be starting my renewed cycling journey at.  My weigh-in protocol has always been designed to minimise as many variables as possible, so I can get a reasonably consistent measurement.  Basically, it entails getting out of bed, hitting the loo for morning ablutions, stripping off the pyjamas, and jumping on the scales (sorry for the gross disturbing visuals - especially if you were eating while you read this!!).

So what did I see when I looked down at the scales - 90 KILOGRAMS!!

My usual weight is around 81-82kg, and I trim down to a racing weight once or twice a year of 79-80kg for a big event.  

I remember when I visited the physio after my first round of shoulder surgery, she said, "You know, 95% of men in your position injury-wise will put on 10-ish kilos by the time you finish rehab and are ready to get back on the bike..."

How prescient!!  Looks like those hills are gonna hurt that little bit extra for the first few months as I try to shave off my 'excess'...  

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Video speaks louder than words...

There is so much I could say about Cadel's win. His 2011 Tour de France title is arguably the greatest moment in Australian road cycling history.  I think the following video expresses everything I feel about his win...

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I do...

Now, I am going to spend the next month trying to recoup the three weeks of sleep that I have lost...  :)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tour de France - one big week to go!!

So we have finally reached the pointy end of the Tour de France (literally metaphorically), with only 6 stages left to go.  These final, decisive stages will cover the mountains of the French Alps, the individual time trial (ITT) of stage 20, and the final stage procession into Paris.

So where are things at, how are the main contenders faring, and what do I think will happen from here? I'll give a quick rundown on these rider-by-rider:

1. Cadel Evans
I never thought I'd say this - but right now, I believe that Cadel is the favourite to take the overall title.  His form appears great, he is responding quickly and decisively to attacks by the other riders, and he seems confident and calm within himself.

Why he will win - he is a much better time-trialist than either of the Schleck brothers, so they need to attack and gap him by at least 2-minutes over the next few Alpine stages - but Cadel is riding too strongly to let that happen.  Smilarly, his lead over Basso and Contador (both strong time-trialists) mean they'll have to at least catch up to Cadel, and the big efforts required (if they can even do it) will lead them to be too fatigued to beat Cadel on stage 20.

2. "Frandy" Schleck
Frank & Andy Schleck (or 'Frandy') really need to 'do something' in the Alps. And by that, I mean they need to stop mucking about and drop the hammer on the other overall contenders (if they can). Tactically, their riding has been at best 'bewildering'. They are arguably the best climbers of all the overall contenders - if this is true, and they have the form, they need to blow everyone away over the next few stages.

Their biggest weakness is the time trial. So they need at least a 2-minute gap on everyone before the stage 20 ITT. The way they are riding, they'll go into the ITT level pegging with Cadel, and that won't be enough.

3. Ivan Basso
Basso came into this Tour underdone, thanks to a training accident (smashing his face on a descent from Mt Etna!).  However, he has ridden into some terrific form over the course of the Tour.  He is a similar rider to Cadel, and I believe their form is at a similar level as well.

Ivan's big problem is that he is more than a minute down on Cadel overall. So he too needs to gap Cadel in the Alps (jus to catch up), and then beat Cadel in the ITT. I think he could do one of those things, but not both.

4. Alberto Contador
Like Basso, Contador needs to attack hard in the Alps to make up a 2-minute deficit on Cadel, and then go on to defeat Cadel in the ITT. Alberto is a great rider - perhap the greatest Grand Tour rider of the current decade. But can he pull off an epic comeback in the Alps?

I don't think he can. His Giro d'Italia win earlier this year seems to have taken a lot out of him. And he is carrying a minor knee injury that seems to be blunting his usual dominance in the mountains. I believe this makes him a 'minor podium' candidate at best.

5. Thomas Voeckler.
The wildcard in all this is Thomas Voeckler, the plucky Frenchmen currently in yellow.  He shouldn't still be leading this race - he is not in the same climbing league as the others, and so should have been dropped by now. But he hasn't been, he's still there!! 

I believe he'll be dropped in the Alps, and fall out of contention.  But they say that 'the yellow jersey gives you wings', and he might hold on long enough to snag a podium spot. It'll be interesting to see how he goes...

Viewing Tip

The big stages from here are stages 18 & 19. They'll be on Thursday & Friday nights here in Australia. Both are huge mountain stages, with summit-top finishes. If you can only pick two to watch, pick these two.

So I'll put my money where my mouth is, and predict my final overall finishing list:
1. Cadel Evans
2. Andy Schleck
3. Ivan Basso
4. Frank Schleck
5. Alberto Contador
6. Samuel Sanchez
7. Thomas Voeckler
8. Damiano Cunego

If I get all 8 in the right order - you all owe me a beer...  ;)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cross-training (or, "How running weaseled itself back into my life")

Way back in the mid-90’s, I entered my first organised sporting event since leaving school – a sprint distance triathlon at Redcliffe (a seaside town just north of Brisbane, Qld). I had a great time, and started training to both get faster and make it through longer events.

I continued doing triathlons for a few years. But after a while, I was struggling to motivate myself. After some long thought, I realised three things:
1. I love swimming and swim training.
2. I love cycling and cycle training.
3. I would rather stick a fork in my eye than do any more run training…

Henceforth, I was a cyclist. Cycling became my main focus, with regular swimming as cross-training and as a fun alternative.

Which makes what I am about to tell you all the more puzzling – I have started training for the Bridge2Brisbane fun run.

Of course, I can point the finger of blame away from myself for this – it’s my wife’s fault!! She is a ‘walker’ when it comes to exercise, and a pretty good one too. In fact, her walk is faster than my ‘jog’ (which I find a bit embarrassing).

Last week, my wife said to me “I want to try and run the Bridge2Brisbane”.
“That’s great honey” I replied, not seeing the trap about to gobble me up.
"So, they have these free training sessions,” she continued. “You’ll come to them with me, right?”

And there you have it. In a 30-second conversation, with no warning, I was training to become a runner again.
“Don’t look so sad,” my wife laughed. “You’ll probably end up loving it. And I do appreciate you coming with me.”

I know I won’t love it. But I know I do love her, and so I’ll do the sessions with a smile on my face, and give her all the encouragement I can.

I must give credit to the Bridge2Brisbane organisers – the free training sessions are an outstanding idea. They are on at the Ship Inn (Southbank, near the Goodwill Bridge) every Tuesday and Thursday night at 6pm, and at New Farm Park every Saturday morning at 7:30am. All the sessions go for an hour, and are split into beginner / intermediate / advanced groups.

If you are thinking about becoming a (god forbid) runner, I would genuinely encourage you to turn up to these sessions. You don’t have to register, sign up or commit to anything. The turn-out is also impressive (over 100 every time), and made up of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels – so chances are you won’t feel out-of-place, and you will meet some new friendly faces at the same fitness level as yourself.

Enough about running now!! This is a cycling blog, and normal transmission shall resume shortly. For the moment, I need to mentally prepare myself for the sore legs that will surely arise after tonight’s training session…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Next milestone in my shoulder rehab...

Headed along today for my monthly check-in with the physiotherapist – Janelle from HandsOn Therapy. She has been looking after and managing my shoulder recovery, after my surgeon released me into her care.

Good news today was – I don’t have to see her anymore!! Janelle was happy with how the shoulder is progressing, both with range of movement and rebuilding strength.

Now, the only rehab professional left is Leonie, my Exercise Physiologist (who works in the same practice as Janelle). Leonie will be continuing to supervise and adjust my gym-based shoulder rehab every week, although at the last visit, she said I’d probably only need to see her a few more times at the most. From there, I’ll be ‘on my own’ doing a set weights routine in the gym.

I’m actually really enjoying my gym-based shoulder rehab. As silly as it sounds – it feels more like a ‘manly’ thing to do as opposed to using the elastic therabands. Clearly, it pushes the buttons in the prehistoric grunty man-part of my brain…

To give you an idea of the sort of ‘shoulder training’ I’m doing – here are the basic exercises Leonie has me doing in the gym:

Warm up with ‘straight arm pulldowns’ (both front and side’ using a cable pin-weights machine.

Then using the cable chest press machine; doing ‘lat pull downs’ and ‘seated rows’ on the “hi/lo” cable machine; using dumb-bells to do front raises, shoulder press, and twisting bicep curls; and doing some ‘functional lifting’ exercises, bringing dumb-bells up from the floor to both shoulder and head height.

After all that, I’m usually pretty exhausted (at least, my shoulders, arms & chest are!!). My shoulder already feels a lot more ‘solid’ and strong after only a couple of months of this routine. Maybe I’ll need to upgrade my bike stem and handlebars to the Pro Vibe Cavendish or Thor Hushovd editions to handle my new found strength!! ;)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

TdF - First week review

As it turns out, staying up late watching the Tour de France, functioning effectively in a full-time job, and maintaining a helathy relationship with your wife and daughters are NOT mutually exclusive things. Although they may as well be...

Yes, I am suffering (like all pro cycling lovers out there) - and so blog posts have dried up this week. But I am back today to review the first week of the tour, and give my view on the winners to this point.

Cadel (right) puttimg the hurt on Alberto Contador

1. Cadel Evans
I have to start with "our Cadel". The leader of all the "overall contenders", and in 2nd place (by only 1 second) in the entire field. He is riding with confidence and panache, and already has a stage win to his credit. This year's Tour has already been a success for Cadel - let's hope it continues in the same vein.

Tyler Farrar, paying tribute to his friend, the late Weyter Woulandt

2. Tyler Farrar
Came into this Tour as one of two sprinters in his team (Garmin-Cervelo), and considered not in the same class as Mark Cavendish. However, he has turned that idea on its head, and is now a clear co-favourite with Cavendish ("The Manx Missile") on the flat-land stages for the pure sprinters.

Andreas Kloeden

3. Andreas Kloeden
His team, Radioshack, will be feeling like losers right now. But Kloeden is the inadvertent 'winner' out of Radioshack's disastrous Tour so far.  Radioshack entered the Tour with four (not one or two, but FOUR) overall title contenders - Kloeden, Levi Leipheimer, Jani Brajkovic, and Chris Horner.  So far, all except Kloeden have suffered massive bad luck. Leipheimer has been caught out in time gaps caused by crashes. Brajkovic DNF'ed a stage due to injury. And last night, Horner suffered a severe concussion and head injury in a crash (and is an unsure starter for the rest of the Tour). As a result, Kloeden finds himself the undisputed leader of the team - albeit with much less support in the mountains than he might otherwise have had...

Philippe Gilbert, pulling on the yellow leader's jersey.

4. Philippe Gilbert
He has continued on his crushing one-day Classic form, taking a stage win and a 2nd place. Also has worn both the Yellow and Green jerseys. He could quit the Tour tomorrow with a huge sense of achievement already.  Only downside is the possible fracturing of his team, Omega Pharma-Lotto. Gilbert has taken wins ahead of the team's designated sprint leader Andre Greipel (who has expressed his dissatisfaction). And during one stage, chased down his team-mate Jurgen Van den Broek who had attacked less than 1km from the finish line... Apparently, and not surprisingly, the OP-L team bus has been a little tense...

That'll do for now. It has been an outstanding Tour so far in terms of excitement, drama, and results. Hopefully that will continue, starting with tonight's first mountain-top finish (although not a 'high' mountain) at Super Besse in the central Massife Centrale region of France.

As for me - I am off to watch the rugby tonight!! The Super 15 grand final between my beloved Queensland Reds and the Canterbury Crusaders is on at Suncorp Stadium. I'll be there with my Dad, dressed in red and cheering like a lunatic.  Then I'll sneak quietly into the house, get cosy on the couch with my wool blanket, and watch tonight's stage of the Tour... Heaven!!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Stage 1 shakes up the Tour!!

Stage 1 of the Tour de France last night, one of my ear-marked stages for a long night on the couch.  It was 'doubly long' for me - earlier, I was at Suncorp Stadium with my Dad and 45,000 of my closest friends to watch the Queensland Reds defeat the Auckland Blues in the Super 15 rugby union semi-final. So I hit the couch still buzzing from the great football game...

I knew it would be an interesting first stage his year, both because it was a road-racing stage instead of the usual short ITT prologue, plus the finish of the race (short & steep) promised a difficult finale for the riders. However, a few timely (or untimely, depending how you see it) crashes meant there were a few significant time gaps at the end.

Winners from stage 1:
- Philippe Gilbert (see pic above), who brought his one-day classics form into the Tour. He is almost unbeatable in these races at the moment.
- Cadel Evans (see pic below), who won a mental battle today in many ways. Put over a minute into Contador, plus had the legs at the end to finish strongly, showing the rest of the field he was a force to be reckoned with.  Great to see him on the right side of luck for a change with the crashes...
- Tyler Farrar, who's mid-stage sprint win over Cavendish was overwhelming. It'll give him a tonne of confidence for the flat stages to come.

Losers from Stage 1:
- Alberto Contador, who dropped about 1min 15sec from most of the leading overall contenders. Significantly, one of those is co-favourite Andy Schleck. This will have to drastically alter Contador's race strategy, meaning any defensive tactics will be out the window. He must attack now to make up the big time loss.
- Mark Cavendish, who got totally worked over by Tyler Farrar in the mid-stage sprint. He'll be looking for revenge sometime soon!!
- Samuel Sanchez / Tom Danielson / Ryder Hesjedal / Christian Vandevelde / John Gadret.  All riders who would have been hoping to be the "best of the rest" and place highly overall this Tour, and who have now given up a bunch of time on the very first day. A big knock mentally for these guys...

So an exciting and dramatic start to the Tour - let's hope that's a great sign for the rest to come!!