Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Friday, 28 October 2011

2011 Velo d'Or Awards

With the 2011 world pro-cycling tour effectively over, awards season has kicked in. Arguably the most prestigious of the cycling awards is the Velo d'Or - an award that first began back in 1992, and was created by the French cycling magazine "Velo".

This year's worthy recipient is Philippe Gilbert.

Philippe Gilbert, in his Belgian champion's colours.

Let's just run through his incredible series of successes for the year:
  • Stage win in the Tour de France, plus wore the yellow jersey
  • Montepaschi Strade Bianche - winner
  • Fleche Brabanconne - winner
  • Amstel Gold - winner
  • Fleche Wallone - winner
  • Liege-Bastogne-Liege - winner
  • Belgian ITT and road race champion
  • Tour of Belgium - winner
  • San Sebastian - winner
  • Grand Prix of Quebec - winner
  • Grand Prix de Wallonie - winner
  • Ster ZLM Toer - winner
  • Stage wins - Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of Belgium, Ster ZLM Toer, Eneco Tour of Benelux.
Wow!!  Is there anyone willing to argue that he is a worthy winner? Even though he is a one-day specialist, he managed to take the overall win in the Tour of Belgium and Star ZLM week-long stage races, showing his versatility.

When someone is this dominant, one can't help but wonder how he would go if he ever decided to focus an entire couple of seasons on overall Grand Tour success (I have wondered the same thing about Fabian Cancellara in previous years).  Those fans will have to wait, though.  Gilbert has stated clearly that he has unfinished business with the one-day Classics - specifically, Milan-San Remo.  "La Primivera" is the only one of cycling's monuments that Gilbert doesn't have on his palmares, and that will be his overwhelming focus for the first part of season 2012.

Two other awards were handed out. The French Velo d'Or went to Thomas Voeckler, after his Tour de France 'heroics' of doggedly holding onto the yellow jersey through the mountains.

A common sight - Pierre Rolland paces team-mate Thomas Voeckler
and Cadel Evans uphill in this year's Tour de France.

For me - the real French superstar was his team-mate Pierre Rolland. He went everywhere that Voeckler went, pacing him up every mountain, and doing plenty of chase work on the uphills. Rolland also took out the coveted Alpe d'Huez stage with a thrilling ride when he was finally 'unleashed' to ride for himself.

Peter Sagan

The final award - best young rider - went to Peter Sagan. The young sprinter is shaping up to be the next Philippe Gilbert. Sagan is quick in a sprint finish, but comes into his own when the finish gets a bit lumpy. It'll be exciting watching him develop over the next few years, hopefully he and Australian Matthew Goss (who I'm big fan of) will have some great battles in the future.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Where did the time go?

One of the challenges many "weekend warrior" sports-people face is finding the time to pursue their sporting passions.  Cyclists, such as myself, are no different.

I've always been clear about my priorities. Whilst I'm passionate about my cycling, family activities come first.  So once they are factored in, plus my work commitments (I still need to earn some dollars  -I'm not a full-time professional cycling blogger yet!!), there isn't a heap of time to squeeze in some 'quality training' on the bike.

There is a well worn saying about this - the six P's  (ie. "Perfect planning prevents p!ss poor performance").  In other words, some planning of your week means you should be able to fit in enough bike time for enjoyment, good training, and racing.

With my long injury lay-off, I had completely forgotten about the necessity of planning my on-bike time. I've simply been commuting on my bike (a very handy 1 hour , 23km commute each way), and adding in any other rides as I could squeeze them in.  That's worked well for the first couple of months, but it has gone pear-shaped and come undone so far in October.

An initial run of bad weather in the first half of the month restricted my riding days.  And now, I'm been sent to Sydney for work for at least a week.  My initial goal of 350km for October is looking like a distant dream...

Now, if I'd been planning for this, it could have been different.  I have a mag-trainer sitting in the spare room - with the wet weather in the first half of the month, I should have set this up so I could squeeze in a few early morning sessions.  This would have me in good shape leading into the week away in Sin City (Sydney).

Then, whilst in Sydney, I could knockout some crosstraining - like running, or some workouts in the hotel gym - that would tide me over and give me a bit of variety until I get back.

In any case, its not worth crying over spilt milk, or lamenting about what I should've, could've or would've done.  The important thing here is to re-learn the 'planning' lesson, and to have my contingency time arrangements in place for next time this happens.

So, when I get back from my Sydney trip, I'll have these plans in place.  I'll be looking forward to being back on track and getting in as much training as possible before a couple of big races in November.

In the meantime - if anyone has any tips about places to hit in Sydney after work, I'd love to hear them!!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Welcoming Whitey - unboxing my new fixie.

Is there anything more exciting than getting home and finding a box like this waiting on your front doorstep??
Is it Christmas already??
Yes - it's a new bike!!  A brand new white fixie, courtesy of Cell Bikes.

Even better, it was free. A few weeks ago, Cell asked via their facebook page for people to do some testing of the new search facility on their website, with the promise of a possible prize for those that assist.  Being a sucker for a freebie, I dutifully searched for 10 random things on their site, and emailed in feedback.

A week later, Cell announced that 9 lucky testers would receive a discount voucher code, and 1 super-lucky tester would receive a free fixie. You can imagine my excitement when my name was announced as the winner!

Delivery was super-quick, typical of Cell's service levels. I let Cell know what size & colour frame I wanted just before lunchtime on a Wednesday. And the next morning, at about 10:30am, the bike was on my front door-step. That's from Sydney to Brisbane, in under 24hrs from ordering - impressive...

So on a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon, I settled into the task of unboxing my brand new Cell fixie.  Here was what came in the box...

Wow - that's a lot of white...!!

The frame, rear wheel, cranks, chain, forks, stem, and brakes were already assembled. All the cabling was also in place.  The only things that needed to be attached were the handlebars to the stem, the front wheel, the seatpost, and the pedals.

Assembly was very easy. A basic guidebook is included in the box, but only someone with zero knowledge of bikes would need to refer to it. No-one should feel intimidated by having to do this themselves, as 90% of the work has been predone by Cell. Only simple tasks, requiring some undoing of bolts, fitting a tube or wheel, and replacing the bolts, are left to do.

A great sign of Cell's build quality was that all the threads on every bolt and screw had a generous smear of pink grease. It makes you feel very confident that care and attention has been paid to the pre-built sections of the bike.

No fancy tools are required either. I completed the entire build with the following equipment.

  • Some allen keys
  • a 15mm wrench (an adjustable wrench would be fine)
  • a knife to cut open the box and remove some cable ties
These are all tools that any self-respecting shed or garage should have in them anyway...

So about 30 minutes after unpacking the box, Whitey was officially born!!

Welcome to the world, Whitey!!

A long-term test and review will be forthcoming in a few months time.  But of course, that doesn't mean I can't tell you about my first quick spin on Whitey.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this bike. I am very happy on Bluey (my Argon18 Radon, running a 10-speed groupset), so what more could I expect from a fixie?

As cliched as it sounds - riding Whitey was just plain fun! Spinning up and down the street - not training, commuting or racing - just riding. I was genuinely amazed at how enjoyable it was riding this bike...

As I said - a long-term test will come down the track.  But first impressions are very, very positive.

The details:

The Cell Fixie is currently only $350 - simply outstanding value for money. It comes in either white and black, and in 4 different frame sizes.  The frame and forks are steel, and it has an alloy seatpost.

The wheels have 32-hole aluminium rims, and they are stopped with Radius side-pull brakes controlled with "bmx"-style levers. The rear wheel has a flip-flop hub - fixed on one side, and a freewheel on the other.

If you've ever thought about dipping your toes into the world of fixies - well here is the easiest, cheapest, and best-value option for you to do just that.

Hey Dad - I think your new bike fits me just right...

Monday, 3 October 2011

September 2011 Review

Quick Summary for September 2011:

Mileage – 270km
Weight (end of month) – 88kg, a loss of 1kg.

My first full month back on the bike, and while I didn’t quite hit my mileage goal, I’m very satisfied that “small-ring September” was a success.

September was very much a ‘tale of two halves’. The first two weeks were spent (as per normal) at work. The 2nd half of the month was much more fun – holiday! It was school holidays, and so we packed up and headed to Burleigh Heads for the fortnight.

My cycling goal for the first couple of weeks was to cycle-commute 3/week. I only hit 2/week, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. The legs are feeling really good and strong, and the small-ring riding has been a great start for my fitness.

I had a ‘breakthrough’ ride in the second week. I left work, and my legs just felt invincible. I ‘held myself back’ on the flats, and on the uphills I didn’t fall away as I had been. I ended up getting home in 56min – a massive 10min quicker than my normal homeward commute time, plus I felt as fresh as normal. Finally the legs are starting to adapt, a great feeling!!

Fortunately, I was able to take my bike with me for our two weeks holiday on the Gold Coast. The plan was to fit in a couple of early morning rides each week. Staying at Burleigh Heads was ideal – lots of group rides start at the Burleigh surf lifesaving club carpark, with rides heading north to the Spit at Southport, or south to Coolangatta (& beyond).

For the first week, I did a solo ride up to Southport, plus a ride down to Coolangatta. For the Coolangatta ride, I was able to tack onto a local group for the homeward leg, which was fun – my first ‘group riding’ experience since my return to cycling!

Week 2 of the holiday, and I could only fit one ride in. I rode with the Gold Coast Masters club down to Coolangatta – I left them there and turned for home (they were heading on a 6-hour ride to Kingcliffe & the Gold Coast hinterland!!).

This ride was another great confidence builder. After a short hill (not many of them along the coast!), an older female fell off the back of the bunch. Myself and another guy sat up and waited to see if she was OK.

The guy said “we should wait and drag her back to the group – what do you reckon?”
“No worries” I replied.

The group had a fair lead on us, and we were riding into a headwind. I decided to ‘test the legs’, and did a long 10min pull on the front of our little trio to try and catch the group. I managed to hold 32-33km/h and a cadence of 82-85 – best of all, I didn’t ‘redline’ (although I was working pretty hard!). Very happy that my legs handled the effort, and I didn’t blow up or need a ‘recovery’ – great signs for the month ahead.

So all up, a very good September on the bike. Now – onto October. Time to up the volume again (aiming for 350km+), plus a bit of intensity. And if the legs keep improving, maybe a return to criterium racing in the last week or two…!!