Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas...!!

So I sit here late on Christmas Eve.  The kids have been tucked into bed, my beautiful wife and I have had a few too many champagnes, and we are enjoying the "calm before the storm" of Christmas Day...

So what would be my dream cycling Christmas presents to wake up to tomorrow?

Well, I would love a new pair of race wheels - some Shimano Dura-Ace C50's would be awesome.  I'm a huge fan of Shimano hubs - their old-school cup-&-cone bearings are (to me at least) superior to all others. And a set of 50mm deep carbon rims would be the perfect 'do everything' race wheelset for crits, road races and time trials.

I'd also love the new Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset. I don't see a need for electronic shifting - but I'm absolutely entranced by these groupsets.  I drove the proprietor of a local bikeshop nuts when I spent half-an-hour playing with a Di2 display set-up a month or so ago.  Its just one of those things I lust for...

But in all seriousness - what I really wish for is a safe year on the roads, accident and injury free. Really, if I get that, then I can't imagine it being anything other than a great year.

I hope everyone out there, whether you are a cycling lover or not, has a happy Christmas and a safe, exciting 2012.

Cycle on, my friends!!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Race 2/2011: Balmoral Club Criterium, Murarrie.

I couldn't finish the year without rolling around at my home club criteriums, especially after all the fun I had at the Twilight Crit earlier in the week at Nundah.  This was the very last race of the year before the Christmas/New Year break, so my last chance to race for 2011.

I was running a bit late (alarm clock malfunction!), so ended up driving to the race - turning up at 7:30am for a 7:40am start in C-Grade.  After quickly registering (there were 48 of us in C-Grade), I did a few laps around the carpark to warm up.  Soon, we were called to the start for our instructions - 40min + 3 laps, with a prime at roughly halfway. And we were away!

The pace was on quickly, but settled into a pretty steady rhythm early on. I was very happy with how my legs were travelling - once again I was working hard, but my legs didn't feel as 'fragile'. I was holding my place in the peloton pretty well, and experimented a bit as I went with my rear gearing to see what felt best. I ended up spending most of the time flicking between the 16 & 15 cogs (and of course staying in the 52-tooth chainring), the reasonably high cadence in those gears feeling good and natural.

We had a brief rest around the 18min mark when B-Grade overtook us.  It did get a bit messy though, with a couple of guys at the front seemingly unwilling to let them get away cleanly.  It was a bit frustrating, but being further back there wasn't much I could do...

My telling moment came at about 29min.  A small group of 5 had gotten away, and the main peloton strung out into a long line as the chase picked up its pace.  I was pushing hard, but feeling OK. Suddenly, a rider a few in front of me lost the wheel he was on, and rolled off to the side!! The two guys behind him both sat up, and looked back at me to see what I would do...

"Oh no" I said to myself - just like that, I was facing a 15m-ish gap into a headwind to make up.  I dropped into the 14 cog, and gave it everything I had - which turned out not to be much!  I couldn't make any in-roads into the gap, and after a brief chase which blew my legs to shreds, I sat up and admitted defeat.

There was a group of about 10 riders behind me who had been dropped earlier. I tried to grab onto them as they went past, but my legs were still so blown from the chase that I couldn't do it. I rolled off the track and into the carpark instead...

A quick check of my bike computer showed I had lasted just over 29min - almost the exact same time as Wednesday's criterium! The average speed was 38.4km/h - but that included a couple of easy laps while B-Grade passed us, so I think the pace was generally quicker.  I topped out at 49.1km/h, presumably during my little chase at the end.

So, all told, it was another good result. It never feels good to get dropped - but again I was happy that my legs were able to work hard and keep me in the race for that long. It was no surprise I wasn't able to bridge a gap - but that at least gives me a benchmark I can work to improve.

Now, after 2 tough races in 4 days, I can look forward to 4 weeks of laying down some base mileage for the 2012 season. Hopefully the improvements will keep coming!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Race 1/2011: HPRW Twilight Criterium, Nundah.

Wow.  Its been around 14 months since the big accident when my shoulder was broken, and I've been back on the bike for about 3 months.  It feels so good to be racing again...

I rolled up this afternoon for race 3 of the HPRW Twilight Criterium series, held at Albert Bishop Park in Nundah.  This has always been a favourite series of mine - there is something awesome about mid-week racing after work.

I was obviously very nervous about how I'd go.  The main reason to race was as a bit of a benchmarking exercise - how was I going, and how much further do I have to go?  Well, I have the answers to that now - I'm going well, but I still have a long way to go!!

I signed on at the registration desk at 4:30pm, and rolled around the track for 20-ish minutes doing an easy warm-up.  I pulled off to the grassy verge for a while to watch some of my fellow racers - about 30 altogether in my grade (C Grade, of course!).

Race time came along very quickly, and I nervously gathered with the others for the start.  This race was to be a points race - 2 points for the first rider across the line every lap, and then 5-4-3-2-1 points for the first 5 riders on the final lap.  The commissaire told us it would be a roughly 25min race - and away we went!

The pace was on quickly - I was gasping for air after the first lap, desperately willing my legs and heart to find some sort of rhythm...  A quick glance at my bike computer showed us flying along at 45km/h along the home straight!

Fortunately, I managed to settle myself down.  I was working very hard, but not red-lining (yet!).  I wondered briefly if I'd be able to keep it up for the whole race, or if I'd crack - but pushed the thoughts aside and focused on turning my legs over and finding a good position sheltered in the middle of the pack.

12min 30sec into the race, and I was still there. I had made it to halfway, so that was my first goal achieved!

At around the 18min mark, I had my one 'scare'.  I didn't notice the front of the pack start to string out as they lifted the pace. Sudden;y, I realised I was being overtaken by lots of riders around me! I ried to loft the pace, but my legs suddenly felt sluggish...  Glancing over my shoulder, I realised there was no-one behind me - I was coming last! I had to lift and hold that wheel in front of me.

I buried myself holding onto the back of the racing pack.  I kept telling myself that the leaders would ease up soon, and I'd get a chance to recover...  Fortunately, after half-a-lap, they did just that.  I rolled further up the pack, breathing heavily, and feeling great that I had managed to hold on.

My legs got a bit crampy at around 22min.  I felt some twinges, and wondered if this was my sign that they were about to blow... Again, timing was on my side. The pace eased slightly, giving me a chance to get a slight recovery.

Soon, I was starting to pray for the 'final lap bell' to be rung. We raced past the start/finish line at 25:30 - and the bell still wasn't rung! "Come on!" I thought - I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up...!!

To my relief, the bell went on the next lap. I was ecstatic - I had made it. I pushed hard to make sure I didn't lapse right at the end, and crossed the finish in the middle of the pack.  I gave a little fist-pump as I finished - mission accomplished!!

Final stats for the race were 29min 30sec duration, with an average speed of 39.4km/h. Pretty pacy for my first race back!

I am totally stoked with the result.  Even though I was at my limit a few times, I managed to finish the race with the pack and not get dropped.  Its given me a massive confidence boost, and I'm looking forward to laying down some good mileage over the next month and tackling the next Twilight Criterium in mid-January 2012.  Although I might squeeze in one more race for 2011 before then.....

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Perfect Day

I've had lots of 'perfect days' on the bike.  Long rides through a variety of terrain, group rides, short rides, races - yesterday was another one of those days.

After a wet and rainy couple of days in Brisbane, I woke to a beautiful, bright blue sky.  I got changed into my cycling gear quickly, and filled my backpack with my lunch and work paraphernalia, pumped up the tyres on the roadbike, and rolled down the driveway.

After a couple of days off, I could tell straight away that my legs felt great and were ready and keen to work hard.  After a short warm-up along some bike path and back-streets, I headed on to a main road and the start of some rolling hills.

The weather was perfect - low 20's, and a cool, light southerly tailwind at my back.  I couldn't hide the smile on my face...

I decided to start off with hammering the uphills and recovering on the downhills.  My legs felt strong as I pushed hard, getting that lovely lactic acid burn as I crested each short hill.

A decent stretch of bikepath followed (my rule is "small chainring only on bikepaths" - they aren't race-tracks), so I kept up a nice high cadence, pushing a decent pace.

Next were the two decent hill-climbs of my commute - Queensport Rd and the Gateway Bridge.  I dropped into the 39x21 for each climb, got out of the saddle, and went as hard as I could for each one.  Queensport Rd nearly broke me by the top, but I just made it.  I recovered on the long decent, and smashed halfway up the Gateway before the legs cracked - I dropped back to the 39x25, and spun up the rest of the way feeling satisfied.

Next, some bikepath recovery again before my final 'set' - three long stretches of flat road.  I pushed the chain onto the big chainring, and tried to hold as high a speed (and cadence over 80) for the entire length of each one.

That was the first time since my comeback I'd really hammered hard on the flats. The legs had a nice deep burn going, but kept on going. I tried to keep a relaxed grip on the bars, and drive my legs onwards, and they responded nicely.  It felt amazing to open the legs up like that and work hard - I've really missed that feeling on the bike!

I rolled into work still with that big smile still on my face.  A quick check on the bike computer showed 57min - my first sub-hour inbound commute for my 23km journey since I'd re-started on the bike.

Those mornings of perfect weather, perfect conditions, and great legs don't happen that often - they are mornings to savour and enjoy. Can't wait for the next one!!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

November 2011 Review

A quick update of my cycling in November before we reach the end of December!!

Mileage - 201km
Weight - 88kg (steady)

I'm very happy with that mileage figure, a smidge over 200km.  Remembering I spent half of November in Sydney for work, I managed to knock out those kilometres in just a couple of weeks.

It was also a good mix of road-riding and a couple of sweat-fest magtrainer sessions.  Mixing up both road and trainer is definitely having a positive effect on my bike fitness, even in such a short timeframe.

So what's ahead for December?

I'm still working hard on consistency.  Not thinking too hard about training structure, or losing too much sleep over intensity - just focussing on getting on the bike as often as possible and racking up the km's, so the legs will be ready for a big 2012.

The Cycling Qld 2012 road racing calendar was published last week.  I'll post later about that in more detail - but it won't be any surprise that reading through the calendar got the competitive juices flowing.  There are only three club criterium races left in Brisbane for the year - this Saturday and next Saturday at Murarrie, and next Wednesday night at Nundah.  I know I was blogging earlier about giving racing a miss until 2012, and focussing on base training - but I reckon I'm going to hit the races at least once (maybe even all three!). This'll help me satisfy those racing urges, and give me an indicator (and hopefully some motivation!) for my training over the Christmas/New Year period.

I'm feeling good on the bike, the new saddle is feeling great (more on that later too), and I can't wait to rack up some more good kilometres on the bike over December.