Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Tour Down Under 2012 - Predictions

I haven't posted much about the world of pro-cycling recently - but the 2012 World Tour is about to kick-off here in Australia, with the Santos Tour Down Under.

Traditionally, the TDU is a sprinter's race. Although there are a few bumps and rolling hills on some of the stages, they all generally came in to a fast, flat finish.  This changes slightly in 2012, with one stage finishing at the summit of Willunga Hill - is not a mountain by any stretch of the imagination, but may be enough to knock the sprinter's out of contention.

It will likely end up as a fine balance. Will the bonus seconds won by the sprinters over the 5 stages be enough to fend off the winning margin of the 'climber' who triumphs on Willunga?

Well, time to put my money where my mouth is. Here are my tips for this year's Tour Down Under.

Winner - Andre Greipel

Greipel, this year racing for the new Lotto-Belisol team based in Belgium, is for me the clear favourite for this race.  He always hits Adelaide in great form (he is a two-time winner of this event), and this year is no exception.  Add to that he is racing for a new team (formed from the split of OmegaPharma-Lotto), who will be keen to get some early results to announce their presence in the peloton.

Podium - Edvald Boasson Hagen

EBH is racing this year with Team Sky. Full of talent, this Norwegian powerhouse will be great competition for Greipel.  While I don't think he'll win, he'll come very close. He can also punch hard up the climbs, meaning he has a chance to hold on at Willunga.

Podium - Heinrich Haussler

I'm a huge fan of Haussler, who races with Garmin-Barracuda, and I believe he'll be the best placed Australian in this race (that's right - it won't be a GreenEdge rider!).  He showed great form at the recent Australian Championships, even though he missed out on a result, and I believe he'll feature heavily in Adelaide.

Other riders to watch:
  • Jonathon Cantwell. A new signing for SaxoBank-Sungard, and an Australian as well, he'll be super-motivated to prove to his new employers he's a worthy signing.
  • Mark Renshaw. Another Aussie, he is most famous as Mark Cavendish's lead out man for many years with Team HTC. He has now branched out on his own, and is the team leader for Rabobank. Even though he is probably basing his training to peak later in the season, expect him to have a go at some stage wins here.
  • Alejandro Valverde. Back riding for Spanish team Movistar after a two year suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Valverde is a punchy climber, and so wouldn't ordinarily succeed here. However, this being his debut race after such a long time on the sidelines, he may be looking to make an early statement about his intentions and ability in 2012.
It should be a great race this year, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out!  Television coverage in Australia is on Channel 9. The first four stages will only get highlights late at night (very disappointing Channel 9!), but the final two stages on this weekend will be televised live.

Here's to some safe and exciting racing in Adelaide. I wish I was there!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Less is more...??

One of the keys to improving as a cyclist is experimenting with your training. You never know if small changes might make a big difference.

The mainstay of my training is my cycle-commute. About 23km each way, and taking about an hour each way, its a great way to rack up some decent mileage each week. Plus the hour-long length is long enough to have a good training effect, and mix in some drills, intervals, or other bits and pieces to aid in my fitness.

Normally, I try and commute 3-4 days each week. Since coming back from my injury, I've been struggling to do more than 2 days in a row. My legs have just not been able to handle it.  Generally, the 2nd day my legs will be pretty sluggish, with the homeward commute being a real sufferfest. I then need at least a day to recover.

Its been bugging me that I haven't been able to go past two days in a row - so this month, I decided to try something different...

I have started just commuting one way each day.  Take this week as an example - Monday I rode to work & caught the bus home. Tuesday - bus to work, and cycle home. Same for Wednesday & Thursday. And today (Friday), I finished by cycling both ways - don't want to leave my bike at work all weekend!!

The difference in how my legs have felt has been pretty significant. On none of the days have they felt sluggish or burnt out. This has had the great upside of improving the quality of each ride.  Even on the Friday afternoon ride home, when I expected to be hurting more, my legs felt terrific - enough so that I added a bit of intensity to it (knowing I would be off the bike all Saturday).

Initially, I was reticent to try this strategy - it means I'm doing about 130km/week of cycle-commuting, instead of about 175km/week.  However, having tried it out, the increased quality of each commute means I'm getting much more value from each ride.  And being able to ride every day of the week seems to be conditioning my fitness into a much better state as well.

Even though it'll make it a bit harder to reach my 500km goal for January, I'm going to continue this strategy for the rest of the month and see how it goes. So far, it seems to be a perfect fit for the 'base-training' focus for this month, and I will hopefully be able to push myself a bit harder in the coming months.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

December 2011 Review

A quick blog post to finish up the year on the bike!!

Mileage - 471km
Weight - 88kg (steady again!)

Very, very happy with the mileage figure this month.  Easily my biggest month since being back post-injury, and close to my planned 2012 goal of 500km/month.

I think I am most happy about the mileage figure as I had two 5-6 day periods off the bike due to weather.  It reminds me that I can rack up some very decent kilometres just by being consistent with my cycle-commuting and throwing in a few races and weekend bunch rides as well.

Of course, the great thing this month was my return to racing!!  It was punishing (as described in my race reports!) but heaps of fun. My 2012 race licence turned up in the mail this week, and I can't wait to get racing again in the new year.

Weight managed not to blow out with the festive season - I think remaining steady counts as a win!!  I'm making some decent changes there too for 2012. The chief strategy is using MyFitnessPal as a calorie-tracker - I've used it for the last few days to get the hang of it, and I'm already a big fan. I'll do a 'review' post after a month or so of use as I get the hang of it some more.

So in summary - a great month to finish off 2011. I've got some big goals for 2012, watch for them in an upcoming blog-post...

Happy New Year everybody!!