Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

...and on the 12th day, he rode again...

It's been a couple of weeks since my last blog post, so I thought I'd pen a quick update on how things are travelling in CGradeCyclist land.

I had a great start to the month mileage-wise, culminating in my longest ride since returning from my big shoulder injury (and my first metric century since then too) - a solid 103km from home to Redcliffe & return, as part of the Balmoral club Good Friday ride.  The legs were very tired at the end, and I felt sore - but needless to say I also felt terrific after knocking out such a long ride.

After that though - I had a full 12 days off the bike.  *eeek!*

A round of Easter family celebrations, and then taking off for a week of camping with my wife and daughters filled my days instead.  We did do plenty of mountainous hikes though as part of the camping trip (in Girraween National Park, just south of Stanthorpe, Queensland), which helped maintain my fitness to some extent.

It was with some trepidation then that I threw my leg back over my bike after a full 12 days out of the saddle, for my 23km commute to work earlier this week.  I had my fingers crossed that my legs would be OK, and that my 'rear end' hadn't softened up and was still saddle-ready!!

I was pleasantly surprised.  My legs felt really good!!  I took it pretty easy both ways on the first day. The next day after an easy morning commute, I pushed hard on the commute home, testing myself on the few climbs (including a very hard interval up the Gateway Bridge). My legs responded every time, which was both unexpected and pleasing...

Only one bit of bad news this month - I'm not racing the Anzac 25 kermesse on Anzac Day. Unfortunately, work commitments mean I'll be travelling down to Canberra instead and shivering in the cooler climate there for a couple of days.  I'm a little disappointed, but I'll channel that into my training for the next open race in May - the Metropolitan Championships, run by my own Balmoral Cycling Club.

Now, just need to focus on some consistent riding for the rest of the month...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

March 2012 Review

As I sit on the couch at 11pm watching an incredible Paris-Roubaix unfold, I'd better get my March 2012 stats recorded before we get too far into the new month!!

Mileage - 451km  (2012 total so far - 1150km)
Weight - 81kg (down 1.5kg for the month!)

Another improvement in my mileage, making it my biggest month of the year so far.  Just short of my 500km goal, but very happy nonetheless.  Apart from one day when my legs fell apart (because I carelessly ate too little during the day), I rode strongly and consistently throughout the month. Probably my only disappointment was only making it to one race - but that should change next month as the calendar clears up a little.

Weight-wise, another solid drop of excess kilos.  Getting very close now to my goal of a steady sub-80kg long-term weight, which feels terrific.  I'm starting too eat more for now, gearing up a bit more for performance rather than weight-loss. It'll be interesting to see how that changes things...

Looking ahead, the main thing to look forward to is my first A race of the year, the Anzac 25. Its held on the 25th April (Anzac Day!), and hopefully my legs will continue to improve as we get closer.  We'll be doing a week-long family camping trip before then, which means a week off the bike. However, we have many long hikes planned that should keep my fitness at a decent level.

Now, back to the couch to watch the conclusion of Paris-Roubaix...!!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Paris-Roubaix - race preview & predictions

Tomorrow (tomorrow night for those of us in Australia) is the running of the 'Queen of the Classics' - Paris-Roubaix.

Arguably the toughest race of the year, the 'Hell of the North' is run over about 260km. It starts in Compiegne and finishes in Roubaix, in the north of France.  It is a relatively flat race, but its defined by its cobbled sections - 27 sections of rough cobblestones, ranging in length from just 300m to 3.7km, for a total of around 52km.

It is only one week after the Tour of Flanders (won by Tom Boonen), and in many ways Flanders is a great predictor of what will happen in Roubaix:

Why Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are similar

Both races have extensive cobbled sections.  The races are very tough on equipment.  They are less 'team' races than others, with individual strength needed to succeed due to the cobbles, narrow roads, and difficult terrain.

Why Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are different

Flanders is a hilly race, while Paris-Roubaix is very flat in comparison.  The types of cobbles are very different too - in Belgium, the cobbles are relatively smoother and better maintained.  The Roubaix cobbles are brutal, much larger and sharper, and will shake you and your bike to smithereens.

So of course, the million-dollar question is - who is going to win Parix-Roubaix this year?

My prediction - Filippo Pozzatto (Farnese-Vini)

2012 has ben a resurgent year for Pozzatto.  He is in a new team (Farnese-Vini), and is racing strongly and with a renewed positivity.  He came second in Flanders, but for mine was the strongest rider out there - he just couldn't quite outsprint Boonen on the day.

The minor placings - Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC)

Ballan is in fantastic form, as shown by his 3rd place last week in Flanders.  He'll be right up there again, but will be outsprinted by Pozzatto and Boasson Hagen at the line.  Expect him to be in the front pack dictating the pace in the final stages of this race.

Boasson Hagen is also in good form.  He came in 19th last week in amongst the chasing pack, but the flatter terrain of Paris-Roubaix will suit him much more.  I expect him to shine on Sunday night, coming in 2nd.

The almost-there's

Expect Sylvain Chavanel (OmegaPharma-Quickstep) to feature strongly.  He is also in terrific form, and will race aggressively.  He'll feature in the Top 5.  Oscar Freire (Katusha), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) should also appear at the top end of the result sheet.

The dark-horse

 My heart also says Heinrich Haussler (Garmin Barracuda) will do well.  He hasn't been in terrific form in recent years, but is starting to look good again.  I would love nothing more than to see a break-out performance from Haussler - he is one of my favourite riders!!i

Where's Boonen??

Controversially, I'm leaving Boonen out of contention.  He is deservedly the bookie's favourite for this race - he is in sensational form!!  But Paris-Roubaix is an unpredictable race, and I think Boonen will suffer here as he attempts to achieve his second Flanders-Roubaix double victory.  My bold prediction is that Boonen will DNF due to a bad crash or equipment failure.

Final predicted order:
1. Pozzatto,  2. Boasson Hagen,  3. Ballan,  4. Chavanel,  5. Haussler,  6. Freire,  7. Flecha,  8. Leukemans.

I came close last week - let's see how I go this time!!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Tour of Flanders - race preview & predictions

So as I sit here on my couch a 10pm, waiting patiently for live coverage of the Tour of Flanders (or De Ronde van Vlaanderen in Flemish) to start on SBS at 10:30pm, I may as well take this chance to get my thoughts on this race down on electronic paper...!!

Flanders is, for mine, the best one-day race on the entire cycling calendar.  Its held in Belgium, which is arguably the spiritual home of hard cycling. It has extensive cobbled sections, often on narrow, winding roads. And unlike Paris-Roubaix, it is a relatively hilly course.

No matter which way you look at it, this is just a tough race.  You can't fake your way through it - only someone who is both tough and smart (and maybe a bit lucky!) will walk away with victory at this epic race.

So who will win?

My tip - Peter Sagan (Liquigas)

I reckon Sagan will step up and win Flanders this year.  He has been in terrific form so far, with some minor victories already this year.  His only downside is a lack of experience at this race, especially compared to Cancellara and Boonen.

However, I think the experience factor won't be such an issue this year.  The organisers have altered the course for 2012, finishing with a multi-lap circuit instead of the usual run home.  This will play into Sagan's hands, and I am expecting him to have enough to win tonight.

The big two - Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan) and Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quickstep)

Fabian Cancellara

Can they be beaten?? Obviously I think so, however Sagan is the only one that can do it.  Fabs and Tommeke will round out the podium.

Both of the Big Two are in outstanding form at the moment, plus they have won this race before three times each!  If the finish was the same as previous years, I would tip one of them to win.  Its only the new multi-loop finish that has me leaning towards Sagan over these two incredible riders.

The almost-there's - Ballan (BMC), Boasson Hagen (Sky), Chavanel (OP-QS), Pozzato (Farnese-Vini)

Fillipo Pozzato

These four will be the next over the line.  All have shown good form over the last month, and are suited to this race.  They could win - but it would take all the stars to align for them to do so.  The most likely to snatch victory is either Ballan or Pozzato...

My final finishing order:

Sagan, Boonen, Cancellara, Pozzato, Ballan, Boasson Hagen, Chavanel.

Let's see how close I come!!  Only 15 minutes to go until show-time - can't wait!!