Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Race 3/2012 - Balmoral Club Criterium, Murarrie.

Before it get away from me, I have a couple of quick thoughts to get down about my 3rd race for the year last Saturday 19th May.

It did start off with a quick laugh. When I went to register, club stalwart Esme took my licence and said, "Two weeks in a row! This could become a habit if your not careful, you'll become addicted...!!"

"That's the plan!" I replied with a grin.  I handed over my $10, and was given the same number as the previous week - I was hoping that would be a good omen.

Now, the race did go well.  I won't go into too much detail about it here, as I want to focus on how it ended.  It was much tougher than the previous week, with an average speed of 39.9km/h for the 43 min or so duration.  Faster than last week, but that's not what made it harder so much - it was because this time around there were a lot more slow-downs and accelerations that sapped the legs.

Now, to the interesting part for me, where I was reminded of an important lesson - positioning is everything...

At roughly the 35min mark, a guy in front of me had to brakechard for some reason.  I hit my brakes, and of course drifted backwards quickly to the rear of the field of about 40 riders.  No need to panic, I thought, I'll wait until the pace eases off a little then try and move up again.

I cruised around along the back of the field, not feeling particularly concerned.  But then, earlier than I expected, the "3 laps to go" sign went up.

It was light a fire was lit at the front of the peloton.  The pace flew up to around 45km/h (sometimes higher), and I found myself hammering along just trying to hold on to the wheel in front of me.

The pace didn't ease at all until less than half a lap to go, so I spent those three laps spending all my energy smashing myself to stay on.  To make it even harder, people kept getting shelled in front of me, so I'd have to come around them and bridge up each time.

When the pace eased briefly near the finish, I had nothing left to try and make a move - I just held my position and cruised over the finish line with the peloton.

So why was this such an important race for me?

Firstly, the big lesson in positioning.  I shouldn't have been so complacent and content to cruise at the rear of the peloton and wait for a slow-down, especially so late in the race.  That complacency cost me any opportunity to get myself in a winning position at thee finish, even though it happened 10 minutes beforehand!

Secondly, I had to ride hard for the final 3 laps of the race.  I hammered for those final laps, bridging up a few times to come around those that cracked, and my legs handled it really well. Don't get me wrong, I was working ridiculously hard - but at no point did I think "that's it, I'm going to crack next...".

It was a great, hard race leading into the big road race this weekend out at Mt Alford.  Let's hope I don't need to re-learn the same lesson!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Race 2/2012 - Balmoral Club Criterium, Murarrie.

Finally got back out for a race on Saturday morning (12th May). It's been a while for me since my first race of the year, but the weather was too awesome to stay in bed!

Big field, around 40-ish all up for the 40min + 3 laps crit. Started off with a decent pace, and a QSM rider having an early crack at a solo breakaway from the gun (good luck with that!). His team-mates swarmed to the front to take control, and the race 'story' bcame clear very quickly - 5 or 6 QSM guys were going to try and control the race... So I decided to try and work out who they were setting things up for, so I could at least take advantage of all their work.

First 15min or so, there were quite a few breakaway attempt. After about 10 or so started to get away, the whole peloton surged to re-form. I'd positioned myself in the front third, so I was able to handle that OK.

Whistle for the prime came at 20min. I wasn't going to try for it, but wanted to stay with the lead group in case they tried to get away straight afterwards. I actually came in about 10th for it without sprinting, and my legs were still feeling terrific, so I started to feel more confident with the race. Kept telling myself not to get complacent and miss a move, and I'd at least have a chance...

Can't remember when, but we got overtaken by B-grade just the once. The yells of "stay left" and the yellow flags went up from the corner marshalls - and one of the QSM guys took off. Bad form for mine, OK if he'd already attacked, but once the yellow flags are out he should have waited. Anyway, he lingered on the back of B-grade a bit too long after they passed and got hooked by the commissaires - karma's a b!tch...  

3 laps to go came up, and it all slowed right down. For the first time all race, the QSM guy seemed unsure what to do, and everyone started getting ready for the sprint and looking for a wheel to lead them out. I got trapped on the inside line on the last lap after a moment of indecision, which was a bad move. I watched the outside move quckly, and by the time I 'escaped' for the sprint, I was racing for 10th spot...

Great morning though, and I was totally stoked with how good my legs felt throughout the whole race. The story of the day for me was how I never, ever felt in trouble. At no stage did I go into the red in an effort to stay with the peloton. Its been a very long time since that's happened, and it tells me the consistent training I've been putting in this month is already starting to pay off.

 Final stats - just over 48min racing, average 39.4km/h.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Great Training Plan - stage 1...

At the start of this month, I decided it was time to step things up training-wise.  I was only 8 weeks out from my A-race for the season, the Avanti Classic, and I needed to start moving my fitness up in a big and decisive way.

To date, I've been 'just riding' - basically logging as many kilometres as possible to try and get my legs in good shape.  I've also thrown some intensity here and there just to keep things interesting and help keep my leg speed sharp.

Has it been successful? Well, I've already blogged about how consistency has been an issue for me, due to weather, work, and family activities all taking precedence.

But now, its time to get serious...

With 8 weeks until the big dance, I decided to set up a 'training plan'.  Not so much a detailed plan - I know I wouldn't be able to stick rigidly to it due to 'life' getting in the way - but more like training guidelines that'll get me to my race in great shape.

The plan is in two stages, with the first stage having kicked off when May began, and ending with the Metropolitan Championships on Sunday 27th May.

Here are my guiding training principles for this first 27 day period:

  • Overall mileage goal of at least 600km for the month - a big jump for me, as I've averaged less than 400km/month so far this year...
  • Cycle-commute both to & from work at least 3 days/week - this always provides a solid base for me at over 20km each way for my commute, plus I'll make one of these days a hard, high intensity training day...
  • No more than two days off the bike in a row - this is so I maintain consistency with my cycling...
  • Hit up Mt Gravatt for some hill reps once/week - given there are some lumps in the Avanti Classic course, this'll get my hill-climbing in order for the race...
  • Race as often as possible - I'll be aiming to race the club criteriums every weekend, to both get 'race pace' into my legs and to be mentally strong as well...
  • Culminate in using the Metropolitan Championships as a mid-way 'dress rehearsal' - its also a road race over rough country roads, except it shorter (46km versus 80km) and reportedly hillier...
Nine days into the month, and everything is on track so far.  My legs have responded extremely well (one of the upsides of being under-trained!), and I'm feeling positive and confident.  I'm really looking forward to my first club criterium racethis month to see how the initial part of stage 1 has improved my legs...

Friday, 4 May 2012

Giro d'Italia 2012 - preview & predictions

The first Grand Tour of the year is upon us - the Giro d'Italia.  Three tough weeks of slog along the roads, through the flat-lands, and over the mountains of Italy - all starting for the first time ever with 3 stages in Denmark.

Its a much more balanced Giro this year, especially compared to the brutally mountainous routes the riders were given over the last few years. This opens the race up a bit, however there aren't as many 'big names' contesting the overall compared to previous years either.

So down to business - who can win the Giro d'Italia this year?

1. Romain Kreuziger (Astana)

Kreuziger has been 'the next big thing' for a few years now, and is overdue for a Grand Tour breakthrough. He can both climb and time-trial, which sets him nicely for the three weeks ahead.  He has also started the year well, coming 3rd overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, and placing well on the hilly stages of the Giro del Trentino last week.

I'm expecting Kreuziger to have his breakthrough win this year in Italy, and to stand on the final podium in the leader's pink jersey as winner!

2. Ivan Basso (Liquigas)

Ivan Basso is both an easy and difficult pick for this year's race.  Easy because he is a two-time winner of this race, and has been a consistent Grand Tour performer over many years.  Difficult because he hasn't shown any form this year at all, and is moving into the twilight of his career.

You just can't discount Basso.  He has so much experience, and I think he'll get better and better as the race progresses.  A definite for the podium, I think he'll be pipped for the top position by the younger legs of hiss ex-teammate Kreuziger.

3. Frank Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan)

The 'other' Schleck, the older half of 'FrAndy' Schleck.  Frank Schleck is another tough one to select.  He was never going to race the Giro this year, but an injury to teammate Jakob Fuglsang meant Frank was unexpectedly called into the team as their big overall hope for the win.

Frank is undoubtedly a hugely talented climber, one of the best in the entire cycling game.  However his time-trialling is atrocious, and his tactical skills leave a lot to be desired compared to his major rivals.  He'll make the podium, but isn't good enough away from the mountains to make the top step as winner.

How to watch the Giro

This year in Australia, SBS is televising stages live - the most Giro live coverage ever for us here!  It'll be shown on their digital channel, SBS2.  Find all the details of their coverage here.

I can't wait to see how this great race pans out.  In my opinion, while the Tour de France is the most prestigious race on the cycling calendar, the Giro d'Italia is the cycling purist's race - the best race to watch for the true cycling lover.  Tune in and enjoy!!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

April 2012 Review

There is a heap going on this month, so I'd better get my March 2012 stats recorded for posterity before I launch into my next series of blog posts!!

Mileage - 344km  (2012 total so far - 1494km)
Weight - 79.5kg (down 1.5kg for the month!)

The mileage figure is, well, a bit crap.  The reasons why it's too low are clear - I missed 12 days straight during Easter due to holidays, family activities, and our camping trip (as per my last blog post), plus I missed the last 5 days of the month thanks to a work trip to Canberra. 

So when you consider it as 344km for half-a-month, that's actually pretty good. But my long-standing battle with inconsistency is not being won.  I am desperate for a clear, month-long, unbroken stint of training.  This is especially important now as I'm only 2 months out from my A-Race for the year - the Avanti Classic - so things have to start happening now.

Fortunately, I have a plan.  I've already started, and I'll formalise it on these blog pages in the next couple of days... (stay tuned!)

What I am stoked about is hitting my weight goal of sub-80kg!!  Four months of steady weight loss has gone remarkably well, and I am ridiculously happy at having a weight in the 70's.  The next step now is to stabilise in the mid-to-high 70's.

So that's it for now - a quick blog post to update my mileage and weight-loss stats.  The next couple of days will see me posting about my training plan for the next two months, and of course my predictions for this years Giro d'Italia which starts on Saturday night!

Keep the rubber side down!!