On Sunday 27th May, I headed out to Mt Alford, a small town near Boonah and Lake Moogerah, for my first Open event for the year - the Map Financials Metropolitan Championships Road Race.
The 23km circuit went anti-clockwise from (A) Mt Alford, travelling along Ganthorpe Rd, left into Boonah-Rathdowney Rd, and then left into Mount Alford Rd and back to the start.. (click pic for bigger view)
This was to be my first open race in almost 2 years, so I was both nervous and excited. All up, it was a 46km race, made up of two 23km laps starting & finishing in front of the Mt Alford state primary school.
I didn't know much about the circuit itself before I started. What I know now is that each lap is split roughly into three distinct & roughly equal-in-length sections:
1. A series of very steep, short & sharp hills along some very rough road.
2. A very long (but gentle) downhill along better quality road, on which your speed doesn't dip below 40km/h.
3. A flat / slightly uphill section back to the finish, where the road deteriorates slightly again.
I headed into the race feeling good. My training had been going well, in particular the last month, and so my confidence was high. This race wasn't a 'target', so I hadn't tapered for it - it came at the end of a big training block with an accompanying jump in mileage. This race was more of a gauge to see how I was travelling before my big A race in a month's time (the Avanti Classic).
It was a big field in Masters C (my Open grade), with 71 starters lining up for the commissaires briefing at 1:15pm...
So, what happened in the race?
Well, let's just say how I thought it would go, and how it did go, were poles apart...
I was completely and utterly unprepared for exactly how brutally steep the opening hills were going to be, and how quickly the peloton would attack them.
We hit the first climb, and I eased back into an easier gear to spin up and let myself drift back through the field. To my surprise, the entire field attacked the climb hard, and I was pushed to the very back in a matter of seconds!!
I crested the hill dangling of the back of the peloton, and had to push really hard to stay in touch on the descent and short flat period before the next hill. Again, the peloton smashed their way up the hill. After having turned myself inside out just trying to catch back on, I had precious little to give for this new, steep ascent. Halfway up, my legs pretty much exploded, and I had to let the field go...
So there I was, only 2km into a 46km race, and I had already been dropped!!
I allowed myself to feel a little bit of self-pity for a second or two (I was feeling pretty embarrassed!), and then decided to formulate a new plan. From then on, I decided to make it a hard training day and look at it as a tough 44km individual time trial (ITT) to the finish.
The course itself was both tough and beautiful to ride on. I pushed myself hard on my impromptu ITT, and was pleased to overtake someone late on the first lap. As I crossed the start/finish after the first 23km, I saw a few others that had pulled the pin after only 1 lap. It actually lifted my spirits a little and spurred me on to push even harder on the 2nd lap, knowing that technically I wasn't coming last anymore!!
After the 2nd lap finished, my stats were 46.5km at an average speed of 27.1km/h. A very, very tough day on the bike (both physically and mentally), but a very fun one as well.
I'll be marking this race down as one of my key events to target for 2013. The course is fantastic - both brutally hard and beautifully scenic. Now, to focus my training for the Avanti Classic in 4 weeks time...