Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Friday, 31 August 2012

Bling City - Eurobike 2012

I have mentioned before that my mantra as C Grade Cyclist is "value for money" over all else.  My bike-related purchases all reside in the low to mid range, and I will scour the specifications and build quality to make sure I extract maximum bang for my cycling buck when it comes time to buy.

But of course, that doesn't mean I don't take the time to drool over top-end gear.  And drool season has officially started, with the first of the 'big two' trade shows starting in Germany - Eurobike!!

"Demo Day" at Eurobike 2012

This is the first opportunity for cycling fans to see the new cycling products coming out for next season, by all the major cycling manufacturers.  You can expect to see the official launch of new groupsets, wheels, bike frames, tyres, and many assorted accessories.

New Sidi shoes - I want, I want, I want!!

Personally, I'm a sucker for wheelsets.  I absolutely love staring at the brand new light-as-a-feather carbon fibre hoops brought out by the different manufacturers.  I have my fantasy budget (or my "if I win the lottery" budget), and carefully study the new product offerings to decide what I'll buy if my numbers come up and I have an unexpected windfall to spend...

Mavic's new Cosmic Carbone SLE - yummy!!
This is definitely the time I wish I was a well-respected, reputable cycling journalist - rather than a wannabe cycling fan/blogger - so that I could snaffle myself a press pass and mingle with the crowds at this cycling mecca!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Vuelta a Espana 2012 - preview & predictions

The final Grand Tour for 2012 has just begun - the Tour of Spain, better known as the Vuelta a Espana.

The Vuelta often (and unfairly) lacks some of the following that the Giro and the Tour de France attract.  Perhaps people are 'cycling-weary', especially after a big year on the ProTour that included an Olympics as well.

Nonetheless, this year's Vueta is worth following!  It is very different to this year's Tour de France, in that the Vuelta route is much more for pure climbers.  There will be some interesting battles, and a number of questions will likely be answered...

Who will win?

Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Tinkoff)

The big story of this year's race is the return of El Pistolero - Alberto Contador - after his suspension for use of clenbuterol.  He is almost an unbackable favourite with the bookmakers.  I believe he will win, but not by the crushing margin many are predicting.

In his favour is the fact he hasn't raced the Giro, Tour, or the Olympics, and will have fresh legs.  I believe this is the key factor that will see him prevail over the likes of Froome and Van den Broek.  Against him is his lack of racing - anyone who has raced before knows there is no substitute for 'race fitness'... 

Expect to see Alberto Contador wearing the red leader's jersey at the conclusion of the Vuelta...

Who will come 2nd & 3rd?

Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Second at least year's Vuelta, after losing valuable time early on trying to sheperd Bradley Wiggins to teh win (sound familiar?).  Second at this year's Tour de France, and arguably could have won himself if given the leeway to do so.  There is no doubt the Kenyan-born Brit has the ability to win a grand tour one day.

I believe he will come second again in this race though, mainly because of his tough Tour de France and Olympics campaigns.  The fresh legs of Contador will be too much for the talented Froome to overcome...

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Another rider with fresh legs, and a grand tour pedigree, is Joaquim 'Purito' Rodriguez. This punchy Spanish climber has podiumed at grand tours before, but has never broken through for the win.

He is not in the same class as Contador, but will challenge Froome hard for 2nd place.  Apart from having fresh legs, Rodriguez's big advantage is his ability to win stages and take advantage of the generous time bonuses on offer at the Vuelta.  This will put him at a huge advantage over Froome...

Close, but not quite...

Jurgen Van den Broek (Lotto-Belisol)

For me, VdB was the big surprise in this year's Tour de France. He showed genuine improvement, and made the big step up in class to show he is capable of winning a grand tour some time soon.  Like Froome though, I don't think he'll be able to back-up after a very tough Tour and will finish just off the podium.

The Rabobank Dilemma

Robert Gesink vs Bauke Mollema

This will be an interesting race within a race.  Rabobank has a 'dual leader' strategy for the Vuelta, giving both Gesink and Mollema freedom to do their best for the overall.

On the one hand you have Gesink, who has promised much as a grand tour contender but has never broken through for an overall podium.  Then you have the 'young gun' Mollema, who is desperate to prove himself as worthy of outright team leader status.

By all accounts, both riders get on well and the team dynamic is very good. So it will be fascinating to see which of these riders prevails as the standout for Rabobank.  It will likely decide team leader status for next year's Tour de France...

Viewing in Australia

SBS Television is showing a handful of stages live this year - do yourself a favour and watch this year's race. It should be a great mountains battle between the key contenders...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Race 6/2012 - Balmoral Club Criterium, Murarrie.

A great start to the month of August training-wise saw me having racked up over 300km in the first 9 days. After having Friday off the bike (as I had to cart a lot of work stuff home for a trip to Sydney at the start of next week), I decided it was time to bust out the brand new club jersey and hit the Saturday morning crits.

After a solid week and a half of steady base-building style riding, I knew I had no 'speed' - but I was hoping my overall fitness would get me through.  The aim was to basically get through the race with the pack, giving me a solid effort at a higher intensity than normal in order to give the legs a bit of a 'change up' as part of my August 'build'.

The hardest part of the day was getting out of bed!  It was a cold morning, with some very fresh (ie. freezing!) south-westerly winds whipping around.  I dragged out my wind-vest for the first time in 3 years, and also had an under-shirt under my jersey, and arm-warmers...

The race had a good-size peloton - around 35 people toed the line for C-Grade.  After a quick race briefing we were racing 40min + 3 laps), we were away. We settled into a steady pace, with two main teams (QSM and Kangaroo Point Cycling Club) looking to control the race.

All went well in the first half of the race, I was able to maintain a midfield position without killing myself. I was feeling god, and was happy with how I felt.

Everything changed just after the mid-way prime sprint though. I had a really tough time from about the 25min mark to about 40min.  It was 15min of total pain for me.  I really struggled, and had to focus hard and put in some big efforts to hold on to the back of the pack.  Not really sure why - if it was the pace, or just a shock to the legs being at that intensity for so long - but it was very hard work.

The pace then dipped, as the two main teams eased up waiting for the 3 laps to go sign to come out.  It didn't arrive until the 45min mark, so I got two easy laps to 'recover'.

This was surprising for me - I recovered very quickly. After those two laps, I felt terrific and ready to get going again!  I guess this was the benefit of my consistent base riding over the last week and a half...

The final three laps went quickly.  I was in a great position on the last lap, and came into the final corner in the front third of the field.  Unfortunately, I had no sprint to unleash (but that will come!) - so I did what I could, and rolled over the line in about 15th place.

All up, a terrific morning of racing. A great confidence build, and told me a lot about how well my training is going - it's certainly encouraged me to keep up my consistency!

Final stats for the race - 50min at 39km/h average.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

July 2012 Review

A bit of a write-off month for me. Missed a few weeks due to work & family holiday travel, then struggled to get back into the swing of things for the last quarter of the month...

Mileage - 163km (year-to-date total - 2764km)
Weight - 78kg (steady)

Don't really want to dwell on this 'off month' - no point in any woulda-shoulda-coulda analysis.  I did learn a few lessons though that I will take with me moving forward.

The habit of training

What surprised me most, and caught me off-guard, was how hard I found it to get back into the habit of regular training after the forced month off the bike.

I expected to just resume my usual schedule.  But I was really disorganised, found myself shrugging off some perfect cycling days, and slept-in way too easily.  It goes to show how important it is to have that 'standard routine' ingrained into you, so you just 'get up and go' without thinking about it.

So that's one of my main goals this month - restarting the 'habit'.  I know my fitness and pace will bounce back quickly with that habit and consistency back, so the motivation and reward are both there.  The month has started well cycling-wise, having ridden both days, plus the weather outlook is perfect, so all the stars are aligning...  :)

Racing for the month ahead

The key event this month is the Charles Coin Memorial road race. For me (Division 6 / Masters C), this will be a 72km race (4 x 18km laps) out at Mulgowie, which is south of Laidley, Qld.

Much like the Avanti Classic back in June, I have a shortened preparation for this one.  Learning from that though, I will be trying to get in some much longer rides in prior to the race. 

The keys will be doing the long Sunday club rides for the next two weekends (usually around 80km), and joining some other group rides on each Saturday as well for similar length rides.  I'll fit some faster work in on my weekday commutes to sharpen the legs up as well.

If I can achieve these training goals, I think I can realistically hope to finish with a large part of the peloton come race day.  Not knowing the course, I may be misguided - but that's the goal anyhow.

Hopefully, if all goes to plan, this will be a relatively high-mileage month for me, which will set me up for some good results in the last quarter of the year.