Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Race 3/2013 - BBP Open Criterium, Toowoomba

Only my third race for the year, and I was lifting things up a level.  I made the 90 minute drive west of Brisbane to Toowoomba, a large town sitting atop the Great Dividing Range.  At the Glenvale Criterium Circuit, I was signed up for the Be Better Psychology Open in Masters C.

After a few navigation errors once I'd reached Toowoomba itself, I arrived at the criterium circuit about 20 minutes before race start.  I quickly signed on, grabbed my number, got changed, and squeezed in a few minutes warm-up before the call up for race start.

The temperature was perfect for racing, however the wind was not.  A fairly strong 'Toowoomba special' was blowing across the circuit.  The commissaires called the role at the start line (there were 18 of us), gave us a quick run down (30 minutes + 2 laps, with 2 mid-race primes), and we were away!

Race time!

The pace pretty much exploded from the start.  I felt the lack of a good warm-up, especially as the pace nudged 60km/h with the wind at our backs along the first pass of the clubhouse.  We swung around a corner, and the crosswind smacked us all across the width of the circuit.

I was already red-lining - on the first lap!!  We sprinted up the first climb, then swung around down the long back straight.  Now we had a cross/headwind, and we were strung out in single file along the edge of the circuit.  Half-way along and - KABOOM - my legs exploded and I was out the back.

Dropped on the first lap - not quite what I was hoping for!  The Race Commentator didn't miss me either, as I tried to regather my breath (and composure!) along the home straight, I heard him say, "And here comes a Balmoral rider - he obviously forgot this is a race and not a coffee ride, let's see if he can catch back on..."

I laughed and waved, and decided to make the most of what looked like becoming a hard training day instead of a race.

Wait up fellas!!  Disappearing off the back, on one of the climbs...

In the end, what became apparent was that I am still a good level below Open racing ability.  I did my best each time the peloton came around (another three times), but the best I could do was hold on for one full lap on one occasion.  I just wasn't good enough.

That said, a bad day on the bike is still, well, a good day! I learnt plenty about racing in crosswinds, and enjoyed watching my much stronger competitors as they went past.  I basically did a set of intervals for 30min, working hard and making the most of my time on the circuit.

My final stats were:
40 minutes of racing; Average speed of 29.5km/h; Top speed of 63.7km/h!
My fastest lap of the 1.8km full circuit was 2min 56sec - my 3rd lap, and the only one I completed under 3 minutes...
In contrast - the winner averaged 39.5km/h, and hit a top speed of 69.8km/h...!!

Glenvale Criterium Circuit

If you haven't raced at Glenvale before, and get the chance, you should definitely do it.  It is a very honest (and fast!) criterium circuit, and I highly recommend it.

If you consider the most commonly raced, dedicated off-road criterium circuits in South-East Queensland, then Glenvale is probably the most balanced and fairest of them all.  Murarrie and Nundah are flat tracks for the sprinters, while Lakeside and Nerang both have decent climbs in them that sap the legs and favour the lightweights.

The Glenvale track (photo taken during construction)

Glenvale is 'just right' - a couple of shorter climbs that favour neither the sprinter or climber.  Add in some wind, and there is no way anyone can fake (or hide) their way through a race.  A brilliant test of racing ability - I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to race there to see if I've improved...

Finally - many thanks to the cycling community of Toowoomba (and the organising club, Bikeline Racing).  It was an extremely well-run day of racing, by a very friendly and welcoming crew. Thanks, and I'm looking forward to coming back again!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Race 2/2013 - C-Grade club criterium, Murarrie

Finally!! Yesterday I raced my first criterium for the year.  Felt fantastic to pin a number on and bump handlebars in a fast moving peloton again.  Lots of fun, and stoked to reach all my goals for the morning!

Felt very nervous when I woke up in the morning - actually tried to talk myself out of it and go and do a bunch ride instead! But I had pencilled this race down in my head, and forced myself to head out and test the legs. The 20min ride to the crit circuit definitely helped relax me and settle the nerves.

Goal 1 - get through the first 5 minutes...

Around 40 starters for the 40min + 3 laps race.  A good turn-up, and I distracted myself by checking out some of the carbon bling in the peloton as we awaited the start. My first goal was to get through the first few laps.  I knew the pace would be a bit of a shock to the system, so the plan was to just keep my head down and work hard to stay amongst it.

A hard start did ensue - with such a big pack, the stronger teams were obviously keen to shake things up a bit.  I was happy to get through it and still be feeling OK...

Goal 2 - make the half-way prime...

A prime sprint prize was scheduled for the half-way mark (20min) - that became my next survival goal.  The wind was causing a bit of havoc, particularly along the '3rd straight' heading east.  It was a head/crosswind, and I couldn't quite work out exactly where it was coming from - no matter where I positioned myself I seemed to be getting buffeted by the wind.

Near the halfway mark, a flock of ibis in the sky caught my attention.  They were 'hovering' in a V-formation - and it clicked in my head that they must be facing direct into the wind.  So I used that to pick my position for the next lap, and it worked a treat...  :)

Twenty minutes came around, and I was still there!  I moved forward when the whistle blew for the sprint, giving myself some buffer to drift back when the pace sky-rocketed for the sprint.  I held well, and gave myself a little mental high-five for reaching the mid-race milestone...

Goal 3 - make it to the end!!

The last 20 minutes to go - time to hang tough!!  I had a few scary moments in the final half of the race, getting caught out a few times as I drifted towards the back.  I was really working hard, but felt ok at the same time.  I was lucky that the pace dipped at around the 30min mark when we were overtaken by B-Grade - it gave me a short, welcome rest.

Finally, at the 38min mark, the "3 laps to go" sign went up.  I had made it!  A big grin spread across my face. The rest of the race was just cream now, I'd just watch the moves and follow what I could...

Position is everything

Again, the stronger teams lifted the pace, and it was hard to follow.  I pushed hard, and managed to move up to mid-pack.  We reached the last lap, and I was trying to watch everyone at once to spot the winning move!

I saw a line of "Ascot Racing" riders move up the outside. I jumped across, and buried myself to follow.  We came flying along the 3rd straight, and I allowed myself to dream for a second that I could actually score  place...

Then my legs absolutely detonated, and that was that!  I had reached my limit, but had exceeded my expectations for my first race back. Made it to the end, and put myself in a position to win.

Looking forward to the next race, and seeing if I can repeat the effort!

Friday, 4 October 2013

September 2013 Review

I've been quit blog-wise for the past month.  Mainly because I haven't had anything exciting to say! I've just been consistently logging up my kilometres...


January - 300km / 13hrs
February - 452km / 20hrs
March - 341km / 20hrs
April - 269km / 12hrs
May - 201km / 10hrs
June - 437km / 21hrs
July - 71km / 4hrs
August - 518km / 26hrs
September - 455km / 21hrs

Year to date - 3043km / 148hrs


So my last two months have been my biggest two mileage months for the year so far.  Happy with that - now to see if I can make it three big months in a row...

Sand, sun & surf...

One of the highlights of the month for me was a week down at Burleigh Heads for a family holiday.  I took the bike down with me, and escaped for a couple of rides while I was there.

On the Wednesday night, I headed over to the Nerang Velodrome for "Road-track training". This is a winter training session they do, using road bikes on the track (doable as the banking at Nerang is very shallow).  Basically, its an hour long session of 100 laps, building to a sprint every 10th lap. 

Nerang outdoor velodrome

It was one of the toughest sessions I've ever done on a bike!!  I was clearly a level or two below most of the other dozen riders there, so I spent a fair bit of time circling on the upper parts of the track trying desperately to recover.  I was completely wrecked by the end, but had a fantastic time.  If you ever get the chance to participate in something like this, you should totally do it.

I also squeezed in another ride, following the coastline north & south of Burleigh. There are a huge number of bunches riding the coast roads, so I just 'bunch hopped' for the morning.  The views along the beach roads are stunning, and its no wonder cycling is such a huge recreational sport on the Gold Coast.

Finishing with a bang...

... but not a good sort of bang!!  On the last day of the month, almost home on my cycle-commute, my rear shifting suddenly got very dodgy, very quickly.  When I got home, I set the bike up on the stand to investigate, and the rear gear cable promptly snapped. D'oh!!

I generally do all my basic maintenance and repairs myself, teaching myself what I don't know via the vast resources of Google, forums, and YouTube.  But its actually been a few years since my bike has been looked over by a genuine professional mechanic, so I decided this was an opportune time to book the bike in for a full service.

My bike is being looked after today at Planet Cycles, getting the full pro "Saturn Service".  It basically involves the entire bike being pulled apart, everything cleaned out & regreased, bearings replaced, and then put back together.  I'm getting all my cables replaced as well (they're all 4+ years old), and I've already gotten the call from the mechanic saying my headset bearings are in pretty bad shape, so they are getting replaced too.

Its obviously not cheap, but Planet Cycles have a great reputation for their workshop expertise. Given its been around 4 years since a mechanic has touched my bike, and it'll likely be a long time before a mechanic sees it again, I reckon it'll be money well spent...

Hopefully I'll get my bike back after work today.  Will be good to give it a spin tomorrow morning and see how it feels.

October plans

Racing!  After this weekend, I'm planning to race every weekend for the rest of the month.  Depending on how I go, I may even have a crack at the Open criterium race in Toowoomba near the end of the month - the Be Better Psychology Open on the 27th October.

So that's it from me for now - time to shave the legs, pin a number on, and see if the last couple of months of consistent training will pay off on the criterium track...!!