Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

I'm back!!

Hello world!! :-)

Funny how things happen in life.  This time last year, I had some plans for the following twelve months.  Sadly, they came nowhere near fruition...

No point really on getting too deep and introspective about it.  Work was super-busy and a bit painful, both my teenage girls had a very busy year (academically & sporting) which took up a lot of my focus and energy.  Bottom line though is that I pretty much lost my cycling mojo.  I did just enough to remember how to actually ride a bike, but I wasn't really enjoying myself too much - it seemed more like a chore...

But that has all changed - and I'm excited!!

Funny how things happen, how a bolt out of the blue can ignite a fire that you didn't even realise was ready to off.

In late October of this year, I got an email.  It was about the L'Etape du Tour event that had been slated to be run in Australia in 2016.  Well - it was on!! It's being held in December 2016, based in Jindabyne, NSW, and will be 160+ km in the Snowy Mountains around Perisher and Thredbo ski resorts.

I didn't expect it, but as I read the (scant) early details in that email, my mojo welled up inside of me. I was genuinely excited, for the first time in a loooong time!! I resolved then and there that this would be my target, and I would be ready for it!!

A Simple Plan

I decided to start straight away with a simple plan - a couple of months of base training in November and December 2015 to get the body ready for some big mileage next year.

I have never ridden 600km in a month before, so I figured that I would get serious and make that my goal. I decided that would test me - was I really back? Did I really want this? Was I just momentarily excited or was my motivation back for real?

November came and went, and - 653km!!  The best part about it was, even though it eclipsed my previous highest monthly mileage, and was almost double my previous best for the year, is that it was so easy. No ride was ever a chore. Every pedal stroke, even on the days I was tired or sore, felt like it was another pedal stroke closer to my goal.

All on track...!! :-)

Now here we are in December. Not even halfway through the month yet, but more than halfway to 600km again. It feels so good to feel this good, both physically and mentally... :-)

More than a quarter of my 2015 mileage was done in the last 6 weeks!

What's Next?

Not planning too far ahead just yet. I just want to enjoy this mojo and motivation - it's been so long since I felt this way on the bike, so I'm not taking it for granted.

I have though had a bit of a look ahead at the Gran Fondo & Charity Ride calendar for next year, and pencilled in one each month for February to June.  I'd like to do one each month - they are great for exploring new roads and routes, remembering how to ride in a group, and testing my distance limits in a supported environment.

I'm also keen to find a cycling social group again. All my riding so far this year has been pretty much solo or with my wife and kids.  While I think that will always be the majority of my riding (which is great because I enjoy that!), I'd also like to reconnect in with a wider social group of cyclists.  Luckily I live in a city (Brisbane) where there are plenty of options for me to try...

Thanks for reading! More updates, plans, and reviews to come... :-)

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Milan - San Remo 2015: Preview & Predictions

While the cycling season technically began back in January with the Tour Down Under, the 'real' season (for me, at least!) begins on Sunday with the first of cycling's monuments for the year - Milan  - San Remo (MSR).

Also known as "La Primavera" (Italian for the season of Spring), this race is one of five one-day races that holds a special, prestigious status. Along with the Tour of Flanders (the Ronde van Vlaanderen), Paris-Roubaix (the Hell of the North), Liege-Bastogne-Liege ("La Doyenne"), and the Giro di Lombardia (The Race of the Falling Leaves) - these Monuments of cycling are the most sought after one-day titles in the season.

On paper, MSR is a sprinter's race. But its sheer distance (an epic 293km) and a couple of short but nasty climbs at the end make it very difficult. For that reason, its always a very hard race to predict the winner.

The race really starts at the foot of the Cipressa, a 5km climb at the 270km mark. This where we'll find out who has anything left in their legs.  Whoever is left then has to get over the Poggio, a short, sharp 4km climb with less than 10km to go.  The victor is often amongst the first few over the top of this final ascent.

As always though, there are a few favourites, and some smokeys that we'll be watching.

Who will win? The Big Three

Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) is the defending champion, and has started off the season in terrific form.  Technically a sprinter, but his strength is, well, his strength. He is best in difficult sprints, where the pure sprinters have already fallen by the wayside. Will be very hard to beat again this year.

Kristoff winning ahead of Peter Sagan in the Tour of Switzerland last year

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quickstep), a previous winner and more of a pure sprinter than Kristoff. He knows how to win this rce, and has been targeting it specifically.  Rumour has it though that he's been a little unwell over the last couple of weeks, I actually think his team-mates, Zdenek Stybar and Michal Kwiatkowski, are a better chance for the win.

Cavendish (far left), with team-mates Kwiatkowsky (world champ stripes) & Stybar (far right)

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) has the weight of expectation on his shoulders here. Arguably the most all-round talented rider in the entire peloton, but still hasn't broken through for a Monument win (which he so desperately wants).  In a new team this year, we'll see if they've given him the guidance and strategy to finally get up on the top step of the podium.

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) is, without question, the strongest rider in the race. But pure srength doesn't win it, and Fabian has had a frustrating and cruel run of podium places here. Will be there at the end, but we'll see if he can snaffle the chocolates...

Fabian Cancellara, aka Fabs or Spartacus

Who I'll Be Cheering For

Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge) has clear team leader status for this race with the injury to Simon Gerrans. A sprinter very much in the style of Kristoff, the young Australian is in terrific form and is riding with confidence. I'd love to see a great result for him here.

Matthews winning a stage of the Giro d'Italia ahead of Cadel Evans last year

Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), the current Australian road champion, almost won here a few years ago (losing by a tyre width to Cavendish).  Started the season is great form, he is one of my all-time favourite cyclists. Fingers crossed he starts the race in good shape.


The Smokeys

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has been in outstanding form, and looked fantastic in the Paris-Nice stage race while riding in support of team-mate (& Australian) Ritchie Porte. Juan-Jose Lobato (Movistar) also looks good, as does former world champ Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).

Where to Watch?

For my fellow Australians, the race is being telecast live (to Eastern States and South Australia) on SBS from 11:45pm on Sunday night.  Have a thermos of coffee and some Timtams ready for what should be an outstanding night of racing!!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The UCI Hour Record - the next attempt!!

The UCI Hour Record has had an incredible resurgence in interest over the last few months.  After wallowing for many years (mainly due to confusing technical regulations and a lack of 'big name' interest), it has suddenly gained in its prestige.

Let's be honest, we can squarely give all the credit in this department to the man so many of us love - the great Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing).  He tackled the Hour Record as his farewell to cycling after a stellar road career, and it was terrific to see him hold the record for a while.

Since then, there's been a flurry of activity as riders tackled (or prepare to tackle) this newly prestigious event.  Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) set a new record of 51.852km late last year.

Then our own Jack Bobridge (Team Budget Forklifts), or "Jacky Bobby" as we love to call him, had a red hot crack at the record two weeks ago.  He was coming off some terrific form from the Australian Road Nationals and the Tour Down Under. Coupled with his vast track-racing experience, I expected Jack to smash Brandle's record - but he fell tantalisingly short, covering 51.3km in Melbourne's DISC velodrome.


There's been plenty of analysis of Bobridge's effort since then, by people with much more knowledge than me. But the consensus seems to be that Jack erred in his pacing strategy, starting out way too fast, and fading in the latter stages of the attempt (pretty much the exact opposite of Voigt's & Brandle's pacing strategies).  I'm hoping he'll have another crack soon, as I reckon he'll beat it with the benefit of experience.


The next challenger is another Australian - Rohan Dennis (BMC). He is attempting the record tonight, at the BMC Velodrome in Grenchen, Switzerland.  He is another rider in terrific form, with a strong ride in the Aussie Road Nationals, and then an outstanding overall victory at the Tour Down Under.

In Dennis's favour is having watched Bobridge's effort - he can learn from where Jack went wrong.  This may prove to be crucial tonight.

Looking ahead, Thomas Dekker will be the next attempt.  There are a number of reason's why Dekker will be a hot favourite to lift the record even higher - he is attempting the record at altitude (in Mexico); he has given himself a long time to acclimatize for the attempt; and he is a rider without a contract, so he is riding to try and win himself a place on a new team.  Dekker's attempt is on February 25th, so we'll have another look at that closer to time.

We can't write an article on this without of course mentioning Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky).  The enigmatic British rider is starting to shift his attentions back to his track-racing origins after a hugely successful road career (including a Tour de France overall victory).  No details yet as to when or where, but its likely to be mid-year.

Where to watch Rohan Dennis

There a few options for watching Rohan Dennis have the latest attempt tonight.

Australian Television - SBS2 will be telecasting the attempt LIVE at 11:50pm daylight-savings time (10:50pm QLD time). Check your guides to confirm!
Internet streaming - The UCI are streaming the attempt at : LINK HERE
Twitter - follow the action using the #UCIHourRecord hashtag

Let's hope Rohan Dennis can bring the record home for Australia!!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Tour Down Under 2015 - preview & predictions

Arguably the biggest race of the Australian cycling calendar (our own road nationals are pretty awesome too!!), the 2015 edition of the TDU is about to kick-off.

The Santos Tour Down Under is a perfect early-season kickstarter for the World Tour peloton.  Six relatively short stages (plus a criterium prologue) at a maximum distance of 151km. Three sprint stages, two hilly stages (let's not pretend they're mountains!), and a criterium to finish things off on the last day.  Nothing too stressful (unless the weather gets hot!).

So - who is going to win???

Normally, the Australian Road Nationals, held a week earlier, are a great predictor of which of the Australians will do well.  In fact last year, the same riders filled the podium in both races in 2014.  However, this year's Nationals were a very different affair. The strongest team had no real leader, and the favourites didn't have much of a support team!  So for the overall at the TDU, we'll ignore those results this time around...

The Favourites for the Overall

Ritchie Porte (Team Sky)

The Tasmanian comes to the TDU in fantastic form. Healthy, riding well, and with a terrific team in support, Ritchie Porte has a terrific chance to finish the week on top!  I reckon he'll take the leader's ochre jersey this week.

Cadel Evans (BMC)

The sentimental favourite - this will be the plucky Australian champion's final World Tour race before retirement.  No-one can question his motivation, and unlike Nationals he will have a very good team riding in support.  While I think Ritchie Porte will win, I'm hoping Cadel will come up with the win!!

Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin)

Worst. Sunglasses. Ever.

The lanky Canadian, a previous winner of the Giro d'Italia, could go well here. There are no indications as to his form though...

Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo)

'Dodger' also comes to the TDU in good form. The Australian is a multiple World Time Trial Champion is coming towards the end of his career, so won't have many more chances to win this race.

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)

A young Italian rider who is emerging as a genuine Grand Tour rider (& contender), hopefully he'll be bringing some early-season form to Australia and will be racing for the win.

The Sprinters

The Tour Down Under is an early season feast for the sprinters.  Four of the six stages are for them, not including the People's Classic criterium prologue.  Andre 'The Gorilla' Greipel (LottoNL-Jumbo) has taken a huge number of wins here in the past, but won't be lining up this year...

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin)

That hair!!

Probably the best road sprinter in the world right now (and also the best hair in the peloton!) - Kittel will unquestionably be the man to beat on the flat stages this year.

Heinrich Haussler (IAM)

The newly-crowned Australian national champion, Heino will be looking to show off his new champions jersey with some stage wins.  His experience will help him here.

Other names to watch out for will be Greg Henderson (LottoNL-Jumbo), Steele Von Hoff (UniSA-Australia), and the brilliantly named Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida)

So that's it!  Should be a terrific week of racing!  Australian fans can watch it live on Channel Nine (& their digital channel GEM) - the details can be found here.

C'mon Cadel!!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A new year begins - the 2015 plan

So a new year has begun!! Time for phase 2 of the "become an awesome Masters cyclist" plan...

I've got a very rough structure to the plan, split into a few phases:

Phase 1 (Nov-Dec 2014) - do whatever the hell I want, just so long as I'm doing some sort of exercise.
Phase 2 (Jan-Feb 2015) - start to bring an emphasis on 'cardio/endurance' exercise, specifically swimming, cycling, and running.
Phase 3 (Mar-Jul 2015) - focus becomes more specific again, onto cycling and running.
Phase 4 (Aug-Sep 2015) - Cycling, cycling, cycling!!
Phase 5 (Oct 2015-onwards) - get my racing licence again...

Phase 1 went fine, mixing up all sorts of exercises and just maintaining the rough habit of doing something most days.

Now onto Phase 2. While I still plan to keep things pretty mixed up and with lots of variety, I'm going to make sure I have a reasonably steady diet of cycling, running, & swimming in amongst it all. The focus will be on endurance in all of these, and slowly starting to build some length to these efforts over these two months (both in time and distance).

I'm also hoping to sneak in some events. Mainly some parkruns (I'm lucky to have a few close by), a cycling gran fondo, and maybe even a short triathlon.  Nothing serious, but just to enjoy the vibe of 'events', be amongst other like-minded people, and feed off their energy!!

Now, I just need to cross my fingers for a few sunny days to make things a little easier...!!