The start of the week was signified by some very fatigued legs from the Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch race. This prompted my decision that back to back races on the coming weekend was not a wise choice. There was no benefit to be gained from racing on tired legs, only risk of overtraining at a time so close to my main race of the season. I chose to focus my week on the Bay City Cycle Tour primarily because it covered the Argus Cycle Tour route and to forfeit participation in Die Wilde race.
On Tuesday I did a 2hr ride to work, covering 1 x 20 min FTP interval, 15 min recovery, then 6 x 1min max intervals with 5 min recovery. This was a taxing session, and really set the bar for the week. I had a buzz of endorphins following this session, a good HIGH. With hindsight though it was a bit much, and had a negative effect on the Wed session.
On Wed I planned to do VO2 max intervals, which is 125% FTP, 5 off 2min interval with 2 min recovery. Due to Tues’s session I did not hit the target power zones on Wed, which nullified the potential impact of Wed’s workout. Nevertheless, so we live and learn.
Thur was recovery riding and Sat was a Taper rep workout. By Sat my body was recovering nicely from the weeks earlier workouts resulting in a Stress Balance of 2.6 for Sunday’s race, a positive number above 0 is good enough.
I was looking forward to the Bay City Race, because it was the last one of the League, and I could feel myself getting stronger week on week. There were a few Vet, Ladies, and Masters, that I have over the weeks identified as benchmarks to gauge my improvement against. On previous races I was lagging them by 3-5 minutes, and was targeting to finish with them on this race.
The warm up ride to the race start was sociable, as when I reached the Main Road, a few riders of Star Team came by and I enjoyed riding and chatting with them. It is always a wonderful feeling to be part of the select mass of people in vehicles and on bikes heading to a race venue, while the rest of the city is still sleeping.
The starting countdown was followed by the sound of cleats being clicked in as wheels started rolling, eyes were focused on the wheels ahead to allow for quick evasive action in the event of any unprepared slowing.
The initial pace was good, fast but not requiring too high energy expenditure. I started slowly moving forward in the peloton so as to be ahead of those earlier mentioned benchmarks, before reaching the first climb up Boyes Drive. Along Spaansemacht Road I saw the pink jersey, Jenny, leader of the Elite Ladies, raise her hand as she moved to the edge of the peloton, my guess was that she had punctured, or had a bike fault.
As we hit the steeper part of Boyes Drive the group leaders proved once again to be too strong for me to hold with, and the secondary group (containing my benchmarks) started to form as per previous races. I was at the front of the group and decided to keep my own pace, and to lead the group for now wouldn’t be a disadvantage. At the top of the climb 2 riders came past, and I was happy with the position I had as it gave me preference for choice of lines through the sweeping downhill bends. Loads of fun going down there at speed. Also knowing that there were other riders behind me gave me comfort that I did not need to check for vehicles before taking a line into a bend.
On the flat along the beach front the group contained about 15 riders, and I eased up from the front so as to take a more relaxed position behind some wheels. At the same time Jenny re-emerged and rode at pace to the front of the group and started encouraging some teamwork at the front. The pace picked up nicely and I was willing to work harder with her and a few others, and push for a strong finishing time. The pace was good, and the racing was exhillirating.
When we got to Simonstown I decided to ease up slightly and drop back in the group so as to get some recovery before the next climb up Smitswinkel. By the time we reached the climb I had some strong legs again and kept with the front of the group as we climbed. I was satisfied with how I was holding up when I went over the top with the group. On the long straight downhill, our pace picked up again and we were motoring along nicely. I expected the leaders of the next start group, A-C, to catch us soon, and I knew that I needed to save energy for that so as not to get dropped when that pace increase came.
Our group was eventually caught at the bottom of Slangkop by the A-C riders, and I accelerated onto their wheels as they passed. The climb up Slangkop had me heading straight into the red zone. In no time I was working very hard to hang on. Fortunately the climb is not too long and not too much of a gap had been created between me and the group by the time we reached the top. I tried hard to close the gap on the downhill without going over the edge of the road, or losing my wheel in one of the tight bends. On the flat section at the bottom, a tandem came by with 2 riders on its wheel, I immediately grabbed the opportunity, accelerated as hard for as long as I could, I definitely burned a few matches there, and was totally chuffed when I bridged the gap and got onto their wheel. The tandem proceeded to pull us back onto the A-C bunch that had dropped me on Slangkop. Great Stuff !!!
I was now sitting comfortably on a fast paced peloton heading towards Oukaap se weg, final climb of the day, and my benchmark competitors, were somewhere behind me. When we reached the climb the leaders took off, I was unable to hold their power, and settled into my own rhythm for the 7km climb. I kept my power output steady around the 280W, my FTP , and my heart rate was around 91%, and I was feeling fairly comfortable. As the climb progressed I start passing a few of the A-C riders that were able to keep with the group at the start of the climb but by now had little left in their tank. I felt very positive of my performance up Oukaap se Weg. Way to GO !!!
With about 200m to go at the top of the climb, Jenny re-emerged next to me, and I turned to see Caren (one of my benchmarks) with her. None of the others were present. I allowed them to pass and sat on their wheels on the downhill, getting some recovery and preparing to ride hard so as not to lose them on the flat section that lay ahead. By the time we reached the bottom 2 more guys of the A-C group had joined us. There was still about 10km to the finish, and we started to pick up the speed again, while sharing the load setting the pace. We were going nice and fast, + 40kph, and it was very challenging and thrilling.
On the last 2 small rollers before the finish straight we played some cat and mouse games seeing who still had some legs, and wearing out those that were just hanging on. I felt strong and I was matching Jenny. By the time we reached the flat run to the line we were 4, and as we got closer to the line I was a bit stronger than the others and crossed the line before them. When I stopped the clock, flipped the screen to my race time, and saw a time of 2h30, I was shocked, not at all what I was expecting. My target time was 2h40, I had bettered it by 10 min, improved by 34 min from the previous year, and had finished ahead of my benchmarks… it was one of those personal moments when emotion sweeps over you and there is nothing much you can do, but embrace it.
The last race of the League was over.