Saturday, 27 October 2012

Weekend Races - Hill Climb TT + West Coast

This was the first of 2, Double Header Weekends, League Races on the Saturday and Sunday.
First up was the Hill Climb TT. The venue was Redhill, a 4.5km climb, with a 5.4% avg Gradient. I had approached this event with a fair amount of anxiety. My climbing capability is not very good, and worse so with my recent off peak performance. A friend had earlier the week shared his thoughts on the event, that entry fees had already been paid, and it was an opportunity to gain experience and learn. It was with this conviction that I committed to pitch up on the start line. On Friday we had rain and the forecast was for less than favourable rainy and windy conditions for the Saturday. Fortunately the forecasters had it wrong and I was welcomed at the venue by a gloriously beautiful morning.

After a 20 min warm-up I rolled up to the Vets that were assembling at the start line. I normally feel intimidated amongst the racing team guys. Soon the race commissars were calling out vet race numbers, and I was the first up, with subsequent 30s gaps between racers. There was a 500m flat to get the legs loosened before the gradient set in. I had ridden this climb before so had a good idea of what to expect. My pace on the first section was good, and I was keeping an eye on the Garmin’s avg Power reading, targeting to keep just over 300W. About halfway up, I was passed by the second starter. I was not too fazed because I knew that the field was very strong, and my power avg was at my optimum.

I crossed the finish line in 13:38, with a Normalised Power reading of 319W. I was satisfied with this because my FTTP in the beginning of the year was at 300W, so I was improving, and that is all I need to do. The experience gained was invaluable, as this will not be my last Hill Climb TT, and my mindset will be far different next time round.

Sunday was the West Coast Race, 85km on a flat and very fast route. Rain clouds were gathering, which is not good on such a fast course, especially since there were quite a few ugly falls last year in similar conditions. Luckily the rain stayed away for the race duration. The wind however had picked up and we were to be faced by a 35kph South Easterly wind on the return half.

The pace off the start was very fast. Race teams were attacking each other which caused some blistering accelerations. Over the first 40min of the race our speeds were 40-60kph. Those accelerations put me in the red on quite a number of occasions. I would start to drift off the back and have to put in short high effort bursts to pull back in. These were taking their toll, and I could feel the lactic building up in my legs every time, along with heavy breathing, panting bouts, which were burning my lungs. Once back in the bunch I could start to recover, but soon there would be another attack off the front. There were times when I wanted to stop the suffering and sit up. This would be followed by a sense of a minor victory every time I pulled back in to survive a bit longer.

When we turned off the West Coast Road and up the hill going to Atlantis, I could no longer hold the group pace and dropped off.  I was not alone for long because Eugene, had been dropped earlier and was making his way towards me. We recovered and started working together. This teamwork continued for the remaining 50km of the race. We rode very well against the strong wind on the return route, averaging a speed of 30kph. This camaraderie and teamwork was equally welcomed and valued.

My finishing time was not as good as last year, but the race was more valuable in terms of conditioning, mentally and physically, experience gained in tough conditions, and a new friendship forged.

Let’s Ride !!!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Team Sekuritas at the 1 Tonner

Eeeshhh !!! It has been 3 months since my last blog spot. So much has happened in my cycling world, so many experiences to share.
I have been doing quite a few 4-6 hour long rides, with Team Sekuritas.  A team of 12 cyclists formed to participate in the Coronation Double Century . A cool group of guys, whose antics I enjoy along our weekly training rides.

4 Weeks ago in Franschoek
Last Sunday was the 100mile, One Tonner, and Team Sekuritas had decided to ride this event as a team.  
Scheduled event start was at 06.30, and I was parked and out of the car at 06.15. I quickly prepared my bike, and grabbed all my on road goodies. As I hurried towards the start along the gravel road I spotted Karol and soon I was together with the group at their cars where they were in various stages of preparedness.
Once all were dressed, sunblock applied, nutritional requirements packed, wheels inflated, social requirements satisfied, we headed on the road towards the start. We had planned to start in Group N, but when we arrived at the start Group W were already in the starting stalls. We joined them and we were off.

The plan was for Karol to lead us out at the start, and he performed this task to perfection. Early pace was comfortable to warm the legs up. Soon we were riding in a solid pace line formation, 30s rotation up front then drop to the back of the line. We did this very well, and kept it up for 3,5 hrs. At times it was tricky for the rider dropping back to fall into formation, because other riders would try to latch onto the back of us. In the main they gave space to the rider trying to get back into formation.
I was conscious of nutrition as I had suffered on this event previously. So in my pockets I had peanut butter sandwiches, banana, and Hammer Perpetuem, Energy Drink Powder. Within the first 30 minutes I started drinking and at the first hour I had my first bite to eat. I continued eating half a sandwich on each hour and this strategy worked very well.
There were many teams like us using this event as a training ride for the DC, and it was very nice to see them on the road. We passed quite a few in the early stage of the race and we were in high spirits. Neil and I were thoroughly engrossed in the soundtrack of ‘Chariots of Fire’ when we had the chance to lead pass other teams or groups.
After 2h45, Gaamiem, the new addition to the team punctured. It was quickly repaired and within 4 minutes we were rolling. At 97km, 3h16 in, we arrived at Riebeek Kasteel, a significant uphill. We had held a good pace of 30kph till this point. We lowered the pace up the climb so as to ensure sustainability for the entire team over the remaining 57 kilometers.

We held our formation for the next half hour or so till the next water point where we needed to fill up water bottles. We had been on the road for 4h12 and still had 34km to go. We were still looking good, although some were starting to take strain. At this stage the team decided to ride as a bunch instead of the single file pace line formation, and in this way the stronger riders would do more work at the front and provide draft for others.  After 30min there was a need to stop 2 min for water again. 4 Minutes after the stop I noticed that Steve was not with us. We had left him at the Water Stop. He had gone to the toilet, hence did not see that we were moving off. We stopped to wait for him and he soon rejoined.
On the rollers that followed Riebeek Kasteel team members started taking ever more strain, and the team slowed quite a bit. There was quite a bit of erratic pace riding. This erratic pace was having an effect on Karol, who was also taking strain, and on one of the little hills he decided to latch onto a group that passed us as they were going at a more constant pace.
Not all in the team were aware of this development, and with about 10km to go the team totally splintered. Kris noticed Karol was not with us, and he and Neil decided to wait, thinking he had been dropped. Meanwhile Karol was ahead of them. Those that knew of Karol’s position were ahead of Kris, and were unaware of the reason as to why the team were reforming. It was a total disjoint. Most definitely tiredness, strain and frustration taking its toll.
In the last kilometer we all managed to regroup and cross the finish line. Many valuable lessons learned, which I am certain will put us in good stead for the Double Century in about 6 weeks’ time.

Weather throughout had been good. I had ridden strongly, and was happy with the hours spent in the saddle. The event was well attended, and the general vibe was awesome.

Let's Ride !!!