Tuesday, May 31, 2011

blackberry scratches

for some reason, every time I race at Stromlo, I pick up scratches from blackberry bushes. I don't know where it is as I never actually feel it happen. It's usually on the 4th lap or so and I happen to casually look down and see that I have blood on my arm. When I clean it up it is the tiniest of scratches which is just exacerbated by the rush of blood through the pipes when racing hard.
 
Thanks to Trent and Sheree for sending this pic through via the berm website.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stromlo CORC XCO - 29th May 2011



I love riding and racing at Stromlo. It has got to be one of the best set up places in Australia. On the morning, I drove through the fog from my place out to Stromlo. It was only a club race but I still get mad butterflies when heading out to Stromlo. It is probably because you can see the mountain from about 10km out, and as it looms near, you can even see the trails on the side of the hill.

I wasn't sure how I would feel on this morning as I had put in about 5 or so hours the day before on the road bike in the bakery bunch followed by some Contador work in the mountains of the brindabellas. Last weekend, I introduced Will to the Contador challenge. This is a pretty good training technique, but is pretty risky when doing it so far from home with a few hills left to ride. It really depeletes glycogen levels in the legs!! This is why recovery rollettes and nachos are essential!

Anyway, after signing on I took off for a spin around the course. It was a standard loop, halfway up the trunk trail, right turn onto Duffy street foreroad,, then up ugly coastal, across slant six, then back down breakout (coastal zen) followed by the descent down to the carpark through the start/finish area. It's always a good sign when you stack it in front of people trying to drift into a corner. I thought I had it dialled, but when I released the brakes, the tyres broke and I had to lay it down! No damage done though, so that was good.

When I got back to the finish I cast a gaze around the place to see who had turned up. Brad Morton, Brendan 'Trekkie' Johnston, Matt Rizzutto, Bowron Miller were all guys that I saw and made a mental note of. On the start line, the race director was providing us with an overview of the course using the names of the trails. We were all laughing becasue we had no idea where half of these trails were (by name), I even run my own names for some of the trails based on before they were even officially named. I stressed a few people out when I told people not to use their brakes when going down skyline. The race didn't use skyline, and some of the guys were stressed that they had missed a turn in their practise lap. Probably a situational joke, that one!

When the gun went off, I slotted into 4th place by the time the race went under the DH bridge and hit single file. On the short climb, brendan hit a rut and had to unclip, so I managed to get back a place here. Matt was leading, followed by Brad and myself. The race was bumper to bumper all the way up here from first place to last place on the first lap. This stayed that way until the end of the trunk track singletrack. I went past on the downhill fireroad (duffy street) and brad got on my wheel followed by Matt and Brendan.

On the next fireroad climb I sprinted out of the saddle all the way up, before hitting up the right hander into slant six. Now the gaps were starting to appear, as it was only the 4 of us in the initial selection. I managed to keep the pressure on and after the first lap had a bit of a gap of 4 seconds on Brad. Brendan was about 20 seconds or so back and Matt had some machanical issues which mucked up his race a bit.

The next 3 laps were about traffic management and keeping the pressure on to increase the advantage. I was impressed with the amount of young kids racing out there today. That is always a good sign for the future of the sport. With the legs still feeling strong, I finished off the 5 laps and executed the race plan that I had in my mind exactly how I wanted it to go. This is always a good thing, as it can be hard to stick to a plan when racing.

I finished in 1st place with Brad and Will rounding out the podium.

The conditions today were perfect for racing. Cold but not freezing, track conditions were 'stromlo dry', which requires skill to go fast and stay upright. These are pretty much my favorite conditions for racing or riding at stromlo. I find that when the course is damp, it equalises the ability of riders because it is easier to ride the corners. When it is dry and slippery, the skill factor comes into play in a big way.

Another factor which assisted me was my Cannondale Lefty fork. I had RLC do some pretty cool stuff to customize the way the travel was used throughout the stroke. This worked a treat and even with using hard compound, fast rolling (ie a bit ordinary for cornering on kitty litter) Specialized Renegade tyres, I was never wanting for more front end grip. A big thanks to Aiden Lefman from RLC for this tune up!

The Specialized BG fit that Lonsdale Street Cyclery did for me back in early 2011 is also paying off. The body is now fully used to the new positioning on both the road bike and the mountain bike and I am finding that I can output more power with the same amount of effort. It did take a lot of getting used to this new positioning but it has been well worth the investment in time here.

A big thanks to CORC for always running grass roots club events. We all have to start somewhere and it is through the local club races that you can get the initial stepping stone to build your experience.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Roadie princess for a day

I had read about a road crit to be held on the Symonston street circuit that used to be used about 10 years ago. Now, this may come to a shock to many, but I have never raced on the road!
 
I just haven't made the time to do so in the past. So, I thought that this one seemed appealing and thought I would give it a go.
 
On Saturday morning I did the standard bakery bunch ride, got some water out at Stromlo, then rode home to chill out and eat some pancakes. This put about 120km into the legs for the morning sessions, which was freakin' cold. It started at minus 3 and didn't get too much better really. It took 10 minutes in the shower to thaw out!
 
At about 1:45 that afternoon, I kitted up again and rode over to Symonston, which was only about 20km away or so. I got a day license, and watched the end of the C grade lot prior to going for a few laps to figure out the course.
 
The course started with a flat run into a left hander which then went down hill for 100metres before another left hander at full speed followed by a false flat rise before another left hander at the roundabout, before climbing back up to another left hander which lead to the flat run through the start / finish line. So basically, hammer, left, hammer, coast, fast left, hammer, left, recover up the hill?, left, hammer.
 
Having never done one of these before I was really just interested in getting a good day out on the bike, with a block of high intensity, and figuring out how these things are raced. First off was the helmet check. Yep, they checked all the helmets for the Australian Standard sticker. Standard I guess.
 
The start was a pretty quick affair, with about 40 A and B grades combined, and the field soon strung out and the heart rate went up nicely also. We had 35 minutes and 3 laps to do. Some dude I was following after about 2 laps, let the wheel in front of him go, and this opened up a gap of about 30 metres. I decided that wasn't great, so proceeded to slowly get the front pack back. I wasn't in a hurry as it was only in the first 5 minutes, so just slowly worked on the front of the 2nd group for about 3 laps and got it back to about 10 metres, then another dude helped close the rest of the gap down.
 
After about 25 minutes of turning left and hammering, the Suzuki ACTAS guys sent a couple of pinners up the road. Ben Hill and Brendan Johnston worked together  to get the lead extended, whilst the rest of their team mates pretty much just rolled around, which was fine. At the 30 minute mark, I started to make sure that I was heading up to the top 10 placings at the front. With the 3 laps to go sign up, I was nicely sorted in the top 10, which was good, as I assumed that the pace would pick up for the run to the finish line.
 
The next 3 laps, I just moved up a spot or two each lap and by the final lap, I was at the head of the pack. Not ideal, but not really caring, I pinned it down the descent and set about bringing back the lead 2 riders. Matt Rizzutto came through down on the bottom bit of road and I sat on his wheel a bit to recover. Around the final bend, we had caught Brendan and had got pretty close to Ben, but he was able to hold the pack out for the win. After leading the final lap, I didn't have much left for the sprint, so just rolled the legs over to cross the line. The results said 6th place in A grade. This was about right. Without a timing chip to go by we had to rely on the numbers on the backs of the riders and people remembering where they came!
 
I had an absolute blast, and will definitely be having another go in the future for sure. After the race I spun the legs out cruising home and ate more pancakes that night. I was pretty tired and fell asleep on the couch watching the Giro highlights at 6:15pm!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cold weather

It was a bit cold on Sunday morning. Minus 6 or 7 (at that temperature it is all pretty damn cold)
 
The bird baths froze over.
 
The baby magpies were trying to peck the ice wondering why they couldn't drink it!
 
I wisely waited until it got to 0 degrees before heading out for a nice 4 hour ride in the mountains.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Specialized S-Works Prevail - Initial review

I picked up my new Specialized S-Works Prevail helmet today from Lonsdale St Cyclery. I have been using the Specialized S-Works D2 helmet for a few years now,and have been a big fan of it.
 
Basically with helmets, some just fit to your head and others don't. The Specialized helmets have always worked for me.
 
The Prevail is the latest offering from Specialized. It is claimed to weigh 215grams. The Australian version, which I have might be a bit more (but not much) as they had to modify the strap and buckle to comply with the Australian standards.
 
The colour I got was white. This is pretty much non-negotiable. The peripherals have to match. Ie helmet, shoes and gloves. You are allowed to occasionally wear black gloves, ie if you are doing secret training and no one is going to see you.
 
Anyway, back to the helmet.... It has massive scoops at the front to funnel the air in to keep your head cool. The timing of my acquisition may be slightly flawed with the minus 6 degree mornings of late, but for racing, this will be great, as will the lightness of the helmet.
 
As a positive, the straps on the helmet are black, so they won't look too crappy after about 6 months.
 
There is also the standard dial it up web fitting on the back that has been tweaked to also allow fore and aft movement to absolutely dial in the exact fit that you are after.
 
Helmets are definitely a personal opinion point. You either love the look or not, but we all have to wear one (her in Australia anyway) - Specialzied have definitely put a lot of thought, research and development into this one and I reckon it's a winner.
 
If you are in Canberra and in need of a new lid, check out the Prevail at Lonsdale Street Cyclery. They have stock in right now!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

mmmm coffee

At my local cafe (Wilbur's in Hackett)  -- http://wilburscafebar.blogspot.com/  , they do a pretty damn good espresso.
 
The espresso is my favored style of coffee. I like the 'shot' ie the small amount of concentrated coffee in a small cup.
 
I don't drink milk, so the latte and cappucino styles are out for me.
 
I also drink my coffee with about 2-3 teaspoons of sugar for a small cup. A fairly large amount I am sure, but it works for me.
 
Lonsdale Street Roasters http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lonsdale-Street-Roasters/131032203595170 also does a really good brew. As a plus, they are cyclist friendly, and have bike racks out the front to slot your cycle into while you hit up a coffee.
 
 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Swinging

I have a friend. We shall call him Bowron Miller. We were out at Italian and Sons restaurant in Braddon last week eating, drinking and talking crap. Anyway, Bowron said that he lived with swingers. And I'm thinking, oh yeah, what's up with that?

We were actually having dinner with Janie and Trev before they went over to New Zealand. We were halfway through dinner and 2 bottles of Italian red wine, when the waiter came over with a glass of Grappa with a straw, courtesy of the gentlemen at the front of the restaurant.

We looked down to see Bowron and Rune giving us the thumbs up and laughing. So that was my first introduction to Grappa. Not my cup of tea, it's a bit like firewater for me.

Anyway, at the end of the night, Bowron told us that his flatmates were swingers and had put on a fairy party. What the hell? Now I don't profess to knowing anything about this sub-culture of life, but I am wondering if a fairy party is like having the fishbowl and the keys.
I asked him if he ever went to any of their parties, and he said that he pretty much just left the house when those things were on. It was closing in on 11pm on a Monday night when we left the restaurant. Maybe it was a party night in Kingston that Monday at Bowron's place.
Janie and Trev never did make it to New Zealand. Qantas cancelled the flight for 3 days. They are still up in Sydney playing the waiting game.
On Sunday, I hit the wall harder than I ever have before. I usually get my eating etc right for training and racing. It's only ever about once a year that something like this happens. It is probably the cutover to winter. The last 2 km were excruciatingly slow! I am really glad that no-one saw it.  When I got home I had the following. 1 pack of Glucodin, 2 tubs of rice custard, 2 powerades, 3 packs of rollettes, 1 pack of CCs, watermelon, protein drink, 1 bowl of tandoori chicken and rice. And I am still hungry the next day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Muddy tracks and Injuries

You have got to not like experiencing either of these 2 things when it comes to bikes. The last 8 months or so has been full of one of these, which luckily for me is the muddy tracks.

I'll pretty much race anywhere, anytime, anyone. Mud is just another element. I don't love it, but it doesn't worry me in a race situation. For training however, I tend to keep it on the road when the trails are hammered. The bike maintenance and feeling of going slow and wrecking the trails are not a great feeling.

Photo is from a slightly muddy race in Geelong a few years ago. You Yangs – sensational place to ride and race. Pretty much a mini-cyclone hit it on that weekend.

Recovering from injury. Well I am injured a little at the moment. Is it enough to keep me of the bike. No not at all. It is all relative.  Just a few bumps and bruises from the last weekend. However, you know how it goes when you get injured. The body retains water in order to stiffen it up and make it not allowed to move. It's just one of those things that happens. Another thing, is that I am really tired. The body is working overtime trying to fix things up. Also it hasn't got rid totally of the flu. As a by-product, it gets tired quickly.

All in all, nothing is really wrong, just recovery time taking its due process. The weekend will be just about getting some basic miles back into the legs. 2 x 4 hour blocks should do the trick. The weather is meant to be decent. That is, it will be dry. 0 – 17 degrees range for both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday will be the standard bakery bunch ride starting 7am in the morning. Sunday will be more road miles done solo, or I might hit up the velorepublic bunch for a nice easy start to the day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2602 - Australian Capital Territory - are you the best in your postcode?

Here in the ACT, we have excellent cycling facilities. I was thinking the other day that we are really lucky to have over 300km of on road cycle lane, 350km of cyclepath, 6000km of fireroad and over 3000 of standard road, let alone all the singletrack in the different regions across the territory.

After the Marathon Champs, I looked to see how I fared in the 'Canberra Cup'. Shaun Lewis and Dylan Cooper both finished ahead of me in 3rd and 4th respectively to my 7th placing.
Whilst I was fastest in my suburb, I was only 3rd fastest in my postcode of 2602.

I then pondered that thought of who else lived in the 2602 postcode, and wondered if it was the fastest postcode in Canberra or even Australia for mountain bikers
I came up with some names.
Dylan Cooper
Shaun Lewis
James Downing
Brendan Johnston
Heather Logie
Brett Bellchambers
David Shephard
Brent Miller
Mark Tupalski
Graham Allbon
Andrew Hall
Ian Downing
Adam Franklin
Trevor Rix
Ed McDonald
Kylie Webb
Gary Scheld
Hamish Prosser

This list doesn't include those that used to live in the 2602 postcode, or a lot of the road riders who may live here also.

All of these guys have been in the top 10 of the vast majority of races XCO, XCC and XCM and 24 hour in the last few years.

Is it that basing yourself in a good location condusive to a successful outcome with regard to being able to produce good cycling ability??

It probably can't hurt!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dirt Works 100km photos





Dirt Works 100km Race report

It is always a tough call to make when you get the flu. Do I stay off the bike and recover, but lose fitness. Or do I keep on the bike, go low and maintain (marginally if at all) any fitness already had......
 
After the Mt Joyce Marathon champs I managed to come down with a flu that I was probably fighting before I even got up there.
 
Basically the snot fest and oyster producing crap that threatens to get into the chest and produce bronchitis.
 
I finally made the call on Friday at lunchtime to actually head up to Sydney and race the Dirt Works 100.
 
The expectations were really low. I had been sick over the 5 day holiday block and also had the next week off work trying to recover.
 
I was finding the weather totally interesting on the drive up to St Albans. Dark clouds, heavy rain every 10 minutes or so. All very inspiring stuff.
 
We managed to book the smallest cabin ever built at Del Rio resort at Wiseman's ferry. It was hilarious at times trying to move around with just one other person in the close proximity. Seriously if you swung a cat around, its head would whack the wall each revolution!
 
The morning of the race we woke at 4:30am to get out of the cabin and to the race course 30 minutes up the road.
 
At exactly 6am, the announcer was going mental on the microphone, and the portaloos were in high demand, the hive of activity was amazing at race headquarters.
 
At about 7:05am the Elite riders were off and so began the race. With a relatively flat 12 km before the first climb it was a relatively mellow affiar, with a few faux attacks happening, and people basically just warming up the legs on the way to the wall. The wall was a super low gearing affair with some awesome 22% grades with sticky clay is some spots makign traction a challenge. I managed to get to the top of the climb with the wheezing in my chest and throat kept to a minimum. Here I was in about the top 8.
 
I settled in for the next 25km or so with Hamish Elliot and Justin Morris. I was sort of questioning my tyre choice today. The Specialized renegade, whilst adequate for the course, was not ideal for the course. The clay sections were made just a little bit harder, and the rocky sections were just an absolute handful.
 
After the 50km feedzone, I grabbed a new bottle and put some good pace down after Justin had rolled a tyre and I think hamish had pretty much sat up and waited for him. I was joined by Olli who knew the trails and was filling me in on some of the details of what was ahead. Around the 55km mark, I hit a bit of offcamber sandstone a bit skewiff and face planted my nose directly into the huge slab of rock. The blood was flowing nicely out of the my nose as evidenced by the contrasting claret on my PRO confidence white gloves!
 
I did a quick body and bike check and everything was complete and working. I had bent my derailleur hanger pretty badly and was struggling with some gears, but could still go along. The next 10km of rocky technical trail was a bit of a handful as I had dealt the confidence and steadiness a bit of a blow. I just got back onto Olli's wheel and attempted to minimise the damage to the time.
 
At the 70km mark, I refuelled and rode across the canoe bridge, a nice novelty component of the race. As per many of us, it was the thick sand at the end that caused a bit of a washout! Up through a paddock and onto the bitumen road, I drove it pretty hard with Olli sitting in and starting to cramp up. I told him to just hang on until we got to the bottom of the climb and towed him along. At the climb though he had to back off and I just set about emptying the tank over the next 70 minutes or so.
 
The climb was a little neverending affair with little pinches that sapped the legs pretty hard after 80km of racing. Here the course pretty much meandered around the ridge line with a lot of false flat for a while with energy sapping soft sand to contend with at times.
 
Once at about the 85-90km mark, the firetrail felt like it was heading down. I knew then that we would need to have a fall line sort of descent to lose all of the altitude gained. I wasn't disappointed and a super steep descent coated in times with concrete came up. The run to the finish was then a flat rolling affair and was just a matter of putting the hammer down and finishing it off.
 
After crossing the water (ie through it) it was a turn onto a well travelled gravel road with some of the 50km racers finishing off also. It was now just flat roads, big gears and mashing it along to the finish line.
 
I crossed the line with a 6th place in Elite with a time of 4:24.
 
After the post race analysis was done, I feel as though this can be improved on quite a bit. The knowledge of the trails in this region will be invaluable for next year, and this should really allow a good 15 minutes to be knocked off the overall time. Also not being sick would also be beneficial for being able to go a bit deeper.
 
I am in two minds about the course. Some of it was pretty good, but some of it was a bit ordinary. That is how MTB goes sometimes I guess. I do think a different set of tyres and even (heaven forbid) a 29er could be an advantage here. Not having a clear head, due to having the flu also could cloud my judgement a bit here. 
 
Attached is also a rundown of the overall Cyclenation Real Insurance XCM series. I am extremely happy to be sitting in 4th place overall now. Consistent results are all considered when going for an overall result.
 
I will try and find some photos of the weekend and get them posted up on the blog in the next few days or so.