Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Avanti Classic - Handicapped Road Race

Lined up on Sunday for my first ever road race in a handicapped format.  What can I say other than holy hell, handicap races hurt.  It is fair to say I had no idea what I was in for.  The last road race I did was so sedate that I expected not to even need a warm up - FAIL.

Now I understand why so many people flinch and say they did the Avanti - ONCE.
It is a really weird, chaotic but ultimately honest way of racing if you put aside the whinging about handicaps.  Sure, the winners of the day invariably come from those dark horses who have jagged a generous handicap - but that is all part of the fun!  You effectively end up racing blind, with no idea where you competition is or what they are doing.  This leads to starting hard, going hard in the middle and finishing harder.

Fellow teamie Sean Dench described it as 'a blind date with your start group where you just come together and pedal like hell, and try to hold off the scratch riders'.  He was on the money!

I was lucky enough that I knew one other rider in my group - regular partner in crime Shannon. We always work well together so it was reassuring.  And of course before I started I figured that it would be a cruise and then get fast.  Fool.  I knew there were 12 girls off ahead so I planned to try and tick them off if possible.  Fool again.  It was impossible to count or remember in a VERY short period of time due to extreme HURT.

One lap down - (photo by Jesyn).

We were off at 22mins after the first riders, with 15 mins back to the Elite A boys on scratch.  As our group of 11 or so rolled off it dawned on me the pace was on when I found myself caught out grabbing for harder gears and smashing just to get on the wheel in front.  We were somewhere north of 40 pretty much immediately.  With a super tough handicapped crit (don't ask) in my legs from the day before I was crying and feeling certain of being dropped within the first 5 km.  I was thinking about what the drive home would be like after getting dropped in 5km... it kept me on the wheel. 
Matthew Gallagher another Uni rider (and brother to our great triathlete Jackie) was in our bunch too and helped me get comfortable when he could see I was in trouble early.  We had worked together in the crit the day before and I had earned some points .... good karma!  We quickly shelled 3 riders from the bunch and became the 8 riders that stayed together and took it tantalizingly close to the end.  The roads were rough, but my Mad Fibers and Koiled Ti frame smoothed it out!

Going Hard - (photo by Ben Manson).
Like most I found the climbs between 10km and 18km hard but could hang on.  These were probably the toughest part of the course for Shan.  I think it was here we lost touch with Matthew.  As we did the hills on the second lap I jumped in front to help Shan when a gap opened to help him through.  We got through the first climb and he came back around to lead on the down.  Then on the second climb he was behind a random we had picked up and was so focused on the wheel he didn't notice the gap forming further up the road.  FAIL. Our guys were up the road!  He gave it everything to get up the climb and then did an animal job to get us back on the bunch peaking at around 57km/hr.  I am pretty sure that effort cooked him and I know I would not have gotten back on without it (neither would have the other guy who sat on us).  Thank you animal.

The dead section of road with the slight headwind, slight uphill (wasn't it??) was the worst. It was hard for me just to hold a wheel let alone pull turns but I somehow managed to stay with the group.  I swallowed my pride and missed some turns the way Jacko taught me in this section knowing the group would be faster if I didn't pull a slow turn, and I did not want to get dropped.  Our bunch worked well for a group of complete strangers and everyone was clearly riding their legs off.  It was only when we would catch the occasional straggler who managed to hold on for a bit that the flow got messed up.  Simon from Uni joined us for a bit before he found the pace too hot and drifted off the wheel.

75km to go the scratch bunch caught us.  I think some legs were starting to blow in our little group then, and I focused everything on making sure I got that bunch - every man for himself!  I moved to the outside and made sure I could get into the passing line of riders.  I upped my speed and somehow got myself in.  Shan didn't make it on, probably because of the dam wall bridging effort and a failure to eat anything in the two hours!

money's worth of suffering.

Instant relief.  Not what I was expecting - but suddenly after a 75km TT with 7 riders I was now being towed by a bunch of 70!  I was reunited Simon and several others but was looking to see if I could see any chicks in the bunch.  Couldn't.  What chaos! Coming into town Dave and Simon offered an impromptu lead out... thanks boys!!  We wound it up but as I took the final corner at speed I lost touch with Dave with only myself to blame...  Still at this point I had no idea which girls were where couldn't see any in front but I couldn't see behind me either so I sprinted.

In the end, if I am reading the results right, I finished 3 seconds off the podium in 4th place.... so there must have been a woman right there in the bunch somewhere... Well done ladies!  On pure time I posted the 2nd after our NZ import Emma Ferguson, and did it pretty much all the hard way in a tiny TT bunch.  Extreme Suffering Managed.

Well done to all my Koiled folk - bear, trickle, dave and shan.  100% finish rate, and everyone rode their LEGS off.  Well done boys!!! [now do your job!! ;) ... ]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rach: Fully sic effort.....that race is a race of attrition. The hunted and the hunters....the entire race, you are being hunted or the hunter!!!
Awesome effort Team Koiled......and your WC legs ripped it in.....looking ripped.

Miff ;-X