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!! ;) ... ]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tailwind SuperSeries Race Four

I headed out to Murrenbong with an on-the-day, last minute entry to Tailwind's last race of the Super Series.  Having just come back from 24 solo worlds, I am still a little rough around the edges so I opted for a Pairs race with Shannon rather than a 6 hour solo on that pinchy little course!  It has been a while (read: years) since I have ridden a pair - and I had forgotten just how much of an interval hurt session it really is.  25 minutes smashing in the red zone, 25 minutes off. Repeat.  A lot of times.

Shan rode an awesome Lap 1 setting us up with the top handful of riders and in the lead of our category.  From there it became an exercise of seeing how high we could climb on the overall - and for me seeing who could snatch the fastest lap for women.  Erin from NRG is always good competition and she made me work for it, though I owned it in the end!

It may not look it, but I was hurting!
In an effort to continue skills building, I left the Santa Cruz tallboy on the rack - and took my 'hell bitch' (koiled carbon hardtail) out.  She rode so well.  After toughing it out in Italy over those rocks on it - I have obviously reset my rough-o-meter... and Sunday was smooooth as and DRY!!!!  I am sure the pink makes me faster.  Seemed to work on Duggan too....

Getting sideways through the switchbacks....
The atmosphere was great and the Koiled posse was excellent company, Kirstie, Nick, TR, Dog, and Ty were all smashing it out.  Kirstie made sure there was a Koiled jersey on the Women's solo podium and Nick grabbed the third step for SS. 

Emma, Seb and Kirstie on the Solo Podium - well done ladies!

Team Awesome - didn't crash on our faces, and finished a lap up!
Ty had the ride of the day - almost lap for lap with his Dad, attacking Kirstie (cheeky!) and snaking the last lap from Matt Dog as his own to ride.... wooooah, I will be looking over my shoulder very soon!

I loved being able to cheer on other riders and witness a bit more of the race without spending the entire time in my solo box.  What a hoot! 

See you at Logan's Run!
* thanks to tailwind and imagewerks for the blog pics!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

New wheels....

Since returning from such a massive race in Italy, I have definitely felt like something has been missing.  I have been on my bikes, both skinny and fat wheeled, but it has the feeling of going through the motions.  This was an emergency.  There was only one thing to do.  Get a new BIKE!!

Craig Calfee knows his stuff.
Bamboo beauty.
And so, the Calfee arrived courtesy of Koiled.  It is a work of art.  I knew it would look gorgeous, but I was unprepared for what happened when I jumped onboard.  Constructed from Bamboo and Hemp wraps it is hands down the plushest ride I have ever, ever had.  The dampening properties and the strength of the bamboo really have made an insanely good frame.  I still have my Koiled custom Ti, but she is in the shop getting some repairs on a busted shifter.  So.  What to do with a new bike?  Ride THE HELL OUT OF IT of course.

A plan was hatched. I went to my usual UQCC club crit on Saturday and then hung around because HPRW are running a women's only series.  This club does so much and in my opinion puts on the best racing on in Brisbane.  I figured, despite my 24hr legs, I would hang around and ride with a view to making up the numbers and supporting a series aimed to support us.

At the end of my club crit I managed to puncture a tubular - a tiny stone ended my race frustratingly inside two laps to go and any chance for a wheel swap.  That's racing!  While we fixed it between races (ex)Coach Tapper helpfully went and entered me into the Womens race.  He did this by handing over my license and money, writing my name down on the Mens B Grade list, and picking up a Womens C Grade number.  Random!

As I rolled over to the start line I learned that they had created club grades, and that meant Elite B were now racing A with the Elite A girls.  The four Uni girls now found themselves as A graders for the day!  I expected this would hurt. I lined up next to Simone Grounds, a rider I have watched and respected many times from the sidelines.  Now I was racing her.  Ok, that's cool!

Cruising behind Simone - (Adam Harrison Photo)
The weather was horrendous but the racing was fun.  I ended up on the front often, I knew I was doing it but the pace was a lot slower and I was interested in keeping it moving.  I am sure I did too much work (mountain biker guilt) but who cares, I enjoyed it.

laughing down the straight.... must work on race face! (Adam Harrison Photo).

The Uni girls all took their turns staging breaks, but nothing stayed away.  Nic was strong off her double metros victory and new girl Brit was showing she is going to be awesome!  Anne in particular made the best solo break of the day.  I would have liked to have jumped across to her to see what we could do, but my acceleration is AWOL (24 hour legs!) and I didn't want to drag everyone to her.  Eventually the bunch decided to bring her in and that they did.    Coming into two laps to go I expected everyone to jump on the pedals.  Nope. Last lap - surely now they will go.  Nope.

Coming into the chicanes on the back stretch I was about 3rd or 4th wheel.  I suggested to the ladies in front if they didn't want to be sprinted down perhaps we should go now.  The pace started to pick up a little.  I was really unsure racing up a grade, so I had just waited.  Then Jess made her winning move.  I jumped and got her wheel and we rode to the front up the straight.  I had no chance of coming around, but gave it a shot - as you do!  It was pretty close.  Simone came through in the last few metres for 2nd but Jess held onto 1st.   Amy finished just behind in 4th.

HPRW Race One - A Grade Podium - a happy 3rd! (Adam Harrison photo).
First thought through my head - Miff will love this.... Followed by I guess I will race the rest of the series then..... no longer lost.  Who would have thought just getting out there was the cure? 

See you out there!