The Velominati are proud to present the following guest article by community member Marcus, who also writes for the Squadra di Vecchi Tori blog. Here is a tale of a man who embarks in 6-man open race. Of the five starters, one drops out to make it a 5-man race, but the race still manages to become a journey deep into the darkest pits of the Pain Cave, where a podium place will still be denied to two of the contestants.
Racing is a difficult thing to get started with. It takes courage, and it hurts. But the various local club scenes around do provide an incredibly fun and laid-back environment for an easy way to wade into the pool. For those of you on the brink: take the plunge, you won’t regret it. The race itself may not be “fun” in the traditional sense, but inhaling a wasp will provide a lasting feeling of pride for The V well applied.
Provided you don’t crash and wreck your favorite bike.
So, enjoy the piece, and swing by the Squadra.
I am an ordinary bike rider who would be a lot better if I devoted as much time to training as I do to internet-related bike “research”. Would be even better if I ate less crap food and drank less beer – but to my mind, I would be far less enjoyable to be around. At least that is my justification. You go get your own.
The purpose of this article is to get a few laughs at my own expense whilst I explain the goings-on of a little race over the weekend. Before I do, I need to give the game away by providing the result and some essential details – just so it is clear that I am not making any misrepresentations about my riding achievements.
I snagged 3rd against “all comers” in the 35-39 year old category at Southern Vets Road Race Club Championships. Now for a club that has regular races won by the likes of former Olympians, Australian Road & TT champs and other assorted former pros, that result sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
However, honesty dictates that I must tell you that in the 35-39 yo category, this year the “all comers” consisted of exactly 6 racers, one of whom dropped off in the second kilometre of the race. So it really was a “best of 5”. There, that feels better.
My warm up consisted of a 4am wake up with my 4 year old son for some cry time for a few hours. 6am and he is finally asleep on the couch with me just as my wake up alarm goes off. I think I will grab five minutes shut eye before I get up. 6:50am (FUCK) I wake up and the rush is on.
7:10am. Little fella is still asleep along with my two other kids and the darling wife (yes the one who inspired the cartoons – but she really isn’t that bad – honest). Forced to employ my Ninja Silent House Escape Technique and then I was on the road. Only running about 10 minutes late so actually not too bad but I needed to eat on the road rather than at home. No biggie.
During the 70km drive to the course, I reflected on the preparation I had given myself for this race during an extended two month taper by logging a good 150kms per week over that time with only one other race.
This lack of miles could have been attributed to one or more of the following:
i) general indolence;
ii) the wettest Melbourne winter in about 20 years;
iii) repeated preparations of lotsa beer before the weekend long ride, resulting in no ride.
I maintained this preparation by having a very heavy night on the beers/wine on Friday to wake up with a solid hangover Saturday. This somewhat damaged my pre-race nutrition as an overwhelming need for fatty foods and soft drink won out over healthy eating.
Photo taken from a training ride a while back. Turns out I wasn’t peaking in two months time.
So I wasn’t in great shape, but wasn’t too bad as I had been keeping up some sort of training program – even if it was at 150ks a week, at least it was done to a plan, as I have been using a coach for the last 10 months. I know, I know , it is embarrassing to say I have employed a coach, but I highly recommend it to anyone at any level wanting to improve their cycling. It has done heaps for me – even if I have gone nowhere near his recommended mileage for the last 4 months.
Quick aside on my coach – for you non-Aussies. He is the 1991 Aussie Road and TT champ, rode in the TTT at the Barcelona Olympics and among other races, won the Amateur Tour of Austria. Take a look at the photo below. Anyone who can pull of a GC win in a race which included some pretty serious cols against crazy and Russians has his fair share of Rule 5 credentials. Anyway, he still pretty much dominates the local crit scene down here. But enough on him, more on me.
Gratuitous insertion of a photo of a real cyclist.
OK, so maybe the reason I put in that aside about Crowe was so I could insert a photo of a real cyclist.
Whilst I was expecting decent numbers and a nasty race against some pretty good A-graders, I was surprised to find there were only 6 riders in my category. I was also a little disappointed in the unadulterated joy I felt on discovering this fact. Shouldn’t I have been wanting more competition? No fucking way. They were handing out medals today, people, and now I had a chance. And I checked – the medals didn’t say how many were in the field.
Crowey has given me many good tips about when to attack – however a big problem of mine is that by nature I am an impulsive little fellow who often gets a little too excited too early. But anyway I (wrongly) distilled Crowey’s tips for the day to “when in doubt, attack” – as it makes you a better cyclist in the end. Ok, he does say a lot more than that, but I am paying for him and you aren’t so find your own coach.
The six of us were set off first with the other age groups coming behind. This was a bit of a challenge as the older age groups had more numbers and a few better riders (illogical that they would be faster, but likely to be true). From the get go, we all worked pretty evenly swapping turns. I was at my limit from the start, sitting at an average HR of about 175 (gulp!) from the start with a speed sitting on 38-42kph.
After Rider no. 6’s strategic withdrawal, Rider no. 5 (Alf) also left us after about 25ks. His exit was particularly honorable as he said, “Guys I am fucked, but I really want you to stay away from the guys behind – so I will pull at the front for as long as I can.” So he is screwed and instead of just flaying away on the back, he jumps to the front and takes it to about 44kph for a few minutes before pulling off. Chapeau Alf!
This left four of us to fight over 3 medals. I know, I know, once again 6 entrants doesn’t exactly make it that meritorious – but these are bright shiny medals folks!
So the four of us kept on at about 38-40kph. I was pretty sure that this pace was unsustainable for me for 70kms with so few riders in the bunch. However, my self-tuition, nay worship, at the Alexandre Vinokourov School of Race Tactics convinced me that surging just a little bit every time I went to the front might be a good idea even though I was tiring (WTF?). Thought it might make it a bit tougher for the guy on a Giant who was rolling over behind me. At this stage, he was just hanging on and I thought we might get rid of him. Was hoping this might see me then hang onto the two stronger riders and try my luck from there. But Mr Giant stuck tight.
At about kilometre 50 things suddenly started to get a little ropey for me and we all dropped back in pace a bit with the other two guys, Mr Big (who was friggin enormous) and a Kings Men rider (the Kings are a pretty good bunch of riders in Melbourne – if you wear a Kings Men top then odds are you can go a bit) doing a bit of work.
Then just before kilometre 60 we hit a couple of slight hills – and when I say slight, I mean slight – turns out the larger of the two was about 700m at 2.5%. I attacked on the first and they came back to me – then the pace was sustained on the second little rise – not knowing the course and finding out there was a second hill was more than a little disappointing for me after my half-arsed attack on the first.
At which point the Vinokourov Race Tactics claimed their first then second victim. Unfortunately, First Victim was me. So I tried to recover for a few ks, keeping the Giant guy (Second Victim) in sight a hundred or so metres ahead. He was looking behind pretty regularly so I thought I had a chance of getting him. Got near to him at kilometre 67 and he was slowing a bit, so I had as much of a crack as I could whilst legs were close to cramping and I was at my limit. It worked – he couldn’t latch onto me as I went past and I ground it out to the finish on my own – behind Mr Big who it turns out outfoxed the Kings Man in the sprint.
My race: 71.7kms in 1:52:14 at an average pace of 38.3kmh. But the key stat was that my average HR over that time was 174. In other words, that hurt quite a bit!
Mr Big and Kings Man said they were surprised when I was dropped as I was the one doing all the surging when we were swapping turns. I responded that I knew I was going to have trouble holding the pace for the whole race, so why not go down swinging and see if I could get rid of someone? They looked at me like I was an idiot! They may well have been right!
Over a post-race beer, Mr Giant said he had to apologise for the 50+ mental obscenities that he directed my way whilst I was surging in the group and another 20 or so after I passed him near the end. I said that’s ok, as I kept on saying to myself one more effort and we will drop the prick on the Giant. All good fun.
Highlight for me was at the presentation seeing how you can still have a go no matter how old you are – there was a winner of the 80+ category! You are never too old to race!
For those of you thinking about it, I highly recommend you get yourselves into gear and have a crack at racing. Unless you live in an area inhabited by arseholes, club racing is particularly welcoming and remember – everyone had their first race once. The beers afterward are the best you’ll drink all week!