Guest Article: Race Report – “The Club Champs”

Guest Article: Race Report – “The Club Champs”

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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.

Disclaimer
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.

The Result
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.

The Preparation
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.

The Pre-Race
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.

Race Tactics
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 Race
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!

// Guest Article // Racing

  1. @frank @Souleur

    I have to ask, though: doesn’t a HR monitor help you to train properly?

  2. @Steampunk
    It’s acceptable to use a HR monitor for a short while to help you learn to read your body, and the same can be said for cadence. After that, go back to your roots, and ride by feel.

    Unless you’re a Pro and it’s your job.

  3. @frank
    This is precisely why I keep coming back for guidance. Because the wisdom is, well, so wise. Got home from work and a “Steampunk” decal was waiting for me. Christmas come early, and it’s staggering how such a little thing can so significantly improve the overall appearance of my bike. Thanks muchly—for wisdom and decals.

  4. @frank
    Can smell heart rate monitor rule coming on… which I will completely disregard. On your logic Frank you shouldn’t use a speedo either as it might “tell” you to slow down or stop because you are going too fast or have gone too far. And then maybe you shouldn’t look at the conditions outside either, because you may be dissuaded from riding because you think it might rain.

    My point is that these things only bring your inner pussy to the surface if you are already a pussy to begin with. So the HR monitor isn’t the problem – you are. On the other hand, if you use HR information to help you train properly (maybe even revel in how hard you are going), then they can be a useful tool and even make riding more enjoyable and effective.

  5. On your logic Frank you shouldn’t use a speedo either as it might “tell” you to slow down or stop because you are going too fast or have gone too far.

    Exactly…

    And then maybe you shouldn’t look at the conditions outside either, because you may be dissuaded from riding because you think it might rain.

    Uh-huh. Right. You should just go ride your bike. Those things are all examples of the Anti-V and should be avoided.

    My point is if you need a HR to measure your effort, you need to learn to read your body better. I used one for 18 years and when I stopped, I started going faster and having more fun. Really the problem is when you start fixating on the numbers, you lose the forest for the trees. (This is basically what Rule #74 is talking about.)

    On the other hand, on the 174, what’s your max, your resting, and your lactic acid threshold, so we can all be appropriately impressed?

  6. @frank
    OK – will give sans-HRM a go.
    Bike max is 196, think threshold about 177?

  7. @Steampunk
    You got a Steampunk/Velominati name badge decal? Fuckin rule. I’m digging my Marko one.

  8. @Marko
    I’m loving it already. In black. Very cool.

    For the gear page, one word: Velominati cycling caps. Okay, that’s three. But picture it: off-center orange and black stripes on white cap going from front to back; V logo; and personalized name stitched into the back-right. For post-ride espresso only, of course.

  9. @Marcus

    Bike max is 196, think threshold about 177?

    Well, then, to average 174 pretty much means you rode at your limit, well done, mate! A smarter race might have got a better result, but not riding harder!

    (For the HR to really be meaningful, I think you should be able to know your threshold without the question mark?)

    To elaborate a bit more, when I really, really got into my HR, I was training by it, racing by it, I would periodically wear it around the house to make sure my heartrate wasn’t doing funny things which might indicate illness or overtraining.

    This is for Nordic ski racing, where bunch tactics are much less important and generally the strongest/fittest rider wins or at least podiums (very differnt cardiovascularly from cycling in that sense), but it got to where I would race by the numbers, sitting a beat below my threshold the whole time. I would let attacks go, I’d come back to them (or not). Just steady as she goes. How fucking boring is that? I stopped taking chances, I stopped gambling, I stopped battling with the competition.

    Your racing here, in the Vino style, that is gambling. That is fun. Fuckin’ right, brother.

    I had a lot of good results, but it stopped being a fun game. Got rid of it, and started rolling the dice and having a blast. Best results I ever had came after that because – guess what – racing isn’t a science, there’s a lot of art, too.

  10. @Steampunk

    For the gear page, one word: Velominati cycling caps. Okay, that’s three. But picture it: off-center orange and black stripes on white cap going from front to back; V logo; and personalized name stitched into the back-right. For post-ride espresso only, of course.

    Dude, I hear you LOUD AND CLEAR. Castelli has really high minimum orders, and I’m not sure we can move the number of caps we would have to buy. But absolutely, we need them. Now that you’ve said it, I’m making this a top priority.

    Thoughts: Velominati on the visor, Obey the Rules on the flipside of the visor.

    TIGHT. I bet I can even find someone who would embroider the names, too. Because I suck at sewing.

  11. @frank

    Frank, you sir are a freakin’ genius. After work I went for a ride sans HRM. I decided to do our local big climb. It is a 9.65km climb that averages around 5-6% and hits 12% in spots. W/O the HRM telling me to back off I just Rule #5’d it and knocked out a personal best – just a tick under 31 minutes. This is a full minute faster than my previous PB. To put things in perspective – the first time I did this climb three seasons ago it took me over 42 minutes. Last year I could do it in around 37 minutes (it took me 37 minutes to do it a week ago when it was 95 degrees out).

    I just want to say that being assimilated in to the Veloinatus has been a game changer for me. I never used to ride alone and never trained. I started training this season and things improved markedly but then a bunch of local riding politics broke out with all the attendant crying and name calling, I (alledgedly) caused a crash in a crit, and the local scene has sort of deteriorated and I was getting bummed-out about riding. Then I stumbled upon “The Rules” and the Velominatus and I have a new motivation. Being true to the V is what drives me now. I really like training by myself now and my new mantra is to keep my mouth shut, hammer (as hard as a 49 yo Cat IV can hammer), and do the V proud.

    Next year’s goals are to drop another 4-5kg (that would put me under 73kg), get under 30 minutes up the aforementioned climb, and attack, attack, attack!

  12. I meant Cat V. Oops.

  13. @frank
    Thanks Frank – 177 is my exact threshold – just didn’t want to sound like too much of an HR nerd after you bagged them! Got all my zones dialled in by Crowey and using HR zones for training has actually made me do a lot more “easy” riding when training (rather than “half hard” training rides). This has improved my cycling a bucketload.

  14. and made it more enjoyable to boot!

  15. @Cyclops
    Is your real name Rene Haselbacher?

  16. Marcus :@Cyclops
    Is your real name Rene Haselbacher?

    Please explain.

  17. @Cyclops
    Haselbacher is a noted crash-causing pro – here is a little assessment of Rene from Our Little Bogan, Robbie McEwen:

    “It was pretty dangerous. That Austrian [Haselbacher] wanted to dive into a hole that wasn’t there. Before that he also bumped Zabel’s wheel twice. Haselbacher is a wringer, a kamikaze. Everyone can go for their own chance, but that man is confused, mistakes his ambitions for his abilities. He will never win a mass sprint in the Tour. I am especially disappointed because I was in the middle of the perfect sprint: I was nicely on Petacchi’s wheel.’

  18. @Cyclops

    Chapeau mate, we’re honoured that the Velominati has had such a positive effect on your outlook on riding. You are indeed a valued Velominatus. (Even if you are getting the terms ass-about-face! Velominatus=singular, Velominati=plural.)

  19. @frank
    Or maybe “Obey the Rules” embroidered on the back instead of names. When it comes to caps, I like simplicity; nothing too cluttered, especially on the visor.

  20. Marcus :@Cyclops
    Haselbacher is a noted crash-causing pro – here is a little assessment of Rene from Our Little Bogan, Robbie McEwen:
    “It was pretty dangerous. That Austrian [Haselbacher] wanted to dive into a hole that wasn’t there. Before that he also bumped Zabel’s wheel twice. Haselbacher is a wringer, a kamikaze. Everyone can go for their own chance, but that man is confused, mistakes his ambitions for his abilities. He will never win a mass sprint in the Tour. I am especially disappointed because I was in the middle of the perfect sprint: I was nicely on Petacchi’s wheel.’

    Ouch. I think I ride pretty smoothly. Besides doing stupid things when I was young I’ve never crashed a road bike. Even in the above mentioned incident I didn’t go down because I was hit from behind.

  21. @ steampunk: sorry for the delay on what you mentioned.

    on the HRM, when I was racing before, the HRM was like the big thing. in general, I am not a numbers kind of guy. I simply ride. When I ride hard, I ride hard. My overall avg speed may not reflect effort, but if I am honest with myself, it is a 10/10 effort and nothing is left in the tank. Will I ride less if a my HRM is ding-ding-dinging?? Hell no, theres gas left in the tank.

    Same thing on hard rides and races. I have literally found the numbers distracting, including speed. I ride to win. I ride safely in the peloton. When they slow up, I slow up. When they gas it, I gas it. It’s not going to change if the speed hits 50kph, I am going to do the same.

    I am saying all that to say this. Numbers must be relevant. Relevant to warrant a change in action. If then it is, then you may need that number. If however your riding like an incindiary dog, there is only one number that matters and that is where you finish.

    So, maybe what numbers are helpful. I do find HRM helpful on the first few rides of the year when you don’t know yourself yet, when you feel like tempo is good, but its not. Or over a distance, when you need to watch yourself, HRM is good. On the long base training and riding however, it is different than the riding I am doing now.

    So, I hope it helps. I will say, now that I know myself and laid down a good base, I haven’t used a HRM for 3 years. I find a most useful number is my leg speed/cadence. Truthfully, that single number means more to me in my ride than anything else, speed included. When my leg speed starts to fall, i can tell i better be coming to the end, or i better consciously spin a bit more to make it.

  22. @Cyclops

    Ouch. I think I ride pretty smoothly. Besides doing stupid things when I was young I’ve never crashed a road bike. Even in the above mentioned incident I didn’t go down because I was hit from behind.

    I remember you had that account on your site before you took it down. I read it as maybe the move wasn’t 100% clean, but well within the bounds of racing and you should be conscious-clean.

    @Marcus

    Got all my zones dialled in by Crowey and using HR zones for training has actually made me do a lot more “easy” riding when training (rather than “half hard” training rides). This has improved my cycling a bucketload.

    OK, so not to get all preachy and start talking about training too much, but that’s exactly what a HR monitor is good for. So many people don’t know how to Train Properly. You need tools like HR monitors and cadence kits to learn your body and understand what everything feels like. What is my ‘eady ride” tempo? What is riding “hard”? Most riders don’t train easy enough on easy days, and not hard enough on hard days. Until you know what those zones are, you won’t do it right.

    But, you should learn to read that stuff to learn your body – not become dependent on it to tell you what to do. Once you get all that dialed in and learn to read the signals, you’ll have more fun and be much better. In my opinion, anyway. I think Brett had a similar account somewhere on here, I remember him say the same thing in training for a marathon mtb race.

    @Souleur
    Yeah. What you said.

  23. “Easy days” are for pussies.

  24. @Cyclops
    While you want to avoiding being a Recovery Ride Specialist, you also do need to know how to Train Properly.

  25. @Cyclops
    Sorry – am sure you do ride smooth. There is only one Haselbacher! But never crashed? There are only two sorts of cyclists – those who have crashed and those who are going to crash!

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