Monday, 24 August 2009

Goodbye B-Grade

Racing has been pretty busy and successful of late. I've had a string of good rides marked by breaking away from the bunch, taking sprinting out of the equation. It all started with a win with my club in the sealed handicap a few weeks ago, followed by second in C grade at the Calder Masters.

The stakes were raised considerably when I finally took possession of the long awaited new bike. She is lovely - despite being yellow. I'll write much more about her soon.

Last weekend I took the new Nancy out for her first race, a graded scratch race around the schoolhouse circuit three times. We dropped most of the B-grade bunch on the first lap, leaving only four of us. I took the bit between my teeth and blasted off on the hill, halfway through the second lap. Managed to hold off the chasing group for the final 25km.

This week was club winter championships and saw a good turnout, including young Ethan, contesting B-grade after racing with the A's for a couple of months. After busting up the bunch on the first set of hills, the youngsters (Ethan and Sam) weren't too interested in a long break, so refused to do any work. I settled into an even Audax pace, just enough to keep warm, without working. The chase bunch like-wise laid off us by 50 metres, so I just lead the race along at pedestrian pace for the next 20km with an occasional punch over a hill to make sure they were still awake.

Working over the three sisters for the second time, I realised that I was on my own, so gave it the works on the third pinch. Inexplicably the youngsters waited for the main bunch to try to chase me down. That was all the gap I needed. I got to the foot of Sugarloaf Hill with a good couple of hundred metres in hand and pushed over with every drop I had. Then ground out the final 9km on the drops with my heart rate off the chart.

In the end I won by better than 500m but I was never certain until I crossed the finish line.

OK - So much for winning a race. Nice, but how do I feel about it? What's next? What have I learned?

I'll start with the last question. I've learned to stick my neck out, take a chance, back myself. In days gone by, I'd have finished with the bunch to be out-sprinted by almost all of them. On Saturday, I gave it my best shot. I'd have been happy with that decision if I'd been swallowed by the bunch and finished last. Mainly because I'm feeling good about taking a risk, staking my race on a move.

What's next? Hopefully A grade. There's nothing like racing with people who are a lot better to make you better. The Tour of Bright, definitely. The Alpine - this is my big aim for this year, and I'd love to set a decent time for the first ever ACE.

How do I feel about it? Very strange. I've had lots of trouble blogging about it. Almost my entire life as a cyclist has been focused on non-competitive cycling. Even the racing has been more about participation than results. Now it's getting serious, and I want to be the best I can. I'm treading a fine line between being motivated to be the best I can and being motivated by winning. Both are good, but only the first is sustainable long term. Right now I'm really happy looking to the stars, keeping my feet planted on solid ground.

I want to keep enjoying my riding without measuring myself against anyone else.

Postscript
Both Ethan and Sam who I'm sure were capable of going with me on the day were beaten on the line by one of the old stagers in the bunch Brett. I warned them earlier that Brett would beat them in a sprint. Maybe they'll listen next time. I hope not. ;-)

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Monday, 10 August 2009

Racetrack

This Sunday took me for yet another new experience. Riding around a car racing track. I took part in the Calder Park Masters Spectacular. Possibly not so spectacular, but a really good experience.

Riding around the racetrack was interesting in itself. I expected to find that the track would have a near perfect hotmix surface. No! the surface was broken and in poor repair with cracks and frequent changes of grade. In fact the whole racing complex had the feel of rust and decay about it that you see in films set in run-down American industrial towns. To add to the desolation, it was horribly cold and there was a bone chilling northerly wind blowing directly down the hill. This made for some particularly tough racing up the hill into the wind.

I raced in C grade which was a pretty well matched group. I spent a lot of time out front, trying to shake things up without much effect. Finally three of us got away to a handy lead from the rest of the bunch and worked hard together to consolidate it, convincing the chasers to give it away.

Finally we got the bell lap and I jumped as hard as I could off the bottom turn and over the small hill. Seeing the other two still on my wheel I pulled off. They of course attacked at that moment. I had nothing to fight back with but managed to hold one of them at bay. The leader just blasted away from me. Coming onto the main straight, I expected to be out-sprinted for the line but got into my top gear early and gave it everything. My opponent sat up and let me go, much to my surprise. Second in C grade. I can't complain about that.

I'm happy with my racing the last few weeks. I really have started to push myself and try some moves instead of being happy to watch what everyone else is up to. It's kind of fun to be making some moves myself. It was even more fun warming myself up over excellent coffee and cake financed by race winnings afterwards.

The racing was done in friendly spirit, the organisers were laid back and accommodating. A really good day.

Today my legs are much sorer than I would expect but it's just tiredness. Now I'm looking forward to the next challenge.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Laser Safety for Cyclists

No doubt you seen these or something like them:



An idea to use bike mounted lasers to project a virtual bike lane onto the road to make motorists more aware of them. I think I have a much better idea. To use existing, readily available laser technology to make cycling safer.

The Laser Guided RPG or Rocket Propelled Grenade. Surely this would work much better to advise a car-load of yobbos of your presence on the road.

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No Racing For Me..

My racing at Tallarook ended prematurely this weekend when my right pedal broke off...


Very unhelpful and a pain to ride back to my car on one leg. It was hilly too. This was a dragbecause the course really suited me and I'm now able to entertain ideas of going for broke on a long hilly course without having to actually do it.

New pedals are now winging their way to my letter box. It was a really tough decision. I've always used Looks since the very first pair of clip-in was released. I've lost a bit of faith in them since they discontinued the old style pedals and I've had a great run with Shimano gear. In the end I went with Keo carbons, against my better judgement. Now I need to replace about 5 sets of pedals or to get a new pair of shoes.....

What is a girl to do?

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Parkiteer

What do you reckon motorists would say when the RACV announced a terrific new plan for car parking at train stations whereby:

  • There are 19 car parks at each station?
  • You can secure access to a park on an ongoing basis for a $500 deposit?*
  • You can't park at any other station than the one you are booked for?
  • If someone doesn't use their spot, even on a weekend, no-one else can?

This is essentially the Parkiteer scheme being put forward by BV at present. This is tokenism at it's worst. Not only is it a crap scheme but you can bet your life that the poor utilisation of it will lead to it being used as an excuse for not spending on bicycle commuting.

How is 19 bike spots doing anything for "More People Cycling, More Often". It's rubbish. And it'll be used to try to get us to accept that bikes can't be taken on trains. Don't even think about it, Harry!

So now I've ranted, what do I want? What would be acceptable bike parking?
  • Somewhere I can safely leave my bike while I use public transport or keep the option to use public transport open.
  • At the station of my choice on a given day. Somedays I may want to ride further than others. Somedays I may need to go somewhere different.
  • I need to be sure I can find a spot for my bike when I get there. This means not 19 bike spots but hundreds.
  • It needs to be at a reasonable rate. $2 to $4 seems fair.

Given that at most stations I can park my car for free, there are hundreds of parks and each car takes up 10 to a dozen bike spots, these don't seem like ridiculous expectations. FFS BV, pull your heads out of your arses and start REALLY standing up for cyclists needs instead of allowing us to be fobbed off with dangerous bike lanes, crap - half built bike paths, and total rubbish bike parking schemes.

I want to be able to ride to the city, park my bike securely for a reasonable fee, go to the movies or a gallery and then have the option of taking my bike home on the train if the great flood revisits us. If I'm riding to work, I need to be able to securely park my bike at a station part way, and take public transport the rest of the way. This might not be the same station every day. If I go shopping, I want somewhere to park my bike there too. How about someone put that forward with a bit of force?

*I've based my $500 deposit on the fact that they want $50 for a bike and that a car takes up about 10 times more space.





Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sign Up Day

Let the hurting begin!

Today I am signed up for the Alpine Challenge Extreme, Alpine Delight, Fitz's Epic, Whittlesea Challenge and the Calder Masters. I'm definitely doing the Otway Classic, Tour of Bright, Scotty's Ride and Race and I'm very attracted to the idea of the Melbourne-Warrnambool.

In the end, the lure of an extra 50km of suffering proved too much to resist. So the ACE it is. Besides by starting at 4am the pain will be over by around the same time of day, leaving plenty of time for drinking.

Today I'm off to race again, a handicap. Tomorrow is exploring day in the Dandenongs.

Too much? Some people watch TV...

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