Friday the 13th oceania TT!
While alot of people fear misfortune on todays day and date, I was optimistic it would bring me some good fortune!! By days end it would prove to be the case and while I fell short of it being a perfect day of fortune I certainly finished Friday the 13th with a pretty big smile on my dial. For the past 4 weeks I've been very focused on the Oceania TT which was held today in toowoomba and when the dust settled on the 40km race against the clock I had finally got myself back on a TT podium. It seems a long long time ago now that I was a decent time trialist. Sadly over the past few years i simpl have not done the work on the TT and I've been hopeless at it as a result! Today I was determined to simply give it all I could muster and see if I could get back amongst it on the TT rig.
The Oceania championships is quite a cool little event. While it's far from the glitz and glamour of the big european races, or even the big Aussie races we have just had over the past month, its unique in it's own way. It's held in a more remote country area usually which in 2015 is toowoomba, right on the top of the great dividing range. I love coming to events like this as I get to do it with the gang from the TIS. I have a soft spot for going to races with the tassie sporting gang as it's what interstate trips always involved in my young sporting days. I felt particularly familiar coming out to toowoomba as the last time I'd driven out the a2 highway from Brisbane I was headed to 2001 national rowing championships at lake wivenhoe. I had a pretty successful trip that time winning the school boy single skull, figured it had to be a good Oman ahead of the Oceania champs. There are no team buses, trucks, stickered up race cars, massage therapists or expert mechanics at your bec and call. No there are replaced with the Toyota hiace renta van. There is often no fancy hotels on these trips, infect this time we are staying in a caravan park. It's funny as I've been so spoilt with hotels in my time that you could get a little snot nosed at staying in a caravan park?? Nah not me, I love it and not so much because I'm in a caravan park but these types of accom represent these type of Aussie sporting trips.
I have to admit I was pretty jolly nervous when I woke up this morning. Although I could hardly call the 4 weeks I've focused on this event a hugely sacrificing period of my life it's certainly been on mind each and everyday so obviously I wanted to see some return for the work I'd put in. That's a positive and negative all in one as you are completely in control of how hard you push yourself so can dictate to an extent how well you perform. It's a negative as I've you ride like a softy you get your backside handed to you and Theres only one person to blame! So I've had m fair share of ass whippings lately so at the very least if I was going to put myself on the startline today I was going get everything out of my body no matter what shape it was in. I went into the race with a pretty clear race plan after some solid recon of the course yesterday. The course was pretty simple. 5km straight line dead flat, turn left, another 5km with a nasty 100m 20% wall half was only, do a u turn and ride back to where you started from. Once back to where you started do another u turn and do it all over again! Pretty simple! As I said Id studied the course pretty well yesterday and there were a few factors. Firstly the wind, head wind one way, tail the other! 2nd the climb, 3rd the heat, 4th the dead roads which DS Dave Sanders reiterated there condition to me by saying they were as "dead as Roy Orbison" just to ensure I really knew how slow they were!! He is an absolute crack up!
The other little factor of these events is you need to be organized! Well I'm not really used to organizing everything myself, been way to spoilt in my cycling career, my entire sporting career for that matter! Funnily enough was funny talking to hepburn after the race who said exactly the same thing. With greenedge he always have everything at his beck and call but up here he was largely left to his own devices aswell. It's funny the small things you take for granted like race food. All of a sudden it's not all laid out for you on a table under your shaded warmup area. No your at the supermarket buying it all and worrying about what you have forgotten! Then warmup your trying to find a shady tree or something similar to set up the turbo trainer. Then there's getting your bike ready! Ok we are exactly without resources, there's heads of mechanics here whom are always very happy to help but it's still something to think about. I was jolly lucky to even have my bike on the start line as my disk wheel got destroyed in transit here. Fortunately Andrew Christie Johnston, the owner of the avanti team was on my speed dial to bail me out. Andrew is a legend and is always there in a time of need and he had me up and running with one of his fancy disk wheels. Stuy sanders who's another gem of the sport here in australia ensured that was fitted properly and the bike was running tickedy boo and I was ready to rumble. It's very good for you to realize how much is done for you at all these races, certainly makes you appreciate it even more. Everyone in a cycling team lis without a doubt all equally crucial in ensuring that the wheels go round and round as well as possible!
Back to the tt and after a bit of analyzing with our TIS team manager Ron tubby Bryan and my dad we came up with a pretty good strategy. The first half of the circuit was head wind and we figured this would be telling, particularly on the 2nd lap. The idea with this was therefore to hold a little back on the first and give it grief on the 2nd lap into the wind, pretty simple. The 2nd factor was the hill which being so short but steep still had the potential to take the edge of you if you tried to smash over it but if you backed of a little you could save the legs and drop just a few seconds which you would likely take back later in the course with fresh legs. So was decided to use a small gear there. 3rd the heat, well can't do much about that but make sure your well hydrated and mentally prepare yourself to get pretty jolly hot under the color out there so tha was a simple one. And finally combating the dead roads simply meant there was no free speed anywhere on the course, not even the fast decents, if you stopped pedaling at all you slowed down even going down hill, you simply needed to keep the pressure on the pedals all day no matter how much you were suffering. I was actually happy about this as I spend alot of hours on the ergo so this I felt gave me a little bit of an edge! So with all that considered I hatched the following race plan. Go put solid and try and keep my heart rate below 185beats (my threshold) for the first lap. Then on the 2nd lap into the wind give it some herbs and build up to around 190 beats and then simply give it all I had for the 10km run home toward 195-200beats. Pretty simple hey? Oh and above all else I wanted to give myself a chance at winning which meant at some point rolling the dice a little!! Well here's my execution of it!!
When I'm nervous before a TT I'm simply champing at the bit to get the warmup started. This is a good sign as I know that I'm ready to do a good ride and just want to get on with the job. Well today I was so nervous I was shaking so brought the start of my warmup forward a few min to settle the nerves and get in the zone. Sure enough as I rolled off on the road bike for a quick 30min get the legs rolling spin before the the final tune up on the turbo trainer I instantly was relaxed. Legs felt light and effortless and I was ready to go. Once the warmup begins it's all so systematic down to the minute, 30min on the Rd bike, on the tt bike on the turbo 45min before start time, off the turbo to skin suit up and helmet on 10min before start time, then off to the start between 5-6min before kickoff to check the bike, chill out, final stretch, and on the start line! While I'm on the turbo I choose the fm radio instead of the iPod and my old man is there to ensure I'm drinking the right drinks and have everything set before kick off.
Fortunately for me dad still loves coming to the races and takes great pride in his glamorous role of tyre pumper uppera! Logistics liaison! And just generally still being for those moments when I've forgotten or need something and even at 31 years old have the desperate "Daaaddd" tone in my voice when I need and extra gell, towel, or some cold water! Yep he's still doing the same things for me at these national events he's benign doing since my first rowing nationals as a 15 year old in Adelaide, I'm pretty sure he still enjoys it as much aswell. His only difficult is he hasn't ever come to terms with the fact that I can carry or pedal my own bike to and from the start/finish line! At rowing he got to carry the boat aswell so feels a little surplus to requirement a those moments during my race days but none the less he always seems pretty chirpy about being in amongst it.
Anyways back to the warmup and once on the turbo trainer the earplugs go in and I start to go into the zone. I slowly but surely warm up all the energy systems over the next 35min to be red and raring to go come start time. I start of with 10min building up to medium intensity. Have a few min off the 2 lots of 5min building up to race pace with a few min off between. I finish of with 1min at VO2 intensity then I'm ready to go. I know from the warmup if I'm a chance to do well as all the efforts should feel easy. Well let's face it your in big trouble if you struggle to do a few min at the same intensity you plan on doing 50min for!! Anyways today was a great warmup and I was ready to go. 10min before the start I was off the turbo, towel off, helmet on, dad slid the rear disc into the trusty cannondale slice RS, quick stretch and off to the start right on schedule 6min before kickoff! Bike check all good and I was finally in the starters house staring at that screen, WURF 5-4-3-2-1 go time!!
Out of the start ramp and I was quickly into my stride. I flung around the left hand corner that started the first 6km straight drag into the wind. I was eager to start this section as when your on a good day you don't seem to notice the head wind. Yeah sure your going a little slower than normal but it doesn't bother you, you feel like you can plow into it. Well I really felt good here and was around 2-3kmph quicker than I anticipated or planned! Yep that's where I made my first big mistake for the day. I got all amped up by how good I felt and believed I could go that extra few % harder than I had meticulously planned. In other words in those first 2-3km's I got my ambitions and capabilities a little jumbled up. Anyways I was committed and while the signs of over revving kept smacking me in the face I ignored them and charged on. My heart rate was at 180beats after 5min so around 20minutes earlier so I just put it down to the heat and freshness and it didn't bother me that much. After 6km I had taken 40seconds out of my minute man and knew I was going quick and needed to be a little reserved so backed it off a bit. Still with the carrot now there right in front of me I didn't back off much and by the time i had ridden 11km I was past him. Now with the tail breeze up my backside I was honking along at 55-60kmph toward the turn. I kept the pace on with my heart rate already settled in around 192 so I was well and truly on the rev limiter. As I came back I could see the guys coming toward me and only Hepburn looked a threat. I know seems presumptuous and impossible to tell riding in the opposite direction but you can sense atherosclerosis riders pace and his poise certainly made know I was in for a fight. Still this also gave me motivation as I was about to enter the section I was confident would make or break my tilt at the title as I began my second lap so I took a few deep breathes, rounded the cone and headed out on what was going to be a very painful final 20km!
As I hit the head wind for the 2nd time I still had that good feeling. I felt ontop of the breeze if that makes any sense and was relieved that there was still some life in my pins. As I swung left onto the dead roads toward the little kicker and top end of the course for the 2nd time the questions in my head began. I was really starting to feel those dead roads and my head rate was pumping away at 195, I was at my limit. I had mentally prepared for this and knew that when I felt the dead roads I simply had to keep pedaling, everybody would be suffering backing off to gain some rest bite would be a disaster so just had to grit the teeth. When I hit the top of the little kicker for the 2nd time I knew I was in survival mode big time as this time around I was craving a respite on the decent! The lap before I accelerated nicely over the top and down the other side, I needed to stay focused. At the top turn around with 10km to go i got a few seconds reprieve as I rounded the cone and it gave me a bit of a 100wind!! I will and trully used up my 2nd-99th in the first 30km!! At this point i knew i was still on a flyer. The splits would later back me up on this as i was 2seconds up on hepburn at that final turn. Unlike him i had no idea of any splits as i didn't have a race radio. Would it have made any difference?? Maby but probably not. Sure it would have been nice to be re enforced how far ahead I was but in reality I was cooked, no amount of encouragement can make you ride any harder when you've simply put yourself way to far into the red zone in an individual TT. Infect at this point all you can hope for is that your far enough ahead that you hang on for the win or your rivals are slowly as rapidly as you are, basically your no longer in control of the outcome, just cross the fingers!! By now my heart rate had been around 190beats for nearly 40min and it was as simple as getting every last little bit of energy out of my flagging body. This was the plan all along mind you to hang on from this point, only problem was I realistically had been hanging on for around 5km more than I could handle in my current condition. Sure enough as I swung around the final right hander with 6km to go and that big tail breeze hit my backside the speed didn't go up as much as it needed to. On the first lap I was 55-60kmph comfortably, on the all important run to the finish i was flat out doing 50kmph. It was all I could do to turn the pedals around, the feeling was well and truly gone from my legs and so was the power. The pulse was banging away at 200beats and I was well and truly groveling to the finish. I could see a drapac rider up ahead around 30seconds and knew that was the race. I'd been catching adam one an who started a few min ahead all day and knew I needed to get him to win. I don't know why but just had a feeling that that was the marker. Try as I may I couldn't get going to make any further inroads to Adam and when I crossed the line I knew I was going to come up short. I knew I would be close between heppi and I as knew how draining the course was and there was always the chance he over cooked it aswell. As he had my splits and with all his experience I knew this was unlikely as he would have know with 5km go I'd slowed big time and he really turned the screws on me in those final km's. He told me he was doing 60kmph down there and that's the 38sec difference he would eventually pump into me. After going toe to toe with him all day he showed his class and superior condition by having that bit when it mattered most so was a very deserved winner so well done heppi. It was a relief to see him looking just as demolished as me after the finish as I could be content in the fact that I had at least made him work for it.
When it's all said and done I was really happy with my performance. That first 5km's of excitement proved to be my undoing in those final 5km's. It's funny but just backing off 1-2kmph there could have made 5-10kmph difference coming the other way into the finish. In reality it would have made the 38seconds I needed to fend of heppi so doesn't matter anyways, I was beaten. Anyways a good lesson to trust and believe in your pacing. To be honest while I believed I could do a good TT yesterday I was also scared I wouldn't and thats the way rode it. I got my tail up and instead of riding a calculated ride I rode on the whim of hope. In other words I hoped I could handle the pace I was pushing. Its been 3 years since I rode a competitive TT so it's normal to have reservations which I won't have next time I line up in such an event. The most important thing for me to get out of this event was the belief back that I could ride a good TT again. I knew I hadn't down the work to do a phenomenal performance, I simply haunt made the sacrifices over the past 8 months to be an elite athlete but I knew I'd done enough work to get a glimpse of whether or not it was still in there. It's a huge relief to me and extremely motivating that that first 30km gave me all the answers that I needed and I'm now really excited to put my head down and focus again on the race against the clock in the future!! job done
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