Monday, March 23, 2009

The View From My Bicycle (COLUMN)

Sunflowers - strips of flaming yellow flashing through swathes of green beside the highway. This was the view on the way to Bloemfontein and on the Jagersfontein road during the 65km race.
The above picture I took on the road from Parys to Kroonstad. I was stopped after the second tollgate and told I had invalid license plates. True, they are the old, white number plates for the Free State. The cop asked me to rip them off. I really didn't want to do that - the upshot of this was that I was arrested and taken to the local police station. I'll post a story on that on Wednesday in my weekly column 'It's cool by the pool - right?'.

I do think my experience with the corrupt policemen in Parys illustrates to some extent why I have a crisis of confidence in people. The extent of our collective corruption is scary. It sometimes make me afraid to set foot out the door because who might I come across, rigged to blow? Anyway, more on that Wednesday.

The graph below illustrates the race profile for Saturday's race.

Although the brown line appears to show a sharp downhill, the total ascent was in fact a measly 175m. For reference, the 72km ride I do with cycle lab climbs almost 5 times that t0 well over 900 metres. It's interesting to note how our speed went from a flying start at nearly 70km/h and consistently slowed throughout. Going out we had the wind behind our backs, and 3 riders (a tandem and another guy) broke away, staying around 100 - 200 metres in from us.

We were a fair sized group but the sheer speed chewed away riders until we were around a dozen. The first half of the race was fairly close to threshold for me, but my maximum HR was 169 which shows a had quite a lot in reserve.

That said, I didn't feel that great - had lots of phlegm sticking to the back of my throat meaning I had to spit a lot and try to clear my throat while breathing quite hard. On the positive side I was told the race started an hour earlier than it did, but this allowed me to make all the sort of preparation I needed to make, including eating, pumping tyres, stuff I'd normally not bother with.

By the time we reached that bump in the middle, I was sitting quite well in front with the chasing group, with guys like Petrus and Jean trying to break free but not getting very far. What was evident to me was that I have made a rapid advance - both in terms of strength and lightness. Quite a combination at the same time. I think running has made my cycling legs very tough.

Unfortunately, when we reached the turnaround I took my foot off the gas and a few riders slid by me. The guy right at the back, Manie from WIEHANN team, slacked off so could see a gap already forming while we were still on our side of the cone. It's tough to get around a guy when you're slowing down and turning. Of course once we'd turned there was suddenly a big gap, and we had to ride uphill against the wind. I needed to put in a huge effort but having just done so I didn't have the stomach for it. I was pissed off at this Manie idiot - if he didn't do it on purpose he's one hell of a shitty rider. Triathletes often have to ride around cones. You slow down at the last moment, do a tight turn and then pick it up right away. Anyway.

That said, I actually had a great cruise back. For a while I was riding on my own and then later two strong girls and a guy joined us. If I remember correctly one girl fell off the front, and the girl and the guy caught up to me after a short while.

I do regret not doing a hard charge immediately after turning around simply because a tandem shot by and I would have been able to hook onto them if I ran out of steam.
As it was, one of the ladies just hung back the whole time, while the three of us took turns. It was the way I like to ride, which is actively, whereas in that chasing bunch it was more defensively.

So I did a lot of work on the way back, against a hard wind, and so was glad to have averaged 40.2km/h despite riding a lot of the way back on my own.

The 90km timetrial in the half Ironman, which I did in 2:29 gave me a lot of confidence in my stamina and endurance, so I was looking forward to this ride. It was also good to see how on the climbs I felt relatively stronger than the other guys, which is a bit of a flip.

When I finished the race I saw Jean in the parking lot and he made a remark - 'What happened to you after halfway, did you get a puncture?' Not sure if that was meant sarcastically - he has quite a high opinion of himself. I told him one of his teammates had made a really slow turn - his team mate made some sneering remark to which I retorted: "He's a Christian right - but an asshole when he's on the bike."

Hey, in cycling there are all sorts of dirty tricks - completely fair - like gutter riding, where you prevent the rider behind you from saving energy off your slipstream (you need a crosswind for it to work). But when you have a team of 4 or 5 riders and someone has to go out of his way to kick you out of the group, you've got to wonder what they're afraid of.

Anyhow, just based on the stats it was a great ride:
Time: 1:39:00
Speed: 40.2km/h 68.6km/h max (on a flat road)
HR Average: 158 (that's high for me) /169 max (not terribly high)
Temperature: 15/18 av/23 max [Ideal temperatures, just very windy on the way back]
Ascent: 175m
KCal: 1716

One thing that annoyed me after the race was I found my water bottle at least half full. Not clever.

In the last 2km we picked up the pace and me and my companion, Anri du Toit [?] strong female rider finished together. I find it is very rare that female riders contribute to the pacemaking and she did, and was nice and strong at the end too.

I've done the Jagersfontein race and it really has only 3 or 4 opportunities for attack - right in the beginning, on the climb towards halfway, the halfway turn, and the incline in the last 2-3 kilometres. I'm looking forward to doing in next year, following the half Ironman again but dictating the race more. SA tri champs were this weekend as well so it will depend on how the dates pan out next weekend.

I've felt out of the sorts the last 2 weeks - a combination of some very hard races and sessions and then the fluctuating temperatures and stresses. This week, including Saturday's race, I trained a little over 5 hours. Hopefully I can rest up early in the week and then start picking it up.

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