Sunday, February 20, 2011

HOLD YOUR LINE!


I am not really sure what possesses a competitive Mountain Biker to cross over to the road for more than just training rides, but be it curiosity or insanity, this is one Mountain Biker that got the fright of his life, learnt a lot about road racing, suffered a little humiliation, and ended up finishing strong to complete his very first road race with a smile.

Arriving at Eastern Creek shortly before the start time, I didn’t have time to get nervous as the marshalls hurriedly handed out the last of the race numbers and there we were on the start line. The A's rolled out first then us B graders were also soon off and rolling at quite a civilised pace. Drastique went straight to the front figuring that he would control the pace for the first couple of laps and use them as his warm up which worked well as I was only a few wheels back. The legs feel a little lazy after a day off yesterday, but in the 3rd lap, the legs spring to life and I know I can compete here. It was a huge bunch of perhaps 50 riders and the feeling of being swept along in the bunch like a swarm of bees, no longer in the predictable "2-a-breast" I am used to, but with constant jockeying for position is both exhilarating and requires total focus.

As the race continued and temperature started to rise, a few guys tried to get away but no one was biting yet and the solid pace continued. Suddenly a North's rider I was following near the front veered right and accelerated and it was on! Another rider joined us and the three us of built a handy gap and worked together for a number of laps. While it felt great to be "out there", looking back you could see the bunch had pegged our pace and at some time we would either have to lift the tempo or accept the catch, so after a good number of laps, the bunch caught us at the top of the straight and I was ready to sit up and find a comfy place near the back. This is where it could have gone so wrong and I found myself unsure of where to go, who to follow, when a rider feinted towards me I over-reacted and had that terrible feeling of both bodyweight and front wheel heading in the wrong direction, I touched someone's back wheel and managed to keep it upright but ended up swerving across a number of riders incurring their wrath at 50kph down the main straight.

On a mountain bike you are ready for that if something jumps up unexpected you can take evasive action, but here you just HAVE to hold your line even if it means washing off a little speed. Feeling slightly shaken, it happened again on a left hand sweeping bend and I had to go wide to avoid the wheel in front and by this time all I had to do was glance sideways and someone would be howling at me to hold my line. After a tough week at work, my confidence was already shaky and the next lap I was left to ponder whether it might just be better to pull out and put it down to experience, but things had settled down, a few of the Waratahs guys had a kind word just to relax and Drastique even put one of the detractors in his place. OK so perhaps I am not a complete hubbard.

Drastique has me setup to lead him out at the finish and I lock in my plan for the finish. The bell sounds and as there are 2 or 3 off the front I figure it's time to put everything on the line and go with the chasers. We reach the designated point to attack and away I go, I only hope Rich is on my wheel. There are 10 riders in front and I pass 2 down the straight to finish a good eighth satisfied with my effort and not far from the place getters. Riders continue to pass me at a fairly rapid rate which surprises me, until Rich calls out "wrong bell, 3 laps to go!" Oh the humiliation, but no one seems to care, in fact they assume that our aim was to bridge the gap to the breakaway so it's job done, ride on, except I feel like crap now having put everything into my "sprint". I fall almost to the back of the bunch and spend two laps recovering till the bell sounds (again!) OK I think I have something left, but I am going to have to work.

I spend the middle third of the lap working my way back to the front of the bunch. I have obviously learnt something as I don’t invoke any abuse as I manoeuvre past Drastique hoping he'll hop on my wheel. The slight rise before the 800m straight is the usual attack point, but this time round the forerunners are saving their matches. We round the corner and the riders part like the red sea, there are riders left and right and only the finish line is in sight so I put my head down, draw a straight line in my head and pedal like never before. I draw level with the leaders, I am red-lining, but the engine is humming and the legs won’t give in. I am so far forward on the saddle and the point is you don’t want to know where and I am actually leading someone out, sadly not Drastique as I glance to my right and see him coming down the far right of the straight. With 50m to go I sense the guy on my wheel has pulled out for the final sprint so I sit up satisfied with my lead out hoping this offering with appease the bunch aficionados and my sprinter finishes 3rd.
Without a doubt this goes down as the highest intensity race I have ever done. Yes some of the off-road races I have ridden have been tough, requiring enormous determination, but the difference is that off-road you can spend a lot of time on your own, you can zone out. Racing on the road requires an altogether different mental attitude of discipline, focus and razor reflexes. It took just 75 minutes to burn 1123 Cal for an average HR of 85%. Things are looking good if I can take this kind of performance off road. (12 laps, 4km/lap, avg 38.5 kph)

Thanks to Drastique, Tony and Josh for a great ride, not a bad Peloton Sports team! Thanks to Alf from Waratahs for his kind word of advice to a newbie and all the marshalls and volunteers who made this race possible and as always Turramurra Cycling for your constant support to make me a better rider

Keep Riding
Mike

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