The Hard Road
Part 4 2009 A National Podium
This was to be my biggest year on the bike yet. I planned to compete in the State Masters at Moruya, road and criterium, Nationals in Canberra and the World Masters Games in Sydney. Timing wise it would work very well with the States in May and Nationals and the Masters games in Sept-Oct.
By now I felt the Colnago wasn’t cutting the mustard. It felt too small and heavy. I really wanted a Cervelo Soloist. Everything about that bike made sense to me – fast, aero, and stiff but way out of my price range. However Probikekitwas selling last year’s R3 framesets pretty cheap, so I stalked the site for weeks finally pulling the trigger early in the year. I swapped over the Colnago groupset and fitted my wired SRM and we were ready to rock. This bike would serve me for the next 4 years like an absolute trooper. The Spinergy wheels had also had their day and a nice set of 2nd hand Easton 60mm carbon tubulars completed the set.
Mark and I decided on two three-month plans for the season – one for States the other for Nationals/Games. The rest of the time I would occupy myself. Locally Matt Carmellotti was always the rider to beat, but I think I only managed once or twice. Matt was built to race pushbikes – legs like pylons, a true sprinter, but he could also work hard roll turns and go in breaks. He had little to no weaknesses except long uphills but we never raced on long climbs so it was never an issue for him. But more than all that, he was an awesome mate. Old school to the hilt, loved his cycling and never shirked his share of the work. I was present for several of Matt’s best wins with our club and it was awesome to watch.
Local racing rarely exposed me to the type of racing I would face at States and Nationals – 120km scratch races. We mainly did handicaps or short scratch races. So tactically I would be found wanting in the races to come. Trying to find longer scratch races to practice on would be an ongoing issue for me. I had confidence in my fitness and ability but my mindset was firmly entrenched in the bunch and keeping it together. I had by this stage raced at Cootamundra in the 120km handicap, but again tactically it was simply hang onto scratch and see what you could do at the end.
The second plan was similar to the first but building on what we had done. At that time the TT was held separately to the road and crit,so prep was separated. I started the block at 330 watts FTP and finished at 345. My first State Masters was hard fast, and incredibly frustrating. The Moruya course was undulating and tough but none of the climbs long enough to force a selection. I rode at the front all day, policing the bunch trying to contain every break. Eventually two riders got up the road with a lap to go and no one was willing to help. This was something I was unprepared for and clueless on how to rectify it. Here was the race disappearing up the road and no one it seemed interested in chasing. I just couldn’t fathom how anyone could do all the training but then be so unwilling to influence the outcome. Left to my disbelief, I did the only thing I knew which was to chase and chase and chase. We got within about 20 seconds but in the final kickup to the finish everyone dropped me cold. I went out the back finishing 22nd; the two leaders stayed away by about 5 secs.
It was the beginning of my reputation as one of the strongest riders in the bunch but secretly one of the dumbest…
The crit the next day was on a really fast egg-shaped course, I felt awesome, raced hard and aggressively, but it was just too quick for anyone to pull away. I botched the final lap and came about 9th in a bunch kick, disappointed but happy with my form. This event helped me realise I was in the ball park, at least at state level, but a long way from a result. I didn’t race the state TT that year for reasons I can’t remember. My guess would be that it was held midyear and with Sep-Oct the priority, a third peak wasn’t realistic if I wanted to be at my best for Nationals. I was starting to get a good understanding by now of the importance of periodisation and peaking at the right times. It also meant my local racing was now a low priority as everything went into timing my form for thepriority events.
After a short winter break we commenced our plan for Nationals. The world games were only two weeks later so we could afford to simply peak at Nationals. Nationals were at Canberra that year, centered on Stromlo Park area and the infamous 3 sisters. I had raced my first Canberra Tour that April in D grade, so I knew the roads and also knew my weight was an issue. I was at my lowest weight of 74kgs but far from superlight. The Merida was now long gone as it was deemed unfit for purpose. Bruce had upgraded his alloy P3 to the all-new carbon version, so his old one was available for use. I had agreed to buy it but after the games he changed his mind so I gave it back reluctantly.
Still I had it for now and it was a fast bike; I had also borrowed Bruce’s rear 808 wheel to go with my 60 Easton on the front I now had a Limar TT helmet and brand new FTP skin suits – the sharkskin version which we now know were very fast suits. The course was out along the top of the sisters and back again – 20km of undulating fun but also fighting a 50knot crosswind. Bruce had run his deeper wheels and disc and almost been blown off the road. With power on the TT for the first time, borrowed bike, borrowed rear wheel, and as yet unrefined position I was confident of a good showing. I was 3rd last away with Mark and a certain Mr Peter Milostik off last. I didn’t know who Peter was at that stage but I would learn soon enough.
In those conditions it was a shit race, impossible to find rhythm, and it became a grind to the end. Power was low – around 320 whereas I had expected 350 – so I was unsure of how fast it was. Peter caught Mark and myself. He put 2minutes into both of us. It was a real pasting. A local rider, Michael Tolhurst, came in 2nd, 15 sec ahead of us. I watched Mark cross the line and knew it was close but I didn’t know we were fighting for last place on the podium. The result came in as we were chatting in the warm-down. I popped him by 2 seconds…I couldn’t believe it! A National bronze, after being nowhere the year before. I just couldn’t fathom it. While Mark was happy for me, I knew it would have pissed him off immeasurably that the apprentice had beaten the Master but I also believe it was what he needed to motivate himself to go on to dominate the category for the next 5 -6 years.
From total high of the TT to the absolute low of the Road Race, I was dropped on lap one and off for an early shower. Post-race analysis: I hadn’t eaten anywhere near enough after the TT and in the lead-up to the race. I had dropped weight quite a bit that year and basically didn’t eat enough coming into the race. I was shelled on the first climb. It wasn’t even that fast. I just had zero energy.Another valuable lesson learnt and my bad showing in the road race continued. The upside was I got to watch one of the best race finishes I would ever see. Club mate, Matt was out there hanging on for dear life. The three sisters is a brutal stretch, but luckily for him not the finish.He was shelled with 10km to go, but chased the whole way on his own, coming into contact literally as they entered the Stromlocrit circuit. I watched him ride through the pack on that final lap, basically only hitting the front 10m from the line and winning in a throw for the line. He backed it up in the crit with a little help from two eager club mates. Mark spent most of the crit up the road with Stew Campbell or Computa as he is known. They got reeled in with only a couple to go. I chased down a few late attempts ,leaving Matt to finish it off with another awesome sprint finish to take the overall champion of champions. This started a run of 4 out of 5 years where the Nowra Velo club held the MMAS 2/3 overall jersey.
With Nationals done, the focus shifted to the World Masters Games. The difference here was that anyone could enter, so on TT day you had people like us, all rather serious, and complete hubbards in sneakers arguing with the Aus Cycling commissaries about their bike eligibility. I had fought hard to get my energy levels back to normal. The course was the same eastern creekdragway from last year’s Nationals, 2 laps of 10 km. It was very technical in sections but also very fast. This was a better ride. 335 watts was still below par, but it felt much better. This time Mark turned the tables getting me by 8 secs. I would argue later that was the exact difference between my 808 rear wheel and his zipp disc over 20km…. Unfortunately I was pipped for 3rd by 2 seconds by a Pom. 4th is such a shit result
Pumped for the road race, my bad luck/ineptitude continued.It was the first lap. I was in the bunch, tight left hand turn downhill, on the white line, and boom! Lost the front and down I went into a barrier. Bark off, out the back, and pissed off. I remounted and chased like I was possessed. For a lap I closed the gap,then they pulled away. I had a gaggle on my wheel by this stage but it was all over …again.
That year’s club champs was less important to me after a very long year, but I still managed some good results, first in the hill climb, 2nd again in the TT and Road. Our times on the local TT course had improved over the year with myself breaking into the low 20s and Mark the elusive 19 bracket with a 19.57.
So my 4th season finished up a mixed bag, showing clear improvement and success but also utter frustration on the road. I was training well having had two programs from Mark, my FTP had lifted, and I was clearly in the ball park in the Time Trial. But road races were a big disappointment, lack of experience was proving telling and I wasn’t even finishing in the bunch despite being strong enough to do so. 2010 would again prove a frustrating year.
Weekly Hours 10-14
Weekly kms 300-350
Typical weeks training peak phase
Tuesday 90 mins Vo2 4 x5 mins @112-120%FTP
Wednesday 60 minsRecovery
Thursday 90 mins Drive for the line (race prep session)
Friday Recovery ride 30km
Saturday Endurance 2-3 hours with 3-5 x V02min climbs
Sunday Race day 2 per month or 3 hours long endurance
State Masters MMAS 2
Road Race 22nd
Nationals MMAS 2
Time Trial 3rd
Road race DNF
Criterium Top 20
World Masters Games MMAS 2
Time Trial 4th
Road Race off the back chasing like a hubbard….
Club Champs A grade
Hill climb 1st16.19 2008 17.21
Time trial 2nd 20.17 2008 20.35 2007 21.30
Road Race 2nd
Part 5 2010 Rock Bottom