The Hard Road
Part 2 2007 Reality bites
So after an awesome rookie season my confidence was sky high going into 2007. My training still pretty much consisted of the local bunch rides but had now been doing regular mountain rides on the Wednesday and the HOP on Tuesday. The plan moving forward was basically much of the same. By this time however I had started to question the suitability of my steel Cervelo, at this time carbon bikes were clearly available but at least in our club they were in the minority, light alloy frames with light alloy wheels were still the tried and tested mounts of choice. So I fixed my sites on an upgrade.My research suggested alloy was on the way out and carbon was the way to go, but again which one…? So many models so many choices all so expensive. Cheaper carbon frames didn’t exist at this stage and you were lucky to walk away with any change from $6000.
I settled on a Colnago CLX, not a pure race frame, and not the lightest either but it looked like a good conservative option, and as I could buy it from Doug at Bomaderry Cycles it seemed a good fit…and he let me pay it off. The difference between this and the Cervelo was striking I couldn’t believe two bikes could feel so different. It came with a mix of Dura Ace and Ultegra with 7801 Dura ace wheels coming in at 1600 grams, lighter than my current wheels by a long shot but not quite up with the then preferred Mavics, you know the ones with the red spoke.
So all saddled up on the new steed the 07 season began with me now riding the scratch bunch in handicaps. My fellow scratch riders on a regular basis were Adam Rourke and Jason Caldwell. Occasionally Robbie William, Tim Adams or KevPoulton would show up to punt me back to block. The Rock is a bit of a living legend in cycling especially locally both road and track and Jason young and strong and with a big engine. The club raced predominantly handicaps so the joy of the previous season was quickly erased. I spent the next few months hanging on for grim death trying to hold their wheel, rarely contributing too much and always had nothing left for the sprint. Basically I was in no man’s land, too strong for block, but not strong enough for scratch it wasn’t fun.
Around midyear, desperate to find that next level, I started considering a power meter. Club stalwarts Greg Molony and Bruce Williams were both big advocates for the advantages of power and convinced me to take the plunge. Yet again I was faced with the question, which one? Luckily in 2007 pickings were slim, basically there was SRM (way too expensive) or Powertap, the hub based meter at around $1500. (They now sell for $800). There was little to no real information on them so it basically came down to affordability. So thanks to Mr Wiggle I order my new 28 hole Powertap had it laced into a rim and off I went. This meant I had to use the then yellow Powertapheadunit.
So now I had the power meter what the hell are you meant to do with it….again there was little to no information available on training with power except for Coggan’s book ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’. Coggan a co-founder of WKO and then Training Peaks literally wrote the book on training and racing with power. Terms like chronic training load, training stress score, training stress balance started to enter my vocabulary. I bought my desktop version of WKO training software and off we went. The problem with Coggan’s book and others like it whilst they educated you on the terms and basic fundamentals what they didn’t tell you was how to structure a program that aligned with you the rider and your goal events etc. So whilst armed with these new tools I was still pretty lost on how to address my weekly hammering in races. The answer to this question was finally resolved for me the following year by this strange guy I had briefly met the previous year, he turned up to a local handicap dressed in bright pink Total Rush kit with this outrageous pommie accent, as loud as life. We will get to him later and a chance meeting that would forever change the direction of my life.
So I soldiered on, my first ever a FTP test yielded an FTP of 315 weighing around 78kg by this stage. My climbs up the mountain had improved from 27min into the mid 23s but it was slow going. The best ride of the week was the Tuesday hour of power, a 30km out and back ride on flat but bumpy roads, we had two groups A and B, with the wanna be heroes trying their luck in A to see how long they could hold on only to get dropped and drift back to B. I loved this ride as it was fast flat and good fun. Plus it was always a good measure of who was in form and who was struggling. It was in this ride I started to notice changes in form, wattages I could hold from week to week and periods of strength where you felt you could do anything (until Robbieshowed up or Kev and put you back in your place). The Thursday Swap wasn’t as challenging anymore especially with the restricted gearing so I struggled to get something from that ride without causing too much angst. My Saturday ride was typically a long group ride with either Mountains or flats, always a good ride with coffee at the end.
I had been investigating aero wheels for the 2nd half of the season again cheap pickings were incredibly slim, but I found these spinergy rims on Torpedo 7 for $900. My first club race I used them racing with the usual scratch trio, the very first time I pulled into the draft the difference was instantly noticeable. For the first time all year I could sit in and recover on the wheel, I just couldn’t believe it would be that profound. Why the hell are all these guys running 24mm alloy rims??? This was almost cheating. It would start a bit of an aero obsession over the next few years which myself and a certain Pom to do things in races that other would mock and joke about, only to watch us ride off into the distance.
As that years club championships rolled around I was firmly entrenched into the cycling routine. Regular bunch rides sneaking a coffee afterwards before work where family patience would allow, all travel decisions required planning of can I take my bike and where can I ride it. Lighting systems back then where basically shit so training in darkness which I would embrace in the future was not a great option. So my hours on the road were limited as anyone working a full time job with a young family. I pushed the envelope on more than one occasion only to be regularly reminded that I did indeed have a family and that it should be the priority.
For this year’s club championships it was to be a cumulative result for overall club champion. The combined results of the time trial hill climb and road race. On paper the format favoured Bruce Williams clearly our best time trialist, and noted hill climber with road racing his least favoured. Bruce won the hill climb I think I came 3rd, then in the time trial with little or no hope of beating Bruce, he came down with gastro the night before and was sick as a dog on race day. I also learned afterwards that he had encouraged a certain pommie to race in the hope of stealing some points off me. I had a cheap Merida TT bike by this stage but no skin suit or TT helmet to speak of. Bruce had it all, Cervelo P3 Zipp wheels skin suit he was the current MMAS 5 National Time trial champion.
Our local course was 14.8km about 21-22min for a good rider, I knew Bruce was sick so it would just come down to how sick. I had been training extensively with the Powertap but as anyone that has owned one will acknowledge that are as aero as a brick and heavy so it had to go in favour of my newly acquired spinergy carbon wheels, 44mm rim depth with alloy breaking surface but also quite heavy at 1.8kg. But as I had found during the regular season aero was king on the fast and flat. I all but caught Bruce in the race crossing the line a few seconds behind after starting 1 min down, so I knew I had him the question was where would he finish…The pommie was the only one who could potentially knock me off the top step, I watched him cross the line …2nd place Bruce third. The Pom rode his road bike with clips ons with a 330 watt normalised power, this was one of only 3 times I managed to beat him if what would be many many more times to come. My time 21.30 I think a course record at the time but I’m not sure.
This left Bruce and I on equal points going into the road race. This was my first real tactical scratch race which I bombed big time and set the scene for many worse road races to come. Basically either Bruce or I just needed 1 point to be the clear club champion. After two years of racing I basically had one tactic, chase everything!! No breaks should be allowed to get away and drive the pack to bring those that did back. About mid race distance a new and so far unknown club member Matt Carmalotti and young Tim Adams broke away, I watched them ride away thinking no problem the bunch was strong we could hold them and reel them in. On the run home I was introduced to the politics of the bunch, half the field riding for Bruce chose not to chase, and 3 or 4 opted to help me, we left it too late and we clearly weren’t going to bring them back. At one point the guys sitting on were laughing at us when we asked for help basically giving me a valuable lesson on the nature of the bunch and how it can work against you, unfortunately it would still take several more lessons before I worked out the answer. Matt won the race a sign of things to come from him, Jason attacked late to grab third with points down to 5th if I had just used half of my brain I could have engineered something, I was so trashed at the end Bruce outsprinted me which was further pain I had to endure. This left us on equal points so rather than a count back the club opted to split the title which was fine with me.
The scars of that race hurt for some time and would come back to haunt me in several road races to come. My FTP at close of season was 320 not bad but I was found wanting on several occasions. Despite the angst the club champs generated Bruce and I never had crossed words, I had been schooled by riders with a better understanding and I simply had to lick my wounds and learn from it. Bruce remains an awesome cyclist now retired from racing and a good friend.
Notes for the year, I raced a pretty full season over 25 races mostly local, I raced the interclub series again but now off 2nd block no joy in the points. It was a very frustrating year as my progression was much less than the year before. I had seen some improvement but in hindsight my training wasn’t that much different to the year before, a lot of repetition and no timing in terms of races, peaks or troughs in form.
Weekly Hours 8-11
Weekly kms 220-280
Typical weeks training
Tuesday HOP 90 mins
Wednesday Mountain ride 90 mins with 24 min climb
Thursday Bunch ride 40km swappio
Friday Recovery ride 30km
Saturday Bunch ride long 80-100km
Sunday Race day 2 per month or 60 km endurance
2 local race win
Raced the Interclub Series but now off 2nd block
Joint overall A grade club Champion.
TT time club course 14.8KM
Part 3 2008 my first Masters Nationals…not a good indication of what was to come but it was the year the Pom and I stared a relationship that still exists today and has shaped both our lives.