Monday, 1 June 2009

On The Road

You all think you are just so clever. Well let me tell you, right now you are at the top of the school but next year you start at the bottom again and this is a cycle that repeats throughout life. Then after secondary school, it is university and then it is the workforce. You might think you are all very clever now but remember, it does not last for long.

The above is a close approximation of a lecture an angry teacher gave my final year primary class many, many years ago after we had developed the habit of being a little uncontrollable. And it is a lecture I have never forgotten, partly because it continually proves to be true and in many walks of life.

And as recently as Saturday, this wise teacher’s words came into my consciousness.

I have been racing consistently for about 8 months and gradually improving both fitness and race craft. I even thought (naively) I was doing ok and getting to understand a little about this business of bike racing. At least in low grade club events anyway.

However, my racing activities have been restricted to Criterions at Nundah, Lakeside and Murarrie.

On Saturday I completed my first road race out of Elimbah.

Criterions are conducted on nice smooth surfaces free of potholes where at worst, you only push into the wind for a relatively short distance each lap.

The roads we raced on at Elimbah were very rough, contained many pothole hazards including some big enough to break a wheel if you hit them and sections into the wind that went for kilometers not meters.

There were races conducted in two divisions and I was pleased to be allocated the second division race – and I expected to be too.

However I wasn’t really expecting the handicapper to call my name out along with 5 others to start from scratch.

I asked a few other competitors how a handicap road race worked. The best answer I received came from one of my fellow scratch who simply advised “When the starter says go, we go like hell for as long as we can and when we are spent we hang on for dear life and keep going like hell”. Sounds like fun I thought to myself.

The first group of racers left the start line a full 14 minutes before we did, with other groups leaving 11, 8, 6 and 4 minutes before we were waived away.

I was advised we would operate a pace line along the flats and gradual rises and falls and do “your best on the hills and if you get dropped on a hill go hard to get back on because we wont be waiting for you”.

And go like hell we did, on bar jarring pot holed roads into seemingly endless head winds on up hills that seemed like mountains and down hills that seemed so short.

After about 5 kilometers we lost one of our group and it took some 25 kilometers before we caught anyone at all. At about 30 kilometers we had reeled in everyone else and the race was on.

Having a sprint capacity roughly equal to a broken billy cart uphill and knowing my only hope for a win was to break away I stepped on the gas with around 3 kilometers to go and achieved a gap of about 200 meters.

Looking at my heart rate monitor, I decided to ignore a heart rate in a range that would not please my cardiologist.

A kilometer to go and I still had a lead but with pain in the legs and bursting lungs my strength was waning. The chasers caught me with about a hundred meters to go and I finished 5th with a comfortable lead over the next placed cyclist.

Totally spent, aching back and neck, and legs not keen to keep rotating I rolled to a halt before turning and heading back to the finish line where other competitors were gathering. The big thrill came from my scratch partners. These guys are experienced cyclist and experienced road racers. To receive their comments such as “well ridden”, “great ride” and “you made the race and would have deserved a win” was extremely satisfying.

Road racing is tough and very different to criterions. It is fast and furious and you are more reliant on each rider in your start group. You work in cooperation with the people you aim to defeat because to not do so ensures you have no chance of victory.

I knew nothing at the start and now know a tiny little bit about road racing. The words of my primary school teacher came to mind as a racked up my bike and drove home. Her wise words repeatedly are proven to be true as they were again on Saturday. But it is good to be at the bottom again and I look forward eagerly to the next chance to race on the road and rising from the bottom of the heap.

Now for a Time Trial


Groover said...

Well done and great report. Elimbah was my first race down here in Brisbane, too. Road races are a completely different cattle of fish than handicaps. If you like handicaps, sign up for the Avanti Classic! :-)

A dream that was once lost but now found... said...

Hey Colin, well done on you're first road race. Good to hear you're out there giving it a go. See you on the road. Nik :)

Buttsy said...

Great report..handicaps are fun as they are more honest than scratch races...everyone should be doing their turns or if they dont they should not be winning the race....seriously there is a lot of ettiquette in handicaps..that is until a faster bunch catches you then you hang on and choose your own destiny.....time trials are even more honest and I love them!!

Colin said...

Groover - Avanti Classic is only a week or so away. I think it may be too soon. What do you think? Will you do it with me in 2010?

Nik - Appreciate your encouragement. I am amazed at your Tasmania crash and state championship rsult 2 weeks later. Pure courage and very inspirational as is your Metro report.

Buttsy - I still have a lot to learn about Road races but a TT is scary because there is no where to hide and no one to blame. Sounds like fun. Must be time to put the old Trek on the line and have a go. Thanks. Appreciate it.