Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dulwich Paragon - trashed

C'mon Jayne - let's go riding with Dulwich Paragon chaingang on Wednesday night!  We'd checked out the website page and reckoned it sounded like a ride for us.

What started out on Wednesday evenings as the women's chaingang has metamorphosed into a sporting ride but one that is still sociable and takes time to re-group 
Average speed 18mph which I calculate as a shade under 29kph.  I can manage that easy!  We figured we'd go and have dinner after or something.

All started well.  We both got to the start place ahead of the start time.  Jayne riding her fixie (as single speed) with the mother of all chains over one shoulder.  Me on the Baum in my DHBC jersey.  Intros all round, forgot to take a picture.

Hmm, these riders are young and skinny.  But anyway, we believed the website and set off.  Fast.  Actually, quite fast.   By now it was dark - these people don't ride in the mornings like we do.  It's all evening.  Turns out to be quite hard to hurtle through the darkness on the back of a bunch of about 12 going way faster than I ever would ride by myself thought traffic and narrow roads.

We think riding to Waterfall is a heavy traffic route.  At least we have dedicated lanes for half of it and wide roads for most of it.  NOTHING like London.

With no idea of the route, when the hard bits or the easy bits were going to be, I hung on for dear life.  Thank god Jayne was finding it tough.  She suggested we bail about 6kms in but I thought I'd warm up soon and be OK.  In any case I could hardly breathe.  Or think.

One of the DP guys dropped back with us and another bloke.  He lasted about 15kms and then said he was cooked.  More hurtling, now in a small group of 3.  I could barely do a turn on the front in the rolling paceline.  Finally got to the turnaround point, somewhere in Kent.

Jayne was spotting pubs and suggesting we stop at each one.  At some point I heard her explaining to one of the riders.  "we need to stop at a pub - she's Australian!"  In a begging kind of voice.  

After the turnaround, it was more downhill and fast.  Harder for Jayne whose legs wouldn't turn over that fast on the singlespeed.  More hurtling, but faster.  Eventually we ended up at Crystal Palace - the end of the ride and suddenly everyone dispersed.  No-one wanted to go to the pub!

So Jayne and I headed off to Dulwich and staggered into the pub, giggling hysterically, to gabble at the barmaid that we'd been trashed by a bunch of young blokes and needed beer. Urgently.  And chips.

No idea what my average was because it includes the ride to and from at a somewhat more leisurely pace.  Others on the ride averaged 30-33.  That's fast for the traffic and conditions.  Most people seemed to have acquired a swag of PRs suggesting it was a faster ride than usual.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The World Championship road race report and other stuff

Well that was a big day!

An extraordinary thing happened.  I finished a race and ate an apple* and 2 pieces of parmesan on a stick.  What sort of country gives you parmesan to eat after a race?!  Oh, that's right.  Italy.

The UCI World Championships for Masters and Amateurs started in Trento's main square.  There were perhaps 1,000 all up and each age group and gender started separately but only 2 minutes apart.  Within half an hour we were all on the road.

Women over 45 got to ride the Medio Fondo - medium race of 60km.  No choice about that. I would have preferred the Gran Fondo myself but ...

I rode in a double age group of W45-54 but we had different coloured numbers to distinguish us.  Mine was yellow.

We had to be in our starting pen at 7:45am for an 8:20am start.  Right!  No warming up then.  For once I was off the hook and everyone was in the same boat.  Which meant a relatively slow start and we cruised the first 8km at about 25 or 26 along the flat, everyone together.  Nice!

Then the first climb sorted us out though and the fast women took off.  I couldn't stay on after about the first half a km and did the 7km climb mostly by myself except I overtook an American woman who then sat on my wheel on a flat bit before passing me.  Only to be overtaken again on the climb.  Right, I thought, I can beat you on the big climb.  I won't worry about you now.

Of course she passed me on the descent. I was descending like a nervous bag of potatoes - this style of descending not helped by the sight of 2 ambulances dealing with what looked like a war zone of injured men.  Don't know what happened there but it didn't look pretty.

Then it was a long flat or slightly downhill bit of road for maybe 20km back towards Trento.  I did this solo but I saw the American woman up ahead.  She'd picked up an old bloke - shameless hussy - and was sitting on his wheel.  Couldn't catch them - until ...

... the long 20km climb up Mount Bondone started.  I'd been up in the bus the other day and it looked incredibly steep and windy from the bus.  That version aided and abetted by the grinding gears every time the driver changed down.  But the climb itself wasn't too bad.  There were occasional bits of 14% but nothing worse than the Pyrenees.  The mountains themselves are steeper, but the roads are more windy in order to compensate for the steepness.  After all, those cars full of skiers need to be able to get up the mountain.

It was so nice riding up a closed road.  And even better, I passed about 10 people on the climb including 2 women from my age group.  And no-one passed me.  I could see them up ahead and then slowly, steadily wound them in.

But as I started to get closer to the summit, the sounds of helicopters circling became more intense.  Hmmm - maybe the lead bunch of the young guys is coming up the mountain.  Better get my skates on in case it's a big bunch and they knock me off the road or something.  As it was, I beat them by a few minutes (they were doing the longer course so had done two climbs before this last one.)  As it turned out, there was a breakaway so only one or two of them.

Whoever said mountain finishes were a good idea?  Got over the line, stopped and had a massive coughing fit.  I snuffled and coughed my way through the entire ride - still got a cold.  But I did work a bit harder on the last 2 kms.

There were 23 women in my age group - I came 20th in a time of 3:15 and average 18.4kph. The winner did it in 2:29 and 24kph.   Looking at the results, I don't see a couple of Australian women that I know I passed so not sure what happened to them.

Gaye Lynn got her second World Champion in the Road Race along with the ITT on Friday.  Great riding from her.  She's 11 years older than me and was 20 minutes faster.

Australian women did really well - of the 8 medals that won by Australians, 6 of them were won by women.  No men medalled in the road race, but the women got one gold and one bronze.

Most people rode down Mount Bondone back to Trento after the race ended and the roads re-opened.  I was still impersonating potatoes and ended up riding down by myself and didn't know how to avoid the big tunnel.  So I went through it.  There's two - one abut 500m and the other at least 2 kms long.  Looking at Strava and I can see I did that 2nd tunnel at about 65-70kph!  There was a slight downhill but you also get dragged along by the cars.  Exhilarating and a bit scary by yourself.

Experimented with dinner ordering tonight and ended up with this.  Two of my least favourite vegetables on one plate. That green stuff in the middle is spinach.  At least there's no okra I guess.

Off to London in the morning to check out the weather.  Expecting Melbournish.

*Yes folks.  I ate an apple.  Yesterday I also ate an apple.  This is unprecedented and should stop immediately.  Locally grown, very nice and super fresh.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ITT - Cavedine Trentino

The time trial course was hard!   As the oldest woman in my age group, I started first. 

I was more nervous than I thought and realised this about 1km out of the gate when I was hyperventilating yet my heart rate was still well under threshold.  

Everything hurt and I’d only been on the bike for a couple of minutes.  I could not settle down for the first couple of kms and was quickly demoralised when 3 riders had passed me in the first 2.5kms – all of them on TT bikes and fully kitted out.  Sperm helmets, the lot.  All I had was my normal bike and a skinsuit. 

Riders left at 30sec intervals but in my fog of failure to warm up properly (at least I had ridden for 45 mins before hand, but hadn’t really pushed myself to point of pain) I thought it was 1 min intervals.  Still!!!

Here's the profile

A big downhill was good but I was on compacts, with no TT bars and Mavic Open Pros so I wasn’t as fast as I could have been.  Then a flat along the lake into a headwind where I got passed by a couple more TTers before the big uphill.  I’m much better at that and the woman who was breathing down my neck couldn’t pass me on the uphill which made me feel much better.

Then the last 5km into town was a slight uphill.  For the whole race I felt that I had nothing more to give.  Could not have gone faster.  Got to the end and then coughed my lungs up.  Still got the vestiges of that cold apparently.  And a bit of pursuiter's cough.

But the best bits came at the end, after I had recovered somewhat!  I accidentally lined up for a sports massage which was great!  Got a few lumps out of my legs from a handsome therapist. 

And one of the Melbourne women organised all the Australian women in the TT for a group photo.  There were 17 of us including a couple I know, both of whom seem to have done rather well.

Gaye Lynn came first in her age group, 65+ , in a blistering time and more than 7 minutes faster than me  (she did 46, I did 54 minutes).  3 other Australian women placed, along with 2 men.  I think the women are doing comparatively well!

I came 16th in the world - which could also be read as 16th of the people who had the time, inclination and resources to get there in the first place or ... 2nd last.  Couldn't have ridden any faster.

The weather is just fantastic by the way.  Sunny, warm but not too hot.

I had the best dinner tonight.  Things in Italy tend to run later than anyone thought, things don't quite go according to plan (including the timing of race events it seems) and muddling through seems to be the accepted rule.  So I stayed for the whole ceremony which finished at 8:30 and then went to find something to it.  Must have been in a difficult to please mood because I locked and unlocked my bike several times - even sat down in 2 different restaurants and then decided I didn't like the menu or was never going to get served because everyone was in the main square.  

So I rode my bike around a few streets and chanced upon a restaurant/ bar off the beaten track, chained my bike up and went in.  Best waiter ever stumbled through the menu with me, showed me the local specialities of Trentino that were vegetarian and I had a porcini mushroom thing.  It was balls of something, semolina perhaps, with porcini in them all sitting in a bowl of cheese.  Sounds a bit gross but it was really, really good.  And then had a chocolate thing that was sort of a souffle with a runny inside.  But the outside was firmer.  Who knows what either of them were.  I even had a glass of wine by myself - most unusual for me.  

Rode home late, a little tipsy, wearing black with no lights and no helmet.  But on the bike path.  So that's alright isn't it?  

(there's a picture coming - sometime).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Racing the cobblestones

Tonight we raced a sort of crit in a team relay on the cobblestones of Trento.  I’d tentatively ridden around the streets last night, testing them out.  Hmm, didn’t feel great.  11 teams, 5 of them Aussies.

I sought advice on riding cobblestones from that reputable source of truth – facebook friends – and discovered I should variously use double the amount of Savlon, stay up the front of the race to avoid crashes (similar to advice from Phil Liggett as it happens!) or ride like I’m riding an Aussie dirt road.  

Actually, that last one would mean “have a tantrum” from past experience and as some friends can attest.  And let the tyres down to 80psi – which I considered and decided that they had probably lost a bit of pressure since I last pumped them up.

Met my team - Michael, John and Kevin at 12:30 for a pre-race meeting.  All good.  I borrowed one of their jerseys and adjusted it to fit with safety pins.  

They decided I was the boss and adopted my strategy of putting slowest person (me) first and fastest person last. 

4:00pm and they let us on the course to warm up.  This really only served to make me more nervous especially as although the course was officially closed, pedestrians were wont to pop out at inopportune cornering moments and we all nearly took a few out.  It was hard to get the sense of the corners in race conditions.  

Then eventually the race started and by the 2nd corner … I was in last place.  All the blokes in the first leg, took off like startled rabbits.  Just me and another, younger, Aussie woman.

She was unbelievably nervous, turned out to be her first ever crit!  That’s worse than a newbie racing Heffron.  Anyway, couldn’t corner so I sat on her wheel for 2 laps and then passed her and took off. 

By my 5th and last lap I was well ahead of her and pretty stuffed.  I think I rode quite well considering the corners and cobblestones and was getting braver and faster on the corners on the last lap.  I couldn’t get out of the saddle on the drops without the back end feeling like it was going to bounce – but then didn’t really need to sprint much except out of the corners.  Glad to give it away on that lap before I got too confident.

I hadn’t given my team the greatest of starts, but at least we weren’t last.  But the blokes gradually reeled them in, especially as many other teams had put their woman in second place. 

Some dubious lap counting by the race officials confused us all.  In the end, we finished in second place with first and third being taken by Italians. 

Followed, eventually, by a proper flag ceremony with flowers and everything!  The boys took the wine, I took the flowers and then rode the 2.5km to my hotel with them balanced on the handlebars and a backpack on my bag.

Tick that one off!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Resting, travelling and off the bike for a few days

A day off the bike looking at the Palais de Papes – Avignon was the home of the Popes for a number of years in the 14th Century.  They built some incredible buildings, although curiously, no cathedral.  Or if they did, it’s long gone.

A long lunch set us up well for a nap and a bit of bike packing, while Ted checked out some museums.  We had a quick early meal in the bohemian part of town before catching the most spectacular light show back at the Palais.  It was just incredible and no photos can do justice to it.  You had to be there.  So glad we didn’t miss that.  But here's a photo not doing it justice anyway.

This morning (Tuesday) Camilla headed off to London to write a conference paper and Ted to Sydney via Rome.  I’m writing this on a multi-stage train trip to Verona tonight and Trento, Italy in the morning.   I’m in Trento for 5 days for the UCI World Cycling Tour Finals. You know, the one I qualified for and got the UCI medal. J

And that Christian and Mark can now do next year if they want to having got their own UCI medals at Amy’s Gran Fondo down in Lorne on the weekend. 

Travelling with a bicycle in a bag on trains is relatively easy – except for all the stairs you have to drag the bag up and down ever so gently.  Lucky I work out, that’s all I can say. It's been worth having some upper body strength. 

Still on the scale of things, the train travel across 3 countries and with multiple connections is actually relatively easy. But I am glad the bag has wheels. 

Spent a nice morning looking around Verona and now I'm in Trento, have rebuilt the bike without snapping the headset bolts this time and it's plugged in, charging (that still makes me laugh).  Racing cobblestones tomorrow evening.  If you never see another blog, it's because I died on the cobblestones. 

Mont Ventoux - epic

The rest day for the Hannibal Tour had an optional climb up Mont Ventoux with only a couple choosing to do it.  Camilla and I were keen, as were a couple of others including my doppelganger Bernadette and Felix a journalist who, like Bernadette, is riding all the way to Rome. 

The night before the weather forecast looked terrible.  Mont Ventoux is about 50 kms from Avignon and looms in the distance but often covered in cloud.  The forecast was for rain, 50-60kph winds (a mistral) and 2-4 degrees.  We wavered and had pretty much decided not to do it.  I was still feeling unwell in any case. 

Morning had a different, more positive forecast and we stuffed around “yes, no, maybe” for several rounds.  Until, suddenly everyone decided to go.  I packed hurriedly and left everything for Ted to transfer to our hotel for the next two nights.  Thanks Ted!  He was heading off to check out Nimes for the day – after he had moved all our gear, that is.

Next thing we are in the van and heading to a small town about 10km from the base of Ventoux.  Got changed in the hotel where the Hannibal Tour people were staying.  A lovely old place that used to be the home of the Marquis de Sade.  Hmm, would like to have found out more.

I put on everything warm I owned and packed a rainjacket as well.  And Camilla, Bernadette and I set off with Alan (ex DHBC now SCC) who had turned up for the next leg of the tour. We stopped at Bedoin for a quick bite to eat, Alan headed off and then we 3 women.  Except we got lost somehow and wandered around the foothills for 10km we didn’t need before heading back to Bedoin for instructions only to be met by an incredulous Dylan who couldn’t believe we missed the turn … Yeah, well it was easier second time.  Add that to the list of stupid things I have done.  Apparently I was on the front when we missed the turn.  Apparently.

Bedoin is the climb most often used by in the Tour and reputedly the hardest.  I had a vague thought of doing all 3 climbs, but given we hadn’t started til 2pm, that wasn’t going to happen. Plus I was coughing.  A lot.

We decided to climb at our own pace and I left Bernadette and Camilla after a few kms and climbed solo.  It’s indeed a hard climb with long stretches of 10% and unrelenting.  No ups and downs so it was hard to take a drink.  I stopped twice to have a gel and a drink.  Every km there is a sign that says how far to the Sommet (for the benefit of Jo - that’s summit in French) some of which I missed. Don’t know how that happened. 

The road was wet from recent rain. Alan had got drenched in a downpour that fortunately missed us.  A benefit of getting lost I guess.

Eventually I got to the restaurant about 6km from the top and at the treeline.  We had arranged to meet here on the way down and all descend together.  And warm up as it was getting quite cold.  And I’d sweated so much on the way up I was properly wet through.

The last climb to the summit was exceptionally hard.  A few turns and I was up in the cloud which got progressively denser and wetter and colder.  And without the protection of the trees the wind got strong.  A tailwind up some of the windy bits was very welcome.

At one point, there were people in black by the side of the road murmuring things that didn’t sound like encouragement.  Don’t know what language.  A bit further on, there was another one.  They appeared out of the fog.  Very spooky and inexplicable.

Snow by the side of the road confirmed how cold it was.  Got to the top and corralled a random person to take a picture of my in front of the sign and took off back down the hill.  That was some climb and SO COLD. No inclination to look around and see if the shop really was a sweet shop

But the descent was horrible.  No visibility, wet possibly icy road and a tail wind that picked up my rain jacket and turned it into a sail.  At one point I stopped because I thought my head set was loose as the front wheel was shaking.  Bernadette told me later she had the exact same experience and also stopped to check the headset.

I got down to restaurant and overdosed on hot chocolate and a Nutella pancake and waited for Camilla and Bernadette to arrive.  They did looking and feeling the same as me – kind of shaky but really pleased to have made it.   They bought jerseys, which they both immediately donned for extra warmth.

We took the rest of the descent slowly.  It would have been great to scream down but not the conditions for it.  I’d noticed on the way up that my heart rate was about 10 bpm higher than it had been in the Pyrenees when climbing and while I might have been a bit faster with fresh legs,  I also think it was being sick.

Eventually back at the home of the Marquis de Sade and we treated ourselves to a glass each of Mont Ventoux’s finest wines – and headed back to Avignon exhausted but pleased with ourselves.

By now, completely over fine dining, we found a Vietnamese restaurant and ate rice.  They even had a vegetarian plate.  Happy days.