Saturday, 29 November 2008

Cycle: 2008 Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

I arrived with high expectations for the 2008 Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. This is the event that recreational roadies in New Zealand measure themselves against. Last year I had improved a lot with a sub 5-hour time, after a puncture on the start lone and early cramps or something in my legs. I also had a brand new bike so mechanical issues would surely be of no concern.

I was pretty happy with the way I started. If you are familiar with this event you will know most of the climbing is in the first 80Km. While I did not have my Garmin Edge last year I am pretty sure I was well ahead of 2007 effort after the first 60km. At this point, I was averaging close to 30km/h even though I had already done most of the climbing.

Unfortunately, I proved how much less fitness than last year and could boy maintain effort through the much easier second half of the race to the finish. It ended up a tight battle with my 2006 time, which was eventually lost :(.

Now after three times around the lake I have had two 5:34's with a more impressive 4:58 from 2007 separating them.

My 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Results
2006: 5:34:38 ~28.7km/h
2007: 4:58:36 ~30.9km/h
2008: 5:34:54 ~28.7km/h

I'm determined to get back under 5 hours again next year. This lake is quite a sizable puddle to get around!

Garmin Connect doesn't provide options to embed ride stats yet, but
you can find my full Garmin Connect data of this ride here.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Tour of the Wairarapa 2008; Bitter and twisted and so is my frame

The 2009 Tour of the Wairarapa saw a change of course in order to avoid traffic, due to a clash in dates with Toast Martinborough. The new course took us over the chip sealed roads past Dryers Rock, Alfredton and Eketahuna to arrive back at Lakeview School near Masterton.

The embarassing slowness of the statistics are completely absent due to my absent mindedness in leaving my Garmin at home, but it was well charged while I ambled around this 113km course. Yes, the last 13km was free of charge, in this 100km event.

I broke a spoke again, after only about 25-30km, it really is getting frustrating. I even sent it to a bike shop to get fixed after last weeks failure. Paying for cycle repairs is not something that I normally do!

So I ambled around in a very disappointing 4:19:57 (26.08 km/h). This was a very unfavourable time compared to past performances. Particularly last year, where my result in this event was by far my best in any event I have ridden.
Tour of The Wairarapa
2006 - 3:18:13 - 30.27km/h on the old 100km course
2007 - 2:42:47 - 36.86km/h on the old 100km course
2008 - 4:19:57 - 26.08km/h on the new 113km course.

So what is going on, three races in a row and three failures. Not to mention two broken axles in the past year? Well, tonight I have measured out my frame and the rear stays are twisted 6.5mm towards the drive side. Lennard Zinn, suggests this should be less than 1mm. While I hadn't noted this in the steering and handling (at 10mm I may have?), it is most likely resulting imbalance in load across the axle. Hence axle breakages and spokes popping out on the drive side. Yes, my beautiful BMC Streetfire is bitter and twisted, just like me! I have no idea how! Such a shame, she was a nice bike. Hopefully I can get the frame replaced on warranty?

It is now only eight days until the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Best I find a new bicycle this weekend! After that it will be a matter of checking the warranty terms on the frame. Still, thats not going to happen quick enough get me around the Lake. I'm sure I could always do with another bike!!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Martinborough Fun Ride, Murphy Returns

About MotionBased
Location:Pahautea, New Zealand
Activity:Road Biking
Distance:113.25 (km)
Comments:Broke a spoke :(
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Map of 2008 Martinborough Fun Ride

Being the third time I competed in the Martinborough Fun Ride, I saw this as a great opportunity to compare my speed and fitness against previous years. With a brand new chain I was certainly looking for better than the previous weekend in the Coromandel. This ride consists of two laps, the first being a shorter 48km loop and the second a slightly more extended 67km loop.

I was sure the leave the groups thats set out between 37 and 40km/h go for it and settled myself into a bunch that was average about 30km/h in the early stages of the first lap. Yes, fitness was down a tad from some races last year. In the latter stages of the first lap we picked up speed for an average over the first lap of about 33km/h which was good for me, as it placed for a PB for this event.

2006 - 3:52? (29.7km/h)
2007 - 3:36:04 (31.9km/h)
2008 - 3:45:51(30.6km/h)

I was feeling pretty good and maintaining cadence even up hills was proving that. In fact, I was managing to speed the pedals 90+ times a minute on the (small) uphills which is preferable to slowly grinding them out. However, after about 60km I started to find myself struggling to hold on to their wheels at the back of the bunch. Yikes. I then could not find the kick to join the back of the following bunch as it went on by. As a third bunch came past me, the mentioned my rear wheel looked buckled. I looked down to see it wobbling all over the place but kept on riding nonetheless.
"Murphy was an optimist"

O'Toole's Commentry on Murphy's Law

With around 80km covered the brakes rubbing had become so frustrating I had a brief stop to inspect the damage. I had broken a spoke. Not much I could do about that so I got back in the saddle and limped on back trying not to load up the power on the wheel thereby twisting it further. The last thing I needed was it rubbing on the frame as well as the brakes.

It was labelled as a fun ride, but broken gear is never much fun. However, I did get to play with my new Garmin Edge 705. I have certainly never had so many statistics to measure my (non) performance during rides.

Next weekend I have the Tour of the Wairarapa ride, so I have all my fingers and toes crossed for a mechanically uneventful day.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

2008 Kuaotunu 2 (K2): Twisty Hills; Twisted Chain

Summary: Sloooww; broken chain link
Around Lake Taupo seems easy after this one!
Activity Type:Road Biking

Event Type:Race
Total Time:09:18:43
Distance:177.97 km
Elevation Gain/Loss:2,801 m / 2,608 m
Calories:9,033 C

Data from

Correction: There was 18:58 when I bumped the Garmin freeing the chain. My real-time was an even slooooooower 9:37:41 :(

Okay, so that was an absolute disaster. The race I had been so looking forward to and it was essentially over after a mere 8.51km the summit of the Pumpkin Hill, which seemed appropriate for the first hill on the day following Halloween.

Everything started so well. I was comfortably in the middle of a well paced bunch, ascended the first category hill up the 240m Pumpkin Hill without any difficulty. I felt like I was set for a good day. My bike was running beautifully. Awesome.

"If anything could possibly go wrong, it will"

Murphy's Law

At the crest of the hill as I changed the gears for the downhill the chain jammed. After easing my way out of the way of the bunch, I had the chain in two loops and needed to remove the back wheel to free it. There went the bunch.

"Murphy was an optimist"

O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law

I was soon on my way again, only to have the chain bouncing everywhere. I'm sure the gears were in tune before the race and even at the start I thought to myself. After stopping once again, I noted the twisted chainlink.

It seemed a long way to come to pull out after a mere 8.5km, so I perservered to personally assess the magnitude of the famed hills of this course. Perhaps I can find a friendly bicycle mechanic on the way I promised myself. Not to be.

Over the only slightly undulating hills to Whitianga I went, up and over the Kuaotuna Hill (170m), not so bad I thought. Yikes bad looking crash there I thought as the Police waved me past what looked like a multiple cycle pile up and a truck. Then it was over Myundermans Hill (145m) and a few more undulations before the famed Whangapoua Hill. It was starting to seem like I was the only one without a puncture, so at least something was going my way! Did I contradict Flannagans Precept?

"Nothing is that predictable.", interpreted as "You cannot use the inevitability of Murphy's law to avoid its consequences"

Flannagan's Precept.
The Hors Categorie Whangapoua Hill sure felt like a climb, and I have to confess to stopping for a breather and a banana on the why up. With an gradient of 18% I could see why one of the corners in the upper reaches of this hill was signposted Cadiac Corner for the event.

"Hors catégorie is a French term used in cycle races (most notably, the Tour de France) to designate a climb that is "beyond categorization", an incredibly tough climb. Most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on both steepness and length. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. The term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass."


It was a particularly twisty descent with corners marked for cars with 25km/h signposts demanding respect. The most caution is probably required at a double left-hand bend, that has two sharp corners in a row, of which the second and unseen bend certainly had a nasty kick to it. Thankfully this was well marshalled with a the marshals reminding the descending cyclists to slow down.

I stocked up on Banana's at the transition in Coromandel and over the Manaia hill (181m) and then Kerata, which was not steep but a 228m climb that seemed to last forever!. From there it was a wind blown, flat coastal ride. This was the point at which I was really missing the use of all of my gears. A friendly small bunch invited me to jump on. This was great, but ultimately brief - without the use the small sprockets in my cassette, which cause the chain to jump and derail I could not hold for long.

After a toilet stop along the way I soon found my way through Thames and on my way up the long and arduous 425m Kopu-Hikuai Hill. I thanked Newton's Law of Gravitation and freewheeled at breathtaking speed on a straightish descent with only a few shallow corners before being caught behind some traffic.

During the last 20km or so, I was able to spend a bit of time talking to my fellow back markers in the race which was nice. I sure had been cycling a long way by myself!

I finally made the finishing line in about 9h18m, as the timing equipment was packed up. A pretty disappointing time but I have now done my "requie" of the course and hope to be back next year and about two hours quicker.

Overall, this was probably the best organised and most well marshalled race I have participated in.

Then as if to rub salt into my wounds, I open my e-mail up on Monday morning to a newsletter from the organisers of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

The most important thing is to check your chain for wear and replace it before it's too stretched.

Yep, I learned that one the hard way!

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