Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Forrest Graperide 2010

After last year’s Graperide I was eager to improve on my time. After the previous weekend’s Kapiti Cycle Challenge I was confident of smashing last years 3h27m25s. In fact, I felt like I could give the 3 hour mark a good nudge. 
Ride Data:
Distance: 100.04km 5,077 Calories
Time: 3:03:28 32.7km/h
Elevation: Ascent: 689m Descent: 689m
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Renwick, NZ 27 March 2010

With the Bluebridge on as sponsors for the ride this year, the discounts for the weekend ferry sailings made it an economical jaunt over to the South Island. The ferry was chocker with cars carrying as many cycles as they could possibly manage. Surprisingly, I was the only person to cycle off the ferry in Picton – just a short 37km ride to Renwick.

Having entered the Graperide a few months earlier, at a time when I had much less fitness I had entered myself in the under 3:30 group (2000 series numbers) rather than the under 3 hour group (1000 series numbers). In hope of leaving with the 1000 series numbers to try and get a bunch riding at good speed, II arrived at the start early and lined up in the start area near the back of the 1000 series numbers. Some of the event marshals observing y 2000 series race number insisted that I drop back to start with the under 3:30 group. There was no convincing them to allow me and some other riders from the Wellington based training group Gear Shifters to advance to the faster starting group :(.

Somewhere between being sent back to the 3:30 group at which we were at the “front” of and finally starting a couple of hundred other 3:30 group riders managed to utilise the tandems starting area and start ahead of us. With a minute or two between each starting bunch of up to 100 riders I eventually left the start line 14 minutes behind the front of the 1000 series (or under 3 hour group).

Keen to break 3 hours, riding out of Renwick I put on as much gas I could to try and both advance to stronger riders and pull some stronger riders with me that might help establish a speedy bunch to aid this cause. With my ticker pumping at 199bpm, a tad over my theoretical maximum heartrate. Phew, no cadiac arrest :D.

Heading toward Picton there were about six of us pulling a large pack. Once hitting the only real hill of the ride, up Queen Charlotte Drive the pack dissipated behind us. Descending back to sea level we were now riding past riders that had predominantly 1000-series (sub-3hr) numbers on their backs that had obviously fallen off the back of their groups in front. The twelve of so of us left from the large pack cycled together as far as Linkwater. I had been feeling far stronger than I have for the past year or two and had done a fair amount of leading. Possibly a little too much? But it feels good to set the pace rather than trying to hold on to the back of a bunch! Near Linkwater, as I rehydrated at the back of the group I missed a crucial break that halved it’s size. With a moderate headwind, I lacked the enthusiasm to jump and chase them. I rode more restfully on the way through to the small climb at Havelock.

At Havelock I got onto the back of a well paced group and found my “second-wind” with the increasing pace. At about 5km to go the strongest rider in the group was off into a sprint for the line. I knew I didn’t have that distance of a sprint in me and hung with the group until we crossed the bridge over the Wairau River and 2km to go. As I increased my pace I had a few riders in my sights as I entered the windy driveway into Forrest Estate where I picked a couple more places from riders with most their energy already spent. No sign of the guy who had left our bunch in his wake a few km down the road though.

On net time I finished in 3h3m28s, a little outside the 3 hour target I had set myself. As convinced I am that I would have ridden a sub-3 if I had started sooner, I can’t be too disappointed after taking almost 24 minutes off my time from last years Graperide!!! I am determined to do a sub-3 next year and I’ll be sure to start with a 1000 series number on my back.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Kapiti Cycle Challenge 2010

I was feeling exciting heading into the Kapiti Cycle Challenge. This is one of, if not my most favourite course over which annual fun ride events are held. With testing hills that will not  completely destroying your spirits, intertwined with the fast flat sections down the Kapiti Coast and up the Hutt Valley in-between it offers a bit of everything.

Ride Data:
Distance: 91.17km 4,649 Calories
Time: 3:09:30 28.9km/h
Elevation: Ascent: 1,096m Descent: 1,087m
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Wellington, NZ 21 March 2010
I went into the ride encouraged with improved hill climbing the previous week during the HospiBikeRide. It had been some while since my last cycling personal best, surely today I could manage one?  My nephew, Jordan had been staying for the weekend. After watching his two consecutive 800m personal bests at the North Island Secondary Schools Athletics Champs he kindly calculated his improvement over the previous twelve months and gave me a time to beat to the nearest second. From memory that was about 8 minutes faster than my 2009 time of 3h31m5s.hew, nailed it with an almost 22 minute improvement in 3h9m30s YAY!!

After the pre-ride safety briefing the mass start went on time at 8:30am. Unfortunately, we came around the first corner and it it was a large peloton hard on the brakes and trying not to make contact with other bikes and riders. The north-bound Overlander train was running a few minutes late. Once the train was through it was over the railway and a brisk pace in the peloton down State Highway 1 to the Paekakariki township before turning left up the Paekakariki hill climb.

This year when ascending Paekakariki there were not masses of riders passing me. I was actually gaining places! Wow! Even on the steep sections. This was a most unusual situation for me and usual lead balloon like approach to hill climbing. The training is paying off. Awesome :). I reached the top of the first climb in a shade over 40 minutes. Wow! 12 minutes ahead of last year in only 20km.

With the help of one other rider we had about a dozen riders in tow from Pahatanui. No amount of encouragement could seem to bring any other riders forward to share the lead. They were just holding on and were only interested in drafting today. By the Haywards Hill summit the rest of the group drop off with just the two of us left for the rapid descent down into the Hutt Valley.

Once into the Hutt Valley we found ourselves in a larger group. Once again lacking in ambition to lead and build good pace. The guy I was riding with up Haywards seemed to be tiring and I found myself oscillating between the front and peeling off to the back until frustration at sub-25km/h pace going straight back to the front. It was difficult to establish any consistent speed along this section as shown in the speed and altitude profile below. I possibly did a bit too much work in this section but my personal goals related to time and not placings. Sitting back and having a rest at 25km/h was not going achieve a significant personal best time. Fortunately shortly before turning for the climb up into to the rides highest point over the Akatarawas a very strong rider in wearing a Marmite jersey took a long strong lead.

Kapiti Cycle Challenge: Elevation and Speed profile

The ascent up the 440m Akatawara Hill begins with natural terraces offering short climbs followed by flattish travel. It doesn’t get very steep until the final push for the the summit. During the climb as is usually the case the group we were riding in broke up. Some strong riders that had taken a ‘breather’ earlier took off from the front. A few of us were left around the middle while those that were just trying to hold on to the group up the Hutt Valley disappeared behind.

After winding up the Akatawara Road and over the summit I was greeted by nice, smooth new ‘hotmix’ tarseal on the descending side. Very nice for riding on compared to the usual ‘chipseal’ style road surfaces on most New Zealand. With a narrow and twisty descent to Reikorangi although nicer to ride on and rolling smoother the turns and in ability to see around corners did not exactly allow any speed records on what is a rapid descent.

I crossed the line reasonably strongly showing improving fitness and durability compared to the start of the cycling season in spring. The remaining question being, can I find sufficient improvement to find a further 9m30s time saving to break the 3 hour mark for the third running of the Kapiti Cycle Challenge next March?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Hospi Bike Ride 2010

The Hospi is a charitable bike ride that raises funds for the Wellington Children’s Hospital. The route starts from Kenepuru Hospital near Porirua, and travels via Ohariu Valley, Tarakau Gorge, Makara, Brooklyn and Island Bay en-route to Wellington Hospital. While I am very familiar with most of this course from my regular training rides I almost always done these routes in reverse.

Ride Data:
Distance: 47.39km 2,481 Calories
Time: 1:43:34 27.6km/h
Elevation: Ascent: 729m Descent: 735m
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Wellington, NZ 14 March 2010
The pre-ride briefing emphasised that this was a “fun-ride” and not a “race”. Of course, we all had electronic timing chips attached to our bicycles lol. On at least one occasion during the safety briefing there was a Freudian slip in referring to a “race” instead of a “fun ride”.

The ride began with a 4.74km controlled section from Kenepuru Hospital through Tawa until turning right into Willowbank Road. Then it was on with the gas with smooth road seal with the ramping up from the 25-27km/h controlled start to around 38-40km/h. I felt well placed a little behind the lead bunch on the way up the hill from Churton Park to Johnsonville when an awful sound came from my rear derailleur. After stopping briefly, and pulling out a broken spoke which had fallen into the jockey wheels. I was unsure of whether to continue or not. I decided to push on and re-gained several places on the way up Ironside Road. This steep section was not far from home, so I decided that if the brakes were not rubbing at the top of the hill I would keep going. Without brakes rubbing on the rear wheel I was on my merry way down through Takarau Gorge regaining a few placings including a few familiar jerseys from before the brief stop for the spoke. No sign of the main bunch however.

HospiBikeRide - Elevation and Speed Profile

Given my recent, okay past two years of climbing form it was pleasing from my perspective to pass a more riders on the way up the Makara Hill than were able to pass me. Recent efforts on improving my hill climbing must be paying off? The descent from Makara Hill is always fun and quick, no matter which side you travel from and today was no exception.

Now riding through the suburbia of Karori and a couple of small bumps before descending Raroa Road. Having climbed this road many times and never ridden down it I have to say it is much more pleasant in the downhill direction :D.

Approaching Te Aro it was a sharp right hand turn into Ohiro Road, and a deceptively steep little 80m climb up to Brooklyn. Unlike Raroa Rd behind me, and Happy Valley in front of me, I had ridden down this road many times but never up it! It seems a handy candidate for hill repeats in off-season training. Once again non-hill climbing me was in the unusual position of gaining places as I went over the crest of the hill with a clear run over the intersection with Brooklyn Road thanks to the Police supervising the intersection :).

It was surreal riding down through Happy Valley at 50-60km/h when I was so used to grinding my way up the hill at 17-20km/h. Unfortunately after turning left at the bottom of the hill at Owhiro Bay it was wall of wind in front of me. Thankfully the guy in the Telecom shirt that I had passed up the previous hill caught up to me and we shared the effort of leading into the wind.

With two sets of traffic lights in the last 2km, which I was able to time well enough to slow down but not stop and unclip my cleats I was able to catch-up to and pass a couple of riders that passed me up Makara Hill. I sure didn’t think I would be seeing them again! A little sprint to the line and I was at Wellington Hospital in 1h43m34s (10th male 26-40yo). While this event only covers a short distance there is a relatively high proportion of climbing on the route. Had a great ride and hopefully great preparation for next weekends hilly Kapiti Cycle Challenge.