Saturday, 15 May 2010

The R4 2010

After last year’s R4, I thought it had to be better weather this year. Well, perhaps not. Friday night’s sleep with interrupted by thunder and lightning and it was pouring down when I left the cabin for the ride. Apparently their fourth successive R4 in the rain! It was one of those days when you just were not sure where the balance between dryness, warmth and over cooking yourself once the ride started was. Thankfully it stopped raining on the start-line so I threw my rain cape to Dad on the side lines and swapped it for a wind vest to keep the chill off.

Ride Data:
Distance: 88.57km 4509 Calories
Time: 2:34:01 34.5 km/h (77km/h max)
Elevation: Ascent: 422m Descent: 702m
Cadence: Avg: 95 rpm Max: 120 rpm
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Rotorua, NZ 15 May 2010

I started near the front with a plan of holding onto the front bunch until the first hill and seeing what happened from there. I didn’t quite make it that far. 42km/h was a really smokin’ pace for me and after about 10km I couldn’t handle it any longer and drifted off the back of the front bunch.

Approaching the first hill after 16km, a large bunch started to form, although disorganised. I sat on the back catching my breath for a moment before hitting  the hill. A little behind at the top I needed a quick descent to get back in touch, during which I lost a water bottle riding over a pothole at about 75km/h. No harm done and I was soon a hundred metres ahead of the bunch prior to the road levelling out. I do find it odd that so few riders at my level try to get low and aero in events like such as this. Even more surprising are those riding on expen$ive, aerodynamic wheelsets worth far more than my entire bike. Surely any aerodynamic gain from the wheelset is lost from sitting up while descending?

A large bunch formed (32 riders finished together according to the results). Unfortunately there was not a lot of enthusiasm to work off the front of the bunch. This is a frustration I may need to used to now that I have improved my fitness. Wanting to improve net time from last time I found myself leading a lot, in a rotation at the front of the bunch with 3 others. No amount of screaming and hand waving was able to get others to come forward. Even when trying to peel off the front to the right, riders behind moved across the road following your wheel. I found this a tad frustrating but looking for net time, not placing I had few options.

Getting nearer the end the four of us leading the pack tried to get a break on in anticipation of what was likely to happen in the final kilometre….. Unfortunately, we could not hold it as the group behind soon closed the gap and most passed us approaching the finish with some dodgy moves over a narrow bridge amongst traffic. The traffic conditions at the time we went through pretty much made a mess of a good sprint finish. Those the did the work and stayed on the left side of the road over the bridge came in the back of the group. This ruined any chance of sprinting at the line, and finishing back of this pack felt completely unjust!

Afterwards another rider commented to me that I was a great tow truck etc. I couldn’t help but feel that we all would have been quicker if all of the group had worked together.

Regardless all that. My 2nd fastest average speed ever in a road funride/event, and my fastest for three years. All managed regardless of horrible weather and an uncooperative bunch.  I finished in 2h34m01s - about 40 minutes quicker than last year. Recently I have been working on smoothing out my pedalling technique.  An average cadence of 95rpm indicates that this has been very successful. This is the best ride I have had for years, felt strong for the entire ride and a higher speed than I have had in ages. The more hilly events in spring will be a greater test I just need to carry my fitness through the winter.

I feel gutted that it is winter already. I’m looking forward to flying to warmer pastures and great company.  And I can’t wait to get back on my bike and find new personal limits for myself.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Onslow Tarbabies Criterium – May 2010

My local recreational riding group organised a short criterium race for our members in a traffic free, yet to be developed industrial area near Trentham. The stated objective of organising this race was:

to foster better riding skills, better fitness, a chance to try something you'd otherwise be afraid of, but most of all to "flex your muscles" and participate in some friendly rivalry on a quiet road rather than down SH2.

Ride Data:
Distance: 14.14 800 Calories
Time: 23m16s 36.5 km/h
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Trentham, NZ 1 May 2010

For me, just riding without fear those steel cyclist crushing objects known as cars was a huge bonus!


This was my first ride in a criterium style race. I entered the “C” grade race which was set at the same level a those that I typically ride with on Sundays. My work colleague Phil, had been trying to get me to enter the “B” grade race with him. I suspect that this was because he was looking for the satisfaction of beating me head-to-head. With a damp day and limited numbers of participants the “C” & “D” grades were combined as were the “A” & “B”’s.


I had been given advance tips that criterium events can be very tactical and often if you get caught on the front for too long you can use too much energy and get destroyed in the final sprint. With this mind during the race I made sure I wasn’t leading for more than one lap at a time and made sure I was position to follow anyone who thought about making a decisive break. These tactics seemed universal in the “C” grade race with with any gaps the opened quickly sealed to ensure there were no breakaways established. On the couple of laps when I was leading I tried to increase the pace a little to get a feel for where the wind was, which could be critical on the final lap and to see how the riders around me were handling the pace. Ultimately no gaps opened and we increased our average speed and we built to higher speeds each lap around the course.


I was sitting comfortably in 2nd place when the bell went indicating two laps to go and then heading into the final lap assumed the lead. I initially tried a surge as I assumed the lead but the rest of the pack surged with me. I figured with the inside running in the remaining corners, meaning everyone else had to get around me  the biggest risk would be to go for a sprint too early and get run down. I thought the action would most likely occur into the wind on the straight prior to the final corner. I was wrong and Mark found an acceleration with half a lap to go that none of us could match. I possibly dropped as low as 4th as I made maximum use of my ticker into the wind and then down the final straight to take 2nd place with a comfortable margin back to 3rd and nowhere near running down fast finishing Mark. 


I was breathing pretty hard crossing line with my heart pounding. That 221-Age thing maximum heartrate thing is after all just an estimate :D.


The combined “A” and “B” grade race followed a different style altogether. Throughout their race there were various attacks trying to establish breakaways but while breakaways were established, they never actually stuck. By the final lap all the riders were together again with Phil managing a narrow victory in the sprint finish. Thankfully back at work he has contained himself enough to not have reminded us of his result more than 100 times (yet?).