Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Tour de Taiwan

The bubble is burst – for 10 days I lived in a world where all I did was race and think about the next stage. The Tour de Taiwan took us on a complete trip around around the island. The landscapes changed but other than the first two days, the weather remained very 'Irish'.

In the past, I have ridden on a couple of teams, but until this group of races, I had not really ridden FOR a team. As the races get bigger and the focus on the top prize becomes more narrow, dynamics change – it is something that I looked forward to learning about and experiencing but I would be lying to say I didn't put myself on a steep learning curve. The role as a domestique is pretty straightforward from the outside – do what is needed when the team (or team leader) needs it to 100%. Sometimes, this is easier said then done! A shift from focusing on your own goals (in mountain biking) to sacrificing them for the team. If your task is to “go full gas” before a selective point, to make the racing hard, then you ride until you feel your legs are going to fall off – getting dropped afterwards bedamned... As long as you make the time cut, your job is done.

Leading out into a selective climb

Sometimes, it was a little wet!

The racing was tough throughout – I felt pretty bad for the first half of the race – not exactly the shining opening that I had been training for but as everyone knows, these things happen. I'm not sure what happened, I felt like something had attached to my body with the sole purpose of slowing me down – movement was hard – maybe it was the crash in Malaysia, or I picked up something from those wet long days racing with weeping wounds? Towards the end of the stage race though, I felt better and better – I would wake in the morning fresh and ready for racing rather than wondering how I would leave my bed to go to the bathroom let alone race 160km. Today – the day after the finish, I sit with renewed energy wanting to race – wanting to push on the pedals, try and tear the cranks off. A little frustrating. Well – at least I have a race coming up this weekend in Ireland - there always is another race :)

Our team

Our team won a stage, grabbed a couple of second places in stages, second place overall and were the second placed team. A few seconds in there and only a few off the GC. The team has been a great support structure – the soigneurs, mechanics and masseurs worked long hours to make sure we were ready every day – THANKS!

Photos are from the Giant Kenda Pro Cycling Facebook page. Full results, more photos and some videos are available on the Tour de Taiwan website. Thank you Taiwan for a great race.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Tour de Taiwan Stage 7 report

Today was a good day for the team. Basically a flat 130km with mostly a tail wind (a few cross wind sections to keep things interesting though). I had started thinking about getting into a break but it was always going to be a sprinters stage. After averaging 52kmph for the first 40 minutes, a break got away of a couple of riders down on GC and TPT rode on the front. The break went up to 3 minutes but was pulled back for us to have a sprint. Due to all this, the team had a pretty easy day rolling along and to top that all off, our sprinting star, Rico Rogers, finishes the day off with a win for the team. Nice way to end the stage!

The bikes after the stage

Here is a quick video update:

With two days remaining, everything is still up in the air as far as GC is concerned – there are a lot of riders close and the racing will be aggressive. We hit the hills tomorrow with a difficult second half of the stage and the final day starts with 100km of flat roads ending with a 17km climb – I can't wait!
A brisk stage - 47.2kmph average

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

2011 Tour de Taiwan Prolog

Just a quick update on the first part of the Tour de Taiwan

Feet are now up and it is resting for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 January Training - Part 2

Finishing out from Part 1 on my January training diary, I'll cover the 'meat' of the Gran Canaria trip and then the recovery.

After doing several 3 day blocks of 2 hard days, 1 easy day, I was ready to move to 3 days on, 1 day off.

The first part of the first day of each block remained the same – 3 x 13 minutes at Threshold – why 13 minutes? That was roughly how long the climb was, I would have rathered it being 15 minutes but the location was perfect – a 45 minute warmup from home and at the most arid part of the island - so the least chance of getting rained on while doing the tough intervals. The remaining part of the ride was mid tempo climbing up to the maximum amount of riding I had planed. It started as 3.5 hours but worked up to 4.5 hours.
A sample threshold day - 2,400m of climb in total
 The following day was a long endurance type ride – between 5 and 6 hours – I would ride tempo on the long sustained climbs – about 80-85% of FTP and the rest at endurance pace. This is when I get to see most of the island.

The last day of the block had 2 options – a group ride if I can find a descent one, or a split day. If it was a split day, 3 x 20 minutes at Sweet Spot (90% of Threshold) – if I can. This would be followed by 1 minute on, 1.5 minutes off by 10-15 times in the evening. If it is a group ride, I would plan for 6 hours with a few harder efforts thrown in (as well as a coffee stop!). By the end of this, I'm pretty toast and ready for a recovery day.

Out with my wife on a group ride :)
As the weeks progressed, my Threshold power increased steadily so that my final sessions where the best of the trip despite having acquired a lot of fatigue – somehow, all my best efforts come when I'm in a fatigue hole.

Upon returning to Ireland, it was 3 days of very easy riding and a weekend of longer rides, but still at an easy enough pace (group rides to add in some social aspect). With that, I was ready to start February and build again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Jelajah Malaysia Report

You are about to start your first big race of the year – what's the perfect preparation? Get used to the conditions, be well rested, scrape yourself across Malaysian pavement? The day before I started the 2011 edition of Jelajah Malaysia, I had the worst crash in training I've had. Many bruises and lots of lost skin was the unfortunate result. It would be a tough few days recovering from it let alone racing 160-220km each day. I went to the medic and got sorted out, a week or two of wounds, and bandages and disinfecting myself lay ahead. This all on my brand few race bike...

Stage 1 – 162km

A fast start – I was in a few moves but felt terrible on the bike – my heart rate was through the roof. A break went and our team did a major chunk of the work bringing it back with 30km to go. A torrential storm hit when we were on the front – probably the best place to be.

Stage 2 – 204km

With the yellow jersey in a teams hands, the peleton attacked and attacked until 50km when a break went. Unfortunately, 30 minutes in, with the peloton in one long snake, I punctured. I got my wheel quickly but unfortunately the commissar didn't allow me even close to any cars for a little shelter – I rode as hard as I could for almost 20 minutes to get back on – I almost had resigned to not being able to get back on when I got close to the end of the cavalcade. Fortunately, the break escaped and the peleton sat up. 48kmph I averaged for those very painful 20 minutes. Main task of the day for me was bottle duty. You wouldn't believe how much we drink in the heat.

Stage 3 – 158km

Of the 3 hours 30 minutes racing, 3 hours where pouring rain. Very very heavy, but the peloton actually felt safe enough. Starting to feel a little better and was in a few moves over the first hour and a half – not the one that got away though.

Stage 4 – 89km

A shorty today. With the yellow in Malaysian hands, it seemed the every part of the Malaysian peleton was used to chase down break attempts. 48Kmph we averaged for the stage in driving rain. (it didn't stop for the whole stage!). My task for the day was to help pull back a small group towards the end – another bunch sprint.

Stage 5 – 221km

Really hot all day and got a little burnt despite having Factor 50 on – I'll need to start putting on sunscreen during the stage. I was in a few breaks over the first 35km and though I was in the one that got away. The green jersey bridged (and teammate, David McCann) – which was followed by the peleton after a few minutes. Most of the middle of the stage was controlled – I spent it grabbing bottles and feeling crap. A group of 35 (in a few parts) got away with 3 of my teammates in it. Happy days, free ride to the finish.

Easy to see when I was in the break
Stage 6 – 175km

Rode on the front over the first 20km following attacks – then we hit the climb, which was actually a climb (unlike anything else in this race which was basically pan flat) – it was rode full gas with the peleton splitting into many sections. I suddenly wished I hadn't ridden as hard over the first 20km. I got to the top in the second group, which after a few km of driving by the German and Iranian teams recreated the peleton. 20Km in, a gruppeto also formed. The rest of the very hot day had very aggressive riding – the day was easy for no one. Getting to the team car for bottles was tough as we were lined out for a chunk of the day. I didn't drink enough and was feeling the effects for the final 50km. My teammate, David, showed his form and attacked with 70km to go with 3 other GC contenders. With 17km to go, he kicked again shedding all but yellow jersey winner Mehdi Sohrabi. With David's ride, and our teams solid performance we finished with 2nd in GC and 2nd in the team classification.

Final stage - I wish I didn't make those efforts before the climb - see the temperature!

In a hurt locker!

The race was hot and fast. When it was easy, it was easy, when it was hard, it was hard – not much middle ground. I didn't sleep well all week with with my wounds and recovery has been slow. I didn't feel like I was “firing on all cylinders”. I know I put in a great winter of training and the form will come – off to Taiwan now for another 10 days of fun, with a few days of recovery first. Hopefully, no more crashes!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Jelajah Malaysia Stage 1 report

I'll do the Jelajah report (video) in a second but first a quick recap of my racing in Ireland before I left for Asia.

A couple of weeks ago I rode an excellent event called the Ballyhoura Biking Blitz - I won it having a close sprint with Robert Scanlan. The following week, on Saturday I rode my first road race of the year - the Annaclone GP. I finished second in it, but fastest ride of the day (there was one guy ahead from the handicap group - they had 5 minutes on us for the 1 hour 30 race). With 5km to go I attacked out of a small group (that I created a couple of km earlier on a climb) and rode to the finish solo. You can see my attack 22 minutes into this video - it was into a big headwind:

The following day was the Phenoix GP - I attacked out of a chase group with a couple of km to go to get third position. My RAS teammate, Conor Murphy won the race having attacked with a few others earlier in the race.

Now - back to Malaysia - the first stage was 162km. Here is a quick video blog.

I complicated matters for myself by crashing hard the previous day and leaving a bunch of skin on Malaysian soil... Stiff and sore, but should be good in a few days.

I'll have a quick video up for each day.