Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 LKHC - Mount Hamilton

And there we were, lined up for the final round of the LKHC series – the annual, Thanksgiving trip up Mount Hamilton. The 30 kilometer climb has two short descents but is a pretty steady 5-6% the whole way up with the first half being slightly shallower.

Like last year, the weather wasn't exactly playing ball – we had to wait until the morning of the event to see if it would go ahead – there was a tropical storm coming in across the area – not a problem at low altitude but it does become a problem at the altitude we climb to (and for descending afterwards). 140 riders lined up at the start and off we went. There were two plans of action I had to choose from. 1) Full gas from the the start and try and smash the record or 2) Sit in for the first half, do my turns on the front and then attack. With the weather, I decided the later option was appropriate (of course, all that can change as soon as you start racing).

The first half of the race was at an easy pace – Mel (who broke the female record last year, and will go on to break it again this year) was still with us at the start of the second part of the climb – a great ride by her – there was only about 20 riders left in the front group.

Almost exactly half way through the climb, I saw a slightly steep section – time to go – I accelerated and kept it going. Eventually, I saw that Eric Wahlberg had also escaped the front group in pursuit of me. He hovered around 15-20 seconds back for about 15 minutes. With about 5 kilometers to go, I no longer saw him and I continued on my pace to the finish line.

Photo via Christine Costa
Despite riding the first half of the course slower than last year, my pace on the second half meant I broke the record from last year (and won of course).

Conditions at the top of the mountain were bleak – low visibility, cold, windy - felt like home. Everyone grabbed their extra clothes and made it off as quickly as possible – I wish I could have been more leisurely and chatted with more folks.

Thanks again for putting on a great race and something fun that I look forward to in the winter. Hopefully, in 2012, Ireland will have a similar (if smaller) series – I know we have enough good climbs in the Dublin area!

Results are up here and my ride details are available on Strava.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 LKHK - Kings Mountain

Like others years, it is November and I have found myself in California for some early winter training. Long rides with lots of tempo riding is on the cards – but first – there are a couple of Low Key Hill Climbs to do. I find them to be great markers for where my body is at this time of the year. Since September, I have taken a few weeks very easy (with a few cyclocross races breaking up the coffee shop rides) and last week I spent a week in Gran Canaria with my parents (of course my bike was with me) and resulted in a big week of rides – 31 hours, 18,000m of climb in 7 days.

The first hill climb I'm doing in California is the penultimate of the series – it is one of the de facto climbs in California – Kings Mountain Road. A perfect 6.8 kilometer ribbon of tarmac weaving up the mountains gaining 500 meters of ascent. The record for the climb (at least, the known record) was set in 1996 by Tracy Colwell at 19:51. I figured that this race would be a perfect 20 minute power test...

With jet lagged legs my brother and I rode over to the start – entry was closed 4 days earlier when 150 riders had signed up! Amazing. In order to keep the race/timetrial more manageable, the race would be started in waves of 15 rider groups – the first group, the fast guys, swelled to 36 riders.

Before we rolled out to the start line, the race organizer, knowing my climbing abilities, announced that if a rider wins ahead of me, he will give him $100! wow, some pressure now – and what if I punctured?? (I was riding my beautiful Lightweight G3 tubular wheels).

Like in Hicks Mountain last year, the race started at a frantic pace – the first minute was around 500 watts! Much too hard for these guys (and me) for the 6.8 kilometer climb. After a couple of minutes, the pace eased a lot, too much, so I went to the front and started riding hard. I would look around from time to time to see the line of riders behind me getting shorter and shorter, eventually there were only a few left. I eased off and Emilio Barzini went to the front – I tried to use his draft but unfortunately he was having some gearing difficulties and staying close to him was too dangerous... 6 minutes into the race, I had enough (remember, I was trying to do a 20 minute power test) and accelerated to drop my remaining companions. From there to the top I rode a pretty hard pace – I didn't feel I had good legs (all the training and flying lately still in them) but I knew I was making good pace when I passed the point I usually finish my 15 minute threshold drills and only had 13 minutes on the clock.

Photo from here

I pushed on to the line and crossed in 19 minutes – I broke the record from 1996 by almost a minute – my VAM on the 7% climb was 1550m/hr... pretty good I hear for a guy just restarting training. (A VAM calculator here)

It was great chatting to a lot of the guys before and after the race – organization was fantastic as usual and I look forward to taking part in the final round on Thursday up Mount Hamilton.

Results of the race are available here and the Strava segment is here. Garrete Lau has some nice pictures here.

The results of the power test - I'm happy with where I am at...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

2011 Supercross Cup Round 3 - Corkagh Park

Make hay while the sun shines... Since the last Supercross Cup race the sun has been shinning, I left off-season mode and have been making hay. Other than a few horrible days, the weather has been warm and dry, well, for October/November in Ireland. I love this time of year, lots of long bike rides, group spins and no thoughts of tapers or races – well, almost no thoughts of races. With almost 40 hours of riding done in the 13 days since the last Supercross Cup, I wasn't so sure how my legs would react. The big hours are needed for what I hope to achieve next year on the road – and that is my underlying goal, but still, it's fun to be fast when cyclocross racing...

A beautiful sunny morning in Corkagh Park greeted us – a similar course to last year – slightly shorter, and I think slightly better. A fast course that really facilitates group racing and heavily penalizes mistakes. My average speed for the race was around 26kmph.

This time I was gridded on the 3rd row – there was good passing opportunities and my start was fine. Like the race in Lady Dixon Park, I could tell I was on a diesel day – the legs were fine, but the big miles had dulled the snap. From the onset, Roger Aiken and Robin Seymour where riding a gear faster than me – they were quickly gone. A familiar grouping of Evan (Robin's teammate, who was playing teammate tactics), Peter and I fighting for 3rd. We all made a few digs during the race, but like Robin and Roger up front, it was hard to split the group.

With a few laps to go, Evan misjudged a corner and went down, that left Peter and I a few seconds in front. After a lap, he was almost back on to us when I attacked out of the group. I rode the final two laps hard and finished in 3rd place.

Roger claimed a well deserved win. Like in our group, a mistake by Robin allowed Roger to get a gap and timetrial his way to the win. I said earlier, Roger is the man on form at the moment and I'm happy to see him finally showing it in Dublin.

Tomorrow I have another Cyclocross race – the final one of 2011 for me – this time close to Belfast and Mel will be joining me for her first cyclocross excursion. Hopefully today's race will suitably “open up” my legs and I'll be dicing with Roger for the win.

As always, thanks Team Worc for a perfectly run race. Links to other reports and photos coming soon.