race - Jinshan area
This was a race I had high hopes for and had prepared well for it. But sometimes things happen that stop you in your tracks. In my case, I suffered the misfortune of a puncture just 20minutes into the race. Normally in most road races, you can get a wheel change quickly enough and then motor-pace back to the bunch. However, I had a shockingly slow wheel change. The Taiwanese motorbike wheel support guy could not even take the wheel out of the quick-release (it seemed as if he was panicking) and then he handed it to me. I did not want to trust him to put it on my bike. I jump back on the bike, but the wheel felt too soft like it was less than 50psi! I had rolled 20metres and had to jump off and request and track-pump. One was found reasonably quick and someone pumped the replacement wheel to 120psi. At this point I was livid and all of my support people were out of the car. Not even ready to motor-pace me back to the bunch. Once we got started, it was a motor-pacing session from hell. Thedriver would accelerate too quickly and would drop me (motorpacing behind a small car is not the best thing to do!) and then would go too slow. I would have to try and communicate what speed I wanted, go faster, slower, steady etc. I was doing 40km/h up the small hills, 50-55km/h on the flats and 70km/h on the gradual down-hills. Even 25minutes of this motorpacing was not enough to reconnect with the main bunch. I had started 4 minutes behind and made up 3 minutes before the base of the major 10km hill-climb. Since I did not catch the bunch before then, I decided to throw in the towel so I could conserve myself for the points race in two days time. It was a hard decision to make, as I normally do not quit races and always keep going.
50km Points Race
This was the race I had been preparing for mostly and my steady diet of North American criterium racing over the past couple of years had this race stacked in my favour. This 50km points race like the point race on the track, but it was held on a 1km circuit in the centre of Taipei City very close to the 101 tallest building in the world. It was completely flat, smooth and fast. I got there an hour early and spent a good 30 minutes warming-up on the circuit. I was the first rider there on the circuit. Every 2nd lap during the race would be sprints for points, 1st =5 points 2nd 3 points 3rd 2 points and 4th 1 point. My game plan was to grab maximum points in the very first sprint to place the other riders under pressure and then respond to the key competitors as the race un-folded. 36 riders representing 16 countries took to the start and it was already 38 degrees at the 9am start. I was already sweating profusly in my black New Zealand skin-suit that was a bit too tight and thick on me! I made my move on the 2nd lap down the back straight. Initially I did a false attack to see who would follow me but only a couple did. I started soft-pedalling and noticed that a swarm was following an attack by one of the French riders on the other side of the road. With no-one on my wheel I put in a vicious attack and by the time I rounded the final corner, I was already a good 50 metres up on the field and took the first sprint easily.
I slotted back into the field as they caught me and was able to recover to take 2nd behind Nick Schrieber of the USA. I decided to sit in for the next couple of sprint laps as I was looking to conserve my energy for the latter stages of the race in the hope of breaking away. Whenever I decided to go for a sprint lap, I would win it convincingly with plenty of daylight between myself and the pack. By the half-way mark, Ihad just won another sprint that put me within six points of the Gold medalist and two points behind second place. Things were looking good and I still had my sprint legs and was confident of winning more sprints. However, my plans came un-hitched right after I won my last sprint. There was a crash on the previous lap that took down about 4-5 riders and coming around the same spot again, there was an official waving a red flag which I mistook for stopping the race. I had almost rolled to a stop but the peloton had rolled by without stopping and kept going. This gapped me by about 50 metres and I was not going to chase to get back on as I had just sprinted to win the last lap. I took a free lap thinking this would be the best solution. I was allowed back into the race, after explaining what had happened, but the officials did not allow me to start pedalling till the very last rider in the pack had passed by me. I had to sprint had to re-connect, since it was on the sprint lap, the task of reconnecting was super difficult. I dug deep within me to basically "sprint" for 1.5 laps just to catch the rear end of the bunch! I then had to spend quite a few laps to recover at the back. But I had recovered nicely and was ready to contest more sprints. However, I was seriously disoriented and actually sprinted on two separate laps that I thought were sprint laps. This meant that when the bunch caught up with me, it was going into the sprint lap and therefore the speed was alot higher. Normally after a sprint everyone would sit up to take a breather, but because I had sprinted on the wrong laps, I had to jump back into the pack and desparately hold on till the pace would slow down enough so that I could recover. Doing this twice really took the sting out of my legs and the rest of my race was purely survival in the pack.
I was unable to collect any further points after a promising first half. But the points I collected early on was still enough to collect 6th place overall. Near the end, the pack had splintered up into two groups with a lone Aussie up the road taking maximum points for the last seven sprint laps. Reece Van Beek had timed his move well, did not score any points till the second half of the race. This catapaulted him into 2nd place to get the Silver medal. Had he lapped the field (he came within seconds of doing so) he would have taken the Gold medal. Nick Schrieber won the Gold medal only by virtue of his consistent 2nd and 3rd placings in just about every sprint (he only won two sprints).
The effort I put out in the points race left me feeling the worse I had felt in over a year! I seriously had hit the wall. It was a combination of the high heat/humidity and red-lining for along time that contributed towards my exhaustion. I stumbledoff the bike and went to sit on the stage for a good 10minutes, during which I downed a sprite and three bottles of water. I felt so hot in the tight skin-suit that seemed to trap the heat and sweat! I then mustered some energy to stagger back to the Athletes rest area where I downed a further 10 bottles of water and poured a bunch on my head to cool myself down. I also drank three bottles of coke! I slowly started to feel better. But the effort during the race, seriously weakened my immune system that I have spent the last 10 days fighting a cold that never seriously took ahold of me.
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Original Published: 5:54pm Tuesday, 22nd September 2009 - NZST