The Racing Rollercoaster

Postby SamultheCamul on Sat 23/Mar/13 1:01am


Overlooking Canberra - Photo<>

It’s been two months on from my last blog post and I am feeling pretty slack for the lack of correspondence of late. It’s been a rollercoaster, up and down couple of months, punctuated by periods of hard training, uneventful races, good luck and bad luck. Unfortunately I still haven’t really put together a race that I am proud of to date this year although I think form is good so hopefully a big result is just around the corner.

February as always was pretty light on the racing front. Despite enjoying some of the best weather of the year, the month of February remains devoid of events and so it was a heavy month of training on the cards for me. February also saw me take several trips to the doctor and Southern Cross Radiology. Sick of the constant niggling back pain since my Tasmania crash (not severe, but still ever present) I decided to get a second opinion. A selection of X-Rays, CT Scans and MRIs highlighted two nice compression fractures in my T6 and T7 vertebrae. Unfortunately these won’t ever correct themselves fully, however the diagnosis does at least offers an explanation and with a new angle of attack/rehab with my physio I am on top of the discomfort.

Tai Tapu TT – Photo Anna Searle

Tuesday night time trials run by the CTTA and Leeston Club racing on Thursday have been a regular on the programme of late. While my performances have been mixed bag, usually dependent on the intensity of the morning erg session, it has never the less made up for the lack of competition in the weekend.

The first big race on the calendar for me since January was Round One of the recently renamed “Elite Series.” As it is a team only series, I pulled on the familiar bright orange strip of Benchmark Holmes for the race and I am grateful to my regular team Budget Forklifts Pro Team for allowing me the chance to do so. The course was a 169km loop starting and finishing in Oxford and with a strong field including one World Tour rider it promised to be a hard day out.

Unfortunately despite the best efforts of a handful of riders to animate the race, the conditions meant that while it was tough on or off the front, it was relatively easy to shelter in the bunch. As a result, approaching the final kilometres there were still twenty or thirty riders in the field with plenty of guys having not seen the wind since their warm up. The sprint was messy and dangerous and I crossed the line pretty shaken and angry. While not proud of my words following the race, the thought that I came close to touching down at speed thanks to some erratic and risky riding froma local boy desperate for a top five finish still makes me cringe. I crossed in eighth, consoled by the fact that I had a few digs over Summerhill and up Germain Road in the last thirty kilometres.

Coffee Stop in Canberra- Photo Veloshotz.com

The following week was the Tour of Canterbury. With a $140 entry fee and mediocre prize money as is typical here in Christchurch, I was happy to pull on the Benchmark colours again for this weekend. The tour consisted of five stages over two days with Saturday being held out at Loburn and Sunday in Tai Tapu.

Saturday was a surprisingly positive day of racing, where the strongest riders in the race showed themselves in breakaways on the first and third stages. After featuring in both stages (3rd place and 2nd place), combined with a solid time trial on the second stage (3rd place) I finished the day in second on the general classification, 17seconds off the lead.

Sunday opened with a flat 50km stage where things threatened to get negative, with only a small portion of the field willing to race. However my Benchmark Team took control and rode the front the entire stage to keep things status quo going into the final stage, a short and sharp 50km that included ascents of both sides of Gebbies combined with the Purau climb at the midway point.

With such a small gap separating the top riders it promised to be a really epic stage and I was really g’eed up for it. Unfortunately however the tour leader Jas Christie was to have a nasty crash on the first descent of Gebbies, taking himself out of the classification and putting me in the yellow jersey for the tour. A rather disappointing end to a good weekend as for me personally it would have been preferable to come out second after a hard day and a big effort rather than inherit the jersey in the manner I did.

This all brings me to last weekend and the Oceania Championships, held in Canberra. After winning the time trial last year, this event was a high priority for me and I definitely felt I had prepared well as I boarded the big bird and skipped across the ditch a couple of days prior to the racing. Budget Forklifts had assembled the entire team for the event and it was one of the few opportunities where we would all be together at one race as the majority of the NRS series require only six or eight riders. It was a good chance to meet a couple of team mates who didn’t come to the Decembertraining camp as well as get a bit more gear from our sponsors, including tubular race wheels from Shimano and most excitingly, a Cervelo P5 TT bike.

Cervelo P5 – Photo by Sam Horgan

Cervelo P5 – Photo by Sam Horgan

Held out near the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, the courses for both the road race and time trial were tough with a hefty amount of climbing in both. The Time Trial was a twisty and undulating course with two turn arounds and several other sharp corners while the road race consisted of a big loopfeaturing some large climbs before six laps of a tight, twisty and rolling finishing circuit.

The Time Trial on Thursday was perhaps one of the most bitterly disappointing days for me ever. Having warmed up well, I was the last to start as the defending champ and got out of the blocks well, feeling strong in the hot and sunny conditions. Less than five kilometres into the race however, as I was out of the seat accelerating over the top of a climb it felt like my brakes had come on. I’ve replayed the situation in my head countless times, but the reality is that having to stop for a mechanical in a time trial almost certainly will dispel any chance of podium position at the finish. With that in mind, at that instant, I decided to continue on, trying to convince myself that the brake drag wasn’t that bad or that the brake calliper might magically re-adjust itself. The truth was that I had pulled my wheel in the dropout and it was rubbing solidly, so badly in fact that it wouldn’t even spin once I jumped off the bike at the finish. I dragged the rear brake the whole way around the course, creeping to a time some four minutes off the winner, my former team mate Paul Odlin. Oddy’s win has been the topic of many a conversation since with several of the locals abit upset at his lines/cutting of corners out on the course. For me it just goes to show how much he wanted the title and will serve as motivation going into future events.

Onto the road race on Sunday and with all the other kiwis packing up and heading home, I was the only foreign rider in the event. As I mentioned previously, the course was tough and my team, Budget Forklifts went into the race with a clear intention of being aggressive and making the race. I put myself in the opening break away of the day. This was brought back on the first minor climb of the day however and provided the perfect opportunity for my team mates Shaun and then Jack to launch a second attack. This move stuck, with several others jumping across the gap (including more Budget Forklift riders,) while I settled into the bunch behind. The hard course whittled down the front group, which never looked likely to being caught again and it was Orica-Green Edge professional Cam Meyer who eventually took the win with Jack a well deserved second in the elite race (third across the line behind U23 winner Howsen) finishing off a good day for our team. I finished comfortably in what was left of the main field, a bunch of less than ten riders, some ten minutes down. It was solid day for me and thrilling to see my team mates riding so well but also frustrating not to be up in theaction myself.

Team Budget Forklifts – Photo Veloshotz.com

Upcoming events for me include Le Race, Graperide and Round Two of the Elite Series before I head back across the ditch, to the far side of Australia for the Tour of Perth. I remain content with how my form is tracking and hopefully I will have the opportunity to show it over the next month of racing.

Until then, thanks for reading the novel



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Original Published: 9:18am Friday, 22nd March 2013 - NZST
Member for: 15 years 6 months

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