Monday, March 23, 2009

Benchmark - Round 3

No one likes getting out of bed early on any given day, but my Sunday morning was on the extreme side of things. Saturday night was my sisters 21st party, which was a really good night (had a few units - mostly of the spirits kind), rolling home at 4am and heading straight for bed. Almost as my head hit the pillow, I heard a deathly beeping sound - the 6am alarm clock. Rising out of bed, it was freezing cold, but managed to pull myself together and get everything packed into the car. I was then dropped off at the airport, still in the darkness at 6.40am.
Sped through the check-in and headed straight up to Fuel cafe for a long black to help get my mind and body ticking over again. A well needed kick start.
Arrived in Christchurch to be greeted by rain and a bitterly cold southerly wind. Only had an hour until I had to be on the start line, so I quickly assembled my Avanti Quantum Team bike and zoomed off to the start area (only ten minutes away from my accommodation here in Christchurch for the next week). To my surprise I managed to get it together and be ready with time to spare. Not that it mattered, as I then stood in the pissing rain waiting for the race start.
Race distance was 160km, with 13.5km of unsealed roads thrown in for good measure. The gravel sections being on the second half of the course that winds its way around Canterbury's Selwyn District. As the course profile was flat as a pancake, the race winning move(s) would more than likely eventuate on the gravel sections and who could keep pushing hard on the pedals for the longest (and with a bit of luck on their side!). A 'strong-man' parcours.
At the 20km mark a small break went up the road, bad news being that no Subway Avanti riders were in there. So we rallied all the team on the front and set about chasing to bring the break back. After approximately 10km of slogging away, and the field lined out in the right-hand side gutter, we brought the break back into the fold. Keeping the pace high was also a good opportunity to drop riders from the other teams – bike racing is all about improving the odds at every available opportunity! 
After this flutter of action I drifted back into the middle of the bunch and had a wee bit of a rest, chatting to some of the other riders about how bad the day was and how much worse it would be when we started hitting the gravel roads later on.
Not long after this another break of 11 riders went up the road, and once again no Subway Avanti riders in it... damn. So again the team was brought to the front and we assumed our team time trial rotation to close down the 30 second deficit. It took much longer to catch the break this time as they were working well together, but we held our nerve and gradually took second by second back, unfortunately losing a couple of Subway Avanti team mates in the process of the chase. 
It was time to drift back into the peloton and stay out of the wind for a while, saving energy for the upcoming gravel sections. About 1km out from the first gravel road the team jumped back onto the front and stretched out the field again. This is where it started to go a bit wrong for me... I picked a bad line and hit a deep patch of gravel, heading straight for the grass. Body all ok, I re-mounted and started the long chase back on.

Coming out of the first gravel section there were 3 riders up the road (at 5 minutes), and then a second group of approximately 8 riders (including Gordy) at 2 minutes.
Hit the 3rd section of gravel (still working to try and get back to the leaders) and suddenly I was involved in another crash – 3 riders dropped it on the gravel in front of me. Only way out was to try and ride over the top of them. Whoever I landed on, it was a good crash pad, thanks! At that point it almost looked impossible to get back up into the mix, but I knew the legs were pretty good and I wasn't about to give up. Re-mounted and settled into a 40km TT type pace, gradually working my way back up to the second chase bunch, which had swelled to about 20 riders. Team mates Sam and Pat were there, so I asked them to help roll and keep the pace high, telling them we would get across sooner rather than later with their help.
The plan was to keep it together on the gravel and speed up on the sealed roads. In the end the group wasn't working well at all. Must like watching my rear end, so to fix this I attacked the bunch, taking Pat with me. We caught some riders who were dropped from the front bunch, 3 of them sitting on, whilst Pat and I kept the tempo high. 
As we started the first of three finishing laps (7km each lap), the leaders were at 1:20. We drove it hard, the gap down to 40 seconds as we started the second lap. I slipped off the front and spent the whole of the second lap chasing. Finally caught the leaders on the 3rd lap, to find that Scotty Lyttle and James McCoy had jumped clear. Totally spent, I crossed the line in 8th place. Scotty Lyttle taking the win.


Photo at top courtesy Sonia Roussey

1 comment:

Hayden said...

Good stuff Coops