I am actually too fingered to come up with a more imaginative title today, so the very factual one I have gone with will have to make do… As will lots of pics to make up for my limited ability to craft entertaining sentences or storyline.
Yes, today was Nationals day… The upside of the 7.15am race start? Heat not such a factor… The downside? The 4.30am alarm going off. I am used to heading to MTB races in the dark, not so much on the road. But, for a few degs cooler conditions, I will take it. Given I have a “Must be early and get the best carpark” OCD, preparation was indeed full Black Ops stealth, led by the Navy SEAL of bikes:
The downside of being the first to rock up to Rego with my ‘must be early’ OCD raging was confusion given the rego systems were not up to speed. I was given the #1 number, which I almost ran with, but decided it was best to return it for the defending champion to wear… Wasn’t quick enough to get a pic either. Here’s what it looks like when your Nationals start in the dark:
Pre-race routine all sorted and it was time to scope out the scene and work out the start time. Also a chance to catch up with Boon and give the legitimate contender a knuckles for luck:
Given the length of today’s race, feeding was a critical element… Well, water more precisely. How to distribute this to you without mobile water support? Bring your own home made one of course. There was only one man for the job (and not just because he’s the only person I know that hasn’t left Singapore, honest)… Introducing Mr A Cat:
It was a massive day for the A Cat, he was graduating up from Assistant Water Boy in 2012 to being the ‘MD of Water distribution’ this year… He had some patchy moments last year where he may have conceptualised an NFL throwing style delivery system (the Panther’s calmer head ultimately prevailing), so the pressure was on for the Cat.
It was a little bit confusing at this point about what the start time was etc… So we milled around in the pen. Eventually they took the tape away and the Commissaire looked at us and calmly said “Ok guys, go, 14 laps. Good luck”… Ok, a pretty low key send off then! Rolling out:
And this low key nature lasted for the first 2 laps… Laps consisted of straight down Changi airport straight, a 180 turn at the top and then straight back down to the start for another 180 turn… Like a giant Crit course, 5km’s each way. Rather easy to lose count of laps… 140km’s awaited us.
With the opening laps a bit boring and it not so hot, it wasn’t an interesting race to A) be in or B) watch… Which allowed the Cat to spend some time brushing up on his moonwalk:
Heading into Lap 4 though and it was time to put him to work… Note perfect hand off form:
By now a decent break had gone clear and I was doing my best to follow the solo man game plan for the day: Sit in and do NO work… And it seemed to be working out quite well. The only point of concern on my radar was the surging and high speed smashing required whenever Mr Cuppens or Lee Rodgers fired it up. By lap 8 my brain was repeating the same thing it always says when it dawns on me that the intensity was quite high:
- I wish we had done more intervals in training
- I wish we had done more racing
- Can we pleeeease get a flat tire?
But, everything seemed to be going ok… So just had to push on. Case in point:
The gap to the break was now out to 2 mins and Boon was a little concerned… I did note that none of the teams who should have been chasing were, so breaking my own rules I decided to invest some matches into working with the Lapierre guys to bring it back a little (Cue abuse from all my team mates… Yes, I know…). Yes, not the best move I could have made, but I do have a thing about wanting to DO something in a race…
Honest call at this point – I didn’t do a whole lot of work really, but it did make me realise that perhaps we weren’t quite going as well as we originally thought we were… Worse than that, the investment made did little to close the gap to the Droids up the front… It appears cloning isn’t banned after all:
Laps 10 and 11 were problematic… Comfort was gone and it was replaced by a few seeds of dread and the faint aroma of cramp. It was the combination of the hotdog turns and the surging that was doing me in. Getting out of the saddle to accelerate was resulting in being stabbed in the quads and I was finding myself in the wrong part of the group consistently. So by the last feeding at the start of lap 12 I was desperate to get my hands on that sweet sweet cold bottle of coke… Although it wasn’t without confusion, written all over my face here:
I hadn’t read the memo about the last feed being on the start of lap 12… Nor had I worked out that in my suffering state it wasn’t a good idea to have to chase back on after the feedzone (shades of 2012 here). This REALLY hurt me and it took me almost a full lap to get properly back in. As Winnie C said: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going”
Problem was now I was in a negatively reinforcing cycle: I was trying to get back on, so would chase hard, get on the back, go to move to the front, it would surge and I would have to burn again to stay in. Rinse and MF repeat. As such, heading into the penultimate lap I could see the writing on the wall and also feel it in my quads via a dose of cramp each time I stood on the pedals. It also didn’t help that Lee Rodgers was on the front putting in a MASSIVE turn for the length of Changi straight, causing parts of my internals to melt. Folklore has it that his one turn took 1 minute out of the break… It certainly felt like it!
Here is what the beginning of the end looks like, note super shit peloton positioning:
For me, one of the worst things in a bike race is when you know what you should do or need to do, but not matter how hard you try you can’t do it… For me, I knew I needed to be towards the front as the break was going to be caught and it was going to go mental… But I couldn’t do it. When you are hovering around the pelotons ass you also get shat on obviously and I was trying to jump from blown rider to recovering rider to stay in and close gaps.
Into the final lap and I was desperate to finish with the main bunch… Poorly out of the 180 turn to start the lap and it was FULL gas… I got out of the seat (you had to by this stage), to be greeted by cramp. I tried to ride through it Roberto style, but had to sit down and mash it out… A gap appeared as the guy in front of me blew up and then I could see it:
Yes, there was now a 10m gap and I was taking a face full of wind… “FUUUUCK it” came the thought. You know the one… when you still want to be in that peloton and part of the race, but no matter what you do, you can’t get back there. You’ve been expelled. The group has looked at your form and training and then said “Nah, fuck off and do some more speed work”.
I tried one more time, but even the squirrels in the trees were laughing at me by this stage, I am not fluent in their language, but suspect this one had something to say:
So, halfway along the last lap I regrettably had to reach for the white flag and wave the shit out of it. Limping home in a cramp filled last 6km’s or so, watching the peloton go bananas coming the other way. Perhaps all that Kapiti ice cream wasn’t such a good idea last week? Here is the finish being contested, Dirty Nomad free… Mr Cuppens for the WIN:
Honestly… I am a bit disappointed not to finish in the lead group when I should have. But, if you don’t train properly for this level of race and up against these guys, then you will be put to the sword. More intervals and racing is the prescription and less riding around drinking coffee (well, the latter is a LOT more fun). On a brighter note, main man Boon sprinted in for 6th place and 3rd Singaporean, so well done mate and a great ride!
A massive thanks to the A Cat for his feed zone support today, excellent work there bro. And, to round it out, some numbers from today:
- 3 hours 32 mins
- 52m of elevation (WTF – It doesn’t get much flatter!)
- Avg speed of 39.5kph
- 4,200 Calories vaporised
- Avg HR – 157 BPM
- Strava was good enough to classify this ride as ‘Extreme’, I would tend to agree
What to do at the end of a bike race when you’ve been smashed to pieces and are determined to improve? Royale with Cheese of course… I only did this as its Clarso approved post race refuelling:
I am off to spend the rest of the day lying in the pool…