Category Archives: Events

The Hills Are Calling

Back in April 2014, I had a crack at Everesting Garie Beach Hill in the Royal National Park. That particular attempt was aborted when my front light cut out during a fast, windy descent, which resulted in me hitting a pothole, puncturing, nearly dying of an adrenaline overdose, then calling it due to actual objective danger.

The switch assembly on the light, it transpired, had vibrated itself loose, and since I was carrying charging equipment but no actual spare light, there was no going on.

That was, as far as I know, the first attempt at an Everesting on Garie. I’d selected it for proximity to Sydney, a nice constant gradient, and a manageable number of target laps – 44. It really is – aside from the rough surface – an ideal Everesting hill.

In September 2014, Pat Dellagiagiacoma and Paul Karis completed the first everesting of Garie as a pair, a fine effort and worth some applause.

Now, in September 2016, the 8848 Royal National Park event will see a mass participation Everesting attempt on this hill in aid of The Cancer Council. This is a fantastic cause to ride for, and since it’s a supported event you won’t run into the problems I (and others) have run into. There’ll be mechanics, medics, food, drinks, support and other riders on your shoulder all the way. The road will be closed, so you won’t have to deal with any traffic. You don’t even have to do the 8848 solo, since there’s a team option. You should totally do it, if you can scrape together the entry fee. Do it.

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Race recap: Tour of Sufferlandria, Stages 6-9

The last post left us at the middle of the tour, after the first mountain stage, and looking ahead to four more days including both the queen stage and a big final run into the finish.

Stage six: Local Hero saw the peloton turned ragged by the cruel pyramid intervals, and several riders were caught out by forgetting that this one isn’t just an hour of effort, but an hour and twenty-five minutes of threshold work designed to put them into the redzone and deny them an easy exit. A pyramid starts out at an RPE of 7/10, or just below power threshold. In my case, working with a slightly overloaded FTP of 250, that meant holding 240+W for interval one. Interval two, a minute at threshold, is at least 250W for one minute, after which you spend two minutes at 8.0 – above threshold, which is harsh. But when the two minutes are up, you can’t just shift and recover. Because you need to hold threshold for another minute, then sub-threshold again for a last painful minute.

The pyramids hurt. I am not kidding. And after that there’s race simulation and a series of sprints. This stage was a test for the entire peloton, and there were three more stages to go.

Next day, at first glance, seemed like an opportunity to recover a little, with The Rookie. But things are never that easy in Sufferlandria, especially when Sir Neal Henderson has been involved in the choice of parcours. What awaited us was a set of three 10-minute race simulations garnished with the kind of on-bike footage that gets you trapped in the action and forgetting how much power you’re putting down. I, for one, was left gasping, and dreading Stage Eight, The Queen Stage

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Serious face on for Stage Eight

Stage Eight was the Dame Alissa Schubert Memorial Stage, a terrifying two-hours and twenty-five minutes of sprints. The community wore a black stripe on their social media avatars in memory of Dame Alissa, and the Knights wore their official team kits. I broke out my race-cut Darkside kit. Having put on a few kilograms after a bunch of crashes and injuries last year, I’d been slightly dreading getting back into race-cut, but to my surprise, it worked out not too badly. I slapped on my serious face and got down to action.

Video one of Stage Eight, Revolver. Straight up, no messing, fifteen one-minute intervals interpersed with fifteen one-minute rests, a workout designed to burn you down as quickly and as simply as possible. This is followed with Violator, a never-ending series of short, high-intensity sprints, which is topped off with a dressing of Half is Easy, yet another bottomless pit of on-off-on-off power intervals.

This, dear friends, is a special kind of hell.

We all knew it would be the queen stage. I for one didn’t realise quite how horrifying it would turn out to be.

I held over the stage until Sunday, since Saturday was my brother-in-law’s 50th birthday and Jack Bobridge’s Hour Record attempt. Which meant on Sunday I felt a little… hungover.

Oh. The. Pain.

By the end of Revolver I was already thinking I’d gone too deep. By the middle of Violator, I knew I’d gone too deep. close to the end of Violator, I had a dizzy spell and a micro-blackout and found myself almost crashing the bike. Let me just re-iterate that. I nearly. Crashed. A turbo trainer.

As the recovery interval arrived I wolfed down an entire pack of jelly snakes, a gel and a whole bottle of electrolyte, and called out to the minions for more.

By the time Half is Easy was properly underway, I was mentally back together, and starting to come back into shape physically, which was just as well, because I spent the last video spitting and cursing, sweat pouring off in waves, feet and hands aching, legs turning to mush and shoulders in spasm. Physically, it was harder than anything on my Knighthood, either of my Everesting attempts, and any race I’ve ever struggled through.

The sawtooth profile of the power trace speaks volumes for the severity of this stage. Oh god, never again.

Well, maybe.

It did feel pretty good afterwards.

And so Monday rolled around, and my alarm fired at 5am, in time for me to do Stage Nine before work. My weary legs, however, wouldn’t let me out of bed.

So I went to work like a normal monday. And when I arrived, I set one of my laptop’s auxiliary clocks to the International date line. This gave me a hard cut off time for the end of Stage Nine, which turned out to be quite late that evening, thanks to timezone weirdness.

So I left the office as normal, headed home, and put my weary legs over the top tube for the last time in this tour.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time tells the tale of an intrepid Sufferlandrian unleashed in pursuit of the Giro d’Italia’s combativity prize. It’s tough, you’d better believe it, and it’s long at two hours. And coming at the end of nine stages, it was all I could do to keep up. But keep up I did, and I finished, sweaty and victorious, after the world’s hardest stage race of a fictional country.

My citizenship of the great nation of Sufferlandria was assured.

And I was tired

Damn it, I was tired.

I can’t wait until next year.

 

 

Race recap: Tour of Sufferlandria, Stages 1-5

Yes, it’s the greatest grand tour of a mythical country on earth, the Tour of Sufferlandria. As a Knight of Sufferlandria, my participation is compulsory – noblesse oblige.

A huge, feisty peloton lined up for the start of Stage one on Saturday, taking in Elements of Style and The Long Scream, race director Grunter von Agony wishing to have a well-turned out and stylish race. Which he could then rip to ragged shreds in the ensuing 30 minutes.

Elements is a goodie – I reviewed it here – but does have a habit of taking your mind off your effort level as you concentrate on your form. It’s easy to go into the red by mistake, but today everything -just -went to plan. And then the last half-hour hove into view.

Between you and I, I’d never completed the Long Scream until this stage. It’s deceptive, being “only” an extra shot video of 35 minutes duration. However a solid thirty of those minutes are spent at or around Threshold. Until this stage, every time I’d switch it on, I’d go out of the start gate way too hard and end up cracked and dying by the last third. But these days I run a power meter and keep close track of my FTP, so for the stage I was able to dose my efforts with unprecedented accuracy, holding FTP, dipping below or rising above as the video demanded. A look of relief crossed my ashen face as I finally got my PhD in suffering. At last.

Day one done. I was feeling nicely toasted after this stage, Sufferlandrian holy water running forth untrammeled. And yea, verily did the race reports roll in on the ToS Facebook Group. Sufferlandrians all over the globe were checking in with their experiences. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Also beer.

My start time on Stage Two, Blender, was held over to Monday after an aborted start on Sunday- entirely within the rules I might add. One tiny false start on Monday for a forgotten towel and we were off. Monday was Australia Day, a public holiday. What better time to sit on a turbo trainer in your own house in front of two fans and a laptop while outside all is stifling heat, blind patriotism, drunkenness and boganry? Blender is one of my favourite videos, taking in as it does MTB, mens and women’s road racing, time trialling, cyclocross and even downhill MTB. But at 1h40m it’s a long ride in the heat and the Aussie peloton was in sore need of rehydration afterwards. But no beer yet, because a few hours later… Stage Three: Fight Club

This one’s a scrappy affair, attacks coming thick and fast, breaks needing to be shut down and an overall effort level somewhere far north of sensible. But again, Determination pays dividends, as does the knowledge that when this is done, beer may be had. And so it came to pass. The breaks were shut down, the legs were turned to jelly and the beer was cracked.

Happy Australia Day

Tuesday. Back to work and the restricted free time of the weekday grind. I still kept a window open for Nine Hammers, the latest offering from Sufferfest Studios and one with a fearsome reputation. Featuring nine big efforts at – and above – threshold, This video is an FTP stretcher if ever there was one, and one where I’d again be relying heavily on the power meter – though the numbers flashing by didn’t stop me being tempted to add a few percent  here and there. I was left feeling exhausted, but with a sense of achievement.

And so we came to Wednesday. The first day in the high mountains, where we’d go to meet the Angels.

There was crazy talk among the group about maybe doubling up on the two editions of Angels, but as it transpired I was badly pressed for time and opted instead to go all-out on the original, longer version. My legs were a little sore, but Angels is at once an old friend and an ancient nemesis. I knew where the attacks would be made, and was able to counter each and every one, even if it was through a mask of pain.

Here’s how it looked from the Suffercam, deteriorating form and all.

And so here we sit, Five days into a nine-day tour, with all to play for and the Queen Stage yet to come, and with a huge sting in the tail to follow that. Who will make it to the finish of ISLAGIATT on the hallowed slopes of Mount Sufferlandria? Who will be punted out the back into the autobus to be swept up by the minions and who will double down for Honour, Glory and Victory come Sunday?

Tune in to find out. Oh, and if you could throw some money at the Davis Phinney Foundation, that would be excellent too.

 

Park Bikes Training Camp Day Three: Bowral to Sydney

Day three began with some tired bodies and interesting tan lines (tip: POC helmets let a surprising amount of sunlight in). Everyone had opted for the full ride back to Sydney, even though an option of a short ride followed by a train trip was offered. Today’s menu started out with a fast ride down the Hume Highway from Bowral to Picton, then a main course of Razorback, followed by a dessert course of rolling highway back into Sydney.

The first 40 kilometres were knocked over in under an hour. The terrain is mostly flat but with frequent downhill sections, which got everyone warmed up very nicely. The pace, and spirits, were high. Before too long we were off the highway and heading for Picton, at the foot of the Razorback climb.

It’s a short climb and not in the same league as the two previous days, but some of the bunch – me included – were sagging. We regrouped at the top, and took the left turn towards the Old Razorback road. We would only be descending this one today, but it’s a climb I’ll definitely be going back to do in the near future.

The descent is a little rough, quite winding but fast. My Fly6 tail camera captured some nice video on the way

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Park Bikes Training Camp Day Two: Kangaroo Valley

IMG_0664Day two and there were plenty of tired bodies at the breakfast table. Start was delayed somewhat by heavy fog, so extra calories were taken on board and even more coffee put away. Meanwhile down in the bike room, the support crew were doing a sterling job on the maintenance side, making sure everyone’s gears were running smoothly, checking over tyres for leaks and swapping out a couple of cassettes for riders who’d overgeared a little. I really can’t speak highly enough of the support squad and the great job they did.

Soon the fog cleared and the bunch rolled out into Bowral town centre and off towards Fitzroy Falls. The terrain was rolling and soon we’d broken into two bunches, with me in the back group. Cresting a hill I saw the support car ahead with the front group and decided to bridge the gap and wake up my tired legs, which I’ll admit were feeling less than stellar.

Regrouping at Fitzroy Falls, we were treated to a clinic on descending technique, since the meat of the day was coming up – Barrengarry descent and the climb back out of the valley, on slightly damp roads.

My cornering confidence has been a little low since spilling at Olympic Park and cracking my rib, so my preparation was pretty much all mental. Remember the fundamentals – brake in a straight line and in plenty of time. Look through the corner. Weight on the outside foot and the inside hand, balanced through the centre of the bike. Don’t target fixate on the hazards. Relax. Continue Reading →

Park Bikes Training Camp Day One : Sydney to Bowral via Macquarie Pass

As you probably know, I’ve been whinging about my lack of riding recently. Injuries, life and general lack of Rule Five adherence have meant Summer 2014/15 has been poor. Poor to the point that my tan lines haven’t even arrived. In December.

So to get things kickstarted, I signed up for a little training camp run by our friends over at Park Bikes and Domestique.

The plan:

Day one, ride Sydney to Bowral via Macquarie Pass.

Day two, ride Bowral to Kangaroo Valley and return, with potential for extra distance if wanted

Day three, two home options, one all the way via Razorback, one with a train component

Lovely.

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LACC Armory Crit 13 Nov 2014

Courtesy of Craig Toner, LACC. If you look carefully, you’ll see me, in Cellarbrations kit on my white Trek Domane, somewhere up at the front, where I generally try -and fail – to stay off the front of the bunch.

 

The 2014 SCODY Three Peaks Challenge – Part 3: Dinner Plain to Falls Creek

3peaksfinishWhen we left off the last post, I’d just gratefully rolled into the Dinner Plain lunch stop, slightly behind schedule but optimistic, despite some warning shots from a niggling leg injury…

Lunch at Dinner Plain was one of the tastiest roast vegetable wraps I’d ever tasted. After ten gels or so, actual food tasted like a five michelin star experience. I half expected Heston Blumental to step out of a nearby door and grin at me inanely. It probably wasn’t testament to the quality of the food, but rather my body’s desperate craving for something that wasn’t a vaguely disgusting fructose/maltose paste. I also grabbed two cans of coke for a sugar/caffeine boost.

While eating, I rid myself of the base layer that’d been a perfect choice for the Falls Creek descent but had been overkill since Harrietville, and grabbed my clothing valet bag. I’d packed a second set of gloves, so got rid of the sweaty pair I’d had on for the first half. I also sent my windvest and base layer in the return bag, certain that there wouldn’t be a sudden drop in temperature over the next few hours. I’d also packed a heaping helping of gels and bars for the last section, which got shoved into various parts of my kit, sleeves, legs, pockets, the lot. Prepping to leave, I ran into the main contingent of LACC riders just coming in. A couple of them were looking a little grim, so I wished them luck, pointed them towards food and headed off.

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The 2014 SCODY Three Peaks Challenge – Part 2: Falls Creek to Dinner Plain

3peakshothamWhen we finished up the previous post, I was lined up in the starting area with clubmate Jason Livingstone, waiting for the off. The sky was still dark, with hints of a fine day approaching, and over a thousand riders were crammed into Slalom Plaza, tail lights flashing, headlights blazing and ready for the off. Inevitably, trying to funnel this many riders through a narrow start gate was always going to be a shambles, but rolling through happened largely uneventfully and we got onto Bogong High Plains Road in one piece.

I’d discussed my vague plans with Jason and I don’t think he was altogether surprised when I mumbled “right, let’s have it” and kicked off down the hill at full gas. I wouldn’t see him again until lunchtime at Dinner Plain, 116km down the road. Continue Reading →

The 2014 SCODY Three Peaks Challenge – Part 1: The Leadup

A couple of weekends back, I headed to Victoria for the annual festival of uphill suffering known as the Three Peaks. For those unfamiliar with the event, what you’re essential looking at is a  parcours comparible to a Tour de France mountain stage, over 235 kilometres of stunning Victorian Alpine roads, accompanied by nearly 1800 other riders, complete with road closures, medical and recovery services, feed stations, electronic timing and mechanical assistance, and, during the leadup, detailed training advice.

It’s rightly a Blue Riband event in Australian cycling, and indeed has made some global lists as a best-of-breed event. This is something I had to do.

So I signed up. Unfortunately, my preparations were a bit rocky. I picked up a few injuries in January and February, which drastically cut the amount of riding I was able to do, but nevertheless I kept to my original target time of under ten hours – ambitious, but not unachievable.

Of course, that was almost derailed the Friday before I left, when my Chief Financial Officer and unoffical Directeur Sportif (aka girlfriend) offered to buy me a new set of carbon handlebars if I broke 9:30, or a Stages Power Meter if I broke nine.

Game. on.

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