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.