Friday, May 20, 2011

Winners never quit

It’s one of those phrases you see on “motivational posters” about the place. I’ve never really had such posters hanging up. I suppose I’ve never really felt the need to have such things to motivate me, although some of them are quite good pictures.

I certainly never ever thought I’d be in one of those pictures or be someone to inspire others.

Nevertheless, I seem to have found myself in that position – after a friend and mentor sent me the picture above.

I’m not hard to pick out of course (just play spot the carbon leg) but for those interested – the shot is of my race winning sprint in the Eddie Salas Cup on 8 May 2011. It was an A-grade Masters circuit road race at Sydney’s Eastern Creek raceway. 60-70 starters. There were over 200 racing that day in all grades.

It was a cold morning (for Sydney about 6-7 C) and a foggy start. The race was the usual affair with break attempts, counters and so on. I bridged across solo to one such break, which I thought looked dangerous, but it was brought back.

A cool foggy morning, and the pace was on...

Then with about 25-min to go, I just knew I was feeling good and said to myself that I had a threshold effort in me for the balance of the race. There were some riders up the road. So I decided on the last hill before the main straight to push hard off the front of the chasing group. Only one rider (Matt from Sydney CC) was on my wheel, so I put my head down and buried it. He worked with me but eventually faded so I kicked on and finished off the bridge across solo. It was about 2.5-3-min effort at 350W.

The bridge across, Matt was suffering, I was ready to launch again.

Now I was there I had to consolidate, which I managed OK, then did some work with them to establish the break – they were riding hard. Since two of us had either club or team mates in the group behind, we had a combination that just might stick. I knew that if we got caught, all it would mean was my team mates being dragged to the front of the race and being in a great position to finish it off – being in a team makes such a difference to race tactics, it’s way cool to race this way.

The break, and rolling off after a turn

Once I was convinced we were not going to get caught, I started to reduce my workload, while the other two kept pushing hard. Fine by me, I just sat on (mind you my NP for the final 30-min of race was 331W so it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park).

Then the finishing straight was upon us and I was very patient, waited as long as I thought I should, gave myself some room to run at the wheel in front and gave it what I had.

I won. By about 10cm. That’s enough. :-)

Winners are grinners they say.
Eddie Salas finished 4th - he's on the right in the blue and my team mate Matt 5th.

Massive thanks to the rest of Team Turbo Studio. We might have stern looks on our faces in the promotional shots (a la the Sopranos), but we sure smile when out there racing, and especially when we have the podium stuck to the soles of our shoes.

It ended off a great week with four big races, some really good form and my third race win of the year.

I wrote in my previous post about the UCI World Cup road race. Well in between that and the Eddie Salas race I raced the UCI World Cup Paracycling time trial on a technical circuit at Sydney Olympic Park.

It was 4 laps, which meant riders from various categories were on the circuit at the same time. Technical suited me as I’m a pretty decent bike handler but it meant some interesting tactics were needed. Whenever I came up behind another rider, I would surge to get past them before the next corner as most of the other riders were too slow through the turns and would hold you up.

In the end I placed 7th overall and was the fastest of the three Australian C4 riders, 4-seconds faster than National TT champ and Aussie squad rider Ryan Hughes. I was second fastest Aussie overall behind Michael Gallagher in the C5 category.

Average Power for the 32-minutes was 320W, so that’s not too shabby at all and I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to race my first international UCI paracylcing event, and to race well and be competitive.

But back to that picture.

It’s never been my objective to inspire others – I simply love racing my bike, so do what I can within the constraints of my life to improve my own performance and to race. I've had plenty of support as well from many people. Still, I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve in the four years since my accident and amputation. If that inspires others, that’s pretty cool I guess and I can live with that.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

World Cup – Road Race

Today I raced my first UCI World Cup event – it was a ~75km road race with C4 & C5 para-cycling categories combined. Being held at the Eastern Creek Raceway and Western Sydney International Dragway circuit, (similar but not exactly the same as the circuit used last year for the World Masters Games) meant I had some home town knowledge of what I was in for since I have raced on both these venues.

What I didn’t know of course was how the competition would be. I knew one of our Aussie riders – Michael Gallagher – would be pretty hard for anyone to beat as he is a world class athlete but other than that, I wasn’t really sure of the field.

Conditions were good: cool, dry and sunny with a south to SW breeze. Sure made for a nice change with the rain we've had lately. I did 6 turbo session in the previous week.

In the end I came 4th in the C4 category, and my compatriot Ryan Hughes 3rd. Michael Gallagher came 2nd in the C5. That was perfect as the Aussie team plan was for Michael (C5) and Ryan (C4) to finish as high as possible and gain extra points for the world championship qualification places.

I had good legs today and some pretty decent numbers:
Ride time: 1:54
Normalised Power: 302W

When the race was pretty fiesty, I had a 30-minute NP of 327W.

The Italians dominated, and after the opening lap the fireworks started with plenty of attacks and counters. Eventually the break formed with 3 Italians, Michael Gallagher and 2 others. Since Mick was up the road we had no real reason to chase, next job was to get Ryan Hughes placed as high as possible, so helped him out here and there. My legs were good today – I sure felt pretty good.

I thought about going with the Italians early but they were very strong and it was a very tough place to be burning a big match. When the chase to the main break attempt was on, someone baulked as we were closing in and that didn’t help. Then a rider (the Canadian I think) crashed in front of me at the left hand turn entering the main raceway. That took all the momentum out of the chase. After that it was a training ride for next 4 laps, then in last 1.5-2 laps the group started getting frisky looking to get the minor placings.

I chased down one break by the British rider late in the race, and was about to do it again when the call was to let him go as he was C5. I certainly had the legs to go if needed.

Heading into the finale I was getting ready to go to front to give Ryan a lead out along with Mitchell Gourley from St Kilda, when the Italian for some reason let a gap go for Ryan and Mitch, and so they went for it with about 1.5km to go. I then just sat on the Austrian, Italian, and the American (Sam - of course! I said g’day during the race and asked his name) until the sprint as they were now chasing the Aussies. Fine by me.

Sam the American opened it up at top of straight, the Austrian was cooked and the Italian had nothing left or couldn’t be bothered (they were both on the front a lot today) so I went and eventually overhauled Sam down the long finishing straight, was catching Ryan and crossed line as 4th placed C4, and 8th overall.

Pretty darn happy with that. I’ve gone from having a lower leg amputation to a World Cup result in a bit less than 4 years.

Time Trial is on Friday. It’s technical and well I’ll just let ‘er rip and see what happens.

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