Monday, September 15, 2008

Alastair's Goulburn Report

woke up at 0600 at the alpine lodge in Goulburn to a clear and surprisingly warm morning. got up and got busy with the pre-race preparations such as shovelling down the weetbix, putting my kit on, taking my kit off, going to the loo, putting the kit on again, putting air in the tyres and finally meeting the rest of team hubbard (richard makin [peloton], kor sietsma [kom], gijs vonk [marconi], roland irwin [driver]) down by the car. after getting the car packed and the spare wheels and feedbags sorted out it was off to the startline. thankfully the weather was very warm allowing us for the first time this spring to dispense with any extra layers or arm/leg warmers. what a pleasure! it took a long time for the race to start with a lot of speeches and lectures from the organisers and police.

we finally started to roll out of town and even though a neutral zone extended to the highway there was an awful lot of jostling for position in the bunch. once the bunch hit the highway it was 'warp factor 2 mr sulu!' The pace went up very rapidly and stayed there for quite some time. i was near the back of the bunch and here you needed to have your wits about you. going over the top of undulations i could see small groups desperately trying to get away before being nailed back by the heaving mass. over the top of the hills and the momentum of the bunch had me in the 53*11 and still looking for more gears. this was fast! i saw a hand go up in the bunch and was disappointed to see that kor had punctured. at the speed the peloton was moving it was definitely game over if you needed to stop. we had a left-right cross-wind on the highway which varied in strength between sections and there was one point where the bunch was in single file on the white line in the middle of the road. patrolmen on motorbikes made sure that no-one sought shelter on the other side of the line!

eventually a group escaped off the front and the peloton eased up by about 5km/h. pretty soon the ride became a lot more sociable with people chatting and riders drifting backwards on the hard shoulder while watering the verge. once we hit the turn-off to berrima there was a little more activity in the bunch with people jostling for position before the climb on the other side of town. the pace up the climb was solid and i was mid-bunch when we arrived at the feedzone. i had finished the last of my two bottles about 5km before and had used two gels - a little thirsty in the unexpected heat but feeling okay. the feedzone was the expected chaos and i had to slow right down and look for roland somewhere on the left hand side of the road. i eventually spotted him right at the end of the zone but dropped a lot of time whilst looking for him. i grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder and replaced the bottles as quickly as i could. i looked up and suddenly realised that the head of the bunch was a long way up the road and riders were strung out in single file down the middle of the road. oh sh*t! i didn't even have time to pull the food out of my bag before starting a desperate effort to get back on to the rear of the line which was now about 50m ahead of me. there was a strong cross wind from the left of the road and up the road i could now see two very long echelons. the bunch had split and the teams on the front were pouring out the pain. the gap was growing and i was feeling as bad as i have felt on a bike for a long time. i was flat out trying to bring it back but it was too late. i was very close to climbing off the bike and laughing off any notion of going to grafton. i was very dejected, in the hurt-box-from-hell and thinking about spending some time away from the bike.

i looked back and saw several riders behind who were also caught out in the feed zone. i eased up a little and waited for another group to form which eventually contained about 10 riders. richard makin [peloton] was there as well at jarrett wood [two wheel industries], scott [mace], a praties rider amongst others. some of the guys in the small bunch were still hopefull of bringing it back and were a little too energetic in their turns while trying to force the pace. i was still trying to get out of the red so managed my efforts and forced the fluids in. about 10km later and we could no longer see the convoy. the organisation in the group improved, the riders all matched each others pace and we got a nice rhythm going. my mood started to improved as my heart rate came down and the fluids were being absorbed. the temperature on the road was rising pretty rapidly and it was about now that i realised that i had forgotten to apply sunscreen. it was baking but at least we were making steady progress to the finish. passing through the small towns on the way to Camden we were having to negotiate the traffic chaos that the main bunch had left behind. red lights and irate drivers were negotiated and we arrived at razorback creek minus a few riders who had dropped off on the previous hills. up over the razorback for the first time and down to start of the old-razorback road. i had just finished the last of my liquids and my mouth was like feeling like and Arab's sandal. the remnants of our the small group were stretched out on the last climb and the heat was only just bearable. we all came together on the final descent into Camden and there was about 6 of us left but what had really surprised me was that we had not picked up more riders who had fallen off the peloton. my final time on crossing the line in Camden was 4h25m, 20m behind the winners.

although i am disappointed with the outcome, the race was a fantastic experience and i got some quality riding in the legs in preparation for grafton. bring it on!

mental notes for the next g2c race:
(i) hydrate fully before the start (or pay later)
(ii) carry all your food - one banana, one bar and 4-6 gels are sufficient for this race
(iii) get to the front through the feed zone
(iii) know exactly where your feed man is!


Ryan said...

Nice report.

Last point is so critical!

You were warned about the feed zone. I really should have stressed though that the KOM was on the first or second climb after the feed and not to muck around.

I got caught out by the arrival at the feed zone too. Was sooooo not ready but got away with it. Had to chase but got back on. You were not so lucky with the cross winds.

That's racing!

Gijs said...

Hi Alastair,

I accidentally stumbled upon this report... after all this time...

Great report! I was lucky to sit at the front of the bunch when we went through the feed zone. But dropped my bag... which included extra fluids... what caused me having major cramps in the last 10 km's. Finished alright, at least before you ;)

How did you go last year?