My Hell of the North

11:19 pm Unknown 1 Comments

I've had it on my race plan since the start of the year and been thinking about this race since my 4th place in D-Grade last year. HELL of the WEST. I had my gear selection and bike was ready to go - but fate or satan chose others for that day - I entered, but did not get a start as the grades had filled up. I think only 9 women managed to get through (much larger than last year).

So I spent the week scouring the internet and discarded the option immediately of doing Baw Baw on Sunday (I haven't been training for that one!), otherwise there was a Geelong or Broadford Seymour Handicap. I checked in with the team mates and the boss said to check out the Seymour one.

After a hard week at work and a tough interval session on Friday, it seemed like a bad idea. BUT - I had new equipment to test out and I was itching to see how it would go.

I have finally saved up all my winnings, bikkies and tatts tickets to purchase a Quarq Elsa. It's the top of the range Quarq, crank based power meter. Back in October 2009 Shane bought me a PowerTap power meter. An extravagant gift for a woman riding about four times a week on a shiny red carbon road bike feeling like a race car. When I put the wheel based power meter on my bike, I found out that I was not even a Toyota Carolla, more like a Datsun 200B.

The great thing about this was that even though I had my commute to work on the bike, my weekend rides, my trips away to ride the mountains, I could measure myself. I used this to look at where I had improved, where I was not working hard enough, how to pace myself, and later when I was doing more kms where I was grinding myself into the ground. Needless to say - I'm a BIG fan of training with power. By the time things had progressed and when I was looking for a coach in April 2011 I had over 2 years of data to show my progression.

I'm now onto my third carbon bike and it's a matte black stealthy racer. I had the Quarq fitted this week and paired up the Garmin 810 (firmware update out this week to fix the power reading & recording issues). I was ready to race!

Black Giant - Quarq enabled.
Shane directed me out to Seymour where I was welcomed warmly by fellow riders who I had raced with out at Coburg Crits and at the Vets Champs in Maryborough. The secret code on their race fixture of "2.00pm Burgess Signs. Locksley via Palm World. 60km" was about to be revealed. I went in to registration at Burgess Signs, they sighted my license and added me to "the book" I was off 12mins from limit - mid pack, three bunches from scratch. I went to roll around on the main road to warm up and get all my Garmin settings working when Shane was urging me from the roadside to get to the start. They mentioned the start was down the road, but it was out the other side of town and down a side road that I would have never found without being human-motorpaced by Shane to the start. Warm-up complete!

I introduced myself to my 3 other riders that I would be working with to the end, and we took off at a cracking pace. It was a grey windy day, the rain looked like it would hold off, but the ominous sounds of thunder had me second guessing until the locals told me it was just the bombs being detonated out at Puckapunyal!
On the start line - ready to roll with the thinker.
Just over 7kms in we turned left and our smooth straight line turns switched to an echelon across the back country roads. The course was mostly flat so we were ripping turns to chase down the bunch in front and to keep those chasing behind us off our tail. We sighted the bunch in front a few kms later and it took another 10kms to reel them in. This was my personal 'hell of the north', I felt shocking and we were only 20kms into a 60km race. We went through Avenel where Shane was out training and snapped a pic of me and at this point I had thoughts of just rolling back to the start - but I couldn't let my fellow racers down - I was last out of the corner, they waited up for me and we made contact with the bunch we'd been chasing for the last 10kms.

My group rolling through Avenel
There is always a little bit of disarray at these times. I made the most of it and sat near the back of the now 10+ strong group to eat a bar, have a drink (very deceptive on a grey day how much to drink) and regroup mentally. I re-joined the turns and we kept rolling out the road, at one point we did a u-turn, went back the way we came and saw the scratch bunch coming for us. This got the guys rolling back to speeds like we were doing near the start of the race, and with the first attacks I'd seen all day. I was scrambling for wheels and trying to hang on, I still was not sure of the way home! At one point we were coming into a little town and I backed off the pace when I got to the front calling out "Do we go left?" and got a response "Someone roll over Veronica, she doesn't know the course". I had a little chuckle and chased onto the wheels going straight.

There were a few hills on the way back. I dangled off the back for a few meters on the main one and clawed my way back to the group. We only had about another 5-8kms left and I was NOT getting left behind now. The guys were looking around and could not see the scratch bunch. We'd worked our way into a bunch sprint and they were jostling for position. While I was feeling horrible, I knew I could finish, but when they kicked for the line I totally missed it and so did most of the other riders as we were strung out along the road when we crossed the finish line.

I came in 9th overall, averaging 36.7km/h. Shane rolled in a few minutes later while I was cooling off and shepherded me back to town and to the car. I was totally toasted. The good thing about the presentations was that it was warm, they had lollies and I bought a can of drink (there were beers there for those peeps wanting de/hydration of the relaxing kind). There were a lot of congratulations all round at the great ride and race from all competitors. I'm really bad at remembering names and it's even harder when riders are out of lycra and helmets - one of my three guys handed me back my entry money as he'd placed in the final sprint and decided to share his prize money around. Too kind!

In future if I miss out on racing in Melbourne or it's raining in the morning, it's an easy decision for me to go and join the afternoon's racing out in Seymour. I'd recommend to give it a try.

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