Sunday, October 22, 2006

Melbourne Warnambool Ride Report

Finally the Melbourne Warnambool has been run and won for 2006. This race had been the focus of my year on the bike (road bike anyway), and I’m taking a week or too off as of today! I just thought I’d run through some of my experiences from the race itself, and my time spent preparing for the day.

The Preparation

The year started off pretty slowly for me- after being away this time last year, summer was spent trying to recapture the form I had left at various bars and nightclubs scattered throughout Europe.
I trained pretty hard over summer, but it was all pretty much catch up work from before I left. As a result of training intensively I developed ITB problems which had me struggling to complete a 40km ride for much of March through until May. Once I had that all sorted out, my focus was entirely on the Warny. Another problem was going from student life to full time work. As a result I’ve had to shift ride time to early mornings before work. It’s been difficult to adjust too, but training alongside Nick, Stuart and Tom in the last month or two has been a great experience.
The main race I was going to use as preparation was the Teams Race at Meredith. That race started pretty poorly after some bloke from Spoken gave me embrocation instead of arse cream. Needless to say I had smeared record amounts of the stuff over my chamois, and the result was less than satisfactory. Luckily Laurie Lovelock came to the rescue with a tub of vasoline that soothed the burning sensation around my balls nicely, but I still had a rather warm bum for the first 50kms or so.
Things went somewhat downhill from there as the ‘neutral’ roll out proceeded at a pace close to 60km/h, down a difficult technical descent. The bunch flew over a bridge with a 5cm camber- water bottles were flying everywhere. It was absolutely diabolical. After the bridge there was a short steep climb- a bloke in front of me dropped his chain and I went straight into the back of him as he stopped in the middle of the road. Great 5km in to a 150km race and I’m lying on the ground with my bike in the air.
I tried to race back on, but the peloton were travelling at around 50km/h, so it was far too difficult without motorpacing assistance. All of the vehicles in the convoy must have been instructed not to assist me, because they went to the opposite side of the road, and sped past so I couldn’t catch onto them. Riders involved in crashes shouldn’t be treated as dropped riders, they should be given the opportunity to reintegrate into the race. Anyway, to make matters worse, the Llama noticed my predicament but didn’t drag me back onto the convoy. He just dangled 20-30 metres in front of me, and wouldn’t drop back to drag me back onto the main bunch.
Oh Well, after riding by myself for 50kms, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I stopped at one of the feed stations and decided to take a ‘lap out’ criterium style (albeit a 30km lap :D). I felt that this was fair given that I’d been totally stooged by race officials and the Llama. This meant that I missed about 30kms in the bunch and two climbs out of around 14-16. This was another funny thing about the teams race, the course guide listed 5 climbs, but it was more like 14-16, and the last 20kms of the race were almost entirely uphill!
Anyway, after I got back into the main group at the feed station I managed to finish a 69th in the race, run over terrain that wasn’t particularly suited to my riding abilities. What I did notice from the race was that I could hold my form much better than a lot of blokes over the longer races. Up until this day, I was still a bit unsure as to whether I should race in the Melbourne-Warnambool, but this day confirmed that I could give it a go.
After the teams race my training has included a mix of track, long rides on the weekend and interval training during the week. It’s a shame that there aren’t more good road races on over winter to get in more practice.

The Race

I think the one thing that separates the Warny from other races I have done is the amount of preparation and organisation involved when compared to other races. Getting together the musettes, gels, bidons, studying the course, organising a helper (ie telling someone who has no idea about cycling what they should be doing 20 times)- it was all rather stressful. I’m generally not the most organised person at the best of times, and spending time away on business last week added to the last minute rush feeling.
The day itself started ominously with hail falling as I drove through Altona to the start line. The start of the race was altogether uneventful- it was a case of, ‘right is everyone here, let’s go’. There was the usual warning that people caught urinating in public would be thrown out of the race- I can report that there were two or three mass ‘nature breaks’ on route. Initially, there was a 10km neutral roll out that proved to be a bit more neutral than the teams race rollout. Although there was one crash during the roll out due to the large amount of surface water still on the roads from the brief hailstorm that passed through only minutes earlier.
When the race got started the hammer went down right from the outset. It wasn’t that fast- at around 47km/h, however my legs were not feeling good and I was having trouble holding position. I was pretty pissed off, because I know from crits and track that I can hold that speed comfortably for much longer than I did. I think being away earlier in the week really compromised my preparation. To make matters worse I got caught behind a crash, which put me of the back pretty quickly.
After spending ten minutes hovering off the back of the first bunch on the road, I was joined by about 100 other riders. I can’t explain the feeling of relief- I thought I was getting dropped from the race after only 20k’s.
The pace in the second bunch was pretty close to the first. With the first 3 hours raced out at about 40 km/h. We could see the first bunch up the 500m road for much of this time, but after 120km’s, our group more or less gave up chasing the front group, and decided to take it relatively easy. This was especially the case at around the 180km mark. The lack of feed stations meant that riders ran out of water and food in many cases- so the pace dropped to around 30-35km/h. Another factor was the wind during this section, because it was the point where we left the Hamilton Highway and took the back routes to the Princes Hwy which took the race dead south into the wind. At around this point I was getting a headache, and my eyes were starting to roll around in my head. Welcome to fairyland. To make matters worse I got a puncture riding over the rough country back roads. Luckily I was able to get a spare from the spares vehicle, however the spares truck only had wheels with Shimano clusters in the back. While I could ride on the wheel, it was far short of optimal- the gears would ghost shift in the mid range, and as a result I had to ride either much greater, or much smaller gears than the circumstances would dictate. The other problem was that I had to burn up a lot of energy getting back onto the bunch- this effort basically used up all of my water and food and the next feed station was still 50kms away!!!
Funnily enough- although I couldn’t hold the 47km/h at the outset of the race, I managed about 55km/h motor pacing back onto the caravan at the 180km mark. Sometimes it’s strange how the legs work!
Once the race got off the narrow farm roads and back onto the Princes Highway the speed picked up again, although it was noticeable that most riders in the bunch had lost interest in really pushing the pace. I had felt relatively good up until the 150km mark, then absolutely terrible for the mid section of the race when I ran out of food and water. After the feed stations at 230 and 267 km’s I really started to feel better which was a great relief. Next year I hope CSV space out the feed stations more appropriately- It should be common sense that 130km without a feed station is far too long.
For me the defining factor in the race was the wind. It just blew and blew for the entire race, and it was either a block headwind or a cross wind the entire time. It was really stressful trying to hide from the wind, form echelons, get other riders to cooperate etc. The sound of wind rustling leaves will be enough to give me nightmares from here on in I reckon!
One of the Bendigo riders who crashed right at the start had a huge chunk of flesh missing from his left arse cheek. At about 200km I asked him how he was feeling, in true country style he replied- ‘Mate, I feel like I’ve been fucked up the arse by a poofter!’ The young bloke finished the race, but I don’t reckon he’ll be able to sit down for a couple of weeks. Riding 300kms with half the skin missing from your bum is a pretty brave effort.

After the last feed station there were a lot of attacks, although there were plenty of riders in the bunch to chase down them down. My shifting problems only got worse as the race went on, so although I was still feeling strong, I couldn’t get away without gear problems pulling me back to the bunch. With about 10km to go it was clear that the best result I could achieve in the circumstances was to roll in with the bunch. There was one more crash before the finish, with one rider dropping himself through sheer exhaustion. Somehow I managed to avoid this crash by a whisker through some nifty bike handling. A problem with deciding to take it easy is that this can keep a lot of riders of lessor ability in the bunch who take crazy risks near the end of the race.
So in the end I managed to finish with the bunch containing C and D grade riders about 30 minutes behind the winner. I think I also managed to finish in front of the two chicks in the race- very important for the ego! I managed to have a few short words with Kate Nichols during the race and she seems to be a genuinely lovely person. Yet another brave effort from her!
I can’t wait to go back and do it again next year with the knowledge I’ve gained from competing this year. The race is really well suited to my abilities, so I think it is a race I can do really well in down the track. I was really pleased with how the tinfoil Pimparello managed to get me through the day- because I was initially a bit worried that the aluminium bike would shake me to pieces over 300kms. Thankfully it didn’t. The only gear issue was obviously the tires- so maybe some tubulars and race wheels for next years edition would be handy!
A great thing about the day was the fact that all riders received a medallion from the Melbourne-Warnambool society to commemorate completing the race. Going up and receiving the medal from the podium felt like receiving the Norm Smith medal on grand final day. It was a lovely gesture.
The day was topped off with a ‘Yobbo’ burger from the local fish and chip place. They also had an Arab burger on the menu which suggests that political correctness hasn’t quite reached Warnambool at this stage.
My congratulations also go to the other 6-amer and Hawthorn guys who rode strongly all day. When I realised I had a puncture Craig readily gave me his pump, spare tubes and tire levers should I need them. He was more keen on me finishing than I was at that point!! Also, a special thanks to Dave Tennant who generously gave me 30 minutes of his time on Friday to talk me through the race in detail. His advice proved to be spot on, and helped me get through the race safely.
Although I’m feeling a little tired at the moment, I can’t wait to go again next year!

Ride time 8:34.42
Max heart rate 190
Average speed 34.4km/h

These figures might be a bit wonky, because my computer went on the blink towards the end of the day :D. I'd be interested in what other people had on the clock at the end of the race. The race is supposed to be 300.3km, but my computer only showed 295.3kms. If the time is correct, and the race is 300.3 km, then this would give an average speed of 36km/h which is a bit more impressive!


Blogger larson_b said...

sell out timboy.

we won't disrespect you any less.

btw, nice form getting to warnambool.

6:33 PM  
Blogger timboy said...

I can't believe it- I put up a big post and some joke places an add on the blog. Whoever you are, you are a disgrace.

Good luck making some extra cash

11:45 PM  
Blogger Judda said...

Hey mate, well done!

Another chamois incident of course, it wouldn't be a Timbo hard slog without the stinging arse-crack accompaniment.

Sounds like an eventful race, you must've been pretty emotional by the end of it, hammering down a well-earned bogan burger with the medal around your neck.

I'm thinking your computer could be out because of the different wheel... Also, those things only have a certain degree of accuracy with the decimal rounding-off of Km/hr... Still, nearing 2% off sounds a bit weird...

BTW. Those ad's are auto-generated methinks...

5:44 AM  

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