Monday, 1 June 2009

Melbourne Team Series race report

Yesterday was my toughest road race to date, and surprisingly turned out to be my best performance to date as well. At the finish line, I was shaking my head disappointingly, but after a day of reflection and studying the results, I now feel like I can be proud of how I did. Fifteenth out of a field of about 50, in an 80km race with over 1000m of climbing. Oh yeah, and on a hot and sunny day (who knew England could be so summery in May?)

Melbourne Team Series Race 31-05-2009, Elevation - Distance

5 Laps of Hilly Joy

This was my last race in the women's Team Series for a while, as I'm turning my focus 100% to Ironman Lake Placid training now. Well, I've got one final race next weekend, the South East Regional Women's Road Race championship, where I hope to go top 5 or so -- but aside from that, I'm doing the great majority of my cycling miles on my TT bike these days. In fact, my new Hed Jet6 650c wheels just arrived and once the rear is built with a Powertap hub, I'll be all the more motivated to ride that bike hard and fast.

Yesterday's race consisted of 5 laps of a 10-mile course, with 1 longish climb, 2 medium climbs and a couple of shorter lumps in each lap, getting to about 10% at their steepest. The finish line was after 1km of false flat road at the top of one of the medium climbs and there were hill primes for laps 1, 3, and 5 on the longer climb. We started out fairly quietly from the town of Melbourne through the neutralised area, but once the lead car took off, so did the group, gunning for the first hill prime. I had decided already not to try for those unless I was really well-positioned mid-way up the climb, as I'd rather conserve my energy for the attacks and breaks that invariably would happen later in the race when I tend to be stronger anyway. My ultimate goal was to get away in a break somewhere in the middle of the race and guarantee myself a top 5 finish if I could.

Lap 1 was fast and furious, dropping lots of not-as-good climbers from our starting peloton of 50 in the process. By lap 2 we were down to about 30 riders in the main bunch, with little attacks going regularly and being chased down. There were 3 large teams with several contenders each, plus a handful of other teams who had one or two strong riders. Nobody seemed to really get organised to launch attacks as a team; it seemed like (as usual) everyone for herself, and over the course of the next 3 laps it was a war of attrition as the hill prime accelerations tired lots of legs and the steep and fast downhills strung the group out quite a bit. I managed to stay near the front, thanks to my good climbing fitness and a newfound descending technique: elbows below the drops, nose to the handlebars, chest on the top tube and rear end in the air, AKA the "don't try this at home" position that the pros do. I hit 70km/h as my top speed at one point, not bad considering the descents were into a headwind!

The 3rd lap saw Twickenham's Natalie Creswick, a former triathlete turned road racer who's having a stellar breakout season, pushing the pace on the front to try and catch some escapees and drop some more out of the back of the group. I knew if I could stay near her, I would eventually be rewarded with one of her patented "hey she's speeding up! no, actually she's breaking away" attacks. I did some work on the front but mainly just kept an eye on everyone around me, tried to stay behind fast wheels and not get trapped behind riders suddenly hitting a wall on the climbs.

All was going well until lap 4, when we were riding into the headwind slightly downhill along the main road. I had been seesawing between the left and right side of the road all race long, trying to strike a balance between the dangerous cat's eyes and oncoming cars on the right with the chances of getting boxed in on the left. At this particular moment I was on the left, directly against the curb. Just as I started thinking "gotta get over to the right, something's going to happen", it happened: Natalie accelerated cleanly away to bridge to a couple of girls who had gotten 100m on the group. I had about 3 seconds to decide what to do: wait to see if the line of BC Junior team riders in front of me would chase? Or try to squeeze by on the gravelly left-side of the road to give chase myself? In those 3 seconds, another rider took off from the outside to chase and nobody did anything, and I suddenly realised with a sinking heart that one of the escapees up the road was a BC Junior and the girls sitting on the front were actually going to work as a team to police the front of the bunch for a change. MaxGearRT and, the other strong teams in the race, were no help either, as they also had riders represented in the break. The bunch kept riding along as if it was a club ride while I watched helplessly, trapped and boxed in by my own lack of attention: the winning break was being made and I wasn't in it.

By the time I got clear enough to chase, it was too late. And having no great acceleration on my own -- had I been where I should have been on the right side, I could have timed Natalie's jump and tried to grab her fast wheel, working my heart out to go with her -- I gave up on any ideas of a solo attack and just decided to ride the last lap as best as I could and limit any more damage to my final placing. This meant driving the pace as much as I could up the climbs, hoping to tire out already tired legs for the sprint. I was well-hydrated and fed, and as usual had been feeling better and better as the race went on, so I had lots left to push hard on the front. On every climb I put in an acceleration to force the pace up, I descended as fast as I dared, and on the flats I put out near FTP watts.

By the final climb I was at the front of our whittled-down group of 15 and as it flattened out to the last km of 1% uphill, I let a few riders come around me to pick up the pace for the sprint. Held on to a wheel as best I could and was rewarded with overtaking a few spent riders 50m before the line to take 10th in the sprint and 15th overall. That effort earned me my first road race point ever, which took the sting out of missing the break. Natalie ended up finishing second in the sprint to Dani King (who usually rides with Nicole Cooke's professional Vision 1 Racing team), and the other 3 riders in the break were all cat 1 racers as well. I would have been in good company and hard pressed to stay with them I think!

In the end, I can't be too disappointed with how my race went. At least this time I knew when I was making a mistake as it happened, rather than realising it after the race was over. I need to do a better job of staying aware of the group in general, looking up the road for people who have escaped, and predicting when the next bridging effort or attack will go. I still don't have enough confidence in that kind of field to attack myself, though I'm hoping that will grow over time. I probably just need to race more often and try out different stuff to see what works and what doesn't, not be afraid to blow up or get dropped or be in a break that's caught before the finish line. One thing is for sure: next week's race is not nearly as hilly and therefore I will have to get away from a bunch sprint if I want any hope of finishing high in the placings. With the field of racers including Natalie, elite rider and strong TTer Charlie Blackman, and elite circuit sprinter Janet Birkmyre, it's going to take both physical ability and some good tactics to put in a good performance!

Gritting my teeth on one of the early climbs


Groover said...

Great race report. Well done. It looks like a pretty tough course. Would be interesting to know the split times for each lap. Reading about your race makes me itchy to race again myself. For a moment I thought you were racing in Melbourne, Australia. Lol

maryka said...

Here's the info from WKO+. Laps were ~30 min each, total race 2:30 including the 5 min neutralised bit at the start.

Lap 1:
Duration: 27:46
Work: 298 kJ
TSS: 38.4 (intensity factor 0.91)
Norm Power: 226
VI: 1.26
Pw:HR: -5.35%
Pa:HR: -15.11%
Distance: 15.312 km
Elevation Gain: 288 m
Elevation Loss: 291 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-3 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 617 179 watts
Heart Rate: 118 180 156 bpm
Cadence: 38 201 96 rpm
Speed: 15.6 70.2 33.1 kph
Pace 0:51 3:51 1:49 min/km
Altitude: 54 187 118 m
Crank Torque: 0 72.7 17.8 N-m

Lap 2:
Duration: 28:34
Work: 300 kJ
TSS: 35.2 (intensity factor 0.86)
Norm Power: 213
VI: 1.22
Pw:HR: 1.53%
Pa:HR: 0.58%
Distance: 15.359 km
Elevation Gain: 295 m
Elevation Loss: 296 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-1 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 595 175 watts
Heart Rate: 115 178 157 bpm
Cadence: 64 177 96 rpm
Speed: 12.2 64.6 32.3 kph
Pace 0:56 4:55 1:52 min/km
Altitude: 55 185 116 m
Crank Torque: 0 68.2 17.4 N-m

Lap 3 (0:28:12.74):
Duration: 28:12
Work: 313 kJ
TSS: 38.3 (intensity factor 0.903)
Norm Power: 224
VI: 1.21
Pw:HR: -8.74%
Pa:HR: -4.05%
Distance: 15.316 km
Elevation Gain: 301 m
Elevation Loss: 299 m
Grade: 0.0 % (1 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 713 185 watts
Heart Rate: 114 175 154 bpm
Cadence: 31 144 94 rpm
Speed: 12.6 68.5 32.6 kph
Pace 0:53 4:46 1:50 min/km
Altitude: 53 185 116 m
Crank Torque: 0 73.3 18.7 N-m

Lap 4 (0:30:39.47):
Duration: 30:38
Work: 261 kJ
TSS: 27.4 (intensity factor 0.732)
Norm Power: 182
VI: 1.28
Pw:HR: 7.63%
Pa:HR: -12.66%
Distance: 15.294 km
Elevation Gain: 299 m
Elevation Loss: 298 m
Grade: 0.0 % (1 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 571 142 watts
Heart Rate: 110 168 143 bpm
Cadence: 49 231 95 rpm
Speed: 7.9 71.6 30.0 kph
Pace 0:50 7:36 2:00 min/km
Altitude: 57 188 119 m
Crank Torque: 0 106.5 14.4 N-m

Lap 5 (0:29:36.36):
Duration: 29:36
Work: 312 kJ
TSS: 35.7 (intensity factor 0.85)
Norm Power: 211
VI: 1.2
Pw:HR: -7.72%
Pa:HR: 3.46%
Distance: 15.323 km
Elevation Gain: 302 m
Elevation Loss: 307 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-6 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 476 175 watts
Heart Rate: 106 174 152 bpm
Cadence: 52 182 97 rpm
Speed: 12.5 66.2 31.1 kph
Pace 0:54 4:48 1:56 min/km
Altitude: 50 184 115 m
Crank Torque: 0 50.2 17.2 N-m

Entire workout (172 watts):
Duration: 2:29:44
Work: 1543 kJ
TSS: 184.8 (intensity factor 0.861)
Norm Power: 213
VI: 1.24
Pw:HR: 4.51%
Pa:HR: -1.6%
Distance: 78.692 km
Elevation Gain: 1551 m
Elevation Loss: 1514 m
Grade: 0.0 % (38 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 713 172 watts
Heart Rate: 87 180 152 bpm
Cadence: 30 231 95 rpm
Speed: 0 71.6 31.5 kph
Pace 0:50 0:00 1:54 min/km
Altitude: 50 188 116 m
Crank Torque: 0 106.5 17.2 N-m

Anonymous said...

Very impressive and informative, thank you.