Last week I mentioned that I was hoping to get a different perspective on a KOM effort. Luckily enough I have Liam Garriga on board to run us through his experience of Bolton’ up to Bonds.
Introductions first. Liam Garriga is an Eltham cyclist who can hold some serious speed up and down hills. I’ve been put in the box on more than one occasion whilst trying to hold his wheel on Mt Pleasant Rd in Research, Melbourne, and I think he is fairly similarly minded when it comes to KOMs…. they are there to be taken. Incredibly, he uses cycling as fitness for his main pursuit – inline speed skating. It certainly made me feel better about my times when I found out that he races for Australia at a world level!
As described last week, he managed to best my time on Christmas morning, and his effort really blew me away.
P.P. What prompted you to have a crack at this segment? L.G. I’d had a general chat with you a few weeks prior about KOMs in the area and any plans to get some. When you mentioned the idea of taking KOMs and being a “Christmas grinch” on Christmas day, it then clicked that if I ride on Christmas, that one of your favourite KOMs would be in the firing line. All went to plan but I opted out of naming my ride “Christmas grinch”.
P.P. How did you rate your chances of succeeding? L.G. I rated my ability highly on the bike at that point, so I was confident in getting it. Hadn’t given it a real go before that day so I didn’t quite know what I was in for!
P.P. Any tips for the segment? L.G. The run up is essential of course! You need to come off the downhill, through the intersection with the green and hit the start at 50km/h and breeze up the 20%er at the start. Don’t bother turning onto it at 15km/h!
P.P. How did you feel during the effort? L.G. The effort itself felt pretty solid, was happy with the speed throughout and the final burst over the last hump in the road.
P.P. How did you feel after the effort? L.G. Absolutely atrocious. I stopped immediately, started violently coughing and was hunched over for well over five minutes. I convinced myself to keep rolling but not too long after, I vomited on the move (and copped a little on my own jersey/arm!) FYI I had bacon and eggs for breaky!
P.P. Final thoughts?
L.G. One of my favourite KOMs because I know how much the segment hurts. It’s one KOM that if I lose, there’s no way I’m coming back to reclaim it. I must say it’s one of the least enjoyable 1.5km climbs I’ve done…
Liam’s vitals from the ride:
Average Heart Rate: 191bpm
Max Heart Rate: 197bpm
Average Speed: 31.5km/h
Max Speed: 56.2km/h (yup – that run up helps!)
Give him some kudos and follow him on Strava – his rides often incredible to see.
Getting those ugly emails from Strava about having a KOM stolen can really suck, but I actually appreciate them when someone does it cleanly, and even more so when it’s a mate. Whilst I love getting out and claiming segments, I get far more excited when I see friends pushing themselves and constantly improving. Bolton up to Bonds gave me a massive confidence boost, but the effort was physically very taxing. To have it taken away was hardly a downer when I realised Liam had pushed himself even more than I had. I really don’t want to do it again, but if I did, I’d take his advice and get that bloody run-up!
I’ve almost completed another rest week. Yes, rest weeks don’t just pass by – I actually complete them. When you’re like me, and want to be riding all of the time, forcing yourself to take it easy, have days off and keep your heart rate down is a serious challenge!
I’ve still been going to Yoga, and I’ve had regular, relaxed paced rides throughout the week. This makes it hard to gauge how I’m going, but this morning’s bunch ride (around 80-90km) did give me some good indications.
Setting off faster than usual, the pace mostly remained pretty high, but I stayed conservative, either dropping the pace a little when I was on the front, or pulling very short turns. However, along a few stretches of road, I found myself needing to put in something of an effort to stay in contact with the bunch. And it felt easy. I only pulled a short turn on Tiger Brennan Drive, but was able to comfortably ramp it up from the mid-40s to well over 50km/h. I decided not to stay on the front at that pace for very long, but it was a hard decision when I was feeling so fresh after a week off. And I’m sure it was for the best – learning when to not do any work is another important aspect of racing, and it is crucial to my training as well.
Matt has set out an exceptionally hard week to go into as well. Heavier on kilometres than previous weeks, although perhaps well below what I’d regularly knock out in Melbourne, the intensity is likely to leave me feeling very fatigued. It’ll really shake up the regime and I’m really looking forward to trying to rip my own legs off.
This was the segment that started it all. A true blood on the lungs effort. And a stretch of road that leaves the conquerors gasping for air and coughing up their insides. It was the first truely difficult segment I thought I had a chance of getting, and without a doubt the hardest effort I have put myself through.
Located in Lower Plenty, Melbourne, the segment averages 5% for 1.3km on Old Eltham Rd from the junction of Main Rd and Bolton St, to the top of Bonds Road. It actually begins with a short wall that maxes out over 20%, then continues for some time as a false flat before tending uphill again, and finishing in another steep pinch well into the teens.
I found myself getting fitter and stronger at the start of 2015, and really gave the segment a go in February to claim a top 10. I was stoked, and even more so a few months down the track as I started to learn about the riders around me on that leader board. Over the year, and picking up speed, I had several more attempts, but would usually run out of steam before the top. But in early December, and with several of those riders engaged with the Tour of Bright, I headed out on an easy ride in preparation for the double everesting I was attempting the next day. That easy ride would have one hard effort – and I was determined to put in a fast time up to Bonds Rd.
From Fairfield i rolled out through Ivanhoe, Heidelberg, Viewbank and then down past the Pony Club and the mansions of Lower Plenty. My thoughts were running fast and thick – but not about the KOM – I couldn’t take my mind off the double. Could I do it? Was I prepared? A KOM attempt was really something to take my mind off the coming weekend.
There are 3 ways to approach the start of the segment – all of which rely on a good run through the lights. Perhaps the best is to line up the sequence from directly opposite with a downhill start, and run through the green light with speed. I really couldn’t be bothered with that, so I opted to roll through the intersection with a slow, left-hand turn up the incline.
The live segment was running with the KOM as the goal – I had to go into it hard, but not so hard as to destroy my legs on that awful wall. I somehow managed to keep my speed around 20km/h, and was feeling pretty good. It’s that steep you really need to muscle your way up. I wasn’t able to see how I was going at that point, but rounding the top and turning right, I was able to look down at the screen and see that Andrew Stalder’s time was a few seconds ahead.
Feeling defeated, I contemplated aborting, but decided I should at least set a faster time than I had before. With my heart rate already getting dangerously high (probably not the right adjective to use, effectively is probably more apt), I gritted my teeth and got my bike up to speed. Holding a good cadence and a speed in the high 30s, I glanced down again to notice that I had just edged ahead! Shit! That meant I had to keep going! I couldn’t give up at that point!
Every time I’d glance down, I’d see myself floating around the same time – 1 second ahead, 1 second behind, but no major gains or loses. It was feeling like a nail-biter and I could my heart going crazy. The next small ramp I got out of the saddle to edge up it as powerfully as I could whilst trying to maintain efficient – an attempt to save something for the finale.
That final pinch I really emptied myself – my heart rate was at it’s max, but I was determined to stay in front. That last bit can hurt with fresh legs – but I kept turning the gear over and threw everything I had over the last speed hump just before the apex. I was at the top!
But the segment was not over. Cruelly, the finish is not at the start of the high point f but continues for another 30m or so to just before the junction with Bonds Rd. And this is where I hurt the most. Gasping and wheezing for air, I was spent. I didn’t realise it at the time, but at that point, with a few more metres to cover, my heart rate crept up one beat per minute higher than I’d ever seen it. I could do nothing but shift in to a much easier gear and spin quickly, hoping it would be enough.
If I had a camera on me, I reckon you would have seen me throwing the bike as if I was in a track sprint. The segment was over – I didn’t see if I’d beaten the KOM – at last check, I was still back and forward with Stalds. I was lucky to stay upright – light-headed, red-faced and beginning to cough – I was immediately aware that I’d achieved something I hadn’t before. I’d really pushed through an effort that should have stopped me far earlier.
Paused at the top for some time, I limped back to Fairfield as best I could. It was the one and only segment I’d ride hard that day, but it successfully took my mind of the coming everesting. And the cough I had developed? I could not shake it. All the way home my lungs hurt. – I’d cough up phlegm, but it wouldn’t help. It made my eyes water and I was worried it would affect me the next day. In fact, the cough persisted until about midnight the day after – not long before finishing the first side of Henley Rd I was attempting the double on!
But, the upload was so satisfying. I’d earned the KOM by a mere 3 seconds. Sure, it’s only short – but quality riders have set some fast times up there, and it’s the stomping ground of the Peaks Cycles bunch – a top shelf KOM I would not likely keep. I did feel cheeky for borrowing it of Stalder whilst I knew he was away racing (one does not take KOMs of Stalds – they are only borrowed). But I was pretty happy and confident of holding it for a few days. Maybe even a week! I held it for just over 3.
Okay, a lot of words for a short segment, but the story doesn’t end there. I had the segment, completed the double everesting soon afterwards, and got back into my regular bunch rides. I reckon I was more chuffed with that KOM than I was with the double, but there was plenty of talk going around and I found myself receiving many congratulations and comments of craziness. With a much inflated ego, I made a mistake. I mentioned to a young speedster, Liam Garriga, that it would be quite funny to go out on Christmas Eve, steal some KOMs, and entitle the ride on Strava as “The Grinch”.
I thought it was a brilliant idea, and put in some attempts on Christmas Eve in the Heidelberg area. With no success, I found myself in the car heading to my sister’s home in the Otways for Christmas lunch when my phone buzzed in my pocket. A notification. “Uh, Oh! Liam Garriga just took your KOM!”
I outwardly laughed, but shed a bit of a tear on the inside – there was no way I would go back to try it again. As it turns out – Liam isn’t interested either, “About 20 minutes after the effort, I actually vomited whilst riding and had to stop… That’s how brutal it was!! Also developed a brutal cough!!” Next week I hope to present to you Liam’s attempt – it was clearly a cracker!
Part of me hopes that someone else does give this one a go – I am quite certain that it would end in more blood on the lungs.
The pain in numbers:
Average HR: 183bpm
Max HR: 190bpm
Average Speed: 28.9km/h
Max Speed: 37.8km/h
Min Speed: 17.3km/h (I don’t normally include this, but want you to see my starting speed for this one)
Side note – I’d like to thank Andrew Stalder for two things here. Firstly for setting such a blisteringly fast time to chase, and secondly for mentioning the term, “blood on the lungs” on his own ride when he took the KOM. It’s riders like Stalds that push me to always try harder. Kudos.
This morning I popped. I had only two minutes remaining of my third and final strength effort of the morning, but I was lacking enough to not get through. I wasn’t breathing particularly heavy, and my heart rate wasn’t through the roof. Simply, I couldn’t muster enough willpower to push through the remaining 120 pedal strokes.
To be fair, the efforts had each been increased from previous weeks, and my legs were shaking on the first effort. They were certainly hard enough to really hurt. But as I sit here typing, and feeling fine, I can’t help but wonder as to why I didn’t quite finish it off. I think a training programme should be set-up so that you have some failures – tasks that force you to push harder – for what is success without a target?
Although I didn’t hit the intended numbers this morning, I’m taking a lot away from it. I’ll be doing the same efforts on Sunday morning, and I’ll be annoyed enough at myself to calmly and surely give those numbers a better nudge.
If you’ve been following along here, or having a perv on Strava, you will have noticed that I’ve been spending a bit of time training indoors, on stationary trainers(s). I am by no means an expert on indoor trainers, check out Shane Miller if you want info on that (in fact, check his you tube vids anyway, they are a veritable source of interesting cycling related stuff), but i’ll give you a run down of my experience.
The very first training session that Matt had in mind for me was to begin strength efforts. These have involved doing several sets of 10 minute intervals at or near my functional threshold power, but at a low cadence. Typically the whole session will last about an hour and I come out of them with my legs feeling 10kg heavier initially, but exceptionally powerful if I immediately afterwards ride on the road (they are not actually more powerful, it’s just that riding on the road feels easier).
An issue quickly arose in the first couple of weeks of training whereby the fluid style trainer that I’ve been using (where my rear hub is locked into a triangle-shaped frame and resistance is generated by a rubber-like roller interfaced with the rear wheel). I found that this trainer did not provide enough resistance to properly complete the efforts. Not wanting to completely waste a training session, I immediately adapted to a higher cadence for the same power. The cadence was still relatively low at around 70-75rpm, but considerably higher than the target of 60rpm. I’m happy with myself for make the most of what I had, but really wanted to get the most out of these efforts, and at times would find myself pedalling at up to 80rpm to hit my target power. Not ideal.
Luckily, Matt had an easy solution and Blue Cycles lent me a Wahoo Kickr. These smart trainers are by no means cheap, so I was stoked to have a loan, and the increased resistance immediately ripped me a new one on Thursday morning. The training session felt far more effective, and the feel of the trainer is much more road like than the fluid trainer I’d been using. It’s hard to get enjoyment out of riding indoors, but having a set up that feels closer to riding outdoors takes away the mental drudgery of sitting in an air-conditioned room in front of a lap top screen (I’d rather save these conditions for writing).
I’m bound to write some updates on the indoor side of the training. I’ll probably end up purchasing a Kicker. And I’ve found another edge that having a coach can provide – being able to adapt sessions to fit your needs, and being connected to tools that allow for more effective training.