The last week has been another one to recover, and it seems my lack of riding has also favoured a lack of writing. But with the rest week almost over, I’ll try and renew my focus on the blog.
I’ve had a pretty busy training block to cover, too. I still haven’t been knocking out massive kilometres like I used to, but the intensity has probably increased. And not just because I’ve gotten stronger. I think I’m pushing harder at the level I’m at, trying to get everything I can out of each session.
I’ve been hitting the indoor trainer pretty hard, and managed to knock out 180km on a Zwift challenge. 60km in I had to turn up the fans, turn down the aircon, and slow down my pace to get into a rhythm. I wish I’d weighed myself before and after this one!
Criterium training at Hidden Valley has been pretty interesting too. And I reckon really fun. On the whole, overall times haven’t been outstanding for anyone, but it has gotten very dynamic with more attacks and less of an 8 lap bunch ride. I broke my rest week last night and went to the crit, and it turned out a good move, as Stuart decided to run handicap 2 lappers, putting everyone in the box to either catch or not get caught. Typically it only runs for 35 minutes, but in the last 3 sessions they have been hard enough to up my max heart rate from 191 to 195, and have also seen increases in my maximum power output and some stronger sprints.
Saturday bunch rides and Hour of Power are still featuring in the training, and are proving solid blocks to help increase my FTP. HoP, in particular, has been a good indicator of form. I haven’t set a new fastest time, but it’s gotten close, and with fewer riders in the bunch, it has certainly been a challenge to keep the pace above 40km/h.
I’ll keep it at that for now. A dull post, but I think my focus has turned a little more towards cycling and a little away from riding. In fact, I pretty much can’t stop thinking about riding.
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.
I’m now a few weeks into a training programme, and I’m rather impressed with my progress. Perhaps I haven’t had any real increases in fitness, but the structure of high intensity workouts followed by periods of rest have lead to some very strong performances.
Notably, at the Mitchell St Criterium the other week, I managed to sustain a much higher average power output than I have on a flat course before. For that 27 minute effort, my watts per kilo were considerably higher than they were a few weeks prior when I completed a 20 minute FTP test.
Another week of mostly resting and I am back into another hard week, and with one intense hour completed, I’m feeling very lethargic and rather unmotivated. Fortunately I can engage that part of the brain that usually only functions for me on very long endurance rides, and convince myself that getting up to do the same hard things again is actually fun.
The Strava summary of Invermay Rd, 1.1km at an average gradient of 10%, belies the true difficulty of this classic Dandenongs climb. Some climbs have a steep bit – Invermay Rd has a ridiculously steep bit – hitting over 20% and proceeding straight up. You can’t even see the top when approaching from the bottom!
John Van Seters first took me up the climb on his tour of the Nongs, and I’ve only ridden it twice since… mostly because there are other options. The second ascent was with Luke Chippindall, and he was trying to set a PR – so naturally the rest of the group rode it fast as well. Surprisingly, I found myself sitting second overall from that ride, so I was keen to go back.
Two days later, I set out to the Nongs with a bit of a rampage on my mind. The Basin to Skyhigh was the first target (an effort which I have already written about), following it up with a crack at the Crescent (10th overall and I was feeling smashed after segment one, but I would go back another day), next was Invermay and I would extend that to Skyhigh for another KOM attempt.
My confidence was much lower than my heart rate at the bottom of Invermay – I was pretty happy with the Basin to Skyhigh effort, but it really emptied my tank for the Crescent, and that in turn left me running on fumes for Invermay. But I figured I should hit it again, and could then cruise up to Skyhigh and set a good time for the longer segment.
Rounding a bend, one finds oneself looking up at the first pinch of Invermay Rd and the start of the segment. It’s only short, but still quite steep, and got me warmed up for the main event. Throwing down 500 odd watts, I had to take it relatively easy so as not to burn out for the steeper part. 500 Watts – easy? No, not so much. It was bloody hard.
With the tarmac levelling off briefly, I had time to catch my breath a little, but with the new addition of a power meter, I was conscious of the screen and didn’t let off the gas too much. Soon enough the road shot up in front of me – much like a rollercoaster, although in this direction the cart would be torquing it’s way up the track at low speed.
Revisiting my data from that ride, my cadence is probably of most interest. I must have been churning a large gear – not unusual for me on a hill, especially if trying to go fast on something short. The first steep part had me riding around the mid 60rpm mark – most likely I would have been trying to power over the start. It then crept up to mid 90s for the flatter part, before dropping down to mid 40s on the steepest face!
At approximately 8km/h, I found myself pulling up on the bars whilst simultaneously pushing most of my weight down on one pedal. A little bit of weight actually needed to be spared to keep the rear wheel connected to the road! I can’t emphasise enough how difficult a club such as this can become on your upper body. Sure, if you have easy gears on your bike, you can spin up a very steep climb. But with a standard crankset, and narrow road bars, I was forced to push the bike with everything I had to get it up that hill with speed.
And of course, one final pedal stroke eventually got me over the crest. About 150m more would get me to the end of the segment. I was completely hammered. My heart rate wasn’t all that high – not a good sign on such a short segment. I couldn’t give that road a final push – I was happy enough to get to the finish, let alone quickly. Grunting over the finish, I didn’t pause to look at the time – that would have to wait for later… I was still on a KOM hunt, and it would finish at the top of Skyhigh.
So how did I go? 2nd overall – exactly one second faster than my time two days prior and 13 seconds slower than the KOM. But I did get the top time when I extended Invermay to the top of Skyhigh, and only today I discovered that another segment has been set-up for Invermay Road…. a full segment from the intersections at both ends, adding an extra 20 vertical metres and about 300m. How does my time from that effort fair on this newly created segment (not created by me, by the way)? I’ve currently got the KOM!
Invermay Base to Wall – 1.4km at 10% average gradient completed in 4:59s
Please be warned that the recount below is by far the most amount of words I have written in relation to time spent on the bike. But as one of the most exciting races I’ve competed in, I feel it worth it. And before I start – a massive than you and shout out for the Darwin Cycling Club and all the organisers for making this race happen. I turned up and had a blast. You guys did an amazing job setting everything up and really showcased competitive cycling in Darwin. Kudos
What better way to finish off my first two hard weeks of training with a criterium? After strength efforts, knocking about in bunch rides, yoga and targeted training under the tutelage of Matt King, I found myself lining up for the inaugural Mitchell St Mile race. And what a race it was.
The Mitchell St Mile is a foot race held on a closed circuit in the middle of Darwin, and for the past few years has attracted some of Australia’s best runners. This year, the Darwin Cycling Club announced that a criterium would be held before the running race, and that Arafura Fabrications would be laying down some serious prize money. 25 minutes and a lap in the men’s race would mean some serious speeds being hit right past a bunch of pubs followed by some squealing brakes into a u-turn before doing it all again.
Coming off a good block of training, I was feeling pretty confident. Far more confident than I’d normally be for that type of racing. The tight turns and the short duration initially put me off, but some good practise on Thursday night gave me quite a confidence boost – I knew I could hold a wheel and I was feeling strong. Nevertheless, I had tactics in mind leading into the event, and implemented them quickly.
20 odd riders lined up at 2pm, and with the very real threat of rain imminent, the bunch was looking a little nervous. I was nervous too, but shrugged it off by having a laugh… tactic one. With the sound of the gun, I put my head down to roll off with the bunch, but as soon as I had my right foot clipped into the pedal, I hit the gas. Hard. That was tactic two. I had no desire to be rolling around for 25 minutes with a bunch of big dudes who in all likely-hood could overpower me in a sprint finish. So I went out with the idea of unleashing constant attacks to try and break the field apart.
That first attack probably didn’t work, but I’m sure I caught some by surprise. I must have opened up a good 20m on the pack, but cooled it off when I saw former Australian Criterium Champion, Steve Rooney, bridging the gap. I couldn’t see behind him, but decided to sit up a little and roll the legs over… at 40km/h!
I took the first u-turn in pole position, and could see the field coming around behind me. Clearly, it was good to be close to the front on the corners on this course – those in the rearward positions would only be coming into the corner whilst the front guys could be attacking out of it.
I think it was about lap 3 that the damage really started to be done. After rounding the south turn and sitting on the front, I watched Chris Hanson drop about 60 million watts with no one willing to cover his attack.
The pursuit was on. I had no doubts that Chris would be the type of rider who could hold on for a win. But I was concerned about the size of the bunch. Bridging to Chris from the front of the pack would have brought everyone up with me. Not only that, the rain started to fall, and the turns became quite precarious.
Chris had a solid lead, perhaps 200-300m up the road, but I felt like I was doing all the work. Matt put in some short, strong turns, and a few others started to pull on the front as well, which gradually worked to both reduce the size of the peloton, and close the gap to Chris.
Hard braking in the wet required a lot of concentration, and everyone quickly learned to start braking before the rider in front, or risk a collision! At one point, coming into the south turn, we could hear the commentator calling out that Chris had had a near miss. And sure enough, we could see Chris hitting the start of the straight from an unusual position… but I was glad to see he’d remained upright.
I didn’t feel like I was red-lining, but I was certainly concerned I’d done too much work, and the bunch would completely reform. But it didn’t. With two laps to go, I started to tuck in more and allowed myself to drop back in the now much smaller bunch. Chris was now back in the fold and the pace felt to be dropping. On the bell lap, I rounded the turn in first place, but took it very wide so as to force someone else to the front.
The rain was awesome in both senses of the word. I loved how difficult the parcours had become, and the grit required to keep racing. But I could actually feel the extra weight of the water in my shoes, my socks were feeling uncomfortable and the sheer torrent of water produced as a rooster-tail from the rider in front was near blinding. I’m not quite sure how I managed to keep my sunglasses on, but was rather amused to hear that Steve Rooney had tried to rinse the grit out of his eyes with a water bottle, only to find it filled with Endura!
One mile left in the race and I could only sense about half a dozen riders remaining in the bunch. For perhaps the only straight in the race, I stayed off the lead, and allowed myself to recover somewhat. Lining up for the final u-turn, I’ll admit to being super excited. In front of me was Steve, Ryan Coppola, Matt and Chris, and I think only Phil Brownscombe and Sam Wood behind. Ryan entered first, followed by Chris and then Matt and myself cutting in sharp to overtake. Perhaps foolish, but I saw an opportunity to attack at that very moment, and yelled at Matt to get on my wheel.
Dropping almost 20 watts per kilo, I flew past Ryan, and found myself out the front of the race with a decent gap again. A quick look-back and I realised that no one had jumped on my wheel. Shit. I had time to look down at my power meter, and didn’t like my chances of holding 450-500 watts for the remaining 700m of the race. I dug my heels in anyway, and urged my legs to push on.
The inevitable catch came early. I glanced right to see Sam fly past with a bit of a gap before Steve went through with Matt immediately behind him and Chris also catching the draft. I had gambled too much and was unable to grab a wheel. And looking back down the road, could clearly see I would hang onto 5th place, so rolled over the line without a real sprint contest. Sam took the win, Matt in second, Chris was incredibly impressive for 3rd, and Steve Rooney demonstrated amazing experience to hold me over for 4th.
I’ve taken so much out of that race, but I’ll try and quickly summarise what I’ve learnt. Attacking off the front unpredictably works for me. I’m a much smaller rider than most, and can’t hold the highest speeds, but I can accelerate quickly. A relaxed, yet confident mindset will help me perform when conditions are tough – from the start line,
I wanted to dictate the racing as much as I could, and refused to get nervous.If I want to win a race, doing so much work on the front will not work in a criterium. It’s better to save my legs for a handful of efforts that really matter – be it the final sprint, an attack that gets me away, or simply bridging a gap in 1 second rather than 10. And finally, I reckon I can race!
The race in numbers:
Average Heart Rate: 175
Max Heart Rate: 191 (previously I’d only hit 190 on 2-3 occasions!)
Average Speed: 38.6km/h
Max Speed: 61.6km/h
Average Power: 246 Watts
Max Power: 1052 Watts (on my final attack, and only the second time I’ve gone over 1000)
I don’t have an exhaustive list of KOMs by any measure, and I’ll most likely have them all taken away at some point, so I’ve gradually been chipping away at some more segments in Darwin. Thus far I’ve only written about these efforts in Melbourne, so it’s time to run you through one of the harder stretches of road I’ve managed to top in the top end.
Bagot Road runs pretty well directly north-south through the northern suburbs of Darwin. The segment in discussion runs for 3.5km with an average gradient of 0%. Yup, 0%. Flat as a pancake. Although probably that shitty first pancake of the batch that doesn’t come out quite right. Bagot Road basically has what I’d describe as 3 steps – sections of a few hundred metres where it is just obvious that the tarmac is tending a little up or a little down. A set of traffic lights intersect the road 3km in, making things tricky for a good time. The next set of lights signal the end of the segment, and fortunately you don’t need to run them to get a good time! Unfortunately, the segment is often hammered by one of the Saturday morning bunch rides – that means plenty of strong riders sharing a turn on the front!
I was vaguely aware that the segment existed, frequently taking it to get home after the Hour of Power, but typically at a fairly sedate pace having just worked so hard. But I knew where it started, and figured there would be a segment to the second lights, so I decided to have a bit of a dig one morning after a cruisy ride with Alex McCallum, up from Melbourne.
Farewelling Alex at the casino, I rolled along Stuart Highway just after peak hour, and took note of the strong southerly (remember Bagot runs north-south). Turning onto Bagot itself, the road bends and drops dramatically by Darwin standards, and I was able to pick up a lot of speed. I didn’t have a heart rate monitor on, and I wasn’t exactly sure of the distance, but I was determined to hold 300W all the way to the second lights, and see what sort of time that would get me.
With that tail wind, and the downhill start, I found myself really flying along. 50km/h was a breeze for the first hundred metres. I didn’t expect that to last as the tarmac crept up, but found it manageable, still maintaining that high speed and cranking the power up. I had nothing else to focus on apart from one number on the screen, so just threw my legs down harder if the number was dropping too much, or backed them off a bit if I surged too high.
I’d basically stopped looking at my speed, but was stoked I was holding out with this 300W effort. Stuart Crompton from the cycling club drove past in his car and gave me a toot… he does this often enough, but on this occasion he wasn’t overtaking nearly as quick as usual. Approaching the Totem Road lights, I could see I was going to get a perfect run, so I kept pegging away.
Dropping in power slightly, I was feeling the strain of riding so hard, but determined to make the most of effort, I flicked into a harder gear, simultaneously dropping my cadence, but increasing my power back to 300W. Fading badly towards the very end, I sucked it up to give it everything I had left, and was hoping for the best when I uploaded.
Reaching the second set of lights, the segment was now complete and I was stoked that I managed to hold that power for so long. I wasn’t really hoping for a top ten, knowing that a bunch would likely go through far quicker, but nonetheless, I figured it would be a pretty bloody good time.
The result. KOM. By 2 seconds. Yes, the tail wind was a massive help, but drafting in a bunch works well too. Couldn’t believe I’d knocked this one over, but more than anything I was stoked to have held the power I wanted to.