Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Irish National XC Championships

Another year, another National XC Championships. This one was going to be a little different for me as it was going to be my 2nd MTB race in 3 months and only the 7th time on a mountain bike in that period. Training, from a fitness point of view, was coming along well up to the champs setting some good times up my favourite climbs, but then riding a road bike is very very different from racing off-road. Having done some anerobic capacity work, I knew my biggest weakness coming back from my injury was repeated hard efforts – the type of efforts needed for a punchy climby course - exactly what Dromara CC gave us.

Race day arrived and I was feeling pretty prepared – I put no expectations on myself as I didn't really know how my body would react to the full out racing (the previous weeks final NPS, I cruised the climbs and concentrated on riding the singletrack well). I arrived at the race course early as there was no opportunity of having a preride due to the course being on private land - it was only possible to ride on the day of the event (Grrr – this annoyed me a bit!). I like climby courses but this one hit what I felt was my least redeveloped trait – super steep climbs with little recovery – give me draggy climbs any day.

The course was nice, it was going to be a very hard race with the home straight being the only place on the course you could drink without having to slow down too much. The course was also bone dry, which was very fortunate as if it was wet, some of the climbs could become almost unridable and the descents treacherous. I signed on to see, roadie Pro and Track Olympian David O'Loughlin had signed on – I didn't know he rode much offroad...

The lap profile

Shortly before 2pm we all lined up. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed on the line and the time flew as we awaited the whistle. An official looking person walked in front of us and then declared – anytime in the next 10 seconds – eeek, I wish I had more of a warning and GO, we were off. Conor McConvey took the lead with Lewis Ferguson and I on his wheel. This was pretty much the way it stayed for the race (well, apart from Lewis and I being on Conor's wheel).

Moments to go...

The first lap went by at a blistering pace, every climb was “big ringed” and the legs burned while we chased Conor. After the first lap, my body went caboom and I entered a world of suffering I have not been in for a long long time! Lewis and I had a close battle for the first 3 laps until he pulled a bit of a lead on me on the 4th of 7 laps. At that point, I knew Conor was gone and I was racing for second so I kept Lewis in my sights with the knowledge that he usually slows a little towards the end of races while I usually speed up.

Going into the final lap, the gap to Lewis was around 30 seconds but closing quickly – mid way up the second major climb I passed him and then focused on getting back to the finish line safely to claim second.

My shoulder handled the race pretty well, I did notice that I was overly cautious on the descents though but my biggest issue was the burning in my legs! You really can't compare a full out XC race to a road race (well, at least any road race I have ever done) from an intensity point of view. David O'Loughlin finished another few places back and I would loved to have heard what he had to say about the race as a full time roadie and track Olympian.

As my race finished, the skies opened up and the rain began – it meant prize giving was a very humble affair but I think everyone was very glad that the rain did not arrive during the race.

Finally, congratulations on Conor for winning his first senior elite title – he really was in a class of his own on the day.

Full results are available here. I'll add in some pictures/reports as I find them.

Oh, and that was my THIRD 2nd place in three weeks - I'm going to have to go for the win this weekend with Mel in Bontrager 24/12.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 Bobby Crilly Memorial Road Race

The Bobby Crilly Memorial road race was the second of my double header weekend. It would be the first road race that, on paper at least, would really suit me. A lumpy 3 laps followed by a mountain top finish on the mountain that overlooks Belfast. I had never been up that mountain but always wanted to every time I was in the area.

The race distance was only 80 kilometres with about 1000 meters of climb overall – much of which comes in the last 10 kilometres with the final 2 kilometres averaging 9%.

Mel and I were both taking part in the race and she was set to start 4 minutes ahead of my group (Senior A/Elite). As our group got underway we immediately settled into an efficient pace line – of the 20 or so in our group, 14-15 were giving good pulls at the front, so it was a little after completing our first lap that we caught the 'B' group. The pace became a lot more choppy now as there was a huge headwind the whole way around the course with people not wishing to work on the front. About 6-8 of us stayed around the front of the bigger group and drove us on to catch Mel in her group.

Paul and I went for a break

Three quarters way around the last lap we caught the lead of the race – it was on a long descent that turned onto 2 minute climb at about 4%. I felt a little sorry for the folks we just caught – our group rode straight through the group and once hitting the climb accelerated hard (For the first minute of the climb I averaged 600W).

Almost the top (14% at the time)

A little after this a few people went off the front – there was still a long way to go into a lot of wind and I was cautious about spending too much energy in a small group so I sat in what was now the main bunch. The kilometres ticked by and a few more went up the road. I felt that the group was going too slow up the draggy climb to the main climb so bridged a 30 second gap up to 3 riders. After 4 minutes I caught them just before a 2 km descent, they allowed me to sit in as they worked well together to the base of the main climb. Once we turned onto the climb up the final mountain the wind miraculously stopped and I went into hillclimb mode. I no longer cared about drafting etc.. just getting up the hill quickly. With about 3.5km to go in the climb I spotted the race leader well ahead. I looked at where he was, and then the time I was when I passed that position and judged his lead to be around a minute and 10 seconds. Between him and me there were still 4-5 riders. I put my head down and rode as hard as I could to the top eventually passing everyone but the winner, Conor Murphy – he pipped me by 17 seconds (if only there was another few hundred meters to climb... or I bridged earlier... or...)

Profile and Power (Power is smoothed a lot)

The race was very well run on a challenging course and Mel and I both really enjoyed the event. I really wish there were more road races like this. Finishing on the top of a big hill makes the race very 'honest'.

A report and results can be found here as well as pictures here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2009 Brendan Carroll Memorial Road Race

To get back into race fitness I have been looking at a few road races. I find I get good V02max and AC workouts from them and they don't take that much out of me in the long run, basically, I recover pretty quickly. Last weekend I was doing a double header, Saturday it was the Brendan Carroll Memorial in Stramullen and Sunday both Mel and I would take part in the Bobby Crilly Classic.

The course for Saturday would probably be classed by Irish roadies as hilly, I would probably class it as lumpy. A few 1-2 minute 7% climbs, reasonable roads and no traffic lent itself to an enjoyable race. My plan was to get a great workout in, stay out of trouble, and see if I could get into some moves. Five minutes before our start a huge rain cloud made an unwelcome visit and left the course soaked – ah well, first time racing on the road in the rain this year... For the first few laps of the race our group rode reasonable cohesively to pull back some time on the other groups (there was a handicap). Soon enough we caught them and the attacks and counters began. I stayed out of trouble by always riding around the front, getting shelter when I could but also being happy to put lots of work into the wind (it was training after-all). I got into a few breaks that were eventually caught and missed the one that got away. The last kilometre, as everyone got twitchy towards the front, I simply kept myself safe and finished in the middle of our chase group.

A well run race that I really enjoyed – I'll be back again.

Results and photos can be found here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

2009 Irish Road Race Championships

Last Sunday saw me take part in my first mass start race (I did a hill climb TT while I was in the US) since breaking my collarbone. I basically said to myself that I wanted a race on that particular weekend and the only thing on happened to be the National Road Championships.

Going into the race, I only had a few goals – stay safe, stay safe and ehhh, stay safe. In addition, I did not plan on actually racing the race, just using it as a big group ride for 4 hours covering 170km. Irish road races tend to have hard (but short) periods with endurance riding in between, exactly what I was looking for.

The course was completely not what I would normally go for – almost pan flat with only a few slight draggy sections. At almost 170km for the race, I knew it would be the quickest 170km I will have covered on a bike.

The first lap went by fast with me having to dig a little a few times but in general, as long as you had a wheel, you were cruising. Of course, up front the action was taking place setting up the days breaks but today, I wasn't interested.

As the kilometres rolled by the boredom sat in and I started to move around the peleton chatting to folks I have not seen in a while – at this point I was wishing I was actually here to race the race.

For the final half of the last lap I moved towards the front and started to have a bit of fun attacking, the last 5 minutes was by far the highest wattage figures I put out during the day – I had planned on making a run from the group with about 1.5km to go but I got a little boxed in and I guess everyone else had the same idea. I rolled over the line covering the 170km in 3:57. Around 43kmph average.

The power stats for this race are:
TSS: 205
Normalized Power: 280W
Average Power: 238W
5 minute peak: 344W
10 minute peak: 308W

comparing this to the 30 minute shorter Shay Elliot Classic (where I was racing, at least a bit)

TSS: 250
Normalized Power: 331W
Average Power: 287W
5 minute peak: 441W
10 minute peak: 418W (on Shay Elliot climb/descent)

(See here for an explanation on some of the above terms)

The race was very well run, roads where good quality and the marshalling was excellent so no complaints there – but the course itself was no where near hard enough to warrant a championship. People in the group finished the race looking reasonably fresh and very few dropped out (110 finishers). Please, give us a climb in the course – something to wear folks down!

Nicholas Roche went on to win the championship in fine style – he is now in the fortunate position of wearing the national champions jersey as he starts his first Tour de France this weekend in Monaco.

Results and a report can be found here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A healing up shoulder

Early this morning I went back to the Sports Surgery Clinic for my first X-ray after the operation on my broken collerbone. As usual, the service there was amazing and I was soon sitting down with Mr. Colville (my surgeon) looking at a very well healed collerbone. It takes months for the bone to heal fully (you can see it is not perfect in the image) but I have finally been given the goahead for MTB riding again, as long as I don't crash!

As far as training is concerned, I have been able to ride my road bike normally for the last few weeks – with the last two feeling like nothing was wrong at all. Considering the last two months, I'm still pretty fit but I'll have to see soon how that converts to MTB fitness. Tonight I'll be going for an offroad ride finally taking in some of the new singletrack my club created for their two XC events that were held in the last two months.

Again, I highly recommend the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry – it has the best medical facilities and staff that I have seen and also thanks to Garreth and Avril in Physio Dynamics for referring me to them.