Monday, April 28, 2008

Two bikes and a race

I’ve been talking about getting a road bike for a while, especially for winter. Lots of people, who’s opinions I respect, have told me they are excellent for improving fitness for mountain biking. I’ve been keeping an eye out on Trade-Me for something not too expensive and in a small frame. This has been more difficult than I would have liked, but finally I found one. It’s an Avanti Sprint, not sure what year, but seems relatively new. I got it for a real bargain as a teenage boy was selling it to buy a BMX. It’s got a couple of wee issues, but I’m taking it into the bike shop to have it looked at tomorrow. I’ve only been for one wee tiny ride on it and it felt weird.
Strangely enough I’m more excited about the oldest bike I have, my good old Bauer Hardline steel frame. It’s the perfect bike for racing out at Bottlelake at night (well it is now). This bike’s always been a bit big for me and caused me all sorts of shoulder pain, but I’ve sorted that by stealing the stem off Pete’s Kona and now it’s fine. I’ve also swapped the old saddle for my WTB one and covered the whole bike in glow-in-the-dark and reflective bits and pieces. I think it is the business. I took for a spin round Bottlelake on Saturday (a bit of a warm up for the race on Sunday) and it was fun. Heavy as, and the old 21 speed gear ratios are crazy so quite hard work. And so very bumpy, my forearms were itching like crazy from all the shaking. On the plus side, it corners brilliantly and for some reason makes me grin like an idiot. I’m feeling pretty stoked with it. Now I just need Pete’s arm to get better and we can go night riding, wahoo! (Now I have 4 bikes that I ride, hehehe).

Sunday was the big day. The Mt Somers race which I’ve been looking forward to for months. And this year it’s been dry leading up to it so I was really excited about riding a dry track. Sunday dawned very foggy in Christchurch, but a quick look at a couple of weather websites and the race site indicated that it was going to be great weather for the race, with a little bit of rain in around lunchtime. Perfect! We were on the road on time and I was beginning to get the pre-race tension and butterflies partying in my belly. The fog was dense almost the entire way to Mt Somers (which is about an hour from Christchurch), but about 10 minutes out of Mt Somers we burst out into glorious sunshine.
Once parked and registered I got my bike set up and took it for a spin round the paddock to warm up. On Saturday I bought myself a decent knee support so with that on and my lovely supportive husband in tow we made our way to the start line. Unfortunately I was so nervous that I ended up quite far back in the pack (of the Intermediate grade) at the start so that was annoying. It was almost impossible to pass on the road going up the first wee hill as people were spread out and heading all over the show. I decided to just keep safe and wait for my opportunity when we got off the seal. I was feeling really strong and my nerves were burnt off by the adrenaline of the start.
Once we were in the paddock I really began to feel all my hard work had paid off. I remember that this paddock had seemed like never-ending torture last year, but this year I just cruised up it, passing a few people and not really getting passed. Onto a nice bit of farm-track and I started picking off more people on the flat. This track was a bit slippery and foretold what was to come on the hill. Next up was the turnip paddock. This was the beginning of the climb and was short and steep. Last year in the wet almost everyone walked it, including me. This year, lots of people walked it, but I rode the whole thing. I’m really proud of that. Unfortunately after the Turnip Paddock there was and longer even steeper section. I got about a quarter of the way up but had to get off. Lots of people I’d passed now passed me as I’m very slow pushing my bike (its bloody heavy). Once up this section I was back on and spinning up the hill, past where I had chain problems last year and up. Up to a point. It got a bit steeper and a lot looser and I was back pushing. I’d been having some problems with my glasses fogging up in the cold air when I was going so slowly on the bike and I could pick a good line to save myself because I couldn’t see the ground. Very frustrating. I was giving it my everything at this point and I had to stop a couple of times and get my breathing under control. Finally I got to a point where I knew I could ride and again and took off. It levelled out soon after this and I was off. I started dragging in people who’d passed me on the uphill and really flew on the down hill. My bike felt so stable under me, I was right in the zone. Picking great lines, centred on the bike, and flying down the farm tracks. I was lucky that in the one rutty vaguely technical downhill bit that there wasn’t much traffic round me and I was able to keep my speed up and pass more people. I completely stuffed up the creek crossing at the bottom. The creek was crowded and I was in the wrong gear so I got a bit of a damp foot. A few people snuck past as they picked good lines and rode through. I was back on the bike (I need to learn to do that running jump thing the good guys do) and “racing” across the energy sapping long grass. I nailed the next creek crossing and took off down the hill. I was really flying again and even did a few very small jumps as I passed more people. Unfortunately at one point my chain started behaving in a disturbing manner so I made the decision to stop and quickly clean it and relube it. I was on the bike again and was stoked that I was keeping up with the guys in the Classic (top) grade on the downhill farm tracks. I knew there wasn’t far to go now and I was still passing people, but at this point it was hard to tell how I was doing as we’d joined back up with the recreational grade people. Got cold wet feet in the river as there were too many people in it to ride through and man, that water was icy. There were two more little climbs after this and I dragged in a few more people (probably all recreational) on the hills who were walking and started to pedal as hard as I could as I thought I might be able to get in under 2 hours. On the road I climbed into my big chainring (for the first time ever on this bike!) and was flying along at near 45km/hour. I had a really strong finish with a final time of 1hr 59mins and 8 secs and I managed to get 9th in my section. That means I've achieved the goal I set for myself next year already! It was great finishing and having my wonderful husband there to greet me and listen to me go on about the race.
I’m really happy with how I went. I feel like the extra work I’ve put in has made a real difference to my riding and I’m looking forward to getting stronger, faster and lighter over winter. Today I’m feeling very tired, but happy. It’s a really great race and I can’t wait for my next race, but I’m not sure what it will be.

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