Tuesday, September 22, 2009



94km Road
race - Jinshan area

This was a race I had high hopes for and had prepared well for it. But sometimes things happen that stop you in your tracks. In my case, I suffered the misfortune of a puncture just 20minutes into the race. Normally in most road races, you can get a wheel change quickly enough and then motor-pace back to the bunch. However, I had a shockingly slow wheel change. The Taiwanese motorbike wheel support guy could not even take the wheel out of the quick-release (it seemed as if he was panicking) and then he handed it to me. I did not want to trust him to put it on my bike. I jump back on the bike, but the wheel felt too soft like it was less than 50psi! I had rolled 20metres and had to jump off and request and track-pump. One was found reasonably quick and someone pumped the replacement wheel to 120psi. At this point I was livid and all of my support people were out of the car. Not even ready to motor-pace me back to the bunch. Once we got started, it was a motor-pacing session from hell. The driver would accelerate too quickly and would drop me (motorpacing behind a small car is not the best thing to do!) and then would go too slow. I would have to try and communicate what speed I wanted, go faster, slower, steady etc. I was doing 40km/h up the small hills, 50-55km/h on the flats and 70km/h on the gradual down-hills. Even 25minutes of this motorpacing was not enough to reconnect with the main bunch. I had started 4 minutes behind and made up 3 minutes before the base of the major 10km hill-climb. Since I did not catch the bunch before then, I decided to throw in the towel so I could conserve myself for the points race in two days time. It was a hard decision to make, as I normally do not quit races and always keep going.

50km Points Race

This was the race I had been preparing for mostly and my steady diet of North American criterium racing over the past couple of years had this race stacked in my favour. This 50km points race like the point race on the track, but it was held on a 1km circuit in the centre of Taipei City very close to the 101 tallest building in the world. It was completely flat, smooth and fast. I got there an hour early and spent a good 30 minutes warming-up on the circuit. I was the first rider there on the circuit. Every 2nd lap during the race would be sprints for points, 1st =5 points 2nd 3 points 3rd 2 points and 4th 1 point. My game plan was to grab maximum points in the very first sprint to place the other riders under pressure and then respond to the key competitors as the race un-folded. 36 riders representing 16 countries took to the start and it was already 38 degrees at the 9am start. I was already sweating profusly in my black New Zealand skin-suit that was a bit too tight and thick on me! I made my move on the 2nd lap down the back straight. Initially I did a false attack to see who would follow me but only a couple did. I started soft-pedalling and noticed that a swarm was following an attack by one of the French riders on the other side of the road. With no-one on my wheel I put in a vicious attack and by the time I rounded the final corner, I was already a good 50 metres up on the field and took the first sprint easily.

I slotted back into the field as they caught me and was able to recover to take 2nd behind Nick Schrieber of the USA. I decided to sit in for the next couple of sprint laps as I was looking to conserve my energy for the latter stages of the race in the hope of breaking away. Whenever I decided to go for a sprint lap, I would win it convincingly with plenty of daylight between myself and the pack. By the half-way mark, I had just won another sprint that put me within six points of the Gold medalist and two points behind second place. Things were looking good and I still had my sprint legs and was confident of winning more sprints. However, my plans came un-hitched right after I won my last sprint. There was a crash on the previous lap that took down about 4-5 riders and coming around the same spot again, there was an official waving a red flag which I mistook for stopping the race. I had almost rolled to a stop but the peloton had rolled by without stopping and kept going. This gapped me by about 50 metres and I was not going to chase to get back on as I had just sprinted to win the last lap. I took a free lap thinking this would be the best solution. I was allowed back into the race, after explaining what had happened, but the officials did not allow me to start pedalling till the very last rider in the pack had passed by me. I had to sprint had to re-connect, since it was on the sprint lap, the task of reconnecting was super difficult. I dug deep within me to basically "sprint" for 1.5 laps just to catch the rear end of the bunch! I then had to spend quite a few laps to recover at the back. But I had recovered nicely and was ready to contest more sprints. However, I was seriously disoriented and actually sprinted on two separate laps that I thought were sprint laps. This meant that when the bunch caught up with me, it was going into the sprint lap and therefore the speed was alot higher. Normally after a sprint everyone would sit up to take a breather, but because I had sprinted on the wrong laps, I had to jump back into the pack and desparately hold on till the pace would slow down enough so that I could recover. Doing this twice really took the sting out of my legs and the rest of my race was purely survival in the pack.

I was unable to collect any further points after a promising first half. But the points I collected early on was still enough to collect 6th place overall. Near the end, the pack had splintered up into two groups with a lone Aussie up the road taking maximum points for the last seven sprint laps. Reece Van Beek had timed his move well, did not score any points till the second half of the race. This catapaulted him into 2nd place to get the Silver medal. Had he lapped the field (he came within seconds of doing so) he would have taken the Gold medal. Nick Schrieber won the Gold medal only by virtue of his consistent 2nd and 3rd placings in just about every sprint (he only won two sprints).

The effort I put out in the points race left me feeling the worse I had felt in over a year! I seriously had hit the wall. It was a combination of the high heat/humidity and red-lining for along time that contributed towards my exhaustion. I stumbled off the bike and went to sit on the stage for a good 10minutes, during which I downed a sprite and three bottles of water. I felt so hot in the tight skin-suit that seemed to trap the heat and sweat! I then mustered some energy to stagger back to the Athletes rest area where I downed a further 10 bottles of water and poured a bunch on my head to cool myself down. I also drank three bottles of coke! I slowly started to feel better. But the effort during the race, seriously weakened my immune system that I have spent the last 10 days fighting a cold that never seriously took ahold of me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

35km Individual Time Trial

It was an overcast, windy and rainy day for the 35km time-trial out at the Jinshan area. However, the rain had eased off by the time the first rider went out on the course. The roads were still pretty wet and slippery. I was starter no.9 behind a Chinese-Taipei rider, I just had a 9 minute warm-up on the rollers outside my tent and had a can of REV 3 to rev me up :) More than half of the Deaf riders that were there were on full-time trial bikes with aero helmets and skin-suits. I did have a nice black New Zealand speed-suit to wear along with a slick white UVEX Fp2 helmet. I used my road bike equiped with Profile carbon TT2 bars and dropped my stem down two carbon-spacers to have my frontal section as aero as possible. I only did this the night before the time-trial event and never got to practise in the new position. I did ride for one minute around my warm-up area to see if it felt comfortable enough (it seemed fine).

This event was not my priority and my coach had even advised possibly skipping the event to focus on my other events that I specialise in. Since I chose to do the time-trial, I was told that I had to pace it at upper endurance or low threshold pace. I had my Cycleops power unit on and the Mavic Open pro wheel (I did have a deep dish HED Jet 60 wheel for the front) to help pace me for the time-trial duration. I did not take off fast from the starting ramp like I normally do, but just eased into it, the first 800m was a twisting circuit with about 500m down-hill that I took carefully since it was still wet. In the first five minutes I was a little excited and felt good pumping out the watts, but it was quite abit higher than what I should have been doing. I averaged 350watts in the first five minutes, after that I paid more attention to keeping the wattage around 260-280watts for the rest of the time-trial. My coach also told me to do five 1 minute surges/intervals, so every 10 minutes I put in a good 400 plus wattage effort and then resumed at 260watts.

I had a tail-wind going out to the half-way point (it was an out and back course) along the flat to rolling coastal road, that kept my speeds between 26 and 30mph. But on the return leg, it was harder work since it was a stiff steady head wind that I only averaged 24mph into. I had to be careful not to put out too much wattage, so as not to over-cook myself. I felt like I had plenty of reserve and the last couple of minutes saw my max one minute power numbers for the TT duration. I had a lucky break with 300 metres to go! I was powering up the hill towards the finish, rounding the bend and there was this big cop walking across the road with his head looking the opposite direction waving down a scooter that was trying to ride onto the course. He walked right into my path and I shoulder barged him. I managed to stay rolling on the bike to sprint the remaining 300 metres to post a 52min 01sec time.

I had averaged 295 watts for an average speed of 40.1km/h. Pretty respectable for riding on a road bike and not putting out my normal threshold power, which is close to 330 for one hour. Training Peaks file can be viewed here: 35km TT power file

Sunday, September 6, 2009

6th in the 1000m sprint

Today was my first event at the Deaflympics and I finished 6th out of 34 competitors. This was still a respectable result but I could not help feeling disappointed since my qualifying time and my first match sprint went really well.

All 34 competitors each went individually on the "hot-dog" style course with 180 degree turns at each end to put up a qualifying time over 200 metres. The top 16 would advance to the next round, and I posted the second fastest qualifier with a time of 13.1 seconds, an average speed of 54.7km/h. A Canadian rider, Simon Gagnon-Brassard, posted a very quick 12.8 seconds and looked poised to be a serious contender for the Gold medal. I felt pretty confident of my own medal chances when I saw my qualifier time relative to the others and my 1/8 final went really well. I had Jan Capek of Czech Republic as my opponent. When the whistle went, I slotted in behind him and just watched and reacted to whatever he did. The Czech rider made his jump coming out of the 180 turn, to which I matched and then got a big jump on him that I could cruise to the finish line. My next opponent in the 1/4 finals was French rider, Steeve Touboul (who qualified 10th but beat top US rider Nick Schreiber to pair with me). Touboul was a very twitchy rider and tried to unseat me with his cat and mouse tactics, faking moves and braking to try and get me to go in front of him. Half-way through the match, he came to a track-stand and I responded by doing the same thing. I just wanted to match whatever he did and I was doing perfectly fine. However, I think I made a tactical mistake when I tried to jump him going into the final 180 degree turn. I cut the corner very tight and accelarated out with max power. I put my head down and had to shift down once as I was spinning out, I also never looked behind me to see where he was (another mistake on my part) till he came past me with 100 metres remaining. I had to dig deep to claw him back, and was regaining ground but it was not enough. I had lost by less than half a wheel. I was out of the medal contention and had one more match sprint left to decide 5th to 8th places.

I lined up for my last match-sprint alongside Trevor Kosa (USA), David Snow (USA) and Evgeny Prokhorov (Russia). A couple of times during the match sprint, Kosa and I broke away from the other two. However, we did not want to keep the speed high for fear of spending matches, so we would re-group. Coming out of the final turn, Kosa got a massive jump on me, about three bike lengths but I was able to bring him back, but again it was not enough space for me. I had drawn almost even with him and had done a desparate bike throw. But I came short by a tires width (video finish) and officially placed 6th at the 2009 Deaflympics.

It was interesting to note that the Canadian, who had qualified first, was beaten by the French rider who had beaten me earlier. So, tactically Touboul rode very well to get the bronze medal. An Italian rider, Luca Buontempo, qualified 3rd with a time of 13.3 but was ousted early by 14th qualifier from Russia. Jarrod Denman was 4th fastest qualifier but also had an early exit. It goes to show that its not just about power that gets you the win, but by being tactically astute can have an element of surprise.

As for me, my in-exprience at this type of racing was probably my downfall. The only other match-sprinting I have ever done was at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in 2006. I can take away from this a good learning experience. When watching Paul Wood (USA) win his gold medal, I noticed that he would use the entire perimeter of the 180 degree turn to launch his sprint and he was un-stoppable. The momentum that is created using the perimeter is far better than cutting the corner like I did in the hope of jumping my opponent.

My next event is the Individual Time-Trial on September 8th. Stay tuned for further up-dates.

Deaflympics in Taipei

Deaflympics opened in spectacular style last night with over 16,000 spectators crammed into the new Taipei Stadium. More than 4,000 athletes from 91 countries are here to compete in 20 events. Mega-stars Jet Li, A-mei, Patina Lin and even the first lady put in appearances during the opening ceremony!

This opening ceremony was elaborate and was directed by renowed theater director, Stanley Lai. Lai spent more than two years and $18.3 million to organize the fantastic two-hour spectacle that was broad-casted to over 160 countries live!

I arrived in Taipei on Sept 2nd after spending time at Salt Lake City attending the Usana International Convention as a Usana athlete. So, the last few days have been a good period of time for adjustment to the different time-zone and climate. Today is the day of my first event, the 1000m sprint which I am looking to do well in. It will begin with a 200m qualifying sprint which all Deaf competitors will do individually. This will determine who will advance to the top 16. Then it will be two-up match sprints over 1000metres on the road in front of the Taipei City Hall.

There should be media coverage of the event today and I will find out where things will be online and whether there is any TV coverage at all of the cycling events!

Thanks to all of my sponsors, without them I would not have made it to my first Deaflympics to represent New Zealand.