Monday, 8 December 2014

Tour of Bright 2014 - Masters A

While there are more races on the calendar these days, to most of us Bright will always be as Wade Wallace describes it, "Australia’s amateur Tour de France." The CyclingTips post "Tour of Bright: A Legend Two Decades in the Making" is a fantastic read if you want to know about the history of the race. You'll see many familiar names in the history books from Cadel to Keeno who've pinned a number on in Bright at some point in time.

This year was my 7th ToB start since 2007. The MMAS123 GC win in 2012 has taken the pressure off in the lead up in the last two years. Last year I was team work-horse for Stephen Lane (Kosdown) who managed a top 5 in stiff competition. This year we were both TTing and climbing well and managed a good block of training after our Masters Nationals and Tour of Fiji. There was no two-man team tactics, we were just there to race as hard as we could and see where we ended up.

Stage 1 - Time Trial

Having spent a lot of time on the course, we were getting to know it very well. The only thing we didn't train in was the rain, which came thundering in right on queue making for a damp TT and some very careful cornering.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Using the same 17min30sec ergo/prep session as last year worked again for 2014. The warm conditions and low wind also made it a faster course than last year. I rolled in 1st with a 17:31, one second off my ergo session! SLane had a great TT knocking 20 seconds off his time from last year and taking 2nd with an 18:05.

Stage 2 - Gaps Loop

Sitting 1-2 on GC in a teams race put us in an interesting position. Somehow SLane managed to slip into a good sized break within the first few kms that would have likely stayed away if they all committed to driving the pace. The chase was only organised once the break wasn't pulling away and riders were attempting to bridge across solo from the bunch.

A few kms later a group of 6-7 riders rolled off the front containing a few sprinters looking for points. Nothing too dangerous, so we thought. And with a number of teams with a lot of fire-power not represented, they'd have to ride to pull their GC guys back into contention.

There appeared to be some confusion in the bunch when a team of 5 sent two guys up the road to collect the sprint points..... points that were already snapped up by the riders in the break. A lot of head shaking in the bunch ensued. Without any representation in the break, and lots of legs in the bunch, they should have been straight on the front and driving the pace.... but it wasn't the case.

With the break out of sight and hovering around four minutes, the chase was still less than organised. I had a shot at lifting the pace up Rosewhite that was marked by Michael Gallagher (The Hurt Box) with the rest of the field on his wheel.

SLane and Adam Versteege (Charter Mason) had a few attempts at lifting the pace of the bunch after the descent with little luck. So we rolled along and watched more than one team ride their GC contenders out of the race by not committing to the chase.

Luckily the group up the road had broken up and our chase up Tawonga was swift. With 3km to go the climbing group was down to 12 riders with only two riders up the road. The best result would be a 3rd on the stage. I channelled my inner Cadel (complete with matching bum-chin) and rode the front to limit the GC time gap.

The rain soon started belting down and I couldn't see a thing. 300m to go, five riders kicked to the line for 3rd on the stage.  One rider on my wheel was yelling at me to close the gap. I was cooked! Words were spoken.

Local rider Aaron Knight (Fitzroy Revolution) took the win solo. Thankfully the effort to limit my GC losses up the climb was worth it and I was still leading GC, by 2 seconds. With most of the GC contenders still within 90 seconds, Mount Hotham was going to be a showdown!

Stage 3 - Mount Hotham

The rain that started falling on Tawonga didn't stop overnight. 70mm had fell on the area and conditions at the top of Mount Hotham were not suitable to send 600+ riders up. The call was made to cut the stage short. Taking out the steep climbs suited me perfectly. I'd managed a 3rd on the short Hotham stage back in 2011 so if I could make the selection in the climbing group over the Meg I'd be confident of my chances of holding on to a good GC position.

The twist this year was they added my old nemesis to the shorter Hotham stage, the Toll Booth climb. 1.5km ~8%.

The race to Harrietville was brisk. The teams/riders going for the sprint points were doing something, we weren't sure what... although it was keeping the pace high and the group intact so that was a good thing.

The climb started at the standard pace, flat out. Knight who needed to make up only 2 seconds on me hadn't made the front group, having paid the price for his monster effort up Tawonga during Stage 2. I didn't do a lot of homework on the other riders, the only plan was not to let Gallagher too far out of sight.

Gallagher knows his craft well and put in a number of surges towards the toll booth that put the pressure on the 6-7 of us at the head of the race. The roads were saturated as we hit the false flat section, the ruts in the road were hard to see and almost caught us out a few times. There was a lot of one-eye-closed head-tilted riding going on just so we could see.

Photo (c) Jo Upton Photography

1.5km to go we hit the final climb. Gallagher went hard with a few others trying to match his pace. I knew it'd be a tough ask for him to pull back 60 seconds on the final climb although he gave it everything trying!

Thankfully the Garmin was so wet I couldn't see the numbers. This was a good thing. The first minute of the climb was 482W. The next four minutes were an eternity.

The water was streaming down in rivers on the climb as we pushed toward the Dargo turn off. 500m to go and Gallagher and a few others had a 10 second gap. This was fine with me, I was only thinking of GC position.

An evil twist from the event organisers was to add a final kick to the race just past the Dargo road.

200m to go I could see the finish and I got out of the saddle for the final push. I saw Davey and Gallagher take 1-2 and I rolled over the line at +11sec for 3rd on the stage.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Masters A - Stage 3 Results

I found the nearest ditch and collapsed off the bike for a lie down. As I posted on Twitter, I've never had to dig so deep in any race before. I'd started with a 2 second lead and managed to defend the lead and everything that Gallagher threw down. I didn't believe it for a few minutes. I'd won my second Masters Tour of Bright Yellow Jersey. The first one meant a lot. The second one will go on the wall right next to it.

Masters A-Grade GC Top 10
1. Shane MILLER       4:29:33.71
2. Michael GALLAGHER  4:30:27.08 +53.3
3. Matthew RIZZUTO    4:30:27.67 +53.9
4. Stephen LANE       4:30:37.40 +1:03.6
5. Alexander DAVEY    4:30:38.24 +1:04.5
6. Michael TOLHURST   4:30:48.64 +1:14.9
7. Mark CRAWFORD      4:31:17.93 +1:44.2
8. Cameron CLAMP      4:31:34.40 +2:00.6
9. Aaron KNIGHT       4:32:09.00 +2:35.2
10.Brett KINGSTON     4:32:21.49 +2:47.7

Masters A - Overall GC

As fans of the sport we daydream of winning bike races on beautiful roads, with the sun beaming, everyone cheering. Here I was yesterday, laying in a muddy ditch, soaking wet head to toe, totally numb, completely exhausted, and loving every second of it.

Experiences like this money can't buy.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Perth Adventures... Rides, Wind, West Coast Masters, Uber!

Our Tour de Everywhere continued last week with a few days over in Perth. Unfortunately we missed the Tour of Margaret River by a few days but we still got in a few solid group rides and a race with West Coast Masters CC while catching up with family and friends.

I was lucky to score a window seat on the flight over and got to see my home town of Horsham and most of the Wimmera from the air.

Horsham! Where I grew up watching the plane(s) I was on flying overhead.

Wimmera represent! Little Desert National Park, Jeparit, Lake Hindmarsh.

The first ride in Perth was meant to be an easy spin down along the beach.... except the wind made it anything but easy.

 Cottesloe Beach
Saturday morning was the Papas ride. The ride was nice and fast through some sections, a good heart starter for the racing the next day. The final kms were eventful with a few riders coming down further back in the bunch.

Von and Mel (both happy not to have stacked!)

On Sunday we found a bunch to tag onto out to the West Coast Masters Kewdale Crit. Perth has some excellent bike paths, as long as you know how to get to them.

Kewdale was the first crit of their summer series, a 'SuperCrit' with a few extra dollars up for grabs.

I knew the Perth Masters racing scene was pretty solid, and it was. The result sheet shows a total of 15 teams represented across the grades. Team tents, team cars, riders all decked out in team kit and bikes. It is years ahead of what we have in Victoria. The level and depth of competition was also the best I've come up against too. A lot of the names were familiar from the recent Masters Nationals in Ballarat.

Pre race chat. Blue kit is trending...
Four riders went from the gun and opened up a gap. It was up to the teams not in the move to chase, so I sat in and watched.... and saw two riders roll off the front. By lap 2 the gap to the front group was looking dangerous, so off I went in chase. I got across to the first chase two, then only one rider made it across with me to the front group.

"The early break never sticks" was what I was told before the race. Bullshit! Not on my watch! :) I told the others I was there to work and to make the break stick, and they were all equally committed to the cause. It was only in the final two laps that the games started. I kicked clear before it came down to a group sprint. I managed to take the win, and the others collected a swag of points for their series.

Happy to see the finish line.

Sunday was an easy recovery ride with the Hall Cycle Training women's bunch. I was allowed a start too. :)

6am start... Thankfully we were still on Victorian time.

A dead whale washed up near here later in the afternoon. #perthlyf

We had a tour of this place. Excellent set up!

Perth Taxis - The awesome, the not so awesome.

We were given a $40 Uber credit at a show we saw on Saturday night. It took 4 minutes for the UberBlack car to arrive, we all were given bottles of water (and lollies!), we were driven home in style.... all within the $40 credit. Being across the technology behind the scenes and knowing about the service for a while, it was a great experience to actually use it. I can't recommend it enough. If only we could specify a large vehicle to get to-from the airport, we'd use it for those trips with our bikes too.

Speaking of the 'normal' regulated professional taxi services. We pre booked a Perth London Cab for our trip back to the airport... that never showed.. A call to customer service 15 minutes later told us there were no taxies, and the confirmed booking wasn't going to be filled. As I was saying, use Uber. The normal taxi services don't deserve their licenses with services like that. Uber is the shake up they need. Their use of technology (maps, tracking, PayPal, etc,) is just an added bonus. btw - First users Uber promo code shanem472 for a $10 credit.

Back to Melbourne... Airport security said I wasn't allowed to take this photo.

Next up - More rides, more travels, and more work on the TT rig for the Tour of Bright. I'll also be planning out 2015... and a shot at the 2016 World Masters TT over in Perth. Long term goal setting in the works.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Banning TT bikes at the National level..... not the answer.

There is banter around TT bikes for the 2015 NRS season. Will the NRS organisers flip the switch and allow TT bikes for the men and ban them for the women? I don't know the answer, but I did run some numbers about what happens when you introduce even more rules to an already rule-riddled discipline.

Back in 2012 TT bikes were banned from our 3 Day Tour, the reasoning was something about people forgetting to change their transponders. (IMO - a simple DFL time would have sufficed). I wrote an article about making your road bike as fast as possible, The Poor Mans TT Bike.

The conclusion to that article still holds true today - Allowing TT bikes and equipment actually LEVELS the playing field by regulating what equipment can be used.

Without any UCI regulation as to what constitutes a 'road bike' TT set up, it is open slather with big budget teams using disc wheels, deep front wheels, TT helmets, swapped out stems, and their mechanics with the know-how are happily setting their riders up.

The smaller teams without the equipment/budget, the very teams that the TT bike ban is meant to assist, are left at a HUGE disadvantage. If they were to race the TT stage with their road-legal equipment they'll have to ride a lot harder to make time cut, and to stay within GC contention/position.

Barriers in TTs.... unwelcome.

The Numbers..... 

A few assumptions made here. I've used estimates of the Women's NRS, however the theory applies across the board. I've guesstimated the top women TTers are putting out 315W over 20km, and the lower end of the field are around 210W. No wind. Flat course. 

Case 1 - Road bikes. (No TT equipment at all)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   40.6km/h 29:33            +20% cutoff is 35:27
210W   35km/h   34:17  +4:44     1:10 inside cutoff

210W is 66.6% of the winners power, 35km/h is 86.21% of winners speed. In other words, 2/3rds of the winners power gets you more than 3/4 of their speed. Not bad!

Case 2 - TT bikes. (UCI regulations)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   43km/h   27:54            +20% cutoff is 33:28
210W   37.1km/h 32:21  +4:27     1:07 inside cutoff

Again, 210W is only 66.6% of the winners power, 37.1km/h is 86.74% of winners speed. Same 2/3 power and >3/4 speed.

Things are pretty even here with a true level playing field for equipment in both cases. In the example above, the 210W rider can be either on a TT bike or a road bike with clip-ons with their position optimally configured (a negligible difference for these examples).

Case 3 - Tricked up Road bike (315W rider) vs Standard Road bike (210W rider).

This is the 'reality case'. Top teams with the strong riders and strong budgets to match pimp their roadies with all the go-fast equipment. Lower budget / first time riders are typically on standard road bikes and equipment.

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   41.5km/h 28:55            +20% cutoff is 34:42
210W   35km/h   34:17  +5:22     0:25 inside cutoff

The example rider on a standard road bike putting out 210W is A LOT closer to getting time cut, and a lot further down on GC.

Banning TT bikes means the equipment used is a HUGE deciding factor. The GC time gaps are greater. The result is the racing is less even.

Throw in a course with wind, corners, dead roads, hills, that cutoff will be a tour ending reality for more riders in 2015, and that isn't fair.

"I'm a bike racer damn it, give me a real bike to ride!"


Is it as easy as increasing time-cuts on TT stages? Not quite. GC time gaps are still greater when there is a disparity of equipment in use. This could also encourage riders to conserve more on a TT stage and 'save their legs', the whole reason time cuts exist.

Do they need to better define what can/can't be used in a 'road bike TT'? Maybe. It'll be outside the already comprehensive UCI rules, then they'll have to ensure commissars are skilled up on the new rules, and enforce them. Do TTs need MORE rules?!

The most logical solution? No change. Allow TT bikes, as per the published UCI regulations. Those who can't afford the cost/logistics of TT bikes can use clip-on aero bars. That'll set them back $50 per rider, add another $100-$200 for a 2nd hand TT helmet.

If you're a low budget team, then invest in training time and know-how to make the most of what you've got. This is all part of the sport. And an assumed task if you're competing at the National level within Australia.

If the organisers choose to ban TT bikes/bars in the NRS, they are choosing to put the very teams they're trying to help at a disadvantage, not to mention stunting the progress and professionalism of the sport at the same time.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Sufferfest - The Rookie

In cycling we're known for taking #foreverbuttphotos. Now we've got a #foreverbuttvideo!

Sir Mix-A-Lot (not a real Knight) was the original pioneer when it comes to butt videos. Recently we've had new comers Nikki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, and Iggy Azalea all riding on the coattails of his success. Now our favourite cycling video creators, The Sufferfest are in on the action too! 

Sir Lot, circa 1992.

The latest release from the team at The Sufferfest, made in collaboration with Team Giant-Shimano and CyclingTips, wedges you right into the thick of the action.

Butts left, right, and center!

On-bike cameras give the video a true racing, butt-chasing, bunch feel. There are twitchy riders, sketchy cornering, gaps opening and closing, snapping gear changes, and the stress-filled kilometers of a race leadout into the final sprint. It's all there, and all so real you can almost smell it. (Thankfully technology isn't that advanced, yet).

For fitness/recreational riders this will be a real eye opener as to how hectic being in the professional peloton really is.

For the serious racer the footage won't be unfamiliar. Just put on some noise cancelling headphones, crank it up loud, and immerse yourself.

Dropping Gossy during an easy part of an interval..... very realistic!
(caption by me, not The Sufferfest..)

The cut-scene storyline with The Rookie might be cheesy for some, but you can tell they've had a lot of fun making it, and it doesn't get in the way of the meat of the video - 3x10min of solid leg burning efforts.

If you follow the effort scaling properly (outlined at the beginning of the video), you'll end up with a workout TSS of around 70-75 for the 55 minutes. In non-technical terms, I give it 8/10 on the hardness scale. The Rookie is a valuable and unique addition to the ergo video collection. 

Official site: The Sufferfest - The Rookie

Friday, 17 October 2014

Our Tour of Fiji 2014 - Backstories

With the Tour of Fiji race tales told, here is some of the tales from behind the scenes....

With only two weeks to organise things, SLane and I came up with the plan and went full steam ahead making it a reality. The support we had from those we approached with the idea was nothing short of amazing. We submitted our Tour of Fiji proposal to David and the team at Kosdown and had the thumbs up within minutes. Co-sponsors of KPC were also on board, it was go go go!

Our list of objectives for the trip:
  • To compete in the Tour of Fiji - Oct 10th-12th. 
  • Promote Kosdown and our sponsors through participation in the event.
  • To help promote Cycling Fiji and participation in cycling as a sport over there.

Nothing too ambitious, and along the way we'd be putting our feet up and soaking in some sunshine.

SLane's parents travelled with us as support for the week. They'd be helping with the logistics of point to point stages. 

We flew over on a five hour direct flight into Nadi a few days before the tour started. That gave us enough time to adjust to the heat and find out what we could expect out on the roads. The heat and humidity was a welcome friend. It feels just like an indoor ergo session, only 24/7.

At our accommodation in Nadi we were greeted by an excited host who saw we had arrived with bikes for the race. I thought he was just being polite until he mentioned he'd read about us in the national paper, the Fiji Times that day.

Fiji Times Oct 7th 2014 - Miller to Compete
Pressure was on from the start! :)

The following day we went out exploring on two wheels. The roads were a lot better than we'd been told to expect. We needed to pick lines though some rougher sections of road, but overall the main roads were fine on a road bike. The biggest surprise was how much courtesy was shown to us by cars, trucks, and other road users. We were always given plenty of room while passing, along with waves, and never ending "Bula!" with big smiles.

The 'Tour of Fiji' race summarised in one road sign!

Fiji road contractor Fulton Hogan were a sponsor of the Tour. As visitors we could quickly see how their work will bring about so much positive change for the whole country. See below for a before and after example...  

As the country continues to invest in their road infrastructure over the next few years, Fiji will be a perfect cycling holiday destination for touring, training, and as the sport grows, racing.

With the main island Viti Levu now sealed, SLane and I have already tossed around the idea of going back over there for a circumnavigation cycling trip. No racing, just pineapple powered kms and plenty of sunshine!

Riding done, time to rest up before race day.

The night before the race we caught up with a few of the other competitors, sponsors, and organisers for dinner. This is where we met Scott and his wife Amanda who quickly became our tour guides throughout the week. Their insights were invaluable to us and taught us more than any Lonely Planet guide could.

SLane and I with our awesome Fiji guides - Amanda and Scott.
After 200k in the heat only the locals were able to smile! :)

We also caught up with Melbourneite, Peter Hutchings. Peter won the Tour last year and along with a few others managed to get 30 road bikes donated and shipped over to Fiji for their riders in time for this year's Tour. The impact this alone has had on promoting cycling in Fiji is remarkable. Kids who were training on mountain bikes were now riding 'race bikes', some for the first time.

Hutch driving to the line on Stage 3

SLane's experience as a coach and mentor was on show on a regular basis. The riders were always keen to hear about training, racing, and equipment. The allen keys were out more than once making sure seat heights were optimal and the rattling bottle cages were secured.

SLane holding court before Stage 4

At the final presentation ceremony we were given the opportunity to say a few words and present Cycling Fiji with a supply of Kosdown cycling kit as a small gesture of our appreciation of their hospitality and for welcoming us as competitors to their event. We hope that a supply of cycling clothing will be another piece of the puzzle that will assist Cycling Fiji in getting cycling introduced to more schools and to kids who aspire to be the next Tour de France winner, or even the next Anthony Navolo.

Post Tour roll into Suva

How I managed to take the photo above...

SLane's mum, Anne, is now an avid fan of the sport and wanted to pen a few words about the experience -
It was an awesome experience for Ian and myself (Stephen’s mum and dad) to watch our two Aussie boys on the road in Fiji.  We were asked to follow the front peloton as a back-up vehicle and so had the “box seat” to witness the great sportsmanship of Shane and Stephen as they coached the more inexperienced young riders.  They “talked” them through riding strategies and encouraged them up some very long, steep inclines. (Most had never ridden such distances before.)  One incident that stands out in a proud mum’s mind is when Stephen turned back to offer assistance to a young rider whose tyre had blown, then “put the pedal to the floor” to catch up to the front group.  One rider Stephen passed at this time, came up to him after the race, and pointing down said, in a broad accent, “Magic legs, magic legs!”  It was this comradery during and between races that Shane and Stephen developed with the riders which earned them the respect of the organisers and the younger boys and girls who “hung” on every word our boys said.  A big thanks goes to the Kosdown team for helping Stephen and Shane, enabling them to ride the Tour of Fiji  – you should be very proud of their efforts on and off the road, I know we are!

Aren't mums ace? :)

Fiji blue socks on Fiji Day! #rapha #sukkie #hashtag ;)

The Food:

Every meal was amazingly good, although some of the orders arrived on delayed 'Fiji Time'. I ordered the fruit salad from every menu I looked at and I was never disappointed. A big surprise was the coffee being on par with Melbourne. Bulaccino is the hot tip (they were also fans of ours after seeing us in the Fiji Times).

Equipment / Tips:

I tried to research as much about Fiji before our trip as I could. There is an abundance of travel documentaries showing the pre-packaged air-conditioned tour bus tropical resort side of Fiji... but that isn't what we were there for. The best documentary I came across was from BBC2, A Cabbie Abroad. If you have an hour to spare, I highly recommend it.

The episode can be viewed online here: A Cabbie Abroad - Fiji

Phone/Internet: At the Nadi airport SLane and I swapped our iPhone SIMs for a AU$45 30day pre-paid Vodaphone service that had 4GB of data. The 3G coverage was fast enough to keep in touch with the world. Perfect for what we needed.

Bikes: We took our road bikes, both Specialzed SL4 Tarmacs with nothing special added. We used clip-on TT bars for Stage 2 only. If you wanted to explore further inland on hard packed roads a CX bike would be an ideal choice. If you're sticking to the main roads, road bikes are fine.

Tyres: We used a combo of Specialized Roubaix (23/25) and GatorSkins without any issues. Some of the roads are coarse so a wider tyre with a little less pressure is the best option. I picked up two flats on the first two days from small pieces of wire on the road, then had no issues from then on. Take plenty of tubes and quick-stick patches given the remoteness of some locations.

Luggage: KPC sponsor issued THULE gear. Bags with wheels and handles, very important things when you're sent to Gate 22 that is about 3km walk at the airport.

The Future:

We'll be back, maybe for the 2015 Tour, hopefully before. A cycling holiday taking in the whole 500km around main island is the newest entry on my 'must do' list. I've promised to take Von there with bikes and introduce her to some of our new friends.

Making it happen list:

Everyone who helped made this happen behind the scenes:

Flight Center Active Travel - For making the whole trip so easy to organise. I sent our contact Josh an email with the itinerary and in a few hours we had flights, car hire, travel insurance, and accommodation sorted. This was the first time I'd outsourced the planning/booking of an overseas trip and I was impressed. They wrapped it up with one single payment across 6-7 separate companies, in another country. I never had to make a booking or a phone call to Fiji myself. We even got hats!

The Ride Cycles -  Aaron and the crew in Burke Rd Kew East helped out with the last minute spares for the trip. Those guys are always smiling and happy to help.

TraVelo Bike Bag Hire - Calling on friends for favours! Anna had two bags ready to go at short notice.

SLane's parents Ian and Anne - They travelled with us. They were great company and invaluable support throughout the week.

Kosdown - Without David and the crew getting behind us this trip would have been a passing thought only. Their ongoing support of what we do inspires us to come up with crazy ideas like this.

Last and not least ....

Cycling Fiji - An amazing group of people, in an amazing part of the world, doing amazing things to promote the sport. Adrienne, Christian, Adrian, and everyone involved who've put months of preparation and planning into this event - Thank you!

Adrian, I have an important announcement....
We'll be back! :)