Cycling Mecca

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Getting High !!!!

We are staying at the base of a range making up part of the "Parco Nazionale della Maiella" so finding hills are not so difficult. The Abruzzo region of Italy provides a great base to train from. The roads a reasonable quite regards traffic, and options of terrain are plentiful.

So today I took off for my training ride with a planned route, following one I had done earlier in the week, heading for the hills. The first few k's start at about 2-4% gradient with a few short pinches then ..... The fun.

I'm cruising along and decide to take a road off the planned route for the day, I'd seen others take it earlier in the week and thought I'd check it out. By now the gradient has increased steadily to a pleasing 7-10%. As the kilometers increased 5,10,15 the presence of life around me is decreasing. Then before I realize it's 25,26,27,28 kilometers and those dark, mystical clouds are getting closer.

About the only sign of life seen was a fox running across the road (probably licking his lips hoping for an easy meal). Kilometer 32,33,34 I'm passing road signs showing wheels with snow chains and another one showing snow trucks clearing the road, at what point should one start to get concerned?

As I look ahead up the range I can see some buildings, excellent this looks promising, maybe I can pull in for a coffee, I'm getting rather chilli by now. A few more corners and awesome the buildings are a Ski Lift... One thing I don't need after some 38ks of climbing this range in an Italian autumn is a closed Ski Lift, and of course that ski lift is heading where?....up!

I mount my trusty giant and begin to climb again. By now I'm seeing nothing but cloud and starting to get cold. A few more ks and I'm on 42 then I come across what sounds like a lovely place... on a clear day at least because sadly today the view was not so panoramic.

Well it's been up hill for the last 2.1/2 hrs I'm sitting on altitude of 1500 mtrs, I've had enough it's time to get some coffee and warm up again.

All said and done it was a great day on the bike, feeling good for upcoming nationals and with the hill work this week Grafton is looking good too.

Friday, 23 September 2011

It just gets better...

This was our view over breakfast this morning and we weren't sure anything would top it.
Then we moved to our accommodation for the next 10 days and we were "nearly" speechless.

And when we wake up we have to look at this.

Looking forward to some solid training for Nationals and Grafton to Inverell come mid Oct.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Blind Faith.....

We flew into Rome yesterday and picked up our rental car.
Which began by having to put fuel in the car.It was not until I was halfway thru the process I realised that in Rome there is somebody who fills your car up for you(for a tip of course) anyway I proceeded to finish the job and tipped the bloke for doing zipo - it was his lucky day as I tipped double I should of also.

Ok so we have gas, now to find our accomodation.We punch into the GPS the address, really having no idea if we should be going north or west or what. If all else fails you just follow the red line on the screen,correct? Ok no problems for about 7ks thats what we do, blindly following a red line still not really knowing if we have punched the correct address into the GPS, then ..... The red line disappears... O thats not good.

I'm in the middle of the road fighting Italian traffic which is far worse than anything we have seen before, we find a little side street, reset the address and phew... a red line, better keep following it, and it's head in a similar direction to the last red line. - Bonus.

The accommodation we booked was described as a "19th century renovated Farmhouse" and from the
pictures looked very presentable, it was about now this description had me questioning the " red line", a farmhouse,right? In the country, right? So why am I driving virtually in the centre of Rome, flanked by numerous multistory apartment blocks?

The GPS says turn here, turn there, meanwhile the traffic gets thicker, some 20ks has passed and then "You have arrived at your destination". Ah I don't think so Mr TomTom, one of us is wrong, and I'm not too confident that it's him. So we go around the block a number of times, there is nothing close that resembles the apartment photos on the website I had booked, either I'm way off with my address or I've been scammed.
So it's time for a process of elimination.
> check the address
> check the city region
> now look for number?????
Ok 109 then 105 ok here it is 101 and an arrow pointing down a little quaint alley way, we round a few more corners and O yeah there she is!!! Mr TomTom your lucky mate.

I must say if your coming to Rome and need some accommodation then check this place out.

Casali Papareschi Apartments
- New,modern,spacious,comfortable.
- Great convenient location - I don't have to drive anywhere while here.
- Fantastic Staff.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ouch !!!!!!

It's taken a few days but I have finally recovered mentally and phyiscally from the "Masters World Champions Race" in Belgium last Sunday.

I rode parts of the course in the days leading up to race day and it was instantly evident the course was going to be the hardest I had encounted. The course was extremely hilly which also meant that the descents would play a critical part in the event as well. There were 7 classified climbs;
1) L'Ancienne Barrieri
2) Cote de Brume-Sud
3) Cote de Spineux (Wanne)
4) Cote de la Haute-Levee
5) Col du Rosier
6) Cote d'Aisomont
7) Cote de Stokeu.
The road surface was patched old roads that were dead thus offering no or little rolling assistance to riders no matter climbing or descending. Some of the decents were long that would end in dangerous tight winding corners at the bottom.

Race day and we head into Stavelot, a small town which is very popular and clearly a common area visited by general tourists. The weather was forecast to be wet and this was of concern for most the riders, as we're waiting for my race to start we're sitting at a local cafe on the finish line and there were a lot of people coming to the line that had crashed during their race, their race attire ripped and hanging from their bodies, gravel rash up and down legs, arms, and across their backs.

Time for me to get to the start line as we're waiting for the start I start checking out my opposition for the day, well that in itself was daunting. These guys looked like full time riders, they looked as if they could just as well be riding the pro circuit. Still we wait for the race to start and then an announcement, our race was delayed, the course had not been cleared yet of the ambulances, attending to injured riders still on the course. This info combined with the vision of riders that had made the finish line was not an encourging feeling prior to heading out.

Anyway we finally get underway there was a short neutral section through town and then there a few attacks,attempting to break the large field up. I was comfortable with my position towards the front of the bunch ready to pounce on any attacks that looked strong and promising. The first 40ks was flat and so attacks kept coming, after about 10k's there was a break of three of us, we were going well, in fact so well that the three of us caught the 2 x age groups (16 - 29 & 30 - 34) that had started some 2 minutes in front of us.
The opportunity was good as the 3 of us weaved our way thru these riders just at the base of the first climb, however it was on this climb that all 4 age groups came together which effectively meant in excess of some 300 riders were all climbing together and to keep track of your specific age group proved difficult. I managed comfortably to hold the front bunch up the climb and then there was a long descent with a sharp left hand turn at the bottom. It was to be the next climb that would ultimately prove to be the one that split the pack.

This climb was approx 2ks in length and most of it was around 18% gradient.This is about where 4 groups started forming and I had fallen out of the front bunch and sitting on the back of the second. The pressure (by others) was on to keep the pace up high to stress and drop as many as possible.
 Really this is how the race continued for the next 60ks up hill then downhill, I guess for those in Brisbane I could compare the race to doing 7 repeat climbs of Mt Tamborine but with some zones that were around 18 to 20 % instead of only 7 or 8 %.

We were really fortunate because as the afternoon continued the rain went away and the roads dried up, which meant no or only a few crashes.The descents were still tricky but nothing compared to them being wet.

The net result was not as  I had hoped for but the experience was still incredible. To be racing on roads and still seeing names in paint of professional riders still on the roads in front of you that had raced these roads earlier in the year was a strange but great feeling.

There are a number of people who without their assistance this goal would not have been realized and so I would like to thank;

Chris Millen - Chris is a well recognized personality around cycling in Brisbane and I would like to thank him for the various roles he played in supporting me to complete this goal.
Chris also owns the team I race for "Mainline Racing" and I wish to thank all contributing members of this squad for their support through 2011, wether its been racing together or training or socializing, we have had a very successful year and lets hope it will continued to develop.

Crankstar - Steven George, great guy and top coach. I look forward to getting home and checking out your new cafe, serving centre and bike shop. This result was not as we had hoped but hey track and crit season is upon us.

CYC'D for bikes and SIS for their product support. If you consider yourself to be a serious rider... you should check these guys out.......high end, quality products.

All my training partners back home, sorry for those early mornings or late nights but thanks.
Thanks also to Ben and Felix who came to Belgium it was great to have you guys around and catch up for a while.

Whats next????? I have 1 week training in Germany and then 2 weeks training in Italy before we return for Nationals in October and then the big final Grafton to Inverell.

See you there boys.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Au revoir Paris.

Demain nous disons au revoir à Paris et bonjour la Belgique. Well our time in Paris is coming to a close. We have seen some sights taken plenty of photos, stood in queues forever and walked untold kms. It was only in the past couple of days we were brave enough to use the subway. It's mind boggling to see that the size of the central city above ground is nearly mirrored underground via subway etc. Our appartment is in the area " Republique" and is a very multicultural area of town. And nearly each few blocks you walk closer to the city prices increase for and a little more english known. Although we have only seen a very small snapshot of Paris I think one thing I come away with is the comparison that we. " the western world" live a very fast paced and stressed lifestyle, everything is very black & white,there are rules and regulations for everything we do. There are a few things I noticed about Paris. > The language - I don't speak it at all well. > Most businesses do not open until 10am - however they dont close till late either. > The traffic regulations are a complete reversal of Australia. In Paris the smaller subject has right of way, i.e pedestrian,bike, scooter,car,van, bus/truck. > Nobody seems to pressured by time. > The food... Oh the pasteries and sweets are awesome > Still so much manual labour done. > In general the place is dirty,that being said we saw no ants,mice,rats,flies,cockroaches,spiders of any kind. > Noticed alot of people living on the streets. > Technology seams slow to catch on. Maybe these perceptions were bias to somebody who is on holidays but I do believe a less stressed life would benefit all. One thing that has been very difficult is my training. Being in central Paris I decided the easiest thing to do is choose a road that looked long and see where it took me. I'm confident at times I was riding on roads a cyclist shouldn't be on, but guess what, not one car horn, not one abusive driver, buses that even give way to cyclists. Training rides were full of stop/ starts at traffic lights honestly not really productive, hopefully it's been enough to keep the legs firing until Sunday. Tomorrow it's to belgium where we meet our friends Ben and Felix.We have 2 days to recon the worlds course and eat plenty of good pasta. Yum yum. Donc, jusqu'à ce que nous rencontrons encore la France d'adieu.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Journey or Destination ?

Went for my first ride in Paris yesterday.

Feeling rather nervous, I need to ride on the opposite side of the road, there is marked cycle lanes so you can ride against the traffic in one way streets, don't have to wear a helmet, got no idea where I'm going, and of the hundreds of people on bikes I've seen nobody was in Lycra.

It's often quoted "it's not about the destination it's about the journey" - well today's journey should be errassed.

Our appt is on 4th floor and with a lift that fits no more than matchbox in it meant walking down the stairs. As all the floors are timber I thought best to carry my shoes and put them on at the bottom.Well let men say polished timber floor boards and new cotton socks = very slippery surface. Halfway way down the stairs and I'm sliding on my butt, anyway I pick myself up, pleased that nobody saw the minor incident and then shuffle down to the bottom. I put on my shoes and brave the traffic. For about 6ks all is going well until ..... "SNAP" my pedal breaks. What the ? Yes the pedal had snapped and come off the internal spindle.Ooooooo crap. Time to turn around and proceed with single leg efforts to get me home. How does 6ks turn into 17ks? By my calculation I turned for home at 6ks but I'm only using 1 leg that's automatically 12ks. Then while heading home I got lost, which added another 5ks of single leg efforts to the journey. Clearly this ride was about my destination - just get me to my appt. Looks like tomorrow I'm hunting for a bike shop. Go and purchase some new pedals and a bottle of pride.