Category Archives: Cycling

St Crispin and His Magical Well

By Hannah Durdin
Once upon a time, there were two girls and their mother and father.  The older sister, Bethany, was trying to make a present for fathers’ day, so Bethany’s father decided to go on an explore-bike-ride with Hannah.  And on the way to Fern Tree they got some chips! 
At the Fern Tree Shop
So then the daddy and Hannah went on the bike ride along the Pipeline Track.  It was very bumpy.
Hannah hurrahing on the Pipeline Track
Hannah on the bike
And they’d already got a snack, which was some marshmallows.  When they went on the Pipeline Track, Hannah did some picnic wees!  And then, on the Pipeline Track, Hannah and her Dad saw a well, St Crispin’s Well.  They had to walk up a little path to get there.
Hannah is walking up the place where there is a sign saying “10 minutes walk to St Crispin’s Well”
Hannah doing nothing
Hannah walking to the well
Hannah falling over
The view
And then at the well, they saw a mini waterfall, underground.  And then at St Crispin’s Well, there was white water.
At St Crispin’s Well
The sun was setting
St Crispin
The waterfall
St Crispin’s Well
St Crispin’s Well was a lovely place
When Hannah was sitting down
This is at St Crispin’s Well
And they went home, and when they got there, Bobonne was still there.  And then they made Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner.
The End

Hobart Bike Infrastructure – the Taroona Bike Lanes

The Taroona bike lanes are some of Hobart’s earliest bicycle infrastructure.  Kingborough Council was the first council in Tasmania to install on-road cycle lanes – in Kingston on Channel Highway in the 1990s. I don’t know who is actually responsible for the installation of the bicycle lanes in Taroona in 2002 but I believe it comes under the auspices of DIER. I must applaud the forward thinking of whoever pushed for the bike lanes and for getting the ball rolling on the whole bicycle infrastructure problem in Hobart.

So then, what’s the blog about?  As such I hope this blog can be read as constructive criticism. I use the bike lanes in Taroona on an almost daily basis and have become very familiar with certain pressure points on the route.  Unfortunately, the Taroona bike lanes have a few problems which limit their accessibility and compromise the safety of riders using them. I’ve opted to describe these issues pictorially; the little map below shows where each of these photos was taken.

The issues do of course vary in severity and I’ve tried to indicate this in terms of how serious I think the issue is and the risk to the cyclist.  A general problem with the lanes is that they are very narrow – much narrower than is really necessary for a safe separation from the already narrow traffic lane.  This is particularly obvious when large vehicles such as buses pass.

Despite being one of the most frequented cycling routes in Hobart, the cycle lanes frequently have sections covered in gravel or other rubbish.  This is a maintenance issue.

Map of Taroona with approximate photo locations highlighted
1. Seams in the bitumen (minor)

The first problem is not a huge one but when wet can pose a danger to the commuting cyclist.  The seams running along the middle of the bike lane have a tendency to catch wet tyres and cause the cyclist to come off their bike.  Given that the bike lane is narrow, there is potential for the rider to fall into the path of an oncoming car.

2. Raised driveway access (severe)

This is one of the more serious obstacles in the bike lane.  After rounding a sharp bend, the commuting cyclist is presented with the obstacle above which completely blocks the bike lane.  This is very dangerous, particularly in the wet.  Most cyclists on road or commuter bikes really have no choice but to enter the road lane, at a point with poor sight lines.  The drainage gap to the left is a further danger to the cyclist, being a perfect width to capture a wheel!

3. Driveway access, uneven broken surface and lumpy (moderate)

The driveway pictured above looks navigable from the photo but in reality has a lumpy and broken surface which is treacherous, again especially in the wet.  Many cyclists will opt to enter the roadway to avoid riding over this driveway.

4. Wheelie bins (moderate)

Wheelie bins are generally fairly visible but tend to be placed in the bike lane on garbage collection day in many locations through Taroona.  This means that cyclists must ride in the road lane for much of the route through Taroona on garbage days.

5. Parked cars #1 (minor)

This picture shows a driver who has attempted to move their car as far off the road and as far out of the bike lane as possible.  Unfortunately, they still encroach into the lane by about 20cm, and cyclists who are wary of being doored will give the parked car a wide berth, again entering the roadway.  This picture also shows some minor gravel on the bike lane: the question becomes who’d choose to ride in gravel when the clean, smooth road surface is just 50cm to the right?

6. Parked cars (severe)

On the opposite side of the road now, heading towards Kingston, we see one of the biggest issues with the bike lane in Taroona.  There is simply nowhere for drivers to park along this section of road but smack bang in the middle of the bike lane.  This of course forces riders into the middle of the roadway, causing conflict with drivers and potential for collisions. I have had issues with impatient drivers overtaking me quite dangerously along this stretch of road, where there are often several parked cars.

7. Broken surface and sloping, extremely narrow lane (severe)

This is unfortunately a new section of road outside Taroona Primary School.  The road was widened about a year ago I believe, but some slippage has caused the bicycle lane to become virtually unusable, with wide cracks and a slope on it which is positively dangerous in the wet.  It is also extremely narrow.  I almost always ride in the road lane to avoid the obstacles in this section.  It is disappointing that such a poor job was done on this new section of road.

8. more of broken and sloping (severe)

This picture shows more of the cycle lane outside Taroona Primary School.

9. Drain completely impeding passage along bicycle lane (severe)

This one hardly needs any commentary.  This drain, with its broken edges and covering 90% of the bicycle lane, is simply not safe to ride over. The blue access cover just prior to the drain further complicates safe passage.  The only safe route past this drain is in the roadway.  You might be picking up a pattern by now.

10. Uneven service covers (moderate)

These seem almost unimportant in comparison to some of the other issues I’ve covered.  However, small obstacles in the bike lane surface are dangerous, both in terms of cyclists spotting them late and then swerving around them, and also for those who are unfortunate enough to ride through them.

11. Parked cars (severe)

To finish off, I include another photo of parked cars, this time on the initial slopes of Bonnet Hill on the southern end of Taroona.  In the picture you can see cyclists who are forced to ride almost in the centre of the road lane to pass the parked cars

In conclusion, the primary issue with the Taroona bike lanes is that they are narrow and frequently obstructed.  This means that cyclists must merge with car traffic in the road lane several times on a typical journey through Taroona.  Frequent merging is a safety risk — it only takes one slip for a serious accident.

Winter Challenge

Today our team of 4 competed in the Winter Challenge in Franklin, 45 minutes south of Hobart under the name Four Soft Specialists. The team name is a play on the name of company Software for Specialists which I do some contract work for. Tim was our runner, Paul took on the mountain bike leg, I rode the road bike section, but David hurt his shoulder a few weeks ago and had to find a backup paddler for the kayak leg. More on that soon.

The day dawned foggy with the promise of sun. It was perfectly still as we met at Tim’s place — all except our paddler, who would meet us in Franklin.

After an uneventful but very foggy drive, we rolled into Franklin.  David, after talking to our paddler from last year (as David injured himself last year as well — he’s good at this gig, hey?), finally found a paddler, Sam, who was looking for a team. Perfect match!

Direction Sign heading out of transition.  Do you know which way to go?

Tim was off first with the mass start run leg, an 11km slog over a young mountain, through fields with cowpats and mud! Soon after setting off he settled into a group of runners that felt about right. Then two runners ahead took a wrong turn and one turned up a few moments later looking rather cross — and promptly ran straight into a small tree, knocking it down. Tim kept a bit of a wary eye on this runner after that incident!

Paul keeps a lookout for Tim’s return

Tim finished in about 1:11 1:13:20 — a time he was pretty happy with, and so it was Paul’s turn to head off on the very muddy mountain bike leg. Paul easily beat his time from last year, finishing in 1:15:47, and in describing his effort said he only had four notable stacks. He came back very muddy, but by no means the muddiest of the mountain bike riders! 

Tim running up to the finish line

I find the time in transition waiting for my team mate to return quite hard — one seems to be waiting forever as the seconds tick over glacially, and then suddenly it’s time to bolt for the timing tent. But my time came and off I went.

Last year the Winter Challenge was my first ever cycle race. This year I had a little bit of experience under my belt and a new bike, and so I was hopeful I’d be able to beat my previous time. I also had a heart rate monitor on and planned to work at keeping my HR at 165 as best I could.

I found in the morning that my right leg was a still a little bit sore from a minor strain earlier in the week, but I just hoped it wouldn’t flare up during the race.  Fortunately it seemed ok, just niggling slightly in the last couple of kilometres, and it didn’t really feel like it was slowing me down.

After setting out from Franklin at a decent clip, I found my tempo where my HR seemed to be pretty stable at between 165 and 170 bpm, and started chasing down the riders ahead of me.  It’s always a great feeling to pass another rider in a time trial.  I do feel a little mean when I pass because I know it’s not really very fun being passed by another rider.  If passed by a pro, then one can excuse one’s poor performance — but I am certainly not a pro!  Still, I was tickled that I passed about 25 riders on the course and didn’t get passed by anyone.  Isn’t it pathetic what pleases me?

By this time the sun had come out and it was a glorious day!  Just the lightest breeze and about 15 degrees Celsius.  In the distance I could see another rider, about 300m ahead of me.  As I started to work to catch him, a great big semi trailer roared past me, and immediately had to slow as there was no room to safely pass the other rider.  This in turn forced me to slow down considerably behind the truck — is drafting a truck still bad when one has no choice?  It seemed like I was stuck behind that truck for a long time but it was probably only 20 or 30 seconds before it pulled past the other rider and the road was clear for me again.

Unfortunately, another few kilometres down the road, about 10 cars that just had passed me were stuck in a line behind a timid driver that didn’t seem to want to pass another rider.  This time as I slowed down I saw there was plenty of room on the left, so carefully I rode past the whole file of cars and in the end this didn’t slow me up terribly badly.  I must admit I didn’t like doing this very much but I took lots of care and it all worked out fine.  Dunno what the drivers thought…

The road time trial elevation profile

Now I was approaching the two climbs on the course, and so I figured it was time to suck down a gel.  They help psychologically at least although sticky fingers and sticky jersey pockets are a bit gross!  I really couldn’t find a comfortable speed on the climbs, which was a bit unexpected.  I found them both hard going, and just couldn’t find a tempo which suited me, ending up changing up and down much more than I should have.  I took a drink from my bottle and then wished I had brought water instead of Gatorade.  Still, I made it to the top, and  got a chance to practice the ‘keep the power on over the crest’ technique.

The return leg is just a matter of keeping the tempo up and keeping focused.  The wind was still light, so it didn’t impact me very badly.  About half way back I had another drink and went over a bump just as I tried to put the bottle back, and dropped it.  Annoying!  Some might suggest I did it on purpose but honestly sir it was an accident.  Really truly.

There were fewer ‘rabbits’ for me to catch on the return leg (or else maybe I was going slower), and as the last 2km came up I tried to push that little bit harder but just wasn’t able to push my speed up much at all.  I rolled over the line with my wife and daughters cheering me on — they’d just managed to make it down to the line after church.  My average HR was 166: right where I wanted it, and my cadence was 100.80, again right on the button.  My GPS time was about 1:02:00, but official times are not yet online and my official time was 1:02:52 — so we did waste a bit of time in transition it seems.  Hoping to see them soon!  My time last year was 1:06:06, so I am very happy with the result this year.

I tagged our paddler Sam and off he went.  I didn’t see him go because I had to focus on not falling over on my way back to our gear in the transition area.  I guess that means I rode reasonably hard then!  We then had only a few minutes to wait before Power Sam came back over the line to finish for the day.  It was a treat to watch his super-efficient paddling style and listen to him being called out as a very fast finisher by the announcers.  All these superlatives?  It turns out that our Sam Norton is one of Australia’s fastest paddlers (please do note how I am claiming him for some rub-off kudos).  Sam’s finishing time was 0:46:20, a full 3 minutes ahead of the next fastest competitor in our class!  Again, I’m writing this before the organisers have had a chance to post the official results online but expectations are high that he made the top kayak time.  I’ll update the post with times when the results come online.

My bike in transition.  Nope, no aero bars.  Maybe next year!

Unfortunately with only 46 minutes for Sam’s leg, it was just not possible for Sam to make up the 45 minutes or more that we had lost overall already!  We finished overall in 12th place.

Roy and Ben are a couple of fellas I ride with at lunch times.  They were both marshalls on the day — and both said ‘hi’ to me while I stared at them like a complete idiot.  I find it hard to recognise other riders when they aren’t wearing their helmets and bike gear!  I really have to give kudos to them and to the whole Endorfun team — it was an awesome event and heaps of fun.  Really well organised, really friendly, and really well supported by local businesses.

We dropped into the ever lovely Petty Sessions Cafe for lunch while waiting for the presentations.  So great to be able to sit outside in beautiful spring-like weather after a couple of weeks of rain and general cold weather.

And after presentations — in which I won nothing, not even a spot prize (!) — we went home. 

Wet and windy

Joey was off at a birth, and so the girls and I were stuck at home on a wild and windy Saturday morning in the middle of winter. It was raining and blowing a gale, but actually not too cold… At least 7 or 8 degrees.

So, perfect weather for a family bike ride, right? I pulled out the trusty “family bike” and the bike trailer, which we hadn’t used for some time. The girls were thrilled! I took the opportunity to swap off the flat pedals and put on some SPDs from my defunct road bike. Pulled on all my winter gear, rugged up the girls, put the lights on, and off we rode.

Got 1km from home and realised that we’d left the girls’ helmets behind! Groan. Funny how one can ride such a long way but turning around and going home is so hard. Still, it didn’t take long so no real harm done 🙂

We rode carefully down the long descent into town, the girls nice and dry, me not so much. First stop, bike shop to pick up a spare part for my roadie. Then the coffee shop.

Jam Packed is a great place to stop and have a coffee — especially if you are on a bike. The atrium has plenty of space to park a bike or 20 and being a big dry open space the smelly, wet bike clothes hopefully don’t bother other patrons as much as in some other coffee shops!

Coffee and mango juice done, it’s time to head off to the library, where we stayed and read books until it closed (unfortunately rather early, 2pm).

The picture shows us parking the bike at the library. We couldn’t help ourselves and borrowed a few books, which we wrapped up well in plastic bags in the boot of the trailer.

Then it was off to Salamanca Fruit Market for lunch stuff. Hannah and I went for sushi, and Beth had a roll. Now for the trek home.

It was still blowing a gale, but the rain had eased for a bit. Riding up Macquarie St, we were heading straight into a block headwind, a real gale! I was struggling along as we hit the real hill past the Cascade Brewery. I read later that wind gusts were up to 80 km/h!

I used the toe-on-the-chain technique to drop the chain onto the smallest chainring. I really must fix that front derailleur sometime soon. We slogged away until we reach the bridge, where I was quite happy to pause for an emergency loo stop for the girls!

The remainder of the ride up the hill with 60kg of trailer doing its best to drag me back down again was definitely the slowest I’ve ever climbed Strickland Ave, by a long way! Fortunately we were sheltered somewhat from the wind by the curves of the hill.

We even got a tailwind along Chimney Pot Hill Rd but as we turned into Ridgeway we were hit by the full force of the gale and we came nearly to a complete halt! I was grinding along in bottom gear, on the flat mind you, out of the saddle, crouched over my bike like a Tour de France contender, face contorted as I forced my way against the fury of the wind — and rain — and into our driveway. The girls jumped out of the trailer and bolted for the shelter of the house while I struggled to open the door to put the bike and trailer away. I let go of the trailer for a second to brace the door against the wind and had to chase it half way down the driveway. Finally I dragged it into the basement, let the door slam in the wind and heaved a sigh of relief! Home!

The next morning my legs feel like I’ve just ridden a serious race…  And Strava has awarded me a 5th place in the climb “Hydro to Strickland” — because I’ve never ridden that route before, and because there were only 4 other riders who have ridden that route!

Lunch Time Racing

Every Thursday lunch I try to get out with my mates for a hard ride somewhere in the foothills of Mt Wellington. Today’s format was slightly different to most of the rides, and debilitating!  Stu, our resident hard man (although he just went abroad and has come back with a soft centre, but we’ll soon fix him up again), suggested we do interval races: hospital to bridge, about 2.5km, gentle for the first 800m, and then 5.3% for the next 1.6km, recover over the next 4km of climbing (Strickland Ave to Fern Tree Tavern) and race again after that.  I foolishly suggested, as it was a beautiful winter day, that we race up to the Springs at 700m elevation, instead of to Neika at 500m elevation.  We would finish with an individual time trial on Huon Rd of 3.6km.

We met in Hobart city — a small bunch of 4 today — and rode up Macquarie St towards Mt Wellington, just warming up until we got to the hospital.  As soon as we hit the hospital, Stu upped the tempo and shortly after took off up the road.  We let him go.  Rode past the Cascade Brewery, not that we noticed it.

Cascade Brewery

We settled into a decent tempo with Stu about 100m up the road, and discussed if we’d try and drag him back.  There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the bunch.  Iain said he was saving himself for the Springs push.  More on that later.  So it was up to me.  I hit out hard, knowing that the only way to get past Stu would be to blow past him too fast for him to jump on.  I tried to keep as quiet as I could so he wouldn’t be ready for me.  I caught Stu in about 20 seconds, travelling at about 33km/h, knowing that I couldn’t keep that pace up very long at all — and indeed I hit threshold almost immediately after that and started to go into the red, really a bit early in the ride for that!  But mission accomplished!  I got to the end of the race section — a bridge — about 20 seconds ahead of Stu, and a good 1 1/2 minutes ahead of the bunch of two.  Shame on you Iain!

Strava tells me I rode from the Cascade Brewery to the bridge at an average speed of 24.8km/h, which is my second best performance on that segment.  But my best was, shall we say, ‘slightly’ wind assisted.

Tempo up Strickland Ave was good, helping my heart rate to come down, but my legs were crying out all the way up, filled with lactic acid and heavy and slow.  I was really wondering about the feasibility of the Springs climb.  But the race was on and I had to go.

Pillinger Drive: Where the pain really starts

Scott turned up Pillinger Drive a little early having decided that riding this hard was not in his plan for today, and the rest of us followed him a minute later.  I led up the initial section, trying to set a hard pace, until we caught Scott and pushed past him.  At around that point I believe we dropped Stu, but I didn’t notice until a little while later Iain rode up alongside me and matched me pedal turn for pedal turn up the climb, at a ferocious and gruelling (for us) pace.  I just kept hoping he would crack but I knew I couldn’t last much longer.  My legs felt like lumps of lead on the pedals and I my breathing was nearly out of control.  Eventually, at just 1.3km into the climb, I just threw in the towel and backed off for a moment.  However Iain kept the pace up just that bit longer, and was away.  A couple of seconds later I got back into the swing of things, and even that 2-3 seconds was enough to rejuvenate me, and I stuck about 20m back for the rest of the climb.  Each time Iain climbed out of the saddle, I followed suit.

Big Bend — that smooth road is deceptive, this corner is the only smooth tarmac on the whole Springs climb

At Big Bend (the picture is from another ride), I pushed hard around the corner, but only closed about 5 metres, not enough to close the gap.  About 1km past Big Bend, the gradient eases from 8% to 4%, and all I could think of was getting there and hopefully pushing my pace up enough to catch Iain’s wheel.  But it was not to be.  As Iain hit the gentle 3-4% gradient section he, obviously, accelerated, and while I was able to match his acceleration, I could not pick up enough speed to catch him.  He sprinted up the final 100m, and I just couldn’t face doing the same, knowing I would not be able to catch him!  It was a phenomenal climb by Iain.  Even with the lactic in my legs from the first segment, I still cracked my previous best by 1:20 on this climb, so I was pretty happy.  I even held the KOM on Strava for the segment, for 5 minutes, until Iain uploaded his ride!

The Springs – a little busier when the Google-Car went through than when we were there!  Yes, that road keeps on going up…

When I reflect on the times that riders such as Cadel Evans and Richie Porte have achieved on this climb, I am amazed.  We averaged about 18.5km/h which I felt really wasn’t too shabby for a 7% gradient.  The road surface is rough and quite damp, both of which make it significantly harder than the raw numbers might indicate.  But from what I understand Cadel was hitting speeds of over 27km/h up the climb and we hadn’t even hit the steep bit of the climb to the summit.

After descending carefully from the Springs to Fern Tree – the road was still damp from the morning frost — we rolled to the Strickland Ave corner and set ourselves up for the final segment — the 3.6km downhill time trial on Huon Rd from Strickland Ave to the Skyline Petrol Station.  This section of road has a 5% gradient (downhill of course!), is smooth, with well cambered gentle bends and is really ideal for this scenario.  I am happy to say I took the line honours on this section, just catching my 10 second man Iain as we reached the petrol station, with an average speed of 58.6km/h.

I did this ride in my Strava gear which was donated by the boys at Strava.  I hope I did it justice!  As always, you can see the ride on Strava:

<br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>The Tour <br>

The Tour of Tasmania is coming to town in a few months, and they’ll be climbing the mountain in a Team Time Trial. Innovative, but a bit of a strange decision, I’d have thought. The winning team will be the one with the best 5 (assuming 5 over the line rule) climbers. An Individual Time Trial would have been more sensible, but a TTT will be a sight to watch!

Playing with the Strava API

I had a couple of free evenings – hard to believe but it happened – and decided to try and have some fun with Strava’s API.  Here’s what I came up with…

The site will give a list of all the segments I’ve attempted, grouped by various classes of segment.  In this view, it orders within each segment by my ranking:

I can also filter those segments to show the ones I’ve never had a good crack at, or the ones where I am just slightly behind the leader, for example:

Then I decided to have some fun with the geolocation services built into iPhone and other mobile browsers (and now some desktop browsers as well!)  With this, I hacked up a little page that would show me all the segments within 5km of my current location, plus the all important competitive data to help me decide which segment to go for today!

Main site:

Mobile site:

No guarantees on these pages – they are setup to work only for my data at present, unless you know the secret incantations to populate the database with your data as well.

Why /cookbook/?  Well, because I already had a database setup and libraries for it.  In other words, I was being lazy 🙂

Bookmarklet for VAM on all segments in Strava

Have you ever created a segment with a short climb that just wasn’t quite long enough to be classified as a categorized climb in Strava?  You make a good time on the climb of the segment but VAM is not calculated…

A good effort, but no VAM to reward!

Well, here’s a little bookmarklet that adds VAM to each segment in your ride.  If it’s a downhill or flat segment, then the number won’t make much sense, but it is great for those short hard climbs.  This bookmarklet only changes the page, not the backend data, so if you reload, the tweaked VAM numbers will be gone.

After clicking the bookmarklet, note the updated VAM column!

Note also that the numbers calculated are based on the displayed elevation, distance and time values, which have been rounded, so VAM may not always come out quite the same as Strava’s more accurate calculations.

To use this bookmarklet:

  1. Right click on the following link and add it to favorites or bookmarks.
  2. When on a Strava ride page, click the bookmarklet.

The link:

Here’s the original, formatted code behind the link.

(function() {
  var t = document.getElementsByTagName(‘tr’);
  for(var i = 0; i < t.length; i++)
    var tr = t[i];
    if(tr.className == ‘segment’)
      var td_dist = tr.cells[3],
          td_elev = tr.cells[4],
          td_vam = tr.cells[7],
          td_time = tr.cells[9];
      var tm = td_time.innerHTML.split(‘:’),
          seconds = (parseInt(tm[0],10) * 60 + parseInt(tm[1],10)) * 60 + parseInt(tm[2],10),
          elev = parseInt(td_elev.innerHTML),
          dist = parseFloat(td_dist.innerHTML);
      var VAM = Math.round(elev * 3600 / seconds);
      var gradient = (elev / dist / 10).toFixed(1);
      var s = VAM.toString() + ‘ (‘ + gradient + ‘%)’;
      if(td_vam.innerHTML == ‘-‘ || td_vam.innerHTML.length > 4) td_vam.innerHTML = s;
      else td_vam.innerHTML += ‘ ‘ + s;

Grindelwald Challenge: A Learning Experience

On Saturday, Iain, Chris and I drove up from Hobart to race the Grindelwald Challenge. This is a 75km race over a lumpy course, 4 laps of a riverside circuit with a decent 3% climb, followed by a steep 11% climb to a hilltop finish in the village of Grindelwald.

I didn’t feel very prepared for this race, given lots of sickness and time off the bike in the preceding month. But as opportunities to race are so few and far between, I decided to have a go anyway!

The Saturday dawned bright and cold, with the car thermometer dipping to -3.5 C on the 2.5 hour trip up to Legana where the race was to start.  We had an early start, too, as I picked up Chris at 6:45am before heading past Iain’s place and onward.

We arrived in Legana with an hour and more to spare before registration, so Iain and I decided to ride the circuit to get an idea of what we’d be up against. Chris decided to read the paper.

The circuit did not seem too challenging, with the Brady’s Lookout climb in the second half of the circuit averaging 3% for 3km. We then cut the descent short to scope out the final climb. This was much steeper but less than a kilometre in length.  I noted that my heart rate seemed to be high relative to the effort I was putting in — normally I am about 10 bpm below Iain but was sitting right on the same heart rate as him for most of this part of the ride.

The handicapper put Chris in B grade, myself in C grade, and Iain in D. The time gaps between the grades were 10 for E, 5 for D, 4 for C, and 4 for B. With 90 starters, each of the grades had a decent field, except for A, which it seems was made up almost exclusively of Genesys riders!

Brady’s Lookout summit — first ascent, 4th place I think.  When I was doing OK. (Photo: Gary Woodfall)

C grade started off at quite a manageable pace, unlike my previous race — where we were flat out from the gun.  The pace gradually increased on the road along the river, but I was feeling good and my confidence levels were increasing as I thought that I’d be able to stick the pace.  We hit the climb and I was able to ride it tempo without getting out of breath or feeling my legs.  So far so good.  Had a half-hearted effort at taking KOM points at the top of the climb but as I’d already decided that wasn’t my goal didn’t make the top 3.  I looked at my heart rate on my Garmin a few times and was surprised to see it over 180 given how I was feeling.  Things were looking good.  Second lap was a little slower than the first lap, and I sucked down a gel on the second descent.

A Grade on Rosevears Drv (Photo: Will Swan, The Examiner)

Half way along the river on the third lap I realised that I was not noticing any scenery any more, focusing on following the wheel in front of me and getting off the front of the pace line as quickly as possible.  We hit the climb, and I was sticking in the bunch, the pace was manageable.  Then D grade was spotted up the road.  Up went the pace, and I was breathing hard, struggling to keep pace, let some of the bunch go past me, then suddenly realised that the bunch was smaller than it used to be and I was off the back.

Looked back and B grade were bearing down on me.  I put in some hard effort but I was not getting back those few metres, went over the top of the climb 30 metres behind the bunch and bonking badly.  B grade streamed past me on the descent and I could not pick my pace up enough to pick up a wheel.  I was gone.

The fourth lap was an exercise in fogginess, remembered I had another gel so as I descended, I ate that as well but it was too little too late.  Rode along at 30km/h instead of 40km/h — legs wanting to cramp…  A grade roared past in a blur of orange.  I caught a couple of other riders, one from Hobart I knew vaguely, and then managed to put a bit of effort into the final climb.  Dropped my water bottle just after the turnaround before the climb and decided to stop and pick it up — it wasn’t going to change the outcome at this point!  I started getting out the saddle in the climb and immediately my legs started to cramp.  Sat back down and concentrated on getting up the steep climb without cramping, which I just managed.  Another C grade rider was just ahead of me and I scraped together the last of my energy to sneak past him in the last 200m.

When I got back to the presentations I discovered that Iain had managed to pick up second place in D grade, just pipped to the line because he dropped his chain!  Fantastic effort for a first race and what a shame to miss that first place!  Chris’s experience was similar to mine, he was dropped fairly early from B grade and rode the whole race on his own.  I think in his position I might have just gotten off the bike so kudos to him on soldiering on — it’s not easy.

So learning?  Preparation and food.  I knew my training was not up to scratch — I’d barely done 100km/week for the past month, due to a combination of sickness – both myself and my family, a crash which left me without a bike, some shocking weather, and just family circumstances.  I didn’t sleep enough before the race, again with family circumstances.  I probably didn’t eat enough carbs in the days leading up to the race.  My elevated heart rate (still a little high even now as I write) tells me I’m still working on recovering from the flu and fitness levels aren’t up to scratch.  It is disappointing to be dropped, even more so when my mate does so well in his first race — but I went along to enjoy myself and I’ve got to remember that!

My first road race: Longford – Campbell Town

Today I raced my first ever road race, a 64km flat course from Longford to Campbell Town, in Tasmania. As part of my preparation I looked up the course profile (flat, bar one small climb about 10km from the finish), and prepared a comprehensive list of excuses, which I understand are an essential part of a road rider’s preparation. Two of my friends, Phil and Rob, were also racing. We’d all ridden a lot together in Hobart and Rob and Phil had raced in Hobart. But we had heard tales that riders from the North of the state (Longford is in the North) were tough and fast — there are 5 or 6 riders in the Pro peleton from those parts — but I don’t think we really appreciated just how fast and hard they were!

Phil and I are roughly comparable in racing ability, as far as we could tell, and as Phil raced B grade in Hobart, I naively decided that was the grade for me. Rob decided to stick with D grade — a sensible choice I think! The lower grades started out a few minutes ahead, with 1 minute between C and B, and 3 minutes to A. I snuck a look at the registration sheet before the race and there were only 6 or 7 riders in B, and 20 or more in each of D, C and A. I was starting to get worried because that meant much more work in the wind, with less recovery time drafting other riders. All too soon our grade was up to start and immediately we hit 40+km/h. It seemed that some of the riders wanted to catch C grade before A grade caught us. Within 5km, we were sitting on 45-50km/h and my heart rate was on 175 as I frantically tried to hold my position in the bunch. I glanced at Phil and by the look on his face he was in trouble too. All too soon the inevitable happened — we started to drift off the back of the B grade group, and my heart rate way up high I knew I didn’t have that reserve to claw my way back on.

One other B grader dropped back with Phil and I and no more than a couple of km later we heard a toot from the chase car informing us that the A grade pack were flying up behind us. We jumped on the back of that bunch and the shelter from the wind helped a bit with recovery, as it was a much larger group. My heart rate dropped below 150 and I started to think I might have a chance to hold on. Phil and I sat on the back of the group and stayed out of the paceline. Then I made a big mistake… I thought I was doing okay and so thought I’d give the paceline a go… Oops. As I worked my way up to the front, my heart rate went right up again and I was struggling. One of the other riders glanced at me and suggested that I should just sit on the back of the bunch. I was inclined to agree…

So back I drifted and then we passed some other riders, who left a gap, and I couldn’t get over the gap with my previous effort and off the back I went. And that was that. For the next 45km I rode with one other rider, a C grade girl who had had the same trouble as I had. We worked well together and it helped… About 15km from the finish we caught Rob and 4 of us crossed the line all together at the end. It was still the fastest 60km I have ever ridden, by a long way!

My wife and daughters were there at the finish to cheer me over the line but I think they were a little surprised by how far back was!

Edit: Strava ride is now online:

I’ve got a new 10 minute power average: 355 watts…  I am not surprised.  At 22km, we had to walk across a wooden bridge (instant disqualification if you rode across…)  You can spot that in the speed graph pretty easily!