Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:34 | No comments

Argus 2009

For years to come, this will be known as the "Bad One", the "Windy One", or the "Worst One". I have lived in the Cape for 15 years, and in Somerset West for about 7 years, and I thought I knew wind. Sunday morning was an education to me.

Despite the conditions, thousands turned out.

As it is, I am not a big fan of the Argus, particularly up front in the racing section. Far too much testosterone flying about, and far too many people who should not be riding at this level. Add some gale force wind into the mix, and I was petrified! The last thing I wanted was a crash, and the Epic would be over before we have even started.

The wind ripping everything to pieces.

Standing in the start chute alone was enough to give me second thoughts - I was being blown off my feet. I should have taken the hint when a porta loo got blown over and then blown through our start chute, spewing blue porta loo juices all over the place. The SubVet bunch parted like the Red Sea as we tried to avoid being taken out by the rampant killer loo, or splashed by the obnoxious smelling deep blue liquid that was freely flowing from it.

Chaos and mayhem, when porta loos attack!

The bad porta loos, resting before the next attack

When the gun finally went and we were underway, another surprise lurked just up ahead. The wind funneled under the Civic Center, and at a specific point was strong enough to blow you off your bike. From my usual vantage point at the back of the bunch I saw several riders swerving and dismounting. Shaking my head and muttering at their amateurishness, I proceeded until I too was almost blown clean off my bike. This was going to be a long day!!

Blown clean over by the wind!

Thankfully, the hard racing that I was expecting was neutralised by the wind as no one really wanted to set a pace on the front. Same applied for break aways, although several riders tried, I think they quickly realised the error of their ways and retreated to the safety of the peloton.

All fall down!

Edinburgh Drive was a gentle, sedate climb compared to previous years where I am sure I lost a lung or kidney. Down onto the Blue Route, and the bunch was still pretty much together, when we had our first big crash. It was hard to see exactly what happened from way at the back, but the smell of burning brakes and grazed flesh filled the air as we picked our way through the debris and bodies. Always a bit of a dilemma - do you stop to help, or do you hope there are medics nearby and ride for your life to get back into the bunch. I tend to opt for the latter.

The big change for 2009 was the use of Boyes Drive as there are roadworks along Main Road. I've raced a couple times over Boyes Drive, and knew what to expect. However, I hadn't really had that many good experiences going up Boyes Drive - famously getting dropped on the first climb 5kms into the race about 3 or 4 years ago. As we started to climb Boyes Drive, I spotted Morag, Briony and Gareth - now that is true dedication - coming out to support the race in weather like that! After another brief "all fall down" the racing started in earnest, with the front riders sticking us in the gutter. The danger here was getting stuck behind a weaker rider who couldn't close a gap if it formed, but luckily I had good enough legs to ride around any such riders without too many hassles. Tim had given me some advice on what line to follow along Boyes Drive, and it was great advice. After a slightly hair-raising descent into Kalk Bay (and to the spectator who called out my name - thanks, and sorry I didn't wave back, but both my hands were needed to stop me from crashing into the riders around me!) we were back on Main road, screaming off towards FishHoek one long single file line.

Matt Damon having a mechanical

After another couple of dead wheels and gaps, Craig and I managed to hop onto the back of the bunch, and it was a good thing that we did - the bunch had split, and we were the last ones in the front bunch. Things slowed down as we went through SimonsTown (a full 30 minutes slower than usual) as everyone started to consider Smitswinkel clmib up ahead. As we started to climb, the wind started to shift, and before long we had a tail wind going up the climb. Everything seemed to be in order at the top, and a long fast gradual descent with the wind behind us awaited. I wasn't expecting any trouble, but a quick glance up ahead showed that the bunch had split, and if we didn't close the gap now, we would miss out. For the first time that day we had to put in a hard effort, but it worked out, and we closed the gap, and suddenly the bunch was down to about 50. Several riders rode back on as we went through Misty Cliffs after a loooong chase, and it was at this time that Craig sat up. He had broken a spoke, and was struggling to keep up. Only afterwards did he realise how badly his back wheel was rubbing - the wheel would barely turn!

Going through SunValley, straight into the wind caused some more havoc with the bunch. Gaps were forming, and once again I was on the wrong side of them. Thankfully, a big strong rider took up the chase and pulled myself and 2 others across the gap. With Chappies looming in the distance, the jostling for position was starting. Not wanting to get caught up in anything, I decided to lurk at the back, and make my move forward as we started climbing. But that was not to be. A rider went down hard on the left, and another rider on the right overreacted, going down as well. The crash effectively blocked the road, and quite a few of us were caught on the wrong side of the crash. I came to a stop on the fallen rider's wheel, and watched with despair as the bunch rode off up Chappies. I tried to get going as quickly as possible, but with no one to help with the workload, closing this gap was going to be tough. All the way up Chappies I was in touching distance of the bunch, passing riders as they dropped off, but was unable to make any progress in closing the gap.

At the top I met up with the Maverick Tandem of Lyle and Malan, and hoped that they might be my ticket onto the back of the bunch. We made good progress, and almost got back on until mother nature intervened and decided to blow a poor unsuspecting rider over the edge of Chapman's Peak. The crash looked spectacular, but I saw him at the end and apart from several scrapes and grazes, he was ok. Any hope of catching the bunch was now gone. To make matters worse, my new tandem buddies were struggling and I found myself all alone, staring up at Suikerbossie. Thankfully there were plenty of targets to aim at going up the last climb of the day, and I made good progress, passing struggling tandems and dropped riders. Going over the top, I could still see the bunch, but all hope of catching them was now gone.

Together with one other rider, we started what is supposed to be the easy part of the Argus - the long descent into Camps Bay. But this year it was different, and probably the most difficult part of the whole race - the wind was howling round the corners, and often we would come to a virtual standstill. Little relief was offered from my buddy, or by the riders we were catching and passing. I came the closest to crashing as we went through Camps Bay - the wind was gusting, and almost blew the two of us into the Atlantic Ocean.

Andrew McLean

As the finish line approached, we had finally hooked up with another bunch of riders, and while taking a turn on the front, saw Andrew Maclean had joined us - he had ridden away from his group at Smitswinkel and soloed for 55kms. I gave him a nice lead out up to the line.

We were going to do another lap, but there is only so much abuse one can tolerate, and the Dulux tent seemed like a much better option. 10:30 might be a little early for a beer, but after the ordeal we had been through, we thought it would be a well deserved beer.

Bonte played the patient role of chaperone and guide for Yolanda, and given the circumstances (and lack of training on Yolanda's part) they had quite a good ride. Bonte has threatened to retire from extreme cycling, and so I would like to make a request to the weather gods that next year the weather be a little more mild and pleasant.

Name and Team Start Group Race Time Overall Position Gender Gender Position Age Position Group Position Avg Speed Photo Free Video
Walsh, Dane VA 03:06:58 224/25541 M 187/20451 10/2098 29/218 35.30
Walsh, YolandaQ

All photos from the Hub
(except the Action photo one)
Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:11 | No comments

Morning Ride

On a short training just before the Argus, I couldn't help but take a picture looking back at Helderberg, and the Hottentots Holland Mountains. At 6:30 in the morning, it was already 26C. The haze you see is the smoke from the fires that have been raging for the last 3 weeks in and around the Boland.

Three days later the sky was clear, as "The Mighty Wind" of the Argus 2009 cleared all the smoke.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 18:41 | No comments

Argus MTB 2009

Argus Week is officially here, and the Argus MTB is the first event in the series of bicycle-centric events to happen in Cape Town. The Giro del Capo follows, and then it is the big day - the day 30 000+ cyclists get to take over the streets of the Cape Peninsula - the Argus.

But before the skinny wheeled, lycra clad, speed loving roadies get their chance, their hairy, tar hating, mud loving bretheren got the chance to make Boschendal Winefarm their giant race course. And more than 4000 of these creatures turned up for the occasion.

The weather report all week had been for a hot and windless day, with temperatures peaking in the high 30's. It certainly makes for a change compared to a couple of years ago where we rode this race in the pouring rain.

The hot shots

This was to be our last hard effort before the Epic (the Argus hardly counts as a hard effort - even if we do do two laps). I wasn't sure what sort of state my legs were in after having a tough ride the day before. We arrived at the venue, got our numbers, put our kit on, fiddled with the bikes (this was going to come back and bite me later), and already the temperature was 30C at 7 in the morning. By the time I got into the start chute the sweat was pouring off me.

The race started in its usual frantic high paced, testosterone filled, argy bargy manner, and for the first time in a long time I actually felt quite good, and was able to make good progress early on. I am not known for my fast starts, and tend to get better the longer a race goes. I caught and passed a couple of familiar faces, including my Epic partner which worried me - was I going out too fast? I eventually caught Sara Muhl, and since she usually beats me in these sorts of races, I thought I would slot in behind her, slow down a little and ride a bit more conservatively.

Eventually, Craig caught us and passed us, and I decided that Sara's pace was going to cost me. The only problem now was that we had got into a mildly technical section, and between my semi slicks and absent technical skills (I think I left them at home in the rush to be on time), I could only watch as both Sara and Craig rode away from me. We eventually got onto the wider farm roads and I could put my head down nd try to catch the bunch of riders with white jersey's up ahead. One by one I would catch them as they dropped off of Craig's group, and each time I would be dissappointed that it wasn't Craig. My pre-race fiddling had resulted in me pumping my tires harder, and with all the soft sand about, that was just a recipe for disaster.

The sand claims another victim

On the foot hills of the climb the gap would close right up, but as soon as we levelled out the gap would increase again. I just couldn't get it under 40 seconds. By now it was hot - very hot, and the sweat was pouring off me. Good thing I had filled my 3l CamelBak. Our route had merged with the route of the 36km riders, and they were strewn all over the place like victims on a battle ground. Some stumbling alongside their bikes, some sitting under whatever shade they could find shaking their heads, some lying down mumbling things about being crazy and rather taking up golf. It was hot, and it was tough, and this is certainly not a race like its tar namesake in a week's time that you could just rock up and ride. I think several people learned that the hard way.

After gving up all hope of catching Craig, my attention was focused on not being passed by anyone from behind. Yet again my technical skill let me down, and in the last singletrack of the day I heard a rider approaching. It was a swiss rider - the first lady - and she seemed to be about a million times better than me on the technical stuff, so I let her past, and tried my best to hang on. I did so, and once again on the flats I was able to put my head down and paid her back by giving her a nice tow to the line
The first lady - I was just behind her

All in all, it was a good day - hard, tough and just what the coach wanted. I finished in 26th place in 2h36, 1:35 behind Craig, and with an average heart rate of 175 bpm.

Yolanda also rode, and did the long route, and although she was slower than last year, she did admirably well given her lack of training and mechanical mishaps.

All photos from the HubSA
(except those of Yolanda)

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:00 | No comments

Wilde Fruit 2009

After a couple of years starting and finishing at the industrial park on the Agter Paarl road, the Wilde Fruit Funride finally returned to Wellington. I enjoy this race, but I think it is only because I was lucky enough two years ago to get into the winning break (where I finished 4th out of 4 - I can't sprint).

Previous glory

Windguru had promised a near windless day (they also promised a cloudless day, but got that horribly wrong), so I didn't expect too much suffering on the road back in from Malmesbury. Oh, and the fact that I was riding in A, and not racing in the League.

Our race got underway with A to D being lumped together to make up a reasonably sized bunch. I could see the fear on the faces of the D riders - they really didn't want to be there. There were probably a handful of A and B riders who, like me, were too lazy and too cheap to ride League this season. Right from the start things were heated, with the better riders pushing the pace immediately. For the first 40kms up to the big hill we flew, with about 6 or 7 riders setting the pace. I tried to be a little cocky and gutter the bunch, but got scolded - obviously this isn't the thing you do when riding in the seeded groups.

As the big hill of the day approached (Botmasnkloof) outside Riebeek Kasteel any help we had from the other riders quickly evaporated. We were busy catching some of the other groups ahead of us (Masters, Juniors and Ladies), and they provided tantelising targets for the climb. I found a comfortable gear, dropped my cadence to just above 60, and powered up the hill on the front. Out of the corner of my eye I could see some one behind me, and since I wasn't killing myself up the hill as in previous years, I just assumed that most of the bunch was still there.

When we got to the top I looked back to see that I had 4 other riders for company, with the rest of the bunch nowhere to be seen. We still had about 45kms to go, so it was always going to be tough staying away, but we gave it a shot.

We got a good pace line going, although I did feel we were carrying two riders who weren't really contributing to the work. The road from Malmesbury back to the Agter Paarl road was littered with riders from the Leagues who had been dropped, and once again, this gave us targets to aim at. Slowly but surely we started loosing riders - every time we went over a rolling hill I would try to push the pace a little and before long we were down to just 3. On the very next hill, with a largish bunch in front of us we lost another rider. We still had 10kms to go, and I wasn't sure that the 2 of us would have the legs to hold of the others. I kept looking for the rest of our bunch, half expecting them to come steaming by, but there was no sign of them.

With aching legs from the LT session the day before, both of us dug deep and tried to keep the pace going. We got a bit of help from another rider who had been dropped from the Sub Vets and with 3km to go we had to negotiate a horrible little hill into Wellington. By now the cat and mouse had started, and the other two were quite happy to let me sit on the front without coming through. With about 600m to go, I pulled over, feeling pretty knackerd - luckily my fellow break away partner thought i was finished and came through. I hopped onto his wheel, and was in the perfect position to be lead out for the sprint. Except I messed it up again, and probably went 100m too early which allowed the other guy to come back at me and beat me on the line.

So - what have we learned? I think the answer is that I really suck at sprinting - that is now 4th out of 4, and 2nd out of 2 in the break aways that I have been in :(

Mike had a good ride - once again time trialling his way through the field. After the report I had heard about him at the Medallion I was expecting him to be totally knackered, but he looked good at the finish. I wish I could say the same about Yolanda. I had washed her bike the day before because I am a loving husband. Unfortunately, I think I might have cleaned away half the dirt that was holding her bike together. Her brake pad came loose, and was rubbing quite badly for about 50kms. She ended up bonking, but didn't have the insight to check to see if there was a mechanical problem. Fee had to play the role of the cheery friend to get Yo home in one piece.

I have subsequently fixed the brakes.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 18:44 | 3 comments

New Shoes

I have a thing for shoes, and particularly cycling shoes. While my new shoes aren't quite as classy as the Italian made Sidi's I have had for the last 4 years, they are not far off. The fit is certainly better. I think Italians all have narrow skinny feet!

Here they are - my new road shoes - Specialized's BG Pro Road Shoe

I'll wait until after the Epic before riding with them - don't want to risk anything that might give me knee reason to act up. For now - I'll just wear them around the house ;)

Friday, 23 January 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:13 | 3 comments

24hrs of Wiesenhof

This year's Dirtopia 24hrs of Wiesenhof had attracted a couple of really good riders, all keen on winning the event.

I was a little more nervous than in previous years - I didn't have great form, and my knee was still giving me the occasional niggle.

The pre-race preparations mainly consisted of checking out the competition, and having them check me out. There were mind games a-plenty.

The racing got off to it's usual fast paced madness, with several riders putting in some blisteringly quick laps in the beginning. I preferred the more sedate approach of riding to a constant tempo, trying not to overdo anything, and slowly but surely I was moving up the field.
After 3 hours of racing I was lying in 6th spot, about 10 minutes behind the leader, on seven laps. Everything was going according to plan - my legs felt great and I had settled into a good rhythm. Yolanda was doing a great job of keeping me supplied with snacks and drinks, and updates on the other riders.

At about 5 in the afternoon, after 5 hours of racing, I was starting to take a little strain. It felt like my neck was constricting, and my glands where starting to ache. And I had a headache. But my legs were fine! I persevered for a couple more laps, and then took a break. I was lying 4th overall, so things were going well.

Meanwhile, Mike had made his 24hr debut with a rag tag bunch of guys, and it looked like they were having a great time. While not in overall contention, they were racing for 3rd, and doing a rather good job of it.

Back to my race - I had rested for a bit, Yolanda had massaged my legs, and my ego, and I had had something to eat. It was time for the night racing, and I had put my new fancy light on my helmet - I was ready to go. The first lap went fine, but after that, the neck issues returned, and by now my mind really wasn't in the race. I was looking for any excuse to stop, and when my knee showed the slightest signs of acting up, I decided to throw in the towel. I had done about 4 or 5 laps in the dark, and was still in 4th place on 19 laps at 11:30pm when I decided to have a shower and take a nap.

The irony is that we don't bring any bedding or sleep stuff to the 24hr, as we fully expect me to be able to ride through the night, so before we could take a nap, we had to beg, borrow and steal some bedding. I awoke at about 5, and was going to have another shower before settling down to watch the rest of the race. As I wandered past the scored board, I saw that Julian (my Epic partner from 2007) was in 5th place, and going well 3 laps ahead of me (I had slipped down to 10th or 12th). If he could be out there and still going, I should at least give it one more lap before giving up. I got into my kit and hopped onto the bike, and for the next 7 hours had a great ride.

I ended up in 5th place on 31 laps, salvaging some sense of pride, and Julian rode brilliantly with a 3rd place on 32 laps. This time I can say that I will be back next year.

The results for 2009

Friday, 9 January 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:40 | No comments

Velotales word cloud

From www.wordle.net

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

Makes for some interesting reading!