Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ups and Downs

My recent rich vein of form has been mined, and sadly I am left depleted and tapped out. What started as a great week on my Quest has ended up with me being immobilised by a hefty dose of Cold, so I sit here typing this feeling slightly sorry for myself after four days off the bike, and desperately hoping I won't have lost too much of my hard-earned and much treasured new fitness because of it...

On the upside, the working week was full of some interesting projects - great to see that the recent nice weather is having the spin-off of getting everyone keen on their bikes again as they gear up towards a season of fun riding and racing.

Jacinta had picked up this battered but cool old Garry Buys built Vincolo Reynolds 501 framed bike to turn into a fixie. She had grabbed some pre-built track wheels and a Sakae chainset off TradeMe, so I was charged with fitting the bits together to give her an idea of whether fixie riding suited her before she goes to town repainting and blinging it up. Some cold-setting of the rear triangle was required to space it to 120mm and I couldn't get the chainline absolutely perfect, but I was still quite happy with the end result - hopefully Jacinta is too!

This Genius had been stolen from Pete's garage in Karori, then amazingly recovered after being dumped in the bush of Makara Peak! Pete bought it back from the insurance company and onsold it to Konrad, who eventually brought it to me. Here I'm in the process of cleaning it up in advance of working on it.

Konrad had bought a new Ultegra SL compact gruppo which he wanted fitted to his Cannondale R800, so the old parts off that were moved over onto the Genius to give him a training bike to ride in inclement weather.

The Cannondale prior to being stripped with it's original parts on, including the wheels I built Konrad last year.

Stripped and being cleaned up.

The Genius complete.

And the R800 in its new incarnation...

Murray is gearing up towards his first assault on the gruelling and very hilly K2 event, so before beginning his 9 week training plan leading up to it he wanted me to fettle his Trek Madone - some new cables and drivetrain components and it is now fully ready to rock.

Tom is off next week to compete in the ITU Triathlon World Championships hoping to improve on his fine 9th place from last year, so I gave his beautiful Wilier Cento Uno a pre-race check over...

As well as gluing some new Schwalbe Stelvio tubulars onto his lustful Campagnolo Bora wheels.

Tom's rig ready to throw down - best of luck mate!

Another day another new groupset - this time it was a brand new just released Ultegra 6700 gruppo to be fitted to Adrian's Specialized Tarmac.

This was my first chance to have a nosy at these components which take many of the features of the new Dura-Ace 7900 group such as the hidden cables and lighter and stiffer chainset, but in a much more affordable context. It was easy to set up and seemed very precise on the stand - no doubt Adrian will let me know how it goes long-term but my first impressions were very positive...

Last week I wrote about the super Crosstafarian CX series and during the week I sussed (read stole) some cool photos from this event. Firstly lots from the
Revolution Bicycles album, including this one of the start, with my man John Randal bracketed by eventual first and second place riders Nick "The Hinge" Kennedy and Dave "Davo" Aldred of the famed Team Bushlove.

Thanks to Craig Madsen for this neat shot of John mid-hurdle on his way to a fine top 10 finish.

Also ripped from the Revolution pics are these shots of John climbing the pinch climb...

And a wicked shot of John chasing Revolution Bicycles rider Mike Thompson who finished 5th (I believe?).

As well as John I was represented by Daryl Bloomfield, shown here displaying fine form as he takes time out from his usual triathlon training to give CX a bash.

As I related last week, John backed up this hard effort with racing a road race on the same bike - I was just there for the posing. Here we are at the start shooting the breeze with Oliver. Always nice to meet Vorb friends in person!

As is becoming increasingly obvious, this blog is really just a glorified training diary for me now. The riding week started off well enough with a lap of the Bays on a nice day with a gentle NWer, where I took the unusual for me option of riding up Owhiro Rd - I spent several years being forced to commute up there in usually nasty NW head winds and being mentally broken by being overtaken daily by Joseph on his old Diamondback MTB, so ever since I've had a mental block about riding up it.

I take it as a good sign of my rediscovered keen morale that it seemed mentally and physically easy this day - climbing up Clarence St and bombing down Farnham St were ample reward anyway. The only downside was that my legs felt a bit flat, which I took at the time as a sign that my hard work in recent weeks was paying off. Very nice to get home and see that an astounding 333 people had read my previous night's blog entry too!

Tuesday was a chance to get out on the Commencal - I only had a short window for riding, so chucked the bike on the back of my wagon and combined the mission with some deliveries. I headed up to Makara Peak Mountainbike Park and unloaded in the carpark in what was a very strong NWer with occasional sporadic spots of rain. Despite some heavy rain in previous nights the tracks I rode were in primo almost dry condition - a testament to the superb work done by the legions of designers and trail pixies who have put in countless hours of their time to create this amazing network of trails.

I rode up Koru and Sally Alley then down Missing Link feeling pretty strong, before starting to die a bit as I scaled the lovely Aratihi to the summit.

The wind was really howling and the rain coming in harder, as I passed on riding down my two-time concussion causing nemesis Ridgeline and took the safe option of the Snakecharmer instead for some old-school fire road descending...I veered off and onto one of my favourite bits of trail, Ridgeline Extension before shralving down the awesome SWIGG (blowing past one of the afore-mentioned trail pixies - cheers, Don!) and Starfish to hit the carpark exactly one hour and one minute after leaving it. My legs felt quite hurty after my exertions but I was very happy with my ride, and felt reasonably on my game technically. I do love so much riding these fantastic tracks...

Due to various reasons I wasn't able to get on the bike on Wednesday apart from a ten minute cruise to the bank in Newtown and back, but Thursday I had earmarked for my longest ride so far of my Glorious Comeback.

After getting the morning chores out of the way I set out in fine but very windy conditions with the intention of possibly riding around Haywards, but as I had woken feeling a bit shady sneezing and coughing I thought I would decide on the road how far I would actually go. Negotiating town with all its annoying stops and starts I felt I had good legs, so decided I'd make the final call at the Petone roundabout.

I made it there without any problems, so decided it was a go for Haywards. Not wanting to navigate the confusion of the new Dowse Interchange I decided to head up the Hutt Road rather than SH2. I crossed onto SH2 at Melling Bridge at just the wrong time, forgetting that there are several pinch points after this where cyclists have no verge to keep them apart from the trucks that seem to delight in seeing how close they can pass. I took the option of using the poorly named and maintained "bike path" alongside it after one too many close calls, before taking the option of the lightly trafficked Liverton Road as soon as I could.

The headwind grew increasingly strong as I rode up the tough Haywards climb in my 39 x 21 and 23.

But I was climbing freely and much better than I thought, as can be clearly seen in my relaxed and impassive expression...

Reaching the summit with the thought of the long descent down to Pauatahanui Inlet I was mildly perturbed to realise that the NWer was so strong I'd have to pedal hard the whole way down.

The wind was by now so powerful it was physically bullying me and shoving me around - my rising feelings of fear and frustration weren't helped one bit by the concrete mixer that passed literally 10cm away from my right shoulder just where there was no verge to speak of, sucking me in it's wash a half metre out into the road just in time for the following truck to give me a huge blast on it's airhorn as it too passed way too close.

I do wonder what goes through the mind of some motorists as they approach cyclists on the road - I know sometimes we're guilty of running the odd red light, or holding traffic up for a few seconds here and there, but should these offences be worthy of a death sentence? I don't want to leave my wife a widow and my children fatherless for the sake of riding my bike, but I don't want to be forced off the road by the possibility of an accident either.

The resentment, anger and sometimes deliberate dangerous driving directed at cyclists seems all out of proportion to the crime to me, but I guess I just have to ascribe it to the general "fuck you, it's all about me" ethos that unfortunately pervades some sectors of society - luckily the many motorists who gave me plenty of room and friendly waves as they passed or gave way to me give me hope that the majority of folk are actually caring and compassionate people who are happy to live and let live...

Before long I hit the Pauatahanui Inlet, scene of some of my earliest racing experiences riding the Balfour Pennington series held on many a freezing winter morning. We used to race three laps of the Inlet, including over Grays Road and down SH1 Mana Esplanade - impossible to imagine these days with the vast increase in traffic volumes!

After battling the wind all the way around the Inlet I hit the blessed relief of the tailwind down the motorway alongside Porirua Harbour, and I had the 53 x 17 humming as I got the tempo up again.

I reminisced happily as I passed the scene of my first ever road victory, the Aotea Lagoon circuit.

This 1981 race was part of a long-gone summer series of short (16km!) but brutal races that PNP used to hold. I was riding scratch for only my second or third time ever that day. We had worked our scrawny arses off to catch break just before the second to last corner, and I was absolutely stoked to out-kick then Club Captain and noted sprinter Doug Barrett for the win on what was my father's birthday. Here I'm diving to get on Doug's wheel as we come into that penultimate corner, before pipping him just on the line after the final bend.

As the mists of time parted again for a moment I made my way through Porirua...

Before they descended again as I pedalled through Tawa past the Bray family's old place and I remembered their garage filled with hanging bikes and myriad cool bike esoterica. I recalled also the many happy times parked up in the kitchen mid-training ride being topped up with tea and biscuits while dissecting the race of the weekend before from the results printed on delicious smelling cyclostyled (how appropriate!) paper.

Onwards towards Middleton Road, or Glenside as it was always known by us.

Glenside too is full of distant memories - I remember like it was yesterday the humiliation of being dropped at the start of the Gold Coast 80 starting in Johnsonville. I was in good form but simply couldn't get my Detto into my toe clip, and I flailed away with my left foot and watched with despair as the field rode away from me over the crest into Glenside, beginning what would be a long chase for me and some other stragglers that wouldn't end until we finally got back on at Otaki as the peloton slowed after recapturing a break - the whole time the field would have been no more than 200 metres ahead of us, but it might as well have been 2000 metres! As it turned out, I was dropped again the minute we hit Paekakariki Hill to finish about 20 minutes behind the winner.

The crest was also where we used to sit as young kids to watch the Dulux field fight out the final climb of this tough six day Tour, before they plummeted down Ngauranga Gorge into the finish on Thorndon Quay...not quite the Mighty Galabier, but good enough for us back then...

As I climbed the final pitch of the climb I was still feeling relatively good, but just tired enough that I opted for the 26.

After navigating the madness of the J'ville traffic I did my own plummeting down the Gorge, super fast and with a feeling of release from having put all the climbs behind me now. I then happily scooted with the by now very strong tailwind along the bike path alongside the Hutt Road before finishing my loop at Wellington Railway Station.

And the ride was complete once I had scaled the giddy heights of Rintoul Street and made it home safely, tired but very happy to have put about 75 kilometres of riding in my legs in exactly three hours - by far the longest ride I've done in the last few years.

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off shortly afterwards. After changing and having lunch I went to work coughing and with the unmistakeable signs of an impending sore throat. I finished my repairs and headed home feeling considerably worse, and by bedtime I knew that all the little signs I'd been ignoring all week had been the harbingers of doom - or of a decent dose of man-flu at any rate...

I worked on Friday but spent the rest of the weekend hoping the vitamins and water I was taking in copious quantities would do the business so I might continue the Quest soon...fingers crossed the slight improvement I feel today bodes well!

One ray of sunshine amid the gloom was on Saturday - my eldest son Kester's soccer team had made the 15th Grade Division 2 Finals after a tough season. Sadly poor Ket was suffering from the same lurg as me, but no damn cold was going to keep him (or me!) from missing this important game, and he did sterling work at the back defending against what was an extremely good attacking team - I was very proud of him, as I always am.

In the end the many parents and friends who turned out to support the Team were delighted to watch them come from 1-0 down to beat a very skilled St Bernards Team 5-2 in a dogged display of determination, and Ket's tough defence was a critical factor in preventing St Bernards scoring more goals and stealing the win. Congratulations boys!

Kester's courage helps keep me inspired, so as soon as I've shaken off the worst of this cold I'll be back out there trying to smash it. I'll keep you all posted - until then thanks for reading, Oli


Paul said...

Lovely as alway, Oli. Fight the lurg, bro, fight it!

Oliver said...

You'll be back, kick that lurg and get back on the bike. A few days off now and you'll miss the wind and rain anyway!

Anonymous said...

what an epic saga. I come for the cycles, I stay for the stories.