Sunday, 11 October 2009


It is nearly eight weeks since I did my impersonation of a pinball by bouncing between two cars and busting up a bunch of bones and puncturing a lung.

I first rode again after four weeks but it was more of a token gesture ride and perhaps a need to get back on the bike sooner rather than later in case I decided not to get back on the bike at all.

My riding efforts have largely been restricted to the 1.2 kilometre cycling circuit in northern Brisbane suburb of Nundah coupled with a few ventures out to Nudgee beach and the path to Boondall entertainment centre. The Doctor has forbidden me to ride on the road, not that I have been particularly keen to ride on roads anyway.

Given my bike was damaged and any repairs were waiting on an insurance assessment and claim payment, I spent most of the following 4 weeks riding the old Steel frame, super heavy, 7 speed down tube shifter bike circa 1985. It was perfect for what I was doing. It also perhaps kept my ambitions under control.

As my lung recovered, so did my aerobic fitness and I discovered that I have really lost little if any fitness, at least on the flat anyway. It may be different when the road turns upward.

Last Thursday I decided to meet the participants in Brisbane’s famous Thursday morning friendship ride for post ride coffee at the Garage. I should add, that occasionally, but only very occasionally, the friendship ride becomes the 'F You' ride.

I parked over near Garage and rode across the Goodwill Bridge and out the Coronation Drive bike path before continuing to the University of Queensland via the domiciled bike route. After a few loops of the University, I headed back the way I had come.

On reaching Southbank I had one of those “lets get it out of the way now” moments. I rode along the path to the big wheel, turned left and left again on to Grey street and along the bike lane where I was hit by the car.

I was nervous and uncomfortable and my heart rate jumped 20 beats for no physical reason. There was a car parked precisely where the car that ‘doored’ me was parked and as I was approaching it, another car came along the road to my right.

I successfully negotiated the piece of road where the crash occurred and while I doubt I will ever ride that road without thinking about the accident, I have now got it at least a little bit out of my system. It had to be done.

As for my future cycling plans, I just don’t know. I expect I will return to the routine I used to have but I do need the Doctors clearance first. I also think it will be a gradual thing.

It is a pity the club is in a racing halt at the moment as we pass from the winter to the summer season because although the accident was not race related, I feel I need to get used to riding in a race situation as soon as possible. I could race at another venue I guess but feel waiting for a Hamilton event at either Nundah or Lakeside would be the better option.

I expect to be given the all clear tomorrow by my Doctor including a return to full time work and I also expect I will only have a few more weeks of Physiotherapy to endure.

Next will then have a professional bike fit and measure up before I set about choosing my new bike. This will be fun.

I have experienced unbelievable support from cyclists – some who I know well, many who I know in passing and many more I have never met before via whose support has come via Road Grime.

All the support and best wishes have been much appreciated.

See you soon - on the bike.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


It has been a very, very long week.

And it is feeling even longer as I sit here typing away using only the fingers on my left hand.

But I am here typing so that is huge.

Last Wednesday morning I had an accident courtesy of a lady opening her car door into the bike lane on Grey Street on Brisbane Southbank.

Why didn't I give the car more room so that the opening of a car door would have still missed me. Well, there was the not insignificant issue of a second car beside me in the normal car lane.

Doing 35 kph or so at the front of a group of 5 in single file, I hit the point of her door with my left shoulder resulting in a wound down to the muscle.

The impact of the collision catapulted me against the front fender and wheel of the car to my right and in turn onto the road.

An ambulance ride later had me at the emergency department of the Royal Brisbane Hospital and over the coarse of the next 12 hours in Emergency I was x-rayed, stitched, poked, prodded and x-rayed some more.

Result - 4 ribs broken in 6 places, broken shoulder blade and broken vertebrae. I also managed a punctured lung, be it a minor puncture as far as punctures go.

Several days in Hospital followed and I assure you, being a guest of Queensland Health is an interesting experience of fluctuating emotions. But more on that another time.

The major initial concern was the break in the vertebrae. It was some 24 hours before it was officially confirmed as a stable break and I was allowed to move from being flat on my back. In fact, I still had my cycling shorts on all this time (less the bibs which had been cut off along with the jersey and base layer). I say officially because I had been cleared 12 hours before it was deemed official it is just the necessary piece if paper signed by the specialist could not be located.

Let me assure you, much morphine is needed when you are confined to being flat on your back for over 24 hours while also having a break in your shoulder blade. And with nothing to eat and only a wet piece of paper towel allowed to moisten the lips.

The next concern was the threat of infection of the collapsed lung. There was fluid on the lung and it had to be cleared before I could be considered for discharge. They were suggesting this would take 5 or so days.

Fortunately, the exercises for clearing the lungs were similar to those required post heart surgery and with a concentrated effort, I managed to clear the lungs inside 24 hours and was allowed to go.

It is tough and the constant pain from the shoulder (in particular) and the ribs is very wearing. Sleep is close to impossible.

I am lucky as it could have been much worse. I am not lucky in that the incident should never have happened and the chances of the door opening half a metre in front of me when a car was beside me must be very high indeed.

Also, I must mention Laser Helmets. This helmet is exceptional and proves yet again that we should never economise on our protective gear. What I think separates the Laser from the pack is the fit system which really means it is always properly on your head.

The bike looks like being a write off so I have the fun of selecting a new bike to look forward too.

One thing that has indeed been moving is the support and contact from the cycling community, be it the calls from the Hamilton Wheelers Club Secretary or SMS messages from people I hardly know.

For now, focus is on mending the bones and hoping as each day passes the pain eases a little. It is also to hope that I don't lose all my fitness before I can again climb aboard a bike and go cycling.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Time Trials? Guily

Driving back from Closeburn today, I found my mind wandering back to September 1982 and a game of hockey I played.

It was the State League Grand Final and my club Kew, was up against Yarra Valley for the title.

A game of hockey goes for 70 minutes and at the end of time, scores were level meaning extra time was called for to achieve a result.

After several periods of extra time for a combined game total of 105 minutes, scores were still level and a stroke off was required. (Hockey's version of a soccer's penalty shoot out)

After the mandatory best of five strokes it was 3 all and we moved to sudden death. The deadlock was finally broken at 17 to 16 and unfortunately we lost.

I am a midfield player and played all but about 7 minutes of the final. I also took 5 of the strokes, (successfully). This day represented what I have always considered my toughest physical sporting challenge.

However, today, I have matched if not exceeded this day in 1982.
Today was the Hamilton Pine Rivers Wheelers Time Trail Club Championships, and my first ever time trial. May as well have a go I thought. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Time Trials are tough. It is a test of a cyclist against the clock with lowest time winning.

Sure, you go as hard or as easy as you want. What you do on the road impacts no one else other than you. It is unlike any other cycling event.

I do not have any time trial equipment. I have no fancy aerodynamic wheels, bars, helmet or clothing. I just have me and my old bike.

I also had a plan.

The TT course is an out and back layout totalling 33.5 kilometres. It is conducted on dead, largely rough roads starting at Closeburn just outside Brisbane to the north.

My plan was to ride to the half way or turn around point keeping my cadence at around 95 but without spending all my matches while also being attentive to my heart rate (boring restrictions and all).

At the half way mark, I was to flick the bike computer to show average speed and then achieve incremental increases in the average speed on the way home.

And that is what I did (basically). Average speed at the turning point was 32.7 kph.

It had occurred to me on the way out there was more road going up than down i.e. in nett terms we gained elevation. We also were at times seemingly going into a head wind be it not a strong one. Therefore, the run home should make for more speed.

So things were looking good.

I progressively built my average speed up and reached a high of 35.2 kph with the last two uphill sections to go. And Bang - I suddenly just had about nothing left.

On the first of the last two rises I was out of the saddle very early and eventually dropped back to the 39 chain ring. In the saddle, out of the saddle, up a gear, down a gear, concentrate of pedal stroke, relax but it was still a struggle, suddenly.

A funny thing about average speed; it goes down way quicker than it goes up. Half way up the last rise the average was back to 33.0 kph and I flicked the computer on to distance to avoid the depression. (And then stupidly did not check the average speed until into my warm down).

My time was a few seconds over 1 hour 1 minute.

Happy? I guess. I managed third in my category however to put that in perspective, the second place getter finished in 56 minutes and some seconds so it was not at all close. (but he did have a full Time Trial rig plus helmet etc).

I also learnt a great deal.

Firstly, when training or simply out for ride, if it starts to hurt or get hard, you just back off a little. In a Time Trial you do not do this. You push through because it is a race and it hurts and keeps hurting but you feel compelled to keep pushing and keep hurting. I don't think I have ever been muscle sore straight after a race before. It felt like the next day usually feels when you go running and have done no running for ages. And it felt like this straight away and still does now.

But how do you train for this. I doubt if I have ever ridden as hard as I can for 60 minutes. Is this what needs to be done in training to prepare for time trials?

Secondly, when do you drink during a time trial? Is it on the downhill when you are going full bore in top gear, on the uphill when you are going flat to maintain reasonable momentum or on the flats when you are working at full tilt? I realised at the half way mark that I had not taken a single mouthful of liquid. I did get through most of my bottle by the end of the race but it was perhaps a case of too much, too late.

And what do you eat? I foolishly put a Gu in my pocket. Like I was going to be able to have this during the race. I also took along 6 or so glucose jelly beans and resorted to some of these on the second last rise a few kilometres from the end.

Finally, I also realised my pre race preparation was anything but ideal. I actually had some meat for dinner last night. It is not only an extremely rare event for me to have red meat, it is almost unheard of the night before a sporting event. Perhaps the three or four of glasses of red wine last night were also not ideal. And maybe a little thought could have gone into breakfast. The usual weetbix could probably have been either substituted or enhanced.

However, I am hooked. TT's are a great event and I certainly want to do more of them and want to improve.

Which bring me to another matter. Fundamentally, I just ride. It is time I put a little planning and structure around what I am doing with my cycling? I think so.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Competing Parties

There is a battle raging between three parties. I am one of the parties but wear two hats so does that actually make it four parties?

The parties are:

1. The Cardiologist

Who will not give me the ok to race a higher grade. He apparently thinks I tend to be competitive and does not trust me to keep generally to my heart rate restrictions in a race situation. He is ok for me to exceed the limits for 10 or 15 seconds at a time but not for any extended period. Not sure where he has gleaned the idea I am competitive from, even if it is true.

2. The Handicapper

This is the person who determines what grade a cyclist should be contesting. He is of the opinion that I should be racing higher than I am.

3. Me (the cyclist)

I agree with the handicapper and also think I should be racing a higher grade. I also agree with his reasons and rationale. I think I am certainly fit enough and strong enough to race a higher level and do not think I will overly blow by heart rate limits in doing so.

4. Me (the patient)

It doesn’t really matter what I think because ultimately, to ignore the expert advice of my treating cardiologist would be stupid and foolish.

The Dilemma

I managed to win a race on Saturday. It is the first race I have won in 5 or so months While I have been regularly racing, I have been doing so in such a way to pretty much ensure I finish fourth. I have been soft pedaling at the end of races to ensure I meet the requirements of both the handicapper and the cardiologist.

Because it had been some time since my last win and because the event was at the more challenging Lakeside Motor Racing circuit, I decided to work hard during Saturdays race and to then have a crack at a win.

During the race, I set the pace or did the work on the front for perhaps 50 to 60% of the time. I am happy to do this partly for the workout effect and partly because I tend to think the others appreciate it. However the field split quite early on.

I went on to win reasonably comfortably and was rather thrilled when a number of very experienced cyclists congratulated me on the ride and commented that I deserved to win. I was pretty happy with myself.

Looking back though, I am not quite sure about it all.

I am racing at a level below where I think I should be, so of course I should win.

But I am also doing most of the pace making so surely that is effectively a self imposed handicap?

During the race, I was aware of many others competitors breathing very heavily, struggling for oxygen. Up until the last 200 or so metres I was not even slightly out of breath.

I set the pace but in doing so, destroyed the field or half of it anyway.

So, I am racing at a level below my capabilities, winning the money and ruining the race for most others.

I am not sure this is something I can be in any way happy with or can allow to continue.

Everyone going around in the lower grades of club racing is doing so for fun.

All racers have the right to believe they have a even shot at winning or at least being ‘thereabouts’ towards the end of a race. It is not their fault my cardiologist refuses to ok me racing higher. However, for me, simply following wheels would not be much fun at all.

There are three simple solutions:

1. Ignore the recommendations of the cardiologist and go up a grade anyway
2. Attain a level of fitness such that I can prove to my cardiologist I can race higher and within his required heart rate restrictions
3. Stop criterion racing and concentrate on time trials and road races.

The handicapper is a survivor of open heart surgery himself and is very supportive of my situation. However, he has a responsibility to all cyclists to have properly balanced fields.

The cardiologist is the expert and knows what I should and should not be doing. He is also a cyclist and former racer and has an understanding of the different grades of racing. His recommendations are therefore fully informed.

I enjoy the racing and the people involved in cycling and want to continue. I cannot however to totally oblivious to their enjoyment or right to a fair go.

It is a catch 22.

Although here is another solution. If I stop training, lose fitness and put on weight, I can attain the fitness required to justify to all racing at the level I am currently competing at.

I suggest however this would have other negative implications.

Better go; I have a training session to make up for having missed this morning.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Is it all about the bike

It seems to come in waves.

There is a lull for a month or two and then whamo, I get a rush of grief about my bike.

When are you upgrading?
Why are you still riding that old thing?
I see your riding your training bike today........
And from the bike shop, there are not many of these still going around.

However, I admit I am giving it some serious thought.

I have always said that I see no reason to upgrade until I get the impression or feeling that my current equipment is restricting me in some way - or it wears out.

Perhaps it is doing a little of both.

I booked a service with the bike shop last week. I was aware it was some time since my last chain change and felt my cassette might also have fulfilled its life. I also had an increasingly annoying "thump, thump, thump" going downhill under brakes.

Initial Outcome - new chain, new cassette, front wheel re-build and news that rear wheel has about 1000 k's before it also needs a re-build (or about a month)

Plus, 2 days later, new 39 chain ring.

This lead to discussion about the relative cost/benefit of re-building the wheels versus replacing the wheels.

I was surprised to learn what performance benefits I could obtain by purchasing new wheels rather than re-building the ones I have. And for a not much greater cost too. So I decided to do both. Re-build my wheels and keep them as a spare set and buy a new set that will be suitable also when I eventually upgrade the frame.

The wheel discussion then followed a logical progression and we were discussing frames.

My problem is that I simply do not like the aesthetics of sloping geometry and to the extent that I am not interested in hearing about any of the benefits such geometry has (or has not) to offer.

And right now, there are very, very few bikes available out there that do not have sloping geometry.

Yes, Pinnarello is an option but I don't like the look of their forks.

So, in the meantime I will stick with the frame I have, upgrade the wheels and wait for the fashion trend to change - and keep my eyes open for viable traditional frames in the market. And I do like the work of the Melbourne based Baum factory and the Colnago Master X-Light has always had a certain appeal. Shimano, Campag or SRAM to go with the frame. Lets wait and see.

In the meantime, I will continue working on improving the legs and the power to weight equation.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Information - Help or Hinder

Anyone I have communicated with who is remotely involved in cycling, and many people who are not would have been informed with not very much humility of my Mt Coot-tha climb on Tuesday morning.

It was dark, it was cold and I confess to asking myself just what the hell I was doing there.

I did the alternative approach to the start line by going up through Bardon and past Sommerville College. Yes, the soft way. At the right hand turn onto the mountain road, I stopped to adjust my headlight - it was very, very dark - and waited a moment deciding whether I would continue or not. But being there, it seemed silly to go back and I reconciled the situation by deciding on one only accent.

Just as I reached the start line, another cyclist came up beside me and said hello calling me by name. I had no idea who it was in the dark and must have looked puzzled until he said his name, Stephen.

Stephen is a very strong cyclist and was straight out of the saddle doing a strength exercise riding a 54/18 and continued to do so until he was out of my site some about 5 minutes later.

On crossing the start line, I hit the timer and just settled into my rhythm, aware that in the dark I was unable to read my bike computer or heart rate monitor therefore having no idea of speed, cadence, time elapsed or heart rate.

Having nothing to distract me, I simply concentrating on my pedal stroke and breathing.

My perception was of doing a reasonable climb but due to the recent hamstring injury restricting my training, I had no expectations of a great climb. I was thinking something around the 12 minute mark.

Up I went, pedal stroke and breathing. I overtook a few people and was aware of being overtaken (once). I was also aware I was not breathing anywhere near as heavily as the others on the mountain so I pushed a little harder.

This is a regular climb and I have several land marks I aim for. There is a part of the mountain that kicks a few percent for 300 or so metres. I have a tree at this part of the climb after which I allow myself to get out of the saddle but only until the armcor barrier starts again. (I usually count 100 pedal strokes). I was a little surprised to get to it seemingly quickly and in no distress so I clicked it up 2 gears, got off my butt and started counting to 100. And at 75, clicked it up another gear.

I settled back in the seat after 100 down thrusts and regained rhythm until the last 100 metres where I went for the line. Hitting the timer as I crossed the line I was thinking a time in the high 11 minutes. Stopping to get a look at the timer in the bike headlight, I was shocked and surprised to see 10 minutes 49 seconds. By far my best time.

So what does this tell me?

Perhaps it tells me that riding on feel and concentrating on doing the genuinelly important things really well is the key priority. After all, what is more important than breathing and pedalling when cycling.

Perhaps it also tells me that having speed and cadence data available means I actually hold myself back at some level of perceived (but not actual) maximum effort.

I do ride to some heart rate rules determined by my cardiologist. I therefore expected my monitor download to reveal that I had exceeded my required limits. But no, if anything, they were on the low side when compared to other Mt Coot-tha climbs.

The questions I have are:
  • Can all the on board data we have available actually result in us applying some form of mental hand break on our performances?
  • Is how we analyse and use our data in planning training and assessing race performances more important than having the information on hand during the ride or race?
I think the answers are to combine both - somehow.

By the way, does anyone have a spare power meter?

For the record, I completed the loop and then headed up the short side to the Cafe - just to cool down.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

If you are a Goose - Stay on the farm

This morning’s race went well for all but 800 metres.

A good field with some strong riders worked well for the first 20 minutes.

A few attempts to break it up resulted in 6 of us getting clear and again, we worked well be it with a few attacks when heading down the straight into a very strong wind.

A good pace was maintained and it was looking like a bunch sprint to decide the places.

My sprinting ability is only marginally better than my ability to fly from Brisbane to London - without the aid of an aircraft so I decided to position myself at about 3rd wheel into the penultimate lap with a view to attacking just after the rise at the end of the straight as we went into the bell (last) lap.

It all worked perfectly. Off the turn I went for it; out of the saddle shifting up the gears before settling back on the drops and concentrating on the pedal stroke – full pressure – good circles.
I managed a gap of about 40 metres very quickly and a glance back suggested there was not much happening behind me. A glance at the speedo showed 51 kph and while I knew I could not maintain that speed, I thought I could keep it above 40 and there was a strong head wind to face when we hit the straight.

Coming to the third last corner, there was a lapped rider to the far right of the circuit (as he is meant to be) So I set myself to apex the corner and overtake him with plenty of space to spare.
Just to be sure and realising we would enter the corner together, I called to the rider to let him know I was coming.

So I come into the entry and set my exit line, speed has dropped off to 47 kph.

AND the other cyclist decides he will also apex the corner and came straight across in front of me. He was perhaps doing 25 kph sitting high in the saddle and hands on the cross bar. I am doing 47 kph down low on the drops pushing as hard as I can and hurting like hell.
My next move is to scream at him in the hope that he pulls out of his attempt to take the apex. No such luck – he keeps coming.

I grab 2 handfuls of brake and lock the bike up missing him by centimetres and ending up on the grass.

As I was providing the guy with a free character assessment using the full range of socially unacceptable adjectives, the other cyclists still in the race went past.

I don’t really care about not winning or placing in the race. Hell, the prize money isn’t that important when the credit card isn’t yet maxed out.

I do care about the lack of attention by the lapped rider and the lack of care for others safety.

Bike racing is dangerous. Incidents happen in racing. Fact of life. You cannot call yourself a cyclist until you have come off. But, when you get a goose racing like we had this morning, it is dangerous for all and in a situation when there is no need for danger.

Peeved yes – but cannot wait until the next race opportunity.

And yes, I gave him another mouthful on the warm down lap.


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Failed Relationship - Its not me - you have changed

An almost logical progression after taking up cycling a little over five years ago was the development of an interest in the Professional Cycling scene.

Like most Australian’s, I was aware of the Tour de France and a few local races. I also knew a few Australian’s had led the Tour on different occasions and the name Anderson was quite well known.

Most sports followers knew the names of Armstrong, Merckx, Le Monde and we knew Kathy Watt had done something pretty special at the Olympic Games.

As awareness in the pro scene grew, familiarity with the Race to the Sun, and the Spring Classics also developed and it was discovered there were three Grand Tours a year.

Some of the history of the sport came to light. Such things as the Hell of the North, Pantani’s great climbing feats and the tragedy of Tom Simpson were discovered with great enthusiasm.
Information about race tactics, equipment advances, training knowledge and nutrition advice was absorbed with an enthusiastic and unquenchable hunger.

Like many, the consistent source of information was

It was the first site many went to in the morning and the last site visited each evening.

The site provided race and team news, rider information, technical and equipment updates, product reviews and individual rider news, interviews and analysis.

Via new aspects of the sport came to light including cyclocross and MTB.
The website was easy to use and clearly laid out.

I will not be going there anymore.

Two weeks ago, the website was re-launched with a new design and new navigation. I am sure it still contains all the same information. But I don’t really know.

I immediately found it difficult to use but persevered for 2 weeks believing the problem was probably mine. I mean, these people are clever and run a successful website. It must be an improvement on the old site.

Well it is not. It has a complex appearance and it is “not straight forward” in its use and application.

I for one have moved on. I am thankful for the education has given me and the passion for the sport of cycling that it has contributed to me now having. However, like many relationships, it is now over and it is time to move on.

Thank you for all you have done. Who knows, we may well meet again.

Monday, 1 June 2009

On The Road

You all think you are just so clever. Well let me tell you, right now you are at the top of the school but next year you start at the bottom again and this is a cycle that repeats throughout life. Then after secondary school, it is university and then it is the workforce. You might think you are all very clever now but remember, it does not last for long.

The above is a close approximation of a lecture an angry teacher gave my final year primary class many, many years ago after we had developed the habit of being a little uncontrollable. And it is a lecture I have never forgotten, partly because it continually proves to be true and in many walks of life.

And as recently as Saturday, this wise teacher’s words came into my consciousness.

I have been racing consistently for about 8 months and gradually improving both fitness and race craft. I even thought (naively) I was doing ok and getting to understand a little about this business of bike racing. At least in low grade club events anyway.

However, my racing activities have been restricted to Criterions at Nundah, Lakeside and Murarrie.

On Saturday I completed my first road race out of Elimbah.

Criterions are conducted on nice smooth surfaces free of potholes where at worst, you only push into the wind for a relatively short distance each lap.

The roads we raced on at Elimbah were very rough, contained many pothole hazards including some big enough to break a wheel if you hit them and sections into the wind that went for kilometers not meters.

There were races conducted in two divisions and I was pleased to be allocated the second division race – and I expected to be too.

However I wasn’t really expecting the handicapper to call my name out along with 5 others to start from scratch.

I asked a few other competitors how a handicap road race worked. The best answer I received came from one of my fellow scratch who simply advised “When the starter says go, we go like hell for as long as we can and when we are spent we hang on for dear life and keep going like hell”. Sounds like fun I thought to myself.

The first group of racers left the start line a full 14 minutes before we did, with other groups leaving 11, 8, 6 and 4 minutes before we were waived away.

I was advised we would operate a pace line along the flats and gradual rises and falls and do “your best on the hills and if you get dropped on a hill go hard to get back on because we wont be waiting for you”.

And go like hell we did, on bar jarring pot holed roads into seemingly endless head winds on up hills that seemed like mountains and down hills that seemed so short.

After about 5 kilometers we lost one of our group and it took some 25 kilometers before we caught anyone at all. At about 30 kilometers we had reeled in everyone else and the race was on.

Having a sprint capacity roughly equal to a broken billy cart uphill and knowing my only hope for a win was to break away I stepped on the gas with around 3 kilometers to go and achieved a gap of about 200 meters.

Looking at my heart rate monitor, I decided to ignore a heart rate in a range that would not please my cardiologist.

A kilometer to go and I still had a lead but with pain in the legs and bursting lungs my strength was waning. The chasers caught me with about a hundred meters to go and I finished 5th with a comfortable lead over the next placed cyclist.

Totally spent, aching back and neck, and legs not keen to keep rotating I rolled to a halt before turning and heading back to the finish line where other competitors were gathering. The big thrill came from my scratch partners. These guys are experienced cyclist and experienced road racers. To receive their comments such as “well ridden”, “great ride” and “you made the race and would have deserved a win” was extremely satisfying.

Road racing is tough and very different to criterions. It is fast and furious and you are more reliant on each rider in your start group. You work in cooperation with the people you aim to defeat because to not do so ensures you have no chance of victory.

I knew nothing at the start and now know a tiny little bit about road racing. The words of my primary school teacher came to mind as a racked up my bike and drove home. Her wise words repeatedly are proven to be true as they were again on Saturday. But it is good to be at the bottom again and I look forward eagerly to the next chance to race on the road and rising from the bottom of the heap.

Now for a Time Trial

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Is it all about the bike (Part II)

Some time ago I wrote about the pressure I always seem to be under to upgrade my bike.

In the blog post, I referred to my basic satisfaction with the current unit and the fact that I do not perceive it was preventing me achieving any cycling goals, well at least not yet.

Right now, my inclination is to remove the previous entry and deny I ever had such thoughts.

And what about the sequence of events that has led me to this thought process.

Up as usual at 4.10 am. Breakfast etc and into the car. As is the habit, suit etc were packed the night before.

All too often it is a rush to get to the Roma Street meeting place by 5.15 am for a bunch ride but this morning I was on schedule to make it without a mad rush and maybe even with a minute to spare.

Enter the car park and park the car, get the bike out and discover a flat rear tyre.

A quick calculation is all I need to realise if I replace the tube the time it takes means I will miss the bunch start, so not wanting to ride the 40 or so k’s solo without a spare tube (because I would have used the one I had) it is straight to the shower and I am in the office at 5.40am, and very determined to now get away early enough to ride in the afternoon. (Believe me, I would much rather be riding at 5.40 am than following the New York stock market)

There are a few club members who ride most afternoons at about 5.00 pm to either Nudgee or Shorncliffe so sendan SMS to confirm the ride is on today and decide to link with them. So at 4.00 pm I rush home, grab the old (and much loved) steel bike and head to the Nudgee Circuit. And that is where the problem begins.

One of the cyclists arrives on his brand new Time – I think it is a VXRS UL Team Worldstar model and with Fulcrum Zeros, it looks sensational.

I have always admired Time bikes. I think they just drip style and class. And now, for no particularly logical reason I want one. Or if not a Time, a new bike of another brand or model.

With a bit of luck, I will get over this urge – like you get over a headache. It may just be a bout of temporary insanity. It may be having some spare purchasing capacity having just decided not to buy a new car.

Or it maybe that deep down, I really do want a new bike to enjoy and show off and I have been simply resorting to rational thoughts to convince myself I don’t need or want a new bike.

However, I have many friends who think getting up 4 or more mornings a week at 4.10 am defies any concept of rationality so maybe cycling addiction and rational thoughts are an oxymoron anyway.

To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the dilemma.

But that Time sure looks good.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Lakeside - anticipation, excitement, trepidation

Lakeside – Saturday 28 February 2008.

Emotions – anticipation, excitement, trepidation.


Anticipation and excitement.

Lakeside is the Hamilton Club’s home circuit however I have only raced their once before.

It has recently been upgraded and re-surfaced so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like.

Lakeside is also a very different circuit to Nundah it that it is twice the distance, has a much, much longer straight and ridden clockwise, is usually into the wind. There also 2 distinct hills to challenge the legs.

My other interest in Lakeside is linked to being a part time motor sport fan. Lakeside was for many years the premier Queensland venue for motor sport and a place where legends were born. It would be great to do well there.


I have had a fairly heavy exercise schedule this week involving harder than usual week day rides, and a particularly hard Friday ride. I also added some swimming sessions to my schedule so I was not sure how my legs would be under pressure.

Also, my one race at Lakeside in March 2007 was a rather inglorious affair in that I was blown out the back after about 15 minutes.

The Race

It was tough and the field worked pretty hard. As the race progressed, the rises became hills, the hills became climbs and the climbs became mountains. And the pace remained constant.

At about the 20 minute mark I was thinking I would see breakfast for the second time and talking to other riders after the event, others had the same feeling at about the same time.

I did manage to do ok and walked away with the win in a 3 up sprint.

I was absolutely spent – and absolutely delighted.

On Tuesday I have a full heart review including stress test with the Cardiologist. Hopefully I will be allowed to go up a grade next week.

Now for some training at Mt Coot-tha in the morning.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Sometimes, sometimes, it all comes together in a sporting performance.

It may be a game of football or hockey and the rest of the game seems to be in slow motion to you. Every move you make works and your ball handling or control is perfect.

All too often in cycling, be it training or racing we are either struggling for oxygen or struggling to clear the lactic acid from our legs. When our legs are great, the lungs struggle or visa versa, but when it all comes together and everything works as one, it is awesome.

I had such an experience this morning at the Nundah circuit in what was one of the most exciting rides of the last 4 years. An average heart rate of 121 over 62 minutes delivered 37 k’s.

It is often said the most important component of sports performance is mental preparation. I assume the difference between the professionals and us strugglers is the pros have the ability to put themselves in the frame of mind that allows them to replicate maximum performance levels day after day, session after session.

If only I knew how to put myself in the fame of mind to replicate this mornings ride.

Just as a birdie on the 18th hole will sustain me for many more rounds of golf, the ride the morning will keep me coming back looking for the thrill once more of legs and lungs coming together as one.

It was awesome.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Anonymous Heroes

OK, so South East Queensland is still in the grips of a severe drought and we all actually welcome the rain, any rain. However, how many of us morning cyclists can honestly say we were disappointed to wake this morning to find damp, but not wet roads, no rain and an encouraging, if not totally clear sky. I for one was secretly pleased the conditions were good for cycling, and in fact were ideal.

I was out on the well known Nudgee Beach ride.

Exiting the bike path on to Nudgee Road, I noticed another cyclist about 50 metres or so behind me on a TT or tri bike. My mental note to self was to keep riding my own cadence, speed and heart rate and forget about trying to prevent the catch (refer Ego post) and I'm pleased to say I maintained my discipline this time.

He caught me after a few minutes and I then tucked into his slipstream and had a fabulous tow to the beach. (40 kph, 100 cadence, 130 – 135 HR)

At the turn around, I thanked him for the tow and he invited me to tuck in again on the way back.

We got talking and instead of tucking in, he rode side by side.

He said he is a finance executive with a local “all finanz” organisation and we chatted about the financial crisis and the employment down turn. I asked him if he raced triathlons and he said he did. Talk came around to training and he revealed he is preparing for the Port Macquarie Iron Man.

This guy holds down a full time executive job and is married with a child.

He went onto outline his current weekly programme and it was nothing short of an extraordinary commitment.

His training for this weekend is something like this:

Saturday 200 k bike and 3 k swim
Sunday 100 k bike and 20 k run

He mentioned he normally is “just” a cyclist and loves racing and it turns out we belong to the same club. His forays into triathlons are infrequent.

What is amazing about this guy is the incredible commitment and passion he has for his sport. Other than simply doing it, there is no glory, no prize money, no photo or article in the paper or vision on TV. He just does it and loves it.

There are thousands of anonymous, but totally dedicated athletes out there, working extraordinarily hard to make the start line of extreme endurance events and I was privileged to meet one this morning.

Finally, the support provided by the partners and families of these people is also heroic and receives even less recognition than the athlete.
On behalf of all unknown athletes everywhere, thank you.

Friday, 6 February 2009


“And”, she said, “You are definitely not to race tomorrow”.

These were the defining words of Merdi, the Physiotherapist I had an appointment with this afternoon.

Why does a 50 year old, theoretically intelligent male, with a long sporting background and a history of injury management and recovery still let his ego get in the way of listening to his body?


I headed out on Tuesday afternoon for what was to be a reasonably low/medium intensity ride. I had about 30 k’s in mind and intended it to be a walk in the park. My determination for a light ride was such that I took the old steel bike, the one that is somewhat heavy and sports what 30 years ago was the latest 6 speed Shimano group set. But I do love riding it.

When I arrived at the Nundah circuit, there were a few other club members getting ready for a ride. The asked if I was coming to the beach and on receiving confirmation they were doing an easy ride before racing the following night, happily joined in.

One of the guys, Paul, mentioned he had been doing 100 plus k’s per day for he last 10 days and was feeling strong. He took the lead and proceeded to cane the rest of us for the next 20 k’s. It is interesting how the ego overrides the plan when a few guys ride together. There was no way any of us were going to be dropped.

When we finished, I headed home and went through some recovery exercises including some lunges. On lung 4, I felt a jabbing pain in my hip and naturally stopped.


I rode the next morning with no discomfort (River Ride) and really didn’t think much of it again.


On Wednesday morning I did a medium to hard intensity 60 k's and felt good. I then headed off to a group running session on Thursday night and bang. I went to kick a soccer ball some of the guys were mucking around with during the warm up and I felt the same hip pain.


I headed off on a 6 k run, did ok, had a drink and it was off to a series of 300 metre runs. At the start of the second run, seeking to accelerate, my hip went and I was on the ice.

According to the Physio, it is not too bad and is probably the tightness of muscles around the hip joint which she started to release. I can ride, but avoid hills and running is a no no. I also have a range of exercises to do.

Just as I said last time, I will know better next time.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

More than a race (part 2)

I won a bike race on the weekend, by over a minute.

It is a few days over 12 months since I was diagnosed with a severe heart issue and advised I would need open heart surgery to perform 4 bypasses around severe blockages in the arteries feeding my heart muscle – that is, I had to have quadruple bypass surgery.

I was not yet 50 years of age, although I was in my 50th year.

I was quite fit, by no means overweight and ate a reasonable diet. It was quite a shock.

I had passed out while cycling on election day in November 2007. I underwent heart tests and passed them all being cleared to resume normal life and the explanation given for passing out was (quite reasonably) dehydration. However when I passed out again while cycling 2 weeks later, it was obviously something more.

I then endured a few weeks of countless blood tests, x-rays, scans, etc and all came back clear. It was then back to the heart and a decision to perform an angiogram which revealed the problem.

I won’t go into the explanation as to why the previous heart tests had not revealed anything.

I spent quite some time in the cardiologist waiting rooms. I would look at all the other patients, over weight or elderly and think “why me? “and “what am I doing here?”

In order to have the surgeon I wanted and to go to the hospital I preferred, I had to wait 5 weeks. It was 5 weeks walking on egg shells but it also gave me time to learn more about the process I was to go through, the possible after effects and to understand post surgical processes and rehabilitation.

It also gave me time to make some decisions and set some objectives.

I borrowed some inspiration from Lance Armstrong and adopted his Livestrong theme for my journey. I also borrowed a phrase of his “You’ve gotta be strong and you’ve gotta to be brave” as my own and it was the last thing I recall saying to myself as the anesthetic was taking hold. “You’ve gotta be strong and you’ve gotta be brave.

I decided on a couple of things

I was going to do exactly what I was told and do it better than anyone else had ever done it.
I was going to play at least one game of hockey in the 2008 season
I was going to return to work after 6 weeks
I was going to ride my bike by week 4
I was going to relax.
I was going to race again in 2008

I cannot really judge number 1, but all others were achieved

The human body is a marvelous thing and its ability to heal and recover is extraordinary. The skills of our heart surgeons and their support staff are extraordinary and the professionals who care for heart patients in intensive care and then the heart wards are amazing are the post hospital rehabilitation staff.

I won a race on the weekend. I am simply very happy and thankful to be alive, let alone to be able to race my bike.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

More than a race

Very hot, very humid. So why not stay home and take it easy?

Because there is bike race at 8.15am and you need to sign on, warm up and race.


It’s fun, it’s satisfying, good people and provides an extra focus for training during the week.

It was a normal criterion meeting at the Nundah circuit in Northern suburban Brisbane, Australia.

All the club members who were not in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under and who had not stayed home to avoid the heat turned up and there were good fields for A, B, C, D and E grade events.

I signed on for D grade, did my warm up, worked hard during the race and left it to the sprinters to fight it out. All in all, a good day and a great work out that even left me with enough in the tank to do a rowing and weights session later in the day.

However, the real highlight for me was a conversation I had with an E grade competitor after the race.

He came 4th but explained (almost as an excuse) that he receives a handicap of a lap head start because he is a category 9 licence holder. Now I am 50 years old and \my licence is a 5. Now I am not sure how the licencing system works but was pretty sure this guy was not 90 years old.

So I asked how old he was and he is 70. This guy is overtly fit and healthy and a testament to a sport that accommodates his desire to compete. Fantastic indeed and a real inspiration.

We chatted for a while. He started racing in 1953 (you work out the age) but gave it away in the late 60’s and did not ride again until the 80’s. He returned to racing in 2000 and has done so ever since.

He told me he still have his original bike from 1953 and until 2000, had never ridded a bike with a derailer.

I mentioned I regretted not having discovered cycling at a much younger age and he said he regretted stopping when he did and was now making up for the lost decades.

While we were chatting 2 other riders came along and confirmed he was riding in the morning (Sunday). He then told me about their usual 60 kilometre Sunday ride.

As I said, truly inspirational and a pleasure to have a chat with.

Safe cycling.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Tale of Two Weeks Plus TDU

Week one was highlighted by finding excuses not to ride.

Sure, a work commitment was to blame one morning and that is almost acceptable however on 2 other occasions, I was reading non existent demons into the weather and did not venture out.

Week two, (this last week) was much better and as well as doing a 225 k’s (including 2 Coot-tha’s and 3 Gravatt’s), I added two running sessions to the usual non cycling activities of the rowing machine, weights and punching bag.

Friday was this week’s rest day as I had a dental commitment.

And it all paid off with a win in the D grade criterion on Saturday out of a field of 20 or so at Nundah Criterion Circuit. Winning margin was about a tyre and it was the same distance between 2nd and 3rd.

This coming week will be a challenge. It will be lonely as the vast majority of the bunch I normally ride with have packed up and headed to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under and to see the return of Lance to the pro peloton.

Adelaide is totally cycling crazy at the moment, every room, tent site, caravan is booked out for miles and apparently restaurant bookings are hard to come by. I know of some people who tried a month ago to make restaurant bookings in Adelaide for the coming week and could not get a seat.

Having Lance in Australia has been great for the sport and the promotion of the cancer cause.

Love him or doubt him, the guy has class and a seemingly inexhaustible energy. Most people having flown around the world would be totally spent by all his media and cancer commitments without having to train and then race a pro tour event.

A friend in Singapore sent me an SMS advising the Tour Down Under is on Eurosports in Singapore and the TV will be on in his office.

Lance = exposure = ratings = dollars for cycling and that cannot be a bad thing in the current climate where more teams are disappearing than being formed.

In the meantime, Lance has his first chance today in the pre race criterion to equal my number of wins for the year. And just as I will never win a pro race, I am willing to bet that Lance will never win a D grade criterion at Nundah, Brisbane, Australia.

Ride safe, train hard, have fun

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Good Week and a New Year

What a Week

Let’s start with New Years Eve.

Youngest son (16 yoa) had a NYE party to attend, needed to be collected at 1.30 am and I wanted to put in a few kilometers on the bike on New Years Day morning.

Solution, go to bed at 8.00pm, wake at 1.00am and collect him, go back to bed at 2.00am and wake again at 5.00am to hit the road. Easy, boring NYE but easy.

And, if I was going to do all that, I had better make the ride worthwhile.

Everything went according to plan and at about 5.30 I was driving into the CBD to commence a ride and I hit the roundabout at the base of Mt Coot-tha at about 6.00am.

I decided that time was on my side and I would do full circuits of the Mountain rather than just summits.

4 circuits anti clockwise and 2 clockwise latter I decided a river loop would be a good idea and I kicked off the year by putting 85 kilometers under my belt. However, I have to admit the last 15 were pretty ordinary.

It has been a 300 plus k week for me and included my first Cleveland, Wynnum/Manly adventure in 18 months (yesterday) and my first ever visit to the Mt Gravatt hill. (today) I also included a rest day last Monday (work induced) so all in all, I am pretty happy and feeling good.

I am aiming to be a little more disciplined in with my riding too, particularly when riding solo as I know I can somewhat lazy.

For example, on Tuesday I did a ride starting with a 25 minute warm up on the Nundah criterion circuit. I followed this with 2 rides byes to Nudgee Beach.

To keep my mind focused, I decided to ride a cadence of over 90 but less than 100 with an aim of keeping it at 90 or just above and a heart rate of 140 to 150 with an aim of sticking as close to 145 as possible. My idea was to simply adjust my gears to fit the parameters.

It was a great 90 minute workout; I really worked at an intense level without totally over doing it and rode a range of gearings due to a strong wind. However, I really have no idea if this type of training is actually of any use, however it provide me with some focus and kept my mind on the job.

I also managed to fit in 3 sessions on the rowing machine, 3 weight sessions (core exercises only) and 3 work outs with the punching bag. Add that to 300 plus kilometers on the bike including 5 Coot-tha’s and 3 Gravatt’s and I am pretty happy with what is easily my biggest week in over 18 months

In particular, I feel I am starting to get some sort of proper fitness back.

The motto for 2009 is ride with a purpose, even if that purpose is to catch up with friends and enjoy the coffee shop conversation afterwards.

I must now give some proper thoughts to goals for 2009.

Enjoy the coming week and do it safely.