Thursday, March 22, 2007

07 NZ Track nationals

I was pretty keen to do the NZ track champs when I heard that they were going to be held in the new covered velodrome in Invercargill, but totally dismissed the idea after Kay's job came to an end in December. I knew it was an extravagance we couldn't afford.

Rachel rang the weekend before the track champs started and asked if I would be interested in driving the van loaded with bikes and two young'ns down to Invercargill. Simon had wrecked his back and couldn't drive down the van! Simon was particularly gutted as he had some good form. As I would be spending 4 days driving the bikes and riders down there and back, the club would subsidise my accommodation while there. I initially dismissed the idea as my brownie point collection was not looking good. In the end my long suffering wife told me to go, as I could at least visit my Aunt who had been having treatment for her cancer at Invercargill, and I could stay with my brother on the way there and back, who also had not been well.

That next week was a pretty damn hectic. I had to prep my TT bike for the event I had actually been training for (Saturdays TT in Masterton), as well as build up my track bike into something competitive by borrowing fruity parts from most of the trackies in Wellington. Trackies are great like that. Bars, wheels, chains.... not much of my original bike remained. I also had to load up the van kindly lent to us by Marty McDonald to ferry the gear down. Bikes, wheels rollers and other inanimate objects were jammed into the back along with Nick and Troy who managed to keep me fully entertained for the 2500kms we did in the van. They unmercifully ribbed each other constantly about the size of each others legs and their inability to own up when the air turned foul. I have to admit to being worried on the way back when Nick started for the first time to eat non-processed food, eg Apples.... Nick's diet up until then had consisted solely of Coke and Subway.

The research I had done before heading south had unearthed nothing about the kinds of times I expected would be competitive in my 3km pursuit. There were no results to be found on the Cycling Southland Website. We tend to forget we probably have the best cycling club website in NZ thanks to Jonno.

I didn't race until the Friday, so I had time to try some bigger gears. We arrived at about 4pm (having left Christchurch at 7.30 am) and got on the track at 8pm on the Monday night! I started by going up 2.5 inches in my gearing and I was still spinning pretty damn fast on a 3/4 length effort. After ringing up Aaron for advice, I went up another inch in another effort a few days later.
I was now looking at splits of 18 seconds flat per 250 metre lap. This was my best case scenario. If I blew, I thought I could come under 3.46, bearing in mind my fastest time in Wellington was 4.06 . Yep, it was a fast track. At the last minute Mike Byrne offered me his Teschner with Mavic and Zen wheels on it... possibly one of the fruitiest bikes there, but I decided against it. It had taken me a week to build up my bike, and I was happy with my aero position on it. I had Aarons old rear Ghibli so that was pretty cool. Luckily I did a few laps in the morning with my contact lenses in, as they dried up with the heat of the enclosed velodrome. There was an emergency trip by Mark back to the Motel to get my specs which meant not using the visor on my new lid.

The guy who I thought would win my event was Ray Dunstan. He wins the TT in our age group every year at the Road nats... (every year except this year). Just my luck. I didn't go down to Palmerston South, but Mike Sim did, and got Rays scalp. Ray rode the pursuit just before me. I sat in the hotseat and watched him shorten the Masters 2 record by 24 seconds! His time was sharp. 3.39. It was a PB for him by 3 seconds and would have given him a silver at the world masters in Manchester last year. Ray has a duel going with NZ's current top women's pursuiter, Alison Shanks. We think he is now in front of Ali by a few hundreths!

I knew I would have to be firing to beat Ray. My splits were for a 3.41, but I would see what happened. After telling Troy and Nick that the three rules of pursuiting are....
1. Dont start too hard, 2. Dont start too hard, and 3. Dont start too hard.... I started too hard....

Not that hard, but 17's when I was supposed to be doing 18 flat. As you would expect, as I tired my times drifted up.... I wasn't dying but it was getting harder.... I was starting to think about looking for the lap board so I could see how many I had to hang on for...... BUMMER! Only one lap to go... I dug it in and was in hi 17s again... too late, it was already over. Time flies when you are having fun.... or not...
3.44.01. In the end I came 2nd and pushed Murray Steele into 3rd spot. Apparently Murray got silver in the teams pursuit at the Commonwealth Games in 82'? Anyway. My mum was watching, and apparently the guys doing the commentary were getting pretty excited as the unknown from Wellington was mowing down the local guy (Mike Lormans). I nearly caught him on the line. As vets, we didn't do heats, and he didn't medal in the end. 9 seconds seemed to be the difference if you caught someone over the 12 laps.
Jville Cycles satanic mechanic Mark Humphries did a great job of yelling my splits. Its damn hard to hear with the noise of the crowd and the wind blasting around your ears.

Going back thru my pursuit calculator, I come out with an average of 18.3 second laps, an average speed of 48.21 kmh. (Sarah Ulmers WR is about 52 kmh). It looks safe to me!

Some of the guys down there are gnarly looking old buggers. I think its the climate. They look like they are 10 years older than they really are. We are lucky we have such a mild climate here in Wellington.... shame about the wind tho! If the drome down there wasn't covered we would have been lucky to get 1 days racing in. We had rain and hail and artic winds during in the week.

We had a great time and Shane Riches and Sepp Hiribar both tore the legs off the opposition in heats and finals, once again, against guys that had represented NZ at the very highest level..... Shanes heat was scary, he just dropped them by so much. Maybe too much? They certainly would have had an eye on him for the final! He was racing some seriously fast guys that had muscles on their muscles. Shanes cooking had to be experienced to be believed. Lasagne with home made pasta! Yummmmmm.

I expressed concern to Sepp that the guy he was racing had a sprint bronze from the Commonwealth Games and would have tactics we could only dream about. Sepp told me to relax. Sprinting is an intuitive thing. Not something to worry about.
A gold and an NZ record in the Master 2 515m scratch proved him right!
Paulas efforts in the AWD were amazing too, especially since she had food poisoning the day before she raced!

Thanks to all the guys that lent us bits and supported us. There was a petition going around to get the event back to Invercargill for next year. If it was anywhere else this year most of it would have been rained out.

Cheers Jeff
More photos here

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

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Monday, March 19, 2007

NZ mountainbike champs series final

The NZ mountainbike champ series/circus came to Wellington the other day.
The green-belt based Course in Mount Victoria was used in the 1997 World Cup circuit when MTBing was at its heady heights, and had the distinction of being called the best urban-based course ever made. One of the organisers, Arthur Klapp, went on to spear-head organisation of the 2006 World MTB champs that were held in Rotorua with great success.

I coach a couple of young athletes for Mountainbiking, and one of them was in with a chance of the overall series title. In New Zealand you have the national series - best 4 races from 6 starts (a massive undertaking), and the National Champs, a one-off race.

Jordan Blake had won the first round of the nats at Coronet peak, but had had some dramas with poor gear selection, and breakages in other rounds, meaning his next best 2 results were 4ths. With a different kid winning the race in each town (always the local rider) Jord had a chance to get some good points in the final on his local track.

Series leader (Tauranga's Ash Hough) only had to finish in the top three and the series was his ! It was pretty tense and Jord attacked like there was no tomorrow. He started so hard I was worried he was going to blow, but he did it well.

Poor Ash Hough got taken out within seconds of the start as the riders jockeyed for position on the lap they did of the Haitaitai Velodrome. Ash and another couple of guys went down real hard.

They seemed to take ages getting going again and Ash fought his way back and had a gusty race to finish 4th..... 1 place off winning the national under 19 cross country championships.

The title was Jordans! A 16 year old racing in the under 19 class. The other riders I coach had pretty good rides too, but Kane wasnt happy with his performance and straight away started training for the national secondary school MTB champs to be held in mid April. Kathryn enjoyed the brutally steep Mt Vic climbs and rode parts even the elite women were walking. I raced in the masters 2 class but was well and truly beaten into 4th place by original Karapoti Classic event organiser Simon Kennett, National series winner Trevor Woodward and another local, Ant Bradshaw. Santa Cruz Rep and NZ selector Mike Stylianou finished 5th, and 2nd overall in the masters 2 series. Series Results.
"Stylie" coaches some real good up and coming young athletes including Nelsonian Gordon Bennett.

Stylie was NZ Coach for the team that went to the Oceania MTB champs in Thredbo Australia a few weeks later. It wasnt the spectacle that the NZ Oceania champs were in Rotorua last year, and the weather turned bad for under 19 guys, but they got a taste of the level expected if they are to go head to head with the Aussies. Australias geographic size seems to be the biggest limiter in getting big fields of participants to these events. The standard is always very high though. Jordan came away with 6th place, and 2nd kiwi to Connor McFarlane whose technical riding skills were head and shoulders above the rest.
Read Jordans report here.
Professional photos here.