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Capital Punishment - Elite

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By Antsonline - Posted on 16 March 2014

Re: This ride meeting: 
Capital Punishment 2014
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What a great day.
I thought I'd use this blog entry to explain a bit more of the 'unseen' stuff that goes on up at the front end, to help people not racing up there quite how stressful it is, and also what a fine line it is.
I hear a lot of 'he nearly beat you / he was close' etc. Let me try to explain (within the context of this race) what it actually means to 'be in contention'...

The first issue is the startline. You'll understand later why its important, but even as I am warming up, I am thinking "I must have front row of the grid here". Now - it helps that I have some form, and as a result, I can show up late and just put myself on the line in front of others. Look left - Elite riders, look to my right - Elite riders. Real 'Elite' elite. Cooper, Lewis, English, Hughes, Hall, Cressy, Downing. Just row behind and we have a bunch of road pros. Riders who currently race at the highest level on the road, for teams like Budget Forklift, Search to Retain, and GPM. With them are other elite category riders.
The gun goes and we move off fairly fast. Everyone has fresh legs for the first 5km. This is where it gets stressful and you literally have to fight for your position. As we hit the first bit of single track, the roadie pros have gotten in between a few of us. It seems like nothing. It isn't. Its hugely problematic. We swear, curse and ultimately push them off track. The result? A 20m gap as we hit the next bit of fireroad. THe leaders look over their shoulder, see a few of us detached, and drive even harder. It takes another 3 km to close 20 meters. Yes - you read that correctly. A few of us chased - flat stick - for 3km, because of one person on one section of Singletrack drops the wheel in front.
So - that startline seeding - its essential.

What then happens is much of the same - a group of about 15 of us forms, and (my mistake each time) I find little gaps are allowed to open by the riders in front of me. I need to get more aggressive about the entry and order into the Singletrack. Its a key lesson for me - because I was burning matches very early to close gaps opened by others. YOu cant give guys like Dylan, Shaun - whoever - even 5meters.

As we leave Kowan and go under the road underpass (maybe 10km in? Perhaps less), the guy on the front of our bunch crashes on the horse grate thing.
His bike blocks the track. I scream at him to "move his 'insert descriptive' bike". ONe guy with me says "Jeez - calm down".
He doesn't get it.
For the next 3km, I am driving at full-bore, maximum gas, to get back onto the group of Elite elite riders. Closing a 30sec gap on them through their own local singletrack, at their race pace. Guess what? Old mate "Calm down" - he didn't make it. No-one did.
I am the last guy to make the front group.
The race has formed. I am relieved to have made it, but also aware that I have spent some serious biscuits getting back in touch. Breath. Recover. Smooth. Drink. Breath.

We ride around like a snake together through Sparrow Hill. Various attacks go off the front, but are brought back.
At the first bit of fire-road we get to, I look back. Nothing. Noone.
If you don't make that initial selection, you can forget about it. You aren't getting back on. Your race can be over in the first 5km.
3rd row of the grid anyone?

The first section of the race feels like it is being ridden at XCO pace. Certainly the fastest ST I have ever ridden in a marathon.

The neutral zone is where things get interesting and confusing. Its well known that the Canberran riders for alliances and make plans in advance of the race to maximise the advantage they have. All I know is that I have my fiancé waiting for me at the start of the neutral zone with bottles and some food.
I have no idea what to do. As we descend down the fireroad in the neutral, the Canberrans go off course, in a totally different direction. What do I do?
Well - nothing. I look at Jason English (who was just behind me over the timing mat) and we shrug. I get some bottles, an energy bar and a kiss and roll off. Alone.
Collecting Jason, and Matty Fleming, we roll on together. No idea what is going on in front of us. Its hugely important to get a good group together for the 2nd section. So much fire-road and bike path mean that you MUST roll fast as a bunch to stand any chance of winning.
The marshal helped us "yep - a group of 4 came through about 15mins ago".
They had obviously planned for a minimal stop, and just pin it straight away.
As my merry band waited at the timing mat to start, we were picking up other riders - who were excited by the chance of getting a free tow from the Elite guys. Dylan Cooper and Andy Hall joined us. That was a great thing. We had a strong group now - myself, Dylan, Andy, Jason E, and also Matty Fleming. On top of that, about 10 other riders were waiting with us. Jenny Fay, Dan MacDonald, Minter Barnard, loads of others.
We roll over the mat, and SMACK the race is back on.
After the first climb, our group of 15-20 is now 5. Dylan, Andy, Jason, myself and just hanging on for his life is Minter. Good on him! I was willing Minter on, hoping he would make it to Stromlo with us.
As we rolled over those horrendous lumps at the back of Arboretum, poor old Minter felt the pace, and he lost touch.
I knew we were riding fast. In fact, I was certain that the lead bunch (who had gone ahead of us by 15minutes) weren't going to have ridden as fast as this. I was hurting. Hard.
We all were though. Swapping turns, grabbing a drink.
Stromlo is coming. We all know that Coops is a monster on Stromlo. He is a world class rider, and this is his home track.
True to form, Dyl just ratchets up the pace, and we are strung out. Jason battles valiantly to hold on, but soon - like Andy and myself, he is beaten by Coopers pace.

Once you are on your own, its just a timetrial. You know that it will come down to seconds. Certainly less than minutes.
Its at this point that you regret those extra efforts in the first 5-10km. They cost you at some point, and for me - its now. I'm just shut-down to the pain or any noise, and concentrating purely on technique. Every corner, every 'a-line' up the mountain - I make them 'clean' - and despite the fatigue, this bouys me. I know I'm still travelling well.
Push push up the hill.

Hit the top, DO NOT relax. A full committed descent was essential. If you have worked your butt off to save 20secs on corners going up, you cant just relax and flow down. I pinned it. I'm not the fastest down that mountain, so I need to concentrate hard. Gap jump, through the berms, use the whole corner. I hit the crit-track and just open up throttle. Maximum wattage, full aero-tuck, for the entire crit track loop. You have to push.
And then you cross the line. No fan-fare, no position. Nothing. For ages.

I go over and talk to the other guys "wow - that felt fast hey?!"
Who knows. I crossed the line in 9th. That means nothing though.

Shower, drink, load the bike, have a chat, eat some food. Finally - the results are available.
Turns out our group was the faster. Despite not crossing the line first, Dylan has won. My 9th has become a 7th.
What is most incredible though, is that other than Dylans ridiculous time, there are only 2.5mins that cover the first 8 places.
All of those 2.5minutes are 'blind' as no-one knew how close it was. We all just pinned it.
It shows quite how close everyone is. How important it is to be in the right bunch, and not use un-needed energy at the beginning. You just cant afford it.
And that's where it is tactical, stressful, and so so important to get the first 15km correct. Make that 'selection', then be calm.

Well done to all of the Nobmobbers out there - JP, Tris, Wayno, Warthog (Minter - great ride) and all the others. It was lovely having a beer with them at the end, in the sun, talking it through.

What a great way to start the season and the Maverick series.

Lach's picture

... great result and great write up. Sounds like you are in top form this year.

That "neutral" zone is a bit of a wild card eh?

Hasbeen Racing's picture

Top ride and write up Ants. As I said in my little summary, I was blown away by the speed of the elites in the singletrack. Smashing kit btw.

Brian's picture

Great race Anthony. I was out riding and checking the online results at every opportunity.

jp's picture

If only there was a way to capture that drama and action on film, it would make an amazing film. My heart rate went up just reading it.

Great ride Anthony, thanks for sharing.

Fatboy's picture

Yes great insight mate, felt I was riding along with you.

There must only be a decimal point of difference between you and those front 3 that enables them to just get ahead near the end of the big events. I think all of us who know you and follow you on nobmob & twitter are hoping you find that infinitesimal thing that gets you the top step. First week in May - home track?

ps's picture

Great ride Ant. Agree that you need to get more aggressive with the order into the singletrack. I reckon it happens all the way back to about 100th place. No point in being polite about it if they can't hold wheels.

Those 2602 guys seem to do a few deals. Didn't they stitch you up at the Convict last year by letting Shaun get a headstart on the hill?

Antsonline's picture

@Fatboy, that's a lovely thing to say.
It is small things that make a difference. I'll be honest though - the racing thing, even when I was actually good (over a decade ago now) has always been about enjoyment, and being the best I can be - rather than the pure winning.
I'd rather come 5th in a massive burn-up, than win a dull race in a sprint.

That being said, I reckon my best is probably enough.

The start of May - in St.Albans - is always a burn-up. I'll be there. With one thing in mind.

@PS - nah, its not so much of a 2602 vs the rest really. We joke about it, but on the whole, we all get along, and all race with full stink, as well as being friends off the track (most of us). There is a lot of good natured sledging and banter, and between myself, Garry, Kyle and Jayden - we give at least as good as we get, and also make sure that we 'rep' for NSW!
Shaun is a very good rider, and has been for a long time. He wouldn't need much of a headstart.
I'm happy to be racing with these guys. Like you all - there are private battles - with yourself as much as others - that you enjoy winning or are happy to lose, if it gives you the chance to come back again and have another crack!

@JP - lets hook up a camera for the Kowalski - that would be a good one to film. Action from the get-go!

Tristania's picture

Well done on a fantastic result, particularly in Stromlo. In a way, finishing with that type of descent is harder as there isn't much you can do to gain time on it the way we can uphill, particularly when it's the home turf of many of your competitors.
Hopefully these skills are broadened in the next couple of months, we are all looking forward to seeing what you can do at St Albans... and whatever events lie in between.

Warthog's picture

Ants you hit the nail on the head - I tried to stick with the group but obviously you guys were just too strong. That said, I pushed myself hard and my time is for the better. You really need to think and concentrate throughout the race - there is no letting up other than during transition. As you say, early positioning is very important and I got caught out a bit riding on my own for a few km just to be picked up by a group later on. Generally I think people tend to burn too much energy trying to stay "ahead" of a group of riders when they are inevitably going to catch up with you, rather burn the energy trying to stay with the group (if you actually have the energy to burn that is).

Antsonline's picture

my theory is this: In training, everyone works to use as much energy as possible.
You use either a power meter, a heart rate monitor, or your in built effort gauge.

If I set a session of 3x10mins, everyone would go out to hit as high an effort level for those intervals as possible.
Which is great.

The issue is that in a race scenario, you must do precisely the opposite. You must use as little effort as you can. Literally every moment you can avoid pedalling, you should.
In training you give it everything, in racing you try to give it as little as possible - for maximum speed.
So - you don't actually train yourself to go fast for low effort. in effect, you train yourself to go slow for a high effort.
Anyway - ramblings.

You rode really well. I was convinced that you would make it, and frankly, it was probably only one or two more big efforts, and you would have been there until Stromlo.
Next time....

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