Time to go climbing

PDCC North Dandalup Handicap
6 July 2013 North Dandalup

This race I described as a 5km climb, 20 kms of undulations to Dwellingup, turn round, 20 km of undulations back, followed by 5km of fast descending. I am not a climber, not that I can not climb, I just do not climb all that often. To be precise I have only done a two climbs of over 200m elevation. The first one being this race last year. So while I was not looking forward to 5km of climbing from the start, I was not worried by the prospect.

As it was a handicap, I was rewarded for my lack of results so far this season and placed in the 18 minutes of scratch with my weaker D grade colleagues. The better performed D graders were 6 minutes back, with a few C graders. With the bulk of C grade a further 2 minutes back.

In my group was Arthur and Frank. Arthur I raced with here last year, though we started together and almost finished together last year, we climb very differently and did not spend that much time in each others company. I was happy to have Frank in the group as he was one of the grades best performers at the recent Dwellingup handicap which I missed due to illness.

Shortly after we started, I rolled to the front to set what I thought was a good steady pace, that I was happy climbing at. There was always a shadow over my shoulder, so I kept riding at that tempo, thinking I was dragging the group uphill. After ten minutes, I swung off to get a breather, only to find it was Frank on my wheel and everybody else was back down the hill. I worked with Frank to crest the climb, then the first undulation on the climb out of the second undulation, I dropped my chain. I told Frank to go on, not knowing how long it would take to fix, just then Arthur and another rider came by and joined up with Frank. Took me all of 20 seconds to get my chain back on and I was chasing the 3. Don’t push it to hard up the climb, you will get back on the descent I thought. Until I crested the climb and got hit in the face with a 30kph headwind.

Even though I am probably the most powerful than any of the 3 riders in front, I could not catch them into the headwind, they were taking turns to keep in from getting caught by pursuing riders.

My original plan B was to jump on the C grader bunch as the came past and stick with them. I know I can hang on the back of a C grade bunch on the flat, so hopefully I could do the same here. Mark and Cassia came past, I jumped on their wheel, I held on with out any issues, up a mild gradient, down a dip, but up the other side. It was obvious how they made up the 6 minutes in 20kms, far superior power to weight ratio, I was left trailing.

Turned around and started heading back, passing riders who started ahead of me and getting past by a pair of riders who started behind me. At this stage I was happy riding at my own tempo and was not tempted to grab a wheel, particularly as it was up hill.

Riding through a section of roadworks, which had gravel on the road, I was riding in the right wheel track, I heard keep left. Assumed it was a certain D grader on the front of a small group shouting at me and swung left, to let them past. Instead, I almost took out the front of the scratch group, whose lead rider had shouted on your left. A few heated words followed. The whole incident reinforced to me you should never shout left or right at the rider you are passing but inside or outside.

Tagged onto the back of the B grade bunch as they passed, but that lasted less than a kilometre, passed a few riders, got passed by a few riders, joined up with a C grader and was swapping turns, until on the final climb I managed to drop my chain again. This time it was frustrating slow to put it back on, I lost over a minute, as riders I past earlier, passed me.

Bombed down the hill, but did not manage to catch anybody unlike last year, but then nobody caught me. Ended up with cramp in my left calf, about 400m from home, exactly the same place and leg as last year and rolled over the line a little disappointed.

I was even more disappointed when I saw my times compared to last year, I was 3 minutes slower than last year and even the initial climb was slower than last year. Then I looked at the power figures, the initial climb was one of my best 15 minute average power, matching what I was pushing in January when racing crits at peak fitness. The one hour average power was also on of my best. Not bad for somebody who has not been able to train for nearly 10 weeks.

And the chain catcher, I was suppose to fit to my race bike, a few months ago, is now fitted.

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