Monday, 23 May 2011

Classicas do Sotavento

The weekend was a tough one. Our aim, rather unusually was to make the races as hard as possible. But the fact that these were the first races with hot weather made them hard all by themselves. Our kamikaze attacks just made it even harder.

The first race was a circuit race in Tavira, which I took very easy. The course was extremely dangerous. The "calçada" or cobbles were lifted in places after a big storm a couple of days before, so I just went round and round, then when the time came to reel in the break away I did just that. I split the bunch into pieces and that was that. It was good not to break equipment, or break myself! We actually finished second, so that wasn't too bad.

The second race is a Classic called "Restaurante Alpendre". This did not go well for me. I did my job, but the race was a mess. It was stopped mid way round due to the break away going the wrong way. When I finished my role in this race I eased of the gas. At this point the peloton was full of cramp, although I was ok. No one was prepared for the 30ºC weather we got. I had belly ache due to having to ingest huge quantities of fluids. After this something strange happened, I usually guide myself well in a race and know  where I am in relation to the rest of the race. There are many tricks for this and simply using a watch and some visual cues you can figure out all you need to know. I eased of at 3:00hrs into the race and expected there to be about 30k's to the finish. Expect I never saw the landmark I was looking for, nor the 20k's to go sign till much, much later. And I wasn't going slowly, but at a fast cruise. So, baffled by this and rather annoyed I gave up, figuring that I got lost on the badly marked course. This race was won by Enrique Salgueiro, an amateur who was going very well.

The next day I felt much better. for some reason I like racing on consecutive days and feel much better a couple of days into a race. Again my job was straight forward: Make the race as hard as possible. And that is what I did. I attacked and controlled and attacked a bit more. I got in one excellent move with a great young rider from the amateur Liberty Seguros team but unbelievably we got stopped at a level crossing! Next I got in another move with a lot of the Loulé team, and then I got in another move with a team mate and two amateur which killed the team chasing. I really had to grit my teeth to stay in the bunch and felt like I was going to vomit. But I go through most of the hills and made all the selections bar the last one... This last one I attacked, a team mate dropping back said I should stop. It is arguable whether I should have, but I did. At this point there was a series of attacks and I could only hang on to the second group. This race was also won by Salgueiro.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"Classicas do Sotavento" this weekend.

I had a weekend off last weekend, the team was racing a series of circuit races just north of Lisbon. They are an excellent series of races, but just not my cup of tea, hence I had my first race out. Unfortunately nothing was won, but in the second race in Alenquer Samuel Caldeira came third. Barbot-Epafel won the first two, 1st with Raul Alarcon, then Sergio Ribeiro. The final race was won by Bruno Lima of Onda Boavista. It seems Barbot were absolutely stelar.

This weekend I'm racing though and I hope to spoil their party. The races are a circuit race in Tavira, which is exceptionally dangerous, then a Portuguese cup race in Vila Nova de Cacela, and finally just a short classic race in Tavira on Sunday. More info here

These weeks I have been training hard and have been quite stressed, so I'm just going to use this weekend to unwind and hopefully put in a good performance, hopefully on Saturday,

Find the detailed information on this weekend's races here. The second two are a bit in the middle of no where, but are tough and have some interesting climbs, although for Classica do Alpendre I recommend catching the final sprint in Cacela velha. Incidentally Restaurante o Alpendre is excellent. The circuit on Friday is mental... it's very dangerous, but kind of amusing. I will not race it if it's rainy; that would defiantly lead to some sort of injury. They have special spectator zones with big screens, but the main square near the finish will be the best place to catch, right near all the cafés too.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Baby Hedgehog

I found this little guy on the road outside my house, I duly picked him up and put him a safe distance from the road. I can safely vouch that there is nothing cuter than a baby hedgehog:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

On events yesterday and what goes on in the head of a cyclist.

I have had my share of bad luck and crashes.

I too nearly followed a fate like that of Wouter Weylandt, but I have no recollection of it. I just remember the first two corners of the race up the first hill of the day, then blank... The next recollection I have is waking up in funchal hospital with a doctor asking me irritating questions and saying "Tens um Glasgow de 13, está tudo bom" -you have a Glasgow of 13, everything is good. I'm still not really sure what a Glasgow is, but apparently 13 is good. I was even catheterized, received five blood transfusions and evacuated by helicopter... But again all I remember is that black void so deep as to completely dispel any fanciful notions I may have had of a heaven or hell.

Two weeks later I was on my bike. I was so weak because I lost 8kg in hospital. I was completely clueless, perhaps I shouldn't have been riding? I knew nothing of nothing and felt, what I believed it must feel like when a baby leaves the dark for the light. I remember that everything from that October seemed brilliant and beautiful -everything! Everything was full of magical beauty; from the gentle tingling warmth of the sunlight, the ravines on the island and the winding roads, the warm atlantic lapping the coast bellow. I even felt beauty in the pain. The worst that life can throw at you, is better than the endless nothingness of the void.

I've chosen not to recall that month too much because of cowardice. It's very hard to stare your fears and complexes straight in the eye. The whole thing just scares the shit out of me, even six years later.

It's an experience I hold precious and has given me another perspective on life. Ironically it is a perspective I had began to loose in the past two years: Wouter Weylandt brought it back.

Sieze the moment and enjoy everything that life throws at you. Do your best with every minute you have and be thankful for this time. Do not get caught up in petty conundrums and upset about bullshit. Survive and be strong. Enjoy every minute of the journey and the chalenges you face.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Giro, Stage 3- Wouter Weylandt.

I didn't watch today's stage and have nothing to say about it apart from the shock that it was to read about Wouter Weylandts death.

I am aware of the real risks this gladiatorial sport possesses. But I always get shocked by such events. I hope that his girl friend and their baby that is on the way are cared for. I also hope that the cause of the accident is established so to try and avoid a repeat.

Friday, 6 May 2011

VO2max test - results in and Classica Amarate this Sunday, Equipier do mês.

The VO2max test:

Firstly, as a "bonker"* I have to lay out my excuses. I've been under huge stress these past few weeks, I've been frustrated that I and my team are here scratching a living on the edge of professional cycling, when we merit a whole lot more. Anyway, I did enough to get some values for training.

The test went well. I didn't see how much power I produced but noted the my threshold must somewhere around 172. I did 445w last time this time I think I did 470w, that said I didn't see the results yet. This isn't a standard test and last two to three times as long as a normal VO2max test... Lets call it a "Ve" test as it's designed to find ventilatory threshold and power.

Classica Amarante:

Pic 1. Amarante

Amarante is a beautiful town on a tributary of the river Douro in the north of Portugal. But they like their races dangerous! The finishing straight is a narrow cobbled street, that is normally closed to traffic. It has  like step about 1k from the line that requires bunny hopping at 60kph +.

But the route is interesting. There are a lot of hills and the race has a fantastic feel to it. Hard but not killer hard, just fun for racing.

Pic 2. Enjoying the job at the Classica Amarante 2010

Last year André Cardoso came second. So this year I am hopping we can go one better!

I'm "Equipier do Mês" again. I've extended my lead to 6 points. It's an honour to lead this classification. I  think that it should spread into the broader cycling world. It acknowledges the work of the domestiques, work that is more valuable to a team that a 10th place finish**.

I found a dead Mongoose on the road. I was saddened by his death, they have cute little hands, nearly human like. I hate cars.

Pic. 3. The Mongoose


*"Empeno" meaning buckle or bonk is used as a term for a cyclist who, despite their best efforts is mediocre. Such a cyclist is always looking out for themselves so will sprint for 12th, or attack the gruppeto. Such a cyclist buys all the crap, no matter how implausible the gains may be, things like: balance bracelets, silly diets, ever lighter components. The bonker hopes in vain that these will make up for weak genetics. Join my "Grupo dos Empenos" on Facebook. The only way not to be a "Bonker" is to cross the finish line in first (win) in your respective category.

**Next week I'll talk about the UCI rankings and why they are destructive to cycling. I will propose a better system.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Two years on: Cycling and the Credit Crunch 2011

Over two years ago I wrote a piece and the impact of the liquidity crisis on cycle. Here is the follow up.

It's not the credit crunch that's killing the sport.

I said, two years ago, that the "credit crunch" would be good for cycling, my reasoning being that it is a very cheap and effective form of marketing. This seems only to have applied to the top tier. The top tier is very much a closed doors situation; there are at least another 800-1000 riders in the world that merit decent pay and professional conditions.

If we observe recent events surrounding Geox/TMC and the "Pegasus" Australian cycling project, we can see that merit and pure competition has no place in the top tier. Soon after the Pegasus project flopped came GreenEdge. A project with all the cunhas*...

If there is money, let there be more teams. Of course only 20 or so teams can take part in the snore fest that is the Tour de France, but if there is a lack of big events, make more big event instead of ridiculing project like the Tour of America. The sport as a whole would grow. Look at motor sport FAI control WRC, F1, Touring Cars, etc...  All valuable franchises.

I adressed the "World Tour" above. Now my little team: We do battle with the best and we earn the equivalent of a house cleaner or gardener. Is it fair? No, it's a bitch. As I said two years ago "Cycling mirrors society" what we are seing is the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It has got nearly imposible to cycle professionally here.

We need people who love cycling but are not cyclist or athletes to help run the sport.

*Cunhas is a Portuguese word meaning "in-laws" and is used as an expression when someone gains position through someone they know.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

VO2 max test on Monday

On Monday we have a VO2max test. I've done loads of tests over the years and the improvements are small. The tests we do are not proper VO2max tests. It is not VO2max that we are looking to find, they last about twice as long as a standard test as the increments in power increase are much smaller than the standard test. I did a couple of "standard" VO2max tests in 2006 and scored 530w and 91.8 ml/min/kg.

VO2max is kind of a useless measurement: A bit like the cilinder capacity in a combustion engine; what really matters is the power of the engine, not it's size, hence we look for the power of the "aerobic"engine.

Races are usually won in supra-maximal efforts (4-5km climbs, sprints, short TT's) generally efforts that fall into this range are efforts up to 12 minutes. This accounts for most cycling races.

I am not sure of the exact physiology, but quick people (people with oxidative type II fibres) have amazing stamina and speed combined. This because they "recover" energy from lactic acid in the cori cycle in the muscles and liver.

You are what you are. A test is merely a method of determining training intensities.