Chris Kendall’s Race report from this weekend’s Festival of Cycling in Christchurch
Its not about the result. Sometimes its about setting a plan and sticking to it regardless of the situation that unfolds in front of you. But when the ship looks like its sinking its hard to stay put with confidence while others around you are diving into deep water in an effort get to the shore before everyone else.
I’m a pretty good swimmer, I’ll always get to the shore if I decide to jump in, I just need to get the timing right so that I have the best opportunity to get there before those that jump early. Its about timing, patience and looking after yourself as best as you can. Its something I’ve been trying to work on recently.
Its required me to hit the reset button as part of my training and racing. I’ve done the form finder loops, clocked up some hard miles, worked on my strength and speed, now I’m working on my mental game. Speed and strength are easy, mental well that’s a different story.
I’ve raced my mountain bike for nearly ten years and the mental challenges for that are pretty simple. Push yourself as hard as you can for about 2 hours and leave everything you have on the trail. It gets more complicated than that when the heats on and there are lots of riders around you, but its always about pushing as hard as you can to ensure you’ve used every ounce of strength and energy to get your best possible result. This crosses over well to the road in ITT’s (a mountain bike race is essentially the same as two 40k ITT’s back to back) but doesn’t really help you in the chess on wheels that is a road race.
I’m learning my limits on the road, and have been frustrated recently with some results that haven’t reflected my current form. This has been as a consequence of my enthusiasm more than anything else, I’ve just wanted to show how well I’m riding by riding as hard as I can. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work.
The Festival of Cycling in Christchurch on the weekend was a course that I thought would suit me, and I was hoping for a good result. It’s a shortish (76km) course with a flat first fifty kilometres and a rolling last thirty. More than anything I knew I would have to use my head to do well on this course. It was a great test for my ability to follow a plan.
The plan was simple, stay out of trouble, stay off the front as much as possible and stick with everyone once we hit the hills.. Easy.
It was a fast start, rolling around the base of Banks Peninsula at around 50km/hr. Unfortunately this was a little too fast for some resulting in a big pile up after approximately 5km. Memories of my only Tour of Southland came flooding back all to quickly as bodies and bikes hit the road bouncing into the path of those that had nowhere to go. I have no idea how many came down (it looked like half the field, but wasn’t), but I was lucky enough to have lost position corners earlier and managed to narrowly miss the crash through some very evasive action.
The race didn’t stop, which meant that those of us behind the crash had to motor to get back on. This was particularly difficult given there were attacks happening non-stop on the front which kept the peloton speed high. I pulled a couple of times to help out but was conscious of how fast we were travelling (50+) and didn’t want to drag everyone else back on the before blowing a foo foo valve and riding the rest of the day on my own. Thankfully there were some small rollers which slowed the peloton down enough that we could almost make contact, before finally getting there as we crossed Colombo Street. Tucked in behind Hayden Roulston as we passed Princess Margret Hospital the pace started to lift again as more attacks tried to establish a winning break. However nothing stuck and we ended up hitting Gebbies pass in a large bunch.
From here it was everyman for himself as a group of 7 (I think – I was cross-eyed when they went for it) established the winning break. For the rest of us it was about getting to the finish to scrap for the remaining top ten places that were on offer.
I managed to hang in there to be in the second group on the road at the top of the last climb up Evans Pass. I’d followed my plan and was still feeling pretty good, despite the presence of some cramp creeping in. With 7 flat kilometres counting down very quickly the attacks were many, with the pace high all the way to the finish. I followed two moves but realized it was a little too much for me to handle all the way to the finish. With 1.3k to go there was one acceleration to many and at 55kph a gap opened that I couldn’t close, It felt like a parachute opening. I did get a second (it might have been the eighth actually) burst of energy out of the hair pin corner with 1.1 k to go but quickly faded into the head wind wind trailing the bunch by about 20 seconds across the line.
I would have loved to have been in for a chance with the sprint but I threw my dice with 7k to go. I’m happy with that. I’d done everything I had said I would do and was stoked to have been there when the fireworks began (admittedly this was 2 minutes behind the leading riders on the road but one of them has at least a couple of shinny medals).
So its not always about the result (31st overall, 14th open men: for those of you it does matter to), sometimes its about executing a plan to give yourself the best possible chance of a result.
I know that I’m riding strong at the moment. I just need to know the schedule of the boat for next time or maybe which way the tides going so I can decide about swimming….