Another race that I have marked on the calendar as a must do. It helps that it falls close to my birthday and hence, I get a leave pass. Actually, I’m lucky that I have a wonderful wife (and son) who frequently allow me to entertain my delusions of grandeur.
Story book weather greeted us on Saturday with minimal breeze and cool temperatures. A good turn out across all grades allowed for close hard racing. The Grindelwald challenge is run over 4 laps of a 15km circuit then a final run up a testing (ie insane) gradient to the finish. I completed this race last year, enjoyed it, and had to do it again. I also wanted to test out my new ride, a BMC race master SLX 01. (A full review of the bike will come later).
The crowds are fantastic for this event lining the KOM crest and spread right around the circuit. We even managed a devil and pitchfork this year. My praise to the northern Tasmanian cycling fraternity which certainly turn out and support the racing better than anywhere else in Tasmania.
As has been the case for the last 6 weeks, the race started with the typical fireworks. Roaring along the undulating river road doing quick turns and avoiding curbs, pot holes and cyclists always keeps the senses on edge. I had the feeling with a few young guys in the bunch that the first rip up the hill would be quick. It was, and halfway up protestations were voiced to wind it back a notch or risk splitting into smaller less useful groups for the next 70kms. This enabled a reduction in heart rate and a slightly more comfortable crest of the climb. I checked the Garmin post race and discovered that most of the climb was covered at 180bpm heart rate. (I decided to move the heart rate to the 2nd page to avoid over analysing this during the race – it helped a lot).
The 2nd and 3rd laps were a repeat of the 1st although the climbing pace wound back a little and I found myself getting more and more comfortable. I even started entertaining thoughts of being able to hang on up the last climb and have a crack! During the last lap on the flats, we caught Div 4 and were caught simultaneously by Div 2. Think huge messy dangerous bunch careering along a narrow lumpy road. The benefit was that I no longer had to roll through and do a turn as the guys from Div 2 kept the pace high. I thought it was going swimmingly until I felt the horrible twinge in my right quad. Pre-cramp!
Of course this changes everything. The ensuing climb was going to be a test of keeping the legs working hard enough to stay on, but not cramp. A tricky tight rope to navigate. As it turns out, it couldn’t be done. My chest and heart for once felt damn fantastic, but each firm pedal stroke to stay on caused a ripple of muscle spasm in each leg. I wound back into a tempo to keep the legs from cramping whilst trying not to let the group get too much space. Over the top of the climb the distance was too great and I knew I was racing for pride only.
My only concern from this point forward was getting up the final climb and not completely seizing up. It meant staying in the saddle and grinding with calves and hamstrings to avoid ripping into my quads and turning them to stone. Not a great sight for your wife, son and father in law to watch as they cheer you on up the last hill. Thankfully the legs behaved and I was even able to muster a sprint to pass another unwitting droppee. I had fallen victim to not drinking early enough due to the frantic nature of the race and payed dearly. More lessons learned, certainly more to come.
Unfortunately our grade wasn’t able to climb onto the podium as the backmarkers stormed through to pip 2nd grade flyer Jake McMahon. Again it was Ben Mather who snuck passed Nathan Haas over the line to win the cash. Jake finished a credible third. Cobra9 rider James Watson managed to hang in and finish high up in the overall although he later mentioned suffering cramps as well. As the war stories tumbled out, it transpired that a large number of riders had suffered cramping over the last few laps. It’s nice to now it was tough for everyone.
Time for a break from racing and let the body recover a little. I’m feeling tired from the early morning training sessions in the cold and dark. Back to some social rides with my buddies and sleep ins (6:30am rather then 5:30am) for a week or two. I’ll get back to the training in time to ready myself for my favourite race later this year, The Launceston to New Norfolk Beast!
In the mean time there is loads more Cobra9 casting, fabricating and development to come. This year is a huge for Cobra9 and more time than ever is being spent working with cyclists, trade reps and our team. I am loving every minute of it!