SPRING HIGHS, A LOW, AND MORE HIGHS (INCLUDING INVISIBLE HELMETS)

9 Nov

It is way too long since my last blog, but having started a new job I have been a bit preoccupied. However spring has sprung and with it a renewed enjoyment of being outdoors on the bike, the excitement of Glenvale starting up again, an unfortunate incident involving an armed robbery, and last night a great night for cycling and in particular the Club at the Cycling Australia Awards.

Although work has meant that cycling has dropped off a little, I have still enjoyed some great spring training in the Dandenongs and the hills around Mt Eliza with Grace. I am savouring every pedal stroke I have with Grace at the moment as she is no longer dependent on me to get her places given she can drive herself now, and next year she is likely to be at Uni interstate. So these training rides with her a pretty special. It is amazing who you see around the Dandenongs – so many Carnegie riders enjoying the beauty and the hills of that area – even if you are not going well, you cannot fail to enjoy being in such magnificent country.

The winter motor pacing for seniors at the Packer Park Velodrome has been extended a few weeks due to the ongoing unavailability of Sandown on Tuesdays – it has proved to be a great success with participants and we are looking at seeing if we can run summer sessions as well. The new velodrome lights have finally had their teething problems sorted out and are proving to be a great addition to our training as the juniors on Mondays and Wednesdays are now able to get outside through the winter – only coming in for wind trainer sessions when it rains or is particularly windy or bleak.

Sandown being unavailable until late November is frustrating however it has had a silver lining in that we have run Tuesday night crits at Casey Fields. While it is not as convenient to many members as Sandown, it has given members who live out that way an opportunity to compete midweek close to home.

Of course the low point in the last month was the robbery at Glenvale where a low-life stole our days takings. We are just thankful that no-one was hurt in the incident. The police are all over it so hopefully the prick will be caught shortly.

This week however has had a couple of highs.

The first is personal – I had the opportunity to catch up with Renato Noris the Italian mechanic/guide/soigneur who assisted Dave Olle and Emma Coulson in running the Giro trip I did earlier in the year. Renato is one of life’s gems – eternally good humoured, mischievous sense of humour, and all round good guy. He was in Australia for a few weeks for the first time and had a few days in Melbourne. We caught up at a BBQ at Dave and Emma’s place then he rode down and joined the North Road bunch ride where I met up with him and Steve Towers, had breakfast and then did a cruisy bike path ride to show him St Kilda, Port Melbourne, and the City. I love riding along Beach Road with visitors from interstate or overseas – they are always blown away by the number of cyclists and the size of bunches out training. Renato couldn’t believe so many people get out of bed so early to train – he thinks we are all mad!

Then someone at work forwarded me this video – the Invisible Bike Helmet – it is worth three minutes of your time – it will blow your mind!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMAhptqk-4Q

The other highlight was last night’s Cycling Australia Awards where Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club took out the Club Premiership for the sixth time in 13 years. As usual there were several CCCC members nominated and winning awards. The organisers did a great job in presenting the night and the “Oppy” winner, Caroline Buchanan, was a very popular choice being the first BMX/MTB rider to take the top award, and only the third woman.

We had a great table mostly consisting of CCCC riders and officials, although I foolishly found myself introducing myself to Harry Hanley who was there with Lisa (who was up for an award) – I didn’t recognise them dressed so beautifully (not that I’m saying the purple lycra I am used to seeing them in is not beautiful in its own way as well….!). One of the really nice things about the evening was the number of officials and representatives from other clubs – both local and interstate – who sought me out to congratulate the Club on the win.

Anyway I hope we win again next year – I’ve already thought of a much better speech than the one I did last night……

Image

“Sir” Michael Gallagher (World and Olympic Paracycling Champion and Australian Male Paracyclist of the Year), Lisa Hanley (Australian Road Race, TT, and Criterium Champion), Me (champion in my own lunchtime), Shane Perkins (multiple world track champion and Japanese Keirin star), Mick Cummings (dad of a World Champion), Carol Cooke (World champion Paracyclist and Female Paracyclist of the Year), and Doug Moody (CCCC Life Member)

Its a weird time to be a cyclist….

30 Sep

It is a weird time to be a cyclist.

Between seasons for Aussie domestic riders. Winter road racing is over at club level, but the crit and track seasons are yet to commence, and even when they do, there are still plenty of road “Opens” to choose from.

The Club has been very active in winter with lots of new activities. Senior Track Motorpace training has commenced again at Packer Park velodrome – the first time for many years that seniors have been active at the track, – I love seeing the juniors train there, but it is great to see seniors using this great facility which has been made even better by the addition of lights.

The end of the winter season also heralded a new spirit of co-operation between some of the “Southern Combine” clubs, with Carnegie and Blackburn sharing the responsibilities of running regional championships. This co-operation is all about strengthening the already strong winter calendar that CCCC puts on for its members and other riders from other clubs, as well as an attempt to reinvigorate track racing at club level over the coming summer.

Lats night was absolutely thrilling watching the world championships. A gruelling 270km ride in terrible wet conditions that claimed many riders, including most of the Australian team in crashes. However the last two or three laps were some of the most exciting racing we have seen all year. And it was great to see a rider like CCCC’s Simon Clarke thrust into an unexpected role and watch him rise to the occasion. If he thought his cycling life would change after snaring a stage and the polka dot jersey in last year’s Vuelta – his performance at the Worlds takes him up another level again. I’m looking forward to seeing him  given leadership roles in the Spring Classics and maybe some smaller stage races next year.

In these in-between times I have taken the opportunity to beef up my training, which had lapsed woefully after my trip to the Giro in May. A few trips to the Dandenongs, and getting back to the club’s KFC ride on Sundays has been exhausting but also enervating. I’m starting to get that feeling I had after Italy – a flat ride is a boring ride. Which is a shame since I live 30km from some small bumps beyond Frankston, and 40km from some slightly larger bumps in the Dandenongs.

Given that it is school holidays I have delighted in inflicting my presence on my daughter who has been making the most of her last school holidays before VCE to get some work into the legs before her exams. I’ll miss this time with her next year when she heads off to Uni, so I am enjoying it now.

We went to the last KFC ride of the season on Sunday. While we missed Frank’s stern control of the pace (and therefore it was a little faster than the supposed “recovery” pace), everyone finished the ride. Three of us were riding with our offspring and it is a rare parental pleasure to share your favourite sport with your kids and spend that amount of time with them when they seem like real human beings and not the alien teenagers we often see at home.

Coming back there was a stark reminder of the need to ride within your limits so you have your wits about you when things go wrong. We had passed a group of parked motorbikes at Mordialloc, – they were obviously there for some event, and weren’t doing anybody nay harm. They passed us a few minutes later – about 30 motorbikes, most of the riders dressed in their sunday best – suits and dresses, – only a few on leathers, so we worked out it was probably a wedding.  I had just done a turn at the front and was burying myself in the backside of the last rider trying to recover when someone at the front shouted and I looked up to see the heart-stopping sight of figure sprawled in the middle of the road.

Our group pulled up to a halt and found a motorbike rider and a cyclist on the ground. While the obvious question was – why did a motorbike feel the need to be in the inside lane on a two-lane road with no cars around – it did seem to be just one of those unfortunate events as it turned out that the cyclist had turned to look back for his wife who had dropped behind, and probably moved out as he did so, – probably at the same time the motorbike was pulling back into the lane after passing our large group.

I was a bit apprehensive as I got to the scene – not just because you are terrified of what damage might have been done to those involved, but I could see how the post-crash interaction between a group of cyclists and a group of bikies might get quite heated. As it turned out, both groups’ attention was turned to assisting those involved, – and while the cyclists tended to the male cyclist and the bikies tended to the female motorbike rider (who fortunately was one of the few in leathers), members of both groups came across to the other to check how they were doing. The scene was orderly, focused on the right things, and respectful of all involved. Fortunately it didn’t seem like there would be permanent damage to either rider, although I think the motorbike will be costly to repair.

The ambulance came, and we all rode off in small groups, just a little slower and certainly more attentive to other road users. It has been a bad couple of months for cyclists being on the wrong end of motor vehicles, with two club members being hit recently, – one lucky, without too much damage, the other also lucky – to be alive – having had 22 operations and with many months of hospitalisation ahead of him, but remarkably no spinal or head injuries.

So, as we get excited about the warmer weather and the crit season kicking off next week, keep your wits about you and stay safe.

 

A long time between thinks….and much ado about something

9 Sep

So it has been too long between posts. I have committed the cardinal sin of blogging: – infrequency.

The fact is there has been quite a bit going on around the Club which has occupied a lot of time. 

The Committee has achieved a lot recently. We have prepared a 3-year strategic plan which reaffirms our aspirations to be the best racing and development Club in Australia, aims to bolster winter racing in particular, increase membership, have a stronger focus on women’s racing and development, and development beyond the junior ranks where we are undoubtedly one of the best Clubs in Australia, be more engaged with our membership, and ensure we continue to provide what our members want. The new strategic plan will be posted on the website shortly.

We have also formalised and documented many policies and have redrafted our constitution to bring it up to modern standards.

A lot of work has been done in relation to our Packer Park track facilities with new lights, a renegotiated user agreement with council, and plans for further infield developments in coming years. Packer Park has gone from not being used at all by the Club in winter to now being used 3 nights a week – soon to be four – and now includes a senior motorpacing session – we hope to get more senior opportunities happening over summer.

We are currently working on this year’s budget and will have that available for the AGM in late October/early November.

We are currently working with Blackburn Cycling Club to operate a formal combine next winter to share the load and provide even more open-road racing for members, and have a very exciting track league proposition being developed with Blackburn and Warragul Cycling Clubs over summer.

I have also been busier than expected with winter racing. Once again we have managed to put on a compete winter programme incorporating 7 Modella races, 2 Phillip Island Opens, and a number of Casey Fields races.

All of the above has been positive and (mostly) enjoyable. The less enjoyable bits have been having to enforce some basic safety rules in road races (which in truth hasn’t taken much as our riders are in the main sensible and care about their personal safety), and getting involved in running the winter duty roster for the last couple of races. Having just finished the winter season we are reflecting on what we can do better, how we can make it run smoother, etc.

So here is this months rant….. 

Winter racing is surprisingly arduous in terms of organisation. Race days are long – officials have to leave home somewhere around 10.30 and don’t get home until after 6pm. Set up starts at 11.30 and pack-up doesn’t finish until 5pm. There is between 40 and 50km of road to patrol, set up signs on, and drive around taking everything down at the end.

But it is the 24 volunteers we need just to comply with our permit regulations and ensure a safe race that is the really hard part. Just chasing members to do (on average) one duty every couple of years is still unfathomably difficult. It sounds easy, – look up the membership list, pick 24 names on a rolling basis, send out emails, post a list.

In reality it involves doing all of that but also answering phone enquiries from rostered riders (who expect you to solve their personal commitment conflicts despite the fact we make it clear each year it is their responsibility to do so), send reminder emails, send last minute emails to get extra volunteers for those who dropped out etc.

Here are the common excuses:

  • I haven’t raced much this year, – or worse, – I don’t do road races (but were happy to turn up to thirty crits in summer)
  • I have kids sport to attend to (but you can race every other weekend?),
  • my wife is away and I have to look after the kids (it really is amazing how many wives travel on weekends when their husband has to do roster duty)
  • I have a family birthday (wow – that was a surprise, – its terribly inconvenient when a family member springs a birthday on you unexpectedly, pity they don’t keep the same date every year)
  • I didn’t get the email  (and didn’t see the notices at Glenvale and Sandown at the end of the crit season allowing you to choose your date, and didn’t see the notices on the website, or get the twitter message). Also  we get the: “sorry I didn’t check my emails until last night” excuse
  • I don’t have a drivers licence – (then how do you get to races normally?)
  • I have another race on (which could have been avoided by specifying the date you would do your duty)
  • I’ll only do follow car duty because I don’t want to stand on a corner – it is cold and boring (yes it is, but you know what,  there are radios, iPods, etc. that you can have on to pass the time, and we encourage you to bring a friend.

Over the period of  two years members have about 150 races they can participate in and yet some still find excuses not to turn up for their biennial duty (or worse still just don’t turn up without letting us know leaving us exposed to having to call off a race because we can’t meet our permit requirements).

Fortunately the majority of members are good about it and do turn up with a smile on their faces and are eager to help. But when we need 24 volunteers to run winter road races in a safe and legal manner (to meet some quite tight permit requirements), it only needs a couple to drop out to expose the whole race to last minute cancellation. On average for every Modella, about 5 members do not do their allotted duty and 2 or 3 of those won’t even tell us they are not turning up (On Saturday I took two calls from no-shows as I drove to the race – which doesn’t give us much time to reorganise).

For those members: do you ever stop to notice that it is largely the same faces that are there week-in week-out to take your registration, hand you your numbers, remind you of the rules which you’ve heard a thousand times (but still manage to forget each week), hand you your prizes, write up the reports, put up the calendar notices, etc etc. 

Guys – we sort of have a choice here – run a duty roster or put up the fees $5-$10 so we can hire SES to man all the corners.

Here endeth this month’s rant…..

But to finish this blog on a positive, Saturday’s Regional and Club Championships went exceptionally well – you can read the report which details the races and talks about the complexities of running four races in one and having to award prizes and medals across multiple categories, plus an interClub aggregate competition.  http://www.carnegiecycling.com.au/2013/09/08/great-racing-at-regional-and-club-road-race-championships-at-modella/

I really enjoyed working with the Blackburn guys who came along to lend a hand, enjoyed spending some time with John Nicholson in the car as we drove around the course looking at the 9 bunches that were out there. John made some observations that we can use to improve proceedings, and that is the benefit of working with others, and I look forward to working with both Blackburn and Warragul over the summer on the summer track league.

 

One aspect of the President’s role I really like is talking to other Clubs, their Presidents, and committee members. In truth there has been so much going on internally that it is only recently I have been able to do more of this, but it is where I need to spend more of my time.

So as winter passes into spring we can look forward to another action packed summer season of 40 club criteriums (involving over 200 individual races), women’s racing, some crits at a different venue, summer track racing, and we even have thoughts of a couple of Spring ‘Cross races. Stay tuned……

Only 321 sleeps……

24 Jul

Thank heavens that’s over!

I am of course talking about Le Tour De France. Like most bike tragics I have a love-hate relationship with the race.  Absolutely love it – spend 11 months waiting for it, and soak up all the pre-race news and wait doggedly for the SBS 10.00pm coverage to start.

Actually, I wait impatiently for the 9.00pm live stream to start on the SBS Tour Tracker.  And somewhere around 1.30-2.00am I collapse into bed, waking up in time to have breakfast in front of the 7.30am recap to either relive the best bits I can remember or to catch those moments that I missed because I dozed off.

The hate part of the relationship with Le Tour is in regard largely to the cumulative 3 week sleep deficit, jealousy at not actually being in France like half the Melbourne cycling fraternity seems to be, the frustration at boring stages and conservative riding, the inexplicable failure of key riders and – this year – not knowing whether to marvel at the rider’s hard work and athleticism, or marvel at their hard work, athleticism, and pharmaceutical/medical support.

But mostly it is the sleep deprivation. This year I only fell asleep in front of the TV once and fortunately woke up in time to press record before falling back to sleep again.

Then there is the guilt. In today’s busy world, – who has time to sit in front of a TV for 20 hours a week for three weeks?

What could I do with that time (except of course sleep).  Like most years I resolved to do a range of things while sitting in front of the TV – ignoring the fact that my biological makeup (i.e. male) precludes me from doing two things at once.  Here are a list of things I tried to do in order to assuage the guilt this year:

  • Get on a windtrainer – yep, did this twice out of 21 stages. Why not the other 19 stages? – see the next item
  • by the time 10.00pm has come around I would much rather open a bottle of shiraz and work my way through a nice piece of d’Affinois or Roquefort – it doesn’t solve the guilt issue, but by the time they finally cross the finish line, I have become a mellow fellow and don’t really care
  • do the filing – hmmm – maybe I did that on two stages – the trouble is that the filing cabinets are in the study and the large screen TV is in the family room.
  • Catch up on emails – did this several times but as soon as I came across anything requiring concentration – it got left in the inbox with the other 1353 items I will get around to “one day”.
  • Fix things (at least things that can done in front of the TV and don’t require power tools – these annoy others in the household who are trying to sleep ). A number of times I made the pretence of getting the necessary items and tools together to do this but somehow I always needed something that required going out to the back shed – a most uninviting propositionnon a cold winter’s night especially when I have to go down an unlit and dog-pooh strewn path
  • Do some work on the computer – it is amazing how interesting even the flattest stage becomes when faced with having to think about work late at night.
  • Plan (i.e. dream of) my next overseas cycling trip – that occupied about 15 of the 21 stages and was far and away my most creative endeavour.

So it was with some relief that the Tour finished – I didn’t stay up for the later finish on the Champs Elysee but watched it at 7.30am that morning – it was truly spectacular , – and as one observer noted – closing the entire Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, having flyovers of the French airforce, and a sound and light show on the Arc – is way more than anything offered to any head of state visiting France.

 The victor was his quirky but polite self (and also took home the tie-dyed jersey….for the most ungainly cycling style in the peloton), his rivals in the peloton lauded his achievements, Team Sky released a collective sigh of relief at a job well done (again), various riders retired on the high of finishing the worlds toughest sporting endeavour, and the cycling world is left to ponder whether we are about to see another half-decade or so of one-team dominance as occurred with ONCE and Postal.

The good news though is that it is only 321 sleeps until the next Tour starts….

“I’ve got that new-bike feeling” ……..(and a First-World problem)

2 Jul

A few weeks ago I was driving down to the Bellarine Peninsular when I was overcome by tiredness and decided to pull off into a servo to park and have a powernap. I was so tired I was seriously concerned about falling asleep at the wheel before I came to a rest so I hurried to the back of the lot where there was covered parking area. Next thing I knew there was an awful crunching noise and bits of carbon came clattering down my windscreen. It was with some distress that I remembered – too late – that I had my much-loved but aging Trek 5500 Carbon bike on the roof and had just totalled it.

Although it had become my second bike a couple of years ago – having splurged on a BMC SLR01 – I was still attached to it, so I was a bit annoyed at my carelessness.

Anyway, to cut a log story short I made the insurance claim and was surprised to find that I could afford a  pretty decent bike with the proceeds, – particularly since it coincided with Omara Cycle’s TdF sale.

So today I took possession of a new Trek Domane 5.2. I spent a couple of hours with Jay getting the bike fitted perfectly – it was interesting talking to Jay about the current thinking on bike set-up, – basically the same from the feet to the seat, but some new thinking around the front end, leading to a shorter headstem than I’m used to.  The Domane is quite an amazing frame – plenty of technical innovations to satisfy my scientific bent. And it comes with wheels fitted with 25mmm tyres – I have been reading for a little while now how these are becoming the tyres of preference due to their lower rolling resistance (which seems counter-intuitive).

Anyway, having been fitted, and after buying a couple of extra essentials (new helmet, integrated speed/cadence sensors, etc) I headed out for my first ride.

After almost getting “doored” 500m down the road, the rest of the ride was uneventful but stunningly good.

There’s nothing like the feeling of a new bike, – everything just works so well – the gears click in effortlessly, the brakes work so well the first couple of times you do a front wheelstand, the chain is silent, and you are mesmerised by that little trail of surplus mold rubber that runs around the centre of new tyres.

I love my BMC, but I have to say the ride on the Domane is unbelievable – smooth, cornering is effortless, and the power transfers brilliantly through the oversized bottom bracket. The only thing that bothered me was getting used to Shimano gears again after SRAM – having to use two different levers to change up and down seems a bit…. archaic. But I was pleasantly surprised with the Ultegra group set – when I first tried SRAM it beat Shimano hands down for smooth but positive changing, but the latest Ultegra seems to have come ahead in leaps and bounds. Shame it hasn’t evolved to double-tap shifters.

So that brings me to my First-World problem.

I was quite happy with a 2year-old shiny Swiss machine for hard training and showing off at the coffee shop, but then using my ageing Trek for knocking around on. There was a natural order between the bikes – both knew their place, one slept indoors, the other in the garage.

But now I accidently have a 2year-old shiny Swiss machine and  BRAND NEW, EVEN SHINIER Trek. So which will be my “serious” bike, and which will be the knock-around steed? And where will the new one sleep?

Life can really throw you curve-balls……

Idiots and smartalecs need not attend

15 Jun

Another surprisingly good day for bike racing out at Modella, – sunny spells, very light winds, and dry, – for the second Modella race in a row – probably as much good weather as we have had in a couple of years at Modella.

There was another good turnout of riders (85 this week) and marshalls and other volunteers – it may surprise many that it takes over 20 volunteers and officials to run a race at Modella. This year the volunteer roster is working very well and the load is being shared around, however there are still a core who turn up week in and week out hours before riders get there to get things set up and are there well after the last winner has departed with their envelope. We owe ongoing thanks to people like Doug Moody, Graham Prosser, Ann Johnstone and the Imbergers.

With the Shepparton Junior Tour running this weekend we only had a couple of juniors for our novice clinic. They raced out in the reverse direction to the top of Costers Road and back – it was a great day for a ride in the country and they both rode strongly. Thanks must go to Stephen Towers who at the last minute gave up his race to act as a riding marshall and companion to these two future champions.

The race report will record what were a series of excellent races across the grades.

Sadly the day was marred by idiots who insisted on riding across the white line persistently and for lengthy periods, sometimes in the opposite gutter. Really guys? You are prepared to risk your lives for a club race? You were lucky that after the Chief Comm stopped your race and ripped a new one for the bunch he actually let your race continue – don’t think it was for your benefit though – it was for the benefit of those experienced, serious and hard-working bike riders in the peloton whose only fault was to let you stay in their group in the first place because you are not worthy of riding alongside them.

And to the guy with the quick lip who made a smart alec response to the Chief Comm – you are lucky you weren’t pulled out then and there and given a substantial break from racing. You are almost as much of a disgrace to your team and sponsors as the other clever one on your team who decided to remonstrate with a road user whose only offence was to sound a horn to warn him that if he didn’t pay attention and ride on the left hand side of the road he was likely to end up as road kill. You my friend are a complete pratt – well done big boy, bet you felt so “big” doing that. 

Well, we only ride those roads at the very thin indulgence of the local authorities and any complaint that is made against ratbag cyclists like you jeopardise the use of the circuit by the overwhelmingly sensible and well behaved riders that we are blessed with in this Club.

So, to the lip and the fist, – don’t bother riding with us again – you are not welcome -you represent the very worst of cyclists and threaten the racing for all those who knuckle down, do the hard work, and care more about the race than looking like the pathetic rockstar wannabe’s on bikes that you are.

If anyone is offended by this article – good – come and see me at the next race so I can tell you what I really think of you. Bring your manager and sponsor along – I need a chat with them too…..

WINTER FUN – with no snow, wind or (much) rain

4 Jun

Winter road racing started last Sunday at Modella and it was great to see a good turnout despite competing Open events, and general pessimism about the weather outcomes.

I have been chided about a couple of early tweets about weather on past race days only to have it turn for the worse half an hour later. So on Saturday I held off but actually the day turned out to be a great day for a ride – cool, no wind to speak of and mostly dry (only the latter stages of C/D got rained on but the bulk of the race was in the dry).

One great innovation was the introduction of a junior “E Grade” in addition to the novice clinic. This seemed a welcome bridge between Glenvale Novice Clinic and winter D-Grade which may be a bit long for some of our younger juniors. They all completed a full 48km circuit so they got in some excellent road miles under the watchful eye of Rob Koroknai and Trent Height.

Image All the juniors observed the rule we brought in last year – rear lights must be used at all Modella races – this is a simple safety measure particularly at this time of year where a bit of cloud cover late in the afternoon makes the light very gloomy. We will be enforcing that requirement at our next Modella race.

Finally – the only downside of the afternoon was the number of riders moving across the centre line into the opposite lane. This is dangerous and unnecessary – often it was early in the race when there were plenty of kilometres left to make your way through the bunch. Even if you don’t manage to get yourself killed you jeopardise our use of the circuit as this contravenes the terms of our permit to run the race.

Looking forward to more positive things – the next Modella race is the “slightly lumpy” circuit in two weeks time, which I am sure all the roadies are keen to get into, – see you there.

 

CCCCPrez

Random thoughts about random things to do with cycling and Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club

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