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Tony “Sluggo” O’Connor
Vikings Cycling Club Race Numbers
July 8, 2021
VCC personal race numbers are now available for all who want to race locally. You can request to keep an existing number, request your favourite number, or take a random allocation. All of the info is attached for anyone interested in racing. Fill in the form embedded in the document, collect your number, and race! Hurry in, forms will be due 18th July so we can have your number to you by end of July.VCC-Race-numbers-race-results-finalDownload...
Recent Novices Star in Snowy Valley
June 24, 2021
The chicks take the challenge! Five 2020 novice program graduates and one 2021 new-club joiner, participated in the Snowy Valley Challenge on Sunday the 28th of March 2021 down at Adelong. The ride starts at Adelong, continues up through Batlow, through alpine country and winds back to Adelong. The ride itself has various distances dependant on rider ability and fitness and we chose the 72km distance. Around the new year, a social media post advertising the ride was seen and it was decided that the girls would give it a go. It would be the longest ride for some of us and our biggest climb. In comparison to some bigger rides, it might be small change, but we all start somewhere and it was a challenge and a great achievement for us all. Leading into the race, Tuesday’s tended to be the day for morning training rides, as well as the Norman and some longer weekend rides. Not everyone could commit to each one, as we all had our individual commitments to conduct, but overall training was strong and team oriented. Closer to the race date we could feel the trepidation mixed in with excitement amongst the bunch. Mount Pleasant, Black Mountain and the Arboretum slowly developed as the training grounds for incline laps and hill training and one of us even managed a Starva wreath at the Arboretum for most climbs completed in the last 90 days. Hilarious for the not-so-experienced, or returning-to- cycling cyclists!! Closer again we came to the race and we began to be to think – have we done enough, can we do it, am I ready, who’s good idea was this, but it was all mixed in with the blind faith that this was going to be great and a lot of fun!! We had a zoom meeting the week prior, where we decided what we were taking and who was driving with whom. The day before the race, we all piled into the cars and made our way to Tumut. Two of us had completed the first day of the skills sessions associated with the Women’s development program. A blessing or a curse it was, as the skills sessions focused on ascending and descending. Great skills to have and to take into the ride the following days but hill repeats the day before – come on now, who’s going to be fresh for our longest ride ever??? Ahhh… not some of us!! So it’s not called the Snowy Valley Challenge for no reason. Snowy, generally indicates mountainous and cold, and well part of the title also says valley, so we can suffice to say it was going to go up and down but only time would tell! Tumut it was for our overnight stay and on arrival many of us remarked that it wasn’t that warm here – Um, yep, we’re definitely in the colder regions now ladies. We all checked into the Oriental hotel with our twin rooms, feeling like we were on a girl guides expedition, without the badges. Off to the other pub in town for dinner so as to support as many local business as we could. We had the whole pub in stitches laughing at us though. One of us would say a joke, we’d all laugh and then the locals would laugh at us.. Very odd but quite funny. Various meal choices were chosen for dinner. Carb loading for some, wine for others with the quote of the evening being ‘your dinner looks like compost!’ Hmm.. cheers!! Lol!! Sunday morning race day finally arrived, after rather an interesting night staying above a country pub on a Saturday night. Ahh, the dulcet sounds of swearing, doors slamming and Whitney Houston wafting through the ceiling. Whilst we do love you Whitney, do be quiet, we have a race on in the morning! So you can imaging in the morning some of us were sprightly and some of us were.. well, not so!! Quick, coffee, stat!! So.. The ride.. yes, the ride!!! We drove to Adelong all kitted up, and readied our bikes to the starting line. One last pit stop, a bit of bike faffing and the obligatory team huddle; do we have enough lollies, can I have some now, are we warm enough, am I ready for this, yeah we’ve got this team but internally thinking geez it’s a long way. I’m glad we only looked at the elevation profile last night so there wasn’t too many sleepless nights leading into it. We started our ride in the second wave and rode together in a group like we ride at home. It was great to be able to ride together from the start. We loosely rolled around, some of us rode further head with the inclines, but the same as always, we’d regroup at the top. We were all taking the scenery in and saying how beautiful it was, including the first part out of Adelong which was the first 12% incline – some of us noticed it and some didn’t. It seemed to be a long slow steady climb to Batlow where it just went up and up and got colder and colder as it went on. Yay Batlow, a few of us thought, the first food stop! Whereas some of us also thought – great, Batlow we have ages to go!! Batlow wouldn’t be Batlow if they didn’t have all things apples, and the food stop was certainly great. Apple pies as far as we could see. Yes please, we’ll have some apple pie from the lovely old ladies that baked them. Batlow was a fun sleepy little stop with quite a few locals out for a wave and a few supportive words. We needed all we could get at that stage as we hit the yellow lines on the road and said things like – look out ladies we’re in alpine country now and yes we were!! Cause straight out of Batlow again we climbed. This climb really spread us out and the incline just kept coming. Into the second food stop, the time checkpoint, and a chat with the volunteers, as this stop was definitely very remote. This part of the ride was quite a turning point for us, where in terms it began to become psychological. We’d been riding for about three hours (including stops) and we were itchy to get to the end and well, it was every person for themselves at this stage. So as much as we were a team, it really because our own individual challenge. We’re sore, we’re tired, we’re sunburnt, we’re having a great time, but we need to get this done. Just clear your mind and just ride. So off we all went at our own pace. The last part of the ride had some fantastic descents and for those of us who had done the Women’s Development skills sessions the day before, it really help integrate those skills (despite the sore legs) into the ride. Down into the drops some of us went, covering our brakes, pedalling through corners, picking the right line, looking further ahead. What would have been terrifying winding, downhill sections was ridden much more confidently putting our new skills in action. Some last few looks at our race trackers, 55kms, yep big chunk done, 60kms, feels like we’re coming into town, 65kms, oh really, not more up hill, 70kms, we see the Adelong sign, yes, we’re going to make it and we didn’t flake!! Felt like the only flat section was crossing the finish line but we all made it and trickled over the line 1st of team, then 2nd and the more of us that crossed the line the more excited we were! Come on gang, let’s get a celebratory beer and make sure we’re back at the finish line by the time our final team member crossed the line. We saw her coming and just about flanked the finish line with our massive cheers and beers to let her know we were all here, we were all together, we had all finished and were back together. The Adelong show was also on at the same time so we had a good sticky-beak at what was for sale and indulged in a few goodies along the way. One must refuel of course after a big ride. Good to see some fellow riders and friends that we recognised too and had taken on the challenge. Some a shorter race and others, much, longer (but we can train for that). We took our time getting ready, basking in the fact that it was over and laughing and recounting some of the times and moments we had had on the ride, but ultimately glad it was over. We then all piled back in the cars and returned to Canberra. All in, it was a fantastic experience. From the Novice course, meeting new riders, being part of the Women’s development skills sessions, establishing the confidence in our bikes, training and building our team spirit to finishing our first road ride. Had we not stuck together as such cohesive and supportive group at the start, we don’t think we would have rode as well as we did for the whole ride. So it was a great team ride overall. The Snowy Valley Cycle Challenge itself was fantastic and the organisers are trying to grow the event and make it bigger and better. It’s so close to home and in an area where the bushfires went through, so we would urge everyone to consider registering for next year. Be part of the challenge, in a beautiful part of the country, with an exciting ride, supporting a great local area....
Tour of Bright Training Squad 2021
May 26, 2021
Tour of Bright Training Squad Vikings Cycling Club will be running a Training development program for members wanting to either race at this years’ Tour of Bright or take part in the fondo. The iconic Bright Brewery Tour of Bright is a three-stage road race and is one of the most fiercely contested club races on the VRS Road Series calendar. It is held in the first week of December and boasts amazing alpine scenery, competitive racing and welcoming support from the local cycling club and community. In the absence of a grand-fondo, Vikings riders are still encouraged to come-along, ride the spectacular rides around the area and join the racers at the end of each day. Whether your goal is to take-out the General Classification, ride strong in the pack or build your climbing abilities, this program will help you develop towards these goals while providing a fun and supportive squad environment for those ups-and-downs along the way. The program offers: – A supportive squad environment to help you reach your goals. – The chance to experience a cracking weekend as part of close-knit group of Vikings racers and supporters. – A training program utilising a mix of Vikings group rides, squad rides, local club races and individual sessions. – Individual training plans built around your goals and other life commitments. – (The potential to hold a training camp will also be explored). Vikings Cycling Club has a great reputation of sending down a strong and fun squad in years past. As recently as 2019 Vikings boasted two GC winners, a QoM, KoM runner-up, Sprint classification runner-up, a host of podium appearances and a bunch of great memories to take home. Fondo riders that have also made the journey have had a blast and are a huge part of making it a great weekend. If you’re interested, please email Coach@vikingscycling.org.au to sign-up or to find out more. The program will begin in mid-to-late June. Spots will be limited so sign-up quick....
Peaks Challenge 2021 – A Self-Motivated Challenge
March 21, 2021
I entered on a bit of a whim…as an incentive to train and force myself to see if I could go faster. When I asked my son Sam about what my training plan should look like over the 3 months available, he said just lose 20kg…that was confronting. So I ignored him, and set about actually training…which was a first for me. I spent the first few months doing long rides…and the rest doing lots of hills. I got to know Corin and Black Mountain much better than I wanted to…but pleasingly, times were improving. Two weeks out a few of us headed to Jindabyne and did Beloka and Tom Groggin before starting to wind it back. The ride metrics of 235km, 4500m of climbing and a 13 hour hard cutoff loomed over my thinking in the entire lead up…the distance and climbing I could do, but not within 13 hours. On the day I just set about getting it done…over the three climbs, my average climbing power fell from 250w on Tawonga, to 220w on Hotham, down to a measly 180w up the Back of Falls. If I was to give you any tips or if you were contemplating it…they would be:1) if you’re on the heavier side, make the time up in the descents if you can…then find a sustainable climbing rate that doesn’t try and keep up with everybody who’s passing you2) manage food in a way that ensures you don’t get to the Back of Falls and can’t stomach anything sweet, but desperately need calories to get up the hill…3) don’t compare yourself to anybody…just ride your own ride…everybody is different…it can be mentally challenging having people speeding past you on the hillsAfter all my nonsense, I slipped in before the cutoff and had a delightful pasta dinner thanks to our soigneur extraordinaire Michael Ryan.This whole thing really proved to me what Vikings is about…everywhere I turned there were club members with supportive and motivating comments, helpful training ideas and useful experiences that I could draw on for my own planning. We formed a pretty tight group of Vikings who, despite having very different training approaches, speeds and goals, all supported each other to help us all get there. We shared a couple of apartments in Falls which really added to the shared camaraderie.Vikings punched above its weight bringing a team of 16, comprising 25% women...
Congratulations Peta Brill – 2nd Place General Classification at The Bathurst Tour
March 21, 2021
Peta Brill has built on her recent NSW Track Championships Scratch and Point Race medals with a very close 2nd place in the Women’s Division 2 General Classification of last weekend’s Bathurst Tour. The Bathurst Tour has 3 stages – the Mount Panorama Hill Climb, a Criterium and the 100km Road Race. In the Hill Climb, Peta placed 3rd. She then took out first place on the Stage 2 Criterium, racing strategically throughout and sealing the win after leading a 15 minute breakaway that managed to stay away from the bunch. She then placed 4th on the Stage 3 Road Race, suring up the podium place for General Classification. For Peta and the Vikings Women’s Track Team the next stop is Anna Meares Velodrome in Brisbane for the Masters Track Nationals. We wish them every success and more medals....
Peaks Challenge 2021 – The Ultimate post-2020 Challenge
March 21, 2021
It all started with a few quick conversations after the Norman. Have you heard of Peaks? Are you thinking of doing it? I’m thinking of doing it? What do you think? Should we do it? I think I will do it. Early bird is closing. I’m doing it now! It’s done. Then in the middle of the night I woke up in a panic. What had I done? What sensible person goes on a 235km ride with 4400m of climbing. In sub-13 hours. I don’t know if it can be done! I’d only done Fitz 165km classic before, and that was three years ago and now I’m COVID-unfit. And I’m by no means someone who hits out with the fast riders, usually liking to cruise back with M3 or the occasional party bunch. But now that it is done, I look back and realise what a unique and lucky experience it was. And how with the support of the Canberra cycling community, what I was most worried about actually turned out to be some of the best riding days I’ve ever had. And I say days, because while I am so proud of finishing the Peaks Challenge ride and have so many moments I’ll never forget, it was everything that led up to it and around it that made this one of the best and most rewarding experiences I’ve had. Firstly the training. I expected long lonely kilometres out in the saddle, early starts doing hill repeats, constant fatigue, getting bored of the same routes, a love/hate relationship with gels. But it was nothing like that! From the Bakery ride of NSW (which unfortunately could not be the eating strategy for the day), Festive 500, club rides, the Tuesday climbing crew, to the Jindy Jokers taking on Tom Groggin – no one ride was the same. Different people showed up, from those doing Peaks to those just out to support our crazy efforts to those who just love coming out to ride their bike. For every kilometre ridden to build up for the event, more encouragement was given, more useful advice provided and more camaraderie felt. It truly was the antidote to the isolation of COVID lock downs. And the Peaks Challenge crew. I think there ended up being 20 Vikings club members at Falls Creek – 16 doing the 235km, two doing the 100km and the rest for moral support. It was a big group with diverse speeds on the bike but somehow we all came together and worked as a team to support each other to reach our goals. My personal challenge at the start was to finish the ride in sub-13 hours, but with encouragement it quickly moved to sub-12 and then sub-11 (and a foolish moment day-dreaming of sub-10!). With no expectation of being able to keep up with anyone on the day, just knowing we were all going to be out there suffering on the road was enough to not feel lonely. The day itself! The love/hate thing about gels earlier? Well it was mostly hate on the day! I haven’t had another gel since. Rolling out with the ten hour wave, I fell behind quickly on the descent – underestimating how bad it would feel going in cold into a 30km downhill. Thinking I’d be alone for the day, I was overjoyed to see a couple of the Vikings crew on Tawonga Gap. Buddying up with Trenton, from there we managed to stay together for the rest of the day. And it is a long day, but I never got bored on the road. Yes I swore every time I turned a corner to only see more climbing, but as I passed people and they passed me, you’d have chats to distract your legs. From the woman who called us the crew from Canberra when going up Hotham, to playing leap frog up the back of Falls with the teenager doing his first Peaks. I was sure once I hit WTF corner that I had enough time to finish the ride. That two hour climb was brutal, but I will never forget those last ten kilometres downhill to the finish line. The wind was picking up, the sun was going down, but my going home legs were activated and that feeling of certainty I would finish helped me do that last effort home. Smiling as I crossed the line with Pete, the photo at the finish symbolised the highlight of the whole day – that together we helped each other get through the literal and figurative ups and downs of this epic challenge. And I still believe no sensible person would do that ride. But where’s the fun in being sensible! PS If you are wondering what was the hardest part of the day, it was the 700m walk/ride/walk uphill back to the accommodation afterwards. PPS If you are thinking of doing it, read this article for L’Etape – you’ll need to get commitment from your family before embarking on this challenge!https://letapeaustralia.com/common-early-season-training-mistakes/...
Peaks Challenge 2021 – Beating 10 hours
March 21, 2021
“Nah mate, I’m done” – 2021 Peaks Challenge When the tears came, I was completely spent, both emotionally and physically. This is probably a cautionary tale of ‘how not to ride Peaks’ as much as it is a blow-by-blow description of maybe the hardest day I’ve ever had on the bike. On the start line with Pete, Harry, Alys, Trenton and Mel the smiles are always a thin veil for the nerves, or the fear that all the training you’ve done might not be enough. That’s certainly the feeling for your first time. But this was number 4 for me, and I was confident I’d done enough training to go for another sub-10-hour ride. And to do that, you want to ride with the 10-hour bunch with the Bicycle Network ride leaders. You don’t want to be riding by yourself, especially after lunch at Dinner Plain. This was sound advice I had constantly given anyone who asked, and even those who hadn’t. But my legs had been feeling poorly since Saturday morning, so I was somewhat apprehensive. No amount of stretching or foam rollering seemed to make a difference. Too late now. We lined up in ‘wave 2’ in a cool but not freezing 7 degrees. Each wave was then also broken into a few groups to space the riders out on the 30km descent to Mt Beauty. This was new. And as the wave 2 groups rolled away, it looked like we’d be the last group of wave 2 to start. All of a sudden; panic. What if the 10-hour ride leaders were in the very first wave 2 group? How would we catch them with a head start? You don’t want to be chasing all day. Struth! Finally, we’re rolling away. I looked down at my Garmin: when I later tried to recall, I was pretty sure it said 7:00am. Ok, here we go. With all the spacing the descent this year was better. It didn’t take long to push through the loose wheels and get some clean air so you could get your flow on. It is a lovely descent; left, right, feather the brakes, left, right… nice. About two-thirds of the way down I came up on the 10-hour ride leaders in their blue Bicycle Network kits. Relief! Ok, I’ll pass them and bank some time. Pete joined me one or two kilometres later and we made good time into Mt Beauty. I pulled over and handed my Vinnies jumper to the clothing drop, and then, as we rolled away I noticed the ride leaders in blue regrouping just up ahead. Happy days. It’s a short stretch to Tawonga Gap and soon we’re climbing. Ok, just sit under 200 watts and don’t go nuts. I unzip my jersey (I won’t zip it up again until I’m 100m from the finish). I didn’t feel great on the climb, legs were just not feeling it. But I kept my rhythm and just as I was 200m from the summit I noticed the 10-hour ride leaders coming up behind. Super. I’ll descend and be right with the bunch. The Tawonga descent was uneventful and I turned onto the Great Alpine Road, 55km down at 8:42am. But things were about to get messy. A bunch began to form, but it was not organised. In the absence of the ride leaders the cats refused to be herded. No one seemed willing to roll up the second line to get things moving. One bloke yelled out: “start rolling and form a paceline!”. Another one responded: “well go on then mate!”. Eventually someone did and we began to form. But it was not pretty. We’d be on the gas at 35km/h and then on the brakes at 25km/h. 270 watts, down to 120 watts. Just nasty. The lack of coherence and surging seemed to never end. Pete joined me and we sat at the back. On the gas. Off the gas. Now in hindsight it would have been better to drop off and wait for the main 10-hour bunch. But I was so happy to be ahead of time all I could think of was having a few extra minutes at Harrietville to stretch and walk about. And so we endured an absolutely rotten ride and arrived more stressed that we should have been. 73km done. It was here I made the first of a few tactical errors. I remember hearing the 10-hour bunch arrive, but I lost track of when they left. Ok, let’s go, I’ll meet you at Dinner Plain for lunch. Soon I was climbing alone. On the lower slopes I saw a bloke riding what must have been the dirtiest road bike in the entire world. It was coated in dust. All over the lower frame, all through his wheels, and his drivetrain. It looked like he’d ridden gravel the day before and decided to do Peaks on a whim. That’s weird I thought as I rode on. At the top of the Meg I passed Steve K. “How you going?” “Good, you?” “Yep ok. Alright, ride on.” I tried to tap away and keep the legs spinning, but they weren’t feeling good. My right inner thigh was beginning to feel too tight for comfort. It cramped the last Peaks I did, and I was determined not to let that happen again. At the end of the false flat there’s a water cart and small rest stop. Ok, I’ll stop there and give it a stretch. Tactical error number 2. I did stop and stretch it out, and it did feel slightly better, but I lost time. Then tactical error number 3 (they come in threes): For some reason at this point I decided subconsciously that the 10-hour ride leaders and bunch were behind me. Your brain does strange things on this ride. Especially when you begin worrying about your body. And so I carried on in error. The rest of Hotham was tough. You never quite appreciate how steep the last 3 kilometres are until you’re on them. Shit that’s right, this part is really hard. Soon I’m on the descent, through Hotham village on onwards to Dinner Plain and the lunch stop. Then, lo and behold: old mate with his dusty bike. We don’t talk but start instinctively swapping turns, just the two of us. Dinner Plain lunch stop. 116km travelled, and at the halfway point. Here’s where things really started to fall apart. Just as I was putting my bike on one of the racks: “10-hour bunch we are leaving!” My heart sank. Bloody Hell! I’m in real trouble now. How did that happen?! There was no way I could grab my lunch, fill my bottles, go to the bathroom and be on the back of that bunch. I’d lost too much time. Damn that stop on Hotham! Ok, plan B. Just get things done and roll out as soon as you can: surely there’s a bunch you can jump on. The stretch between Dinner Plain and Omeo can be hot, windy and difficult. Last Peaks we’d absolutely flown through that 40km stretch on the 10-hour bunch; I even set my all-time fastest speed of 90km/h down one of the creek crossings thanks to 100 strong group. I half ran to get my valet bag. I ripped it open, stuffed one peanut butter roll in my jersey and started chowing down the other. Head all over the place. I grabbed the lunch wrap (completely pointless as I ended up leaving it unopened on the grass), plugged my Garmin into my battery pack to charge up a little and filled my water bottles. A quick bathroom stop. Then, what’s this? As I was returning to my bike I see a Bicycle Network ride leader – maybe I haven’t missed the bunch after all! As he walked past I turn to look at the white patch over his rear pockets and I read “11 hr”. Another shudder of dread. Faaaaark. I restocked myself and my bike, and as I was rolling out of the rest stop: “11hr bunch fifteen minutes!” Looking back at my ride file, I spent just 13 minutes at Dinner Plain: it felt like half an hour. Things were looking quite grim. The prospect of riding a sub 10-hour when you’re not part of the bunch after lunch is not one I had envisaged. I returned to the course and I could see only two riders within cooee. One looked bedraggled: inappropriate sock height, mis-matched kit, cadence that was too low and seemingly unable to ride in a straight line. The other rider was a bit of a unit: lime green jersey, solid build and calves like rock melons. I catch up and sit-in behind Mr Unit. We roll some turns and then came to a rise. Uh oh. My leg starts to twitch. We’ve only done 13km since lunch! I have to pull over and stretch out my inner thigh and hamstring. This is not good. I’ve still got over 100km to go and my legs just aren’t playing the game. I remount and push off. There’s no time to think, I just keep riding. A loose bunch slowly forms over the next few kilometres. There are about 7 of us. We try riding turns in single file. It’s a bit messy. The sun is warm now, but it feels like the wind is slightly behind us. On the climbs, it’s hot. We pass a bike turned upside down by the side of the road. The rider is nowhere in sight. Maybe they’re lying down in the shade of those trees. The shade looks very appealing right now. We struggle our way to the high point above Omeo and I aero tuck to maximise the big descent into town. Rolling into Omeo, oh look, it’s old mate and his dusty bike. We swap a turn or two and then we’re at the rest stop. 159km done. I spent as little time as possible here; refilled my bottles, stretch the legs, bathroom break, food and leave. I’ve now got less than 4 hours to complete the ride and a tough 76km remaining. As I ride out of town, there’s a large ambulance helicopter spinning up about to take off from the oval, and an ambulance parked under some trees. Someone’s having a very bad day. Again, no big bunches, just riders in one’s and two’s, and wait… there it is: the dreaded Omeo headwind. It blows straight down the valley and presents as a warm wall of air. I need a bunch. A few of us coalesce and that gets us to the 4km climb out of the valley. I try to ride tempo. 600 metres into the climb, and I’m stopped by the side of the road, stretching out my legs again; pretty much the exact same spot as I was in 2019 with the same issue. Faaaaark. This is not good. I remount and ride on. Another rider sits on my wheel as we climb, we chat, we suffer, we are alone. I tell her we’ll be right as long as we find a bunch to ride with on the rocky plateau that leads to Anglers Rest. Through the miserable farmland. A farmer is moving his many bales of hay about with his tractor. C’mon, keep going. We’re now on the plateau. And who should we find: old mate and his dusty bike. “Let’s roll turns.” “Ok mate.” I jump on the front. I’m now acutely conscious of time. I know I’m behind the 10-hour bunch. I’m unsure of how far behind. But I also know that they get you to the bottom of Falls with a lot of time up your sleeve. I start doing the mental arithmetic: If I can get to the bottom of WTF corner by 3pm, I’ll have 2 hours and I might just make it. I’m finally in a rhythm now. We get the bunch of 6 or so pulling turns single file. We’re holding 31-35km/h. Whenever there’s a pause, I go to the front to keep the momentum. We shell half our group, but there’s no time to lose. We keep the pace up and three of us roll down the hill into Anglers Rest. “How long ago did the 10-hour bunch roll through,” I ask one of the volunteers. He’s looks at his watch, “about 20 minutes ago”. Bloody Hell. I am really starting to cut it fine. 187km down, and it’s now 2:30pm, and I’ve got 2 and a half hours left. Can I even still make it? I can’t be at the back of Falls with any less than two hours up my sleeve. Hurry the fuck up! Bottles filled, legs stretched, gel inhaled. I roll out and find two other riders, one is wearing a finishers jersey from 2014. That’s a good sign. Then he says, “oh no, I’ve got mud in my cleats and I can’t clip in!” That water station at Anglers Rest can be tricky, my cleats were glued-in after stop that in 2017. They both pull over, I ride on solo. The 13km to the back of Falls was a demoralising exercise in extrapolation. I kept thinking ‘the bunch will have been flying down here, and here I am riding alone’. There was no one to ride with. Tumbleweeds. Wait, there’s someone. I ride up next to him; “you still on for 10 hours?”. “Nah mate, I double flatted and now I’m just riding to finish”. Faaaaark. I chat briefly, and then pull away. At this point I start to think of that Matthew Hayman quote from his famous Paris Roubaix victory: “always keep riding”. No matter what happens; always keep riding. I’m conscious now that I can’t expend too much energy before the final climb, but I can’t slack off either, so I try to keep my watts to 170. I’m alone. Then I’m at the back of Falls. I pass three riders as we turn onto WTF corner. It’s 3 o’clock – I have two hours to climb the wall and make it home. It’s going to be tight. As I get out of the saddle to get through the 15% section, the sun is beating down. It’s quiet. I start to go about settling into a climbing tempo. Are my legs even able to do this? Always keep riding. Last time I rode this climb, there were riders everywhere. Not today. Just alone with my breathing. Onto the climb proper: there are walkers everywhere. People are weaving all over the road. Some have stopped altogether. I push on. Having done the climb three times before, I have a vague idea of where I am, and what’s still ahead. My legs hold up. As I near the end of the 9km steepest section, I spot Mel. “Mel! How are you going?” She says she’s been so close to the 10-hour bunch all day. What a champion! She is doing so well. “We can still make 10 hours,” I pant. “Really?” she asked. “Sure, I’m going to push on.” (Not 100% sure I believed myself here). For the ‘Raspberry Hill’ segment on Strava (8.7km @ 7.7%), I average 200 watts for 47 minutes. I roll into Trapyard Gap. It’s 3:56pm. I have a little over one hour to cover 24km, and I’m still a fair way from reaching the summit. Can I average 24km/h over the top? I’m there for less than 2 minutes, I fill one bottle and stretch the legs. I push on. Is there enough time? Always keep riding. I catch a rider: “Are you still on for 10 hours?” “Nah mate, I’m done.” I desperately need to find some allies. I hit the first climb amongst the trees. I’ve ridden 4kms since Trapyard and my leg starts to twitch. I have to stop and stretch it out. Faaaark, there’s still 20km to go and only 52 minutes left. I get back on. I can’t keep stopping like this. I decide that the remaining climbing has to be done out of the saddle. It’s the only way I think I can get my legs to the finish without cramping. I get out of the saddle and go. There are riders scattered over the hill. Are they from the 10-hour bunch? They’re strung out, riding in their own individual pain cave. I ask one: “Are you still on for 10 hours?” “Nah mate, I’m done.” This lack of allies was getting serious. It seems like no one had anything left in the tank, or if they did, they didn’t think they’d make the finish in time. Always keep riding. I start what I know to be the final long climb. I’m out of the saddle. Cadence is 50. Time is running out. I turn to the rider I’m passing: “mate we are so fucking close”. He stares across at me and replies; “I’m gone”. There’s now 30 minutes left with 14km to ride. Maybe he’s right. Am I mad? Always keep riding. We’re in the open grassy slopes now. I’m getting close to topping out. Wait. Who’s that? Sandy! “Mate are you still on for 10 hours?”. “Nah mate, I’m cooked.” I tell him I’m still on (although I’m not sure if I believe it), and then attack the final hill. I’m out of the saddle: just get to the descent. There it is! I crest the last major climb – it’s 4:39pm, 21 minutes left and 10km to go. Oh my God, is that enough?! I can’t do the math in my brain, the little man in my head has knocked off for the day; exhausted. Everything is shutting down. There’s nothing left to do now but hope there’s still enough petrol in the tank. The last 10km has some helpful descents. I have to keep riding. I get into an aero tuck anytime the road drops. 60km/h, 50km/h. A slight rise; 300 watts – don’t lose momentum! There’s the dam! Descend fast. Flat section, keep pedalling. Around the corner, you’re right at the back of the dam. Careful, leg tightens up. I stop pedalling and stretch it on the bike. 5km to go, 4:51pm – 9 minutes left. I’m on the flat section at the back of the dam. I reach a rider; “Oh Vikings. Is that Tuggeranong?” “What?” “Is that Vikings Tuggeranong”. “Yes it is.” My brain was in no fit state to be making conversation. I sat in behind him briefly thinking: ‘he’s doing ok pace’. But a moment later I thought – this is too slow, and I pulled out and around and took it up once more. There’s only a few more corners until the dam. 4:54pm – 6 minutes. Keep going! I rounded a bend and there was the dam. I looked down at my Garmin – 4:56pm, 4 minutes left, one climb, 2km to ride. As I crossed the dam I knew I’d have to really punch over the climb. I hit the slope, out of the saddle, 300 watts, keep pedalling! When I crested the rise, I looked down 4:58pm. Shit! I put the hammer down. 350 watts. I channelled some Lleyton Hewitt and let out a huge: “C’moooooooooon!” Round a tightening left hander, fast (photo evidence). I’m flying and starting to pass the first buildings on the main road. I look down; 4:59pm! There’s the final turn into the finishing chute. I was doing 58km/h and had to brake hard to make the 90-degree left hander, I almost put myself into the barrier. And there was the clock above the finishing gantry: it said 10 hours 7 minutes. I was sure my Garmin was still on the money. I reached for my jersey zip: there was no way I was crossing the line if I’d pulled this off without ‘Vikings’ plastered across my chest! I zipped up and sprinted. Now I was pretty sure I’d made my 10 hours, so I celebrated as I crossed the line with equal halves of relief and nerves. I saw the clubbies who had finished already, and Mick Ryan, who all put up a great cheer. That was pretty amazing. As I lurched off the bike and stumbled over to the tent, I grabbed the water that was put in my hand and drank it in one go. Panting, I turned to the bloke behind his event computer: “Did I make 10 hours?” I half expected him to say: “nah mate, your done.” He looked down at his little terminal, pressed a button, and out came a little receipt. “9 hours 57 minutes and 6 seconds, you made it.” Oh boy. I collected my jersey in a daze and staggered up to the food. And that’s when the tears started coming out. All the emotional and mental tension from the last two-and-a-half hours came out. I was in tears as I collected a hot wrap and a coke, and then went looking for somewhere to lie down as my body started to shake and wobble. Looking back, I was surprised at how the day turned out. Certainly not what I had planned. Aside from a stack of PRs over the last 15km, I hit my max heartrate for the entire day in the final 2km. And that’s why: That. Hurt. So. Much. A (slow) walk back to our digs with Harry, a quick shower and then it was off to the finish line with a beer to watch the rest of the Vikings come home. They all did so well. From the sub-9 hour beasts to the first timers. It was fitting that the final Vikings over the line was Club President Matt Dyne, who for the first time, experienced the benefits of training! If you’ve never done Peaks, give it serious consideration. It’s an epic day on the bike, and the sense of achievement at the end is one you’ll never forget, especially the first time. I’ve been fortunate and privileged to do it with simply the best club mates year after year. Will I be back again? Maybe ask me after the Tour of Bright....
Peaks Challenge 2021 – The Experience of New Rider
March 21, 2021
As far as cycling goes I am ‘green’…13 years ago I played my last game of team sport… this wasn’t a planned ending… years of injury-induced frustration, anguish, isolation, disconnection, emptiness, pain, loss followed… 14 months ago I joined Vikings…. 14 weeks ago I signed up to ride in the Peaks Challenge… (this was not a planned beginning)… I knew when I signed up that I would be lucky (physically) to make it to the start line… but had the sense that this was about more than the ride on the day and felt compelled to give it a crack. Some people I had enjoyed riding with across the club seemed equally deranged and were signing on… I was looking to ride more and this would give me another group of people with whom to ride regularly over summer and an opportunity to push myself to stick with them. Some of them would go on to do the ‘real’ ride… others of us would slip away quietly with our metaphorical tails between our legs or maybe go along in support (if that was even a thing)…that was the plan Weeks rolled by… suddenly ‘after Christmas’ was here! Too much eating and not enough riding! Summer was slipping… I hadn’t spent as much time training with the group as I had hoped… work, family… all that ‘life’ stuff seemed determined to keep me out of the group if not off the bike. Then the kilometers started coming together… a quiet confidence was building in the group that this madness might just come off. But were we just kidding ourselves? With no external point of reference it was impossible to tell. Weekends evaporated, vertical meters went into legs, parcels arrived from online shops, dollars drained from bank accounts, alcoholic beverages were sacrificed… the focus was sharpening. #ThelastXbeforepeaks… the last big ride, the last hill reps, the last gym session… the last bunch ride… the last drive (encountering ever more bike-laden vehicles… exchanging knowing smiles with those destined for the same fate…the last part up to falls – the opening descent in reverse)…the last day… the last ride along the back of falls around the lake to Mount Cope and back with most of the Vikings crew… the last dinner, the last sleep… Game on! We made it to the start line! ALL that was left to do was ride! (for more than 12 hours)… 12 hours is a long time… a lot goes through your mind in 12 hours…a lot of ‘in the moment’ stuff, a lot of tired dreamy fog… a bit of existential analysis and a lot of maths (that damn top tube sticker)! One climb down… not bad, where are the wave leaders? Technical descent negotiated… mostly climbing now… still not half way… here are some Vikings people!…is it even going to be possible to sit down after 12 hours on a bike?… JRYFB…When is lunch? (consults top tube sticker for the nth time)… will I even have time to eat it?… gels are of the devil…#fangtheflats… another hill… FFS… it is so beautiful out here… chase to get on…the ‘fast boys’ will be finishing now (I wish I were stronger and could concentrate my suffering into 8 hours… 50% longer in the saddle sucks)… not another muesli bar or gatorade EVER… Vikings people!… more downhill only means more uphill… almost 200km done… might just make it… km remaining/ (13hrs- elapsed time)@ average climbing speed… one more ‘climb’ (but its the worst)… only 20 ‘unfamiliar’ km left and almost 4000m climbed…not even many incidental ‘ups’ can be left now… sun setting…faster means colder…#getitdone…at Mount Cope… did this yesterday… almost home… #alldownhillfromhere… head down… TT…this is why I love cycling… last few bends… don’t stack it now… the chute…the line… don’t cry! And there they were… the Vikings… the guys who finished hours ago still there… cheering, waving… (I cried). Thanks Mark for the hug! These were (are) my people…my tribe… I was (am) back in a ‘team’.. Not just the team at the start or finish line… the team in the kitchen, in the garage, at the coffee shop, in the village… on Strava and chat with messages of support before and after… the team on the dark mornings… in the dark moments… The people are everything… #Thisispeaks Alex Dietrich Alys Butchmann Andrew Steele ‘Fozzy’ Charlotte Hempenstall Harry Bramwell Mark Richardson Matt Dyne Melany Toombs (Michael Ryan) Pete Storey Sam Cunninghame Sandford Beggs Steve Knope Tim Brown Trenton Smith Trevor Matthews Vanessa Judge I had forgotten what an exhilarating feeling it was to be part of a team- committed, united in the pursuit of a common goal… the components of a machine, diverse and complementary in their function, working seamlessly together to take the collective further than any individual had imagined possible. So much more than a ride! Never take a single kilometer for granted… we are so lucky to be able to do what we do – with one another! Enjoy ALL of it! ...
NSW Track Championships
March 1, 2021
You may recall that last year Vikings Cycling Club ran a Women’s Novice track program, well what have these women been up to since then…? They have been busy with training, training and then some more training. After months of preparation, a group of ACT riders took part in the NSW track champs over the past week and showed what a force to be reckoned with they are! All but 2 of the Vikings masters ladies who raced took part in the novice program last year. This tremendous jump has been down to the riders dedication and Sian and PK’s spectacular coaching skills. First event was the WMAS 135+ team sprint – gold final. Vikings teams SHOC (Sarah Stephens, Ali Hale and Brandie O’Connor) started on the front straight with Team TEK (Karen Clutson, Taryn Dickens and Liz Lowe) on the back straight. It was a competitive race with SHOC winning with a 0.17 of a second faster time after an impressive flying start out of the gate by Brandie. In the NSW Team Sprint and Team Pursuit Championships Elite Women Team Sprint Qualifier – Team ACT was Lily Stratford, Claudia Marcks (CCC) and Felice Beitzel (CCC). These 3 looked calm and relaxed as they took on St George. The Shoortless team of Isabelle Burns, Hannah Calderwood, Kirsty Lower and Claudia were impressive with an extra kudos to Kirsty who had never been to Dunc Gray Velodrome before. Team Shoortless backed up their team sprint efforts to win the 4,000 metre endurance event. NSW Team Sprint & Team Pursuit Championships WMAS 140+ Team Pursuit – gold final. Both Vikings teams lined up for the final as there were no wider entrants… go Vikings!! Team Talk (Taryn, Ali, Liz and Karen) and Team BKISS (Brandie, Kerry, Sarah and Sian). A competitive ride by both teams with Team Talk taking the win. An enormous thanks to Carlos who came with the teams and supported everyone with their bike issues, and to Sian, Kerry and Claudia who stepped in to support the teams race. Now for the men! All Torque had a blistering heat in the qualifier which placed them in the Gold Final. A competitive race saw the team take the silver – Paul Kennedy, Ryan Bates and Stephen Phelan (CCC). The Elite Men’s saw the CCC qualify with the second fastest time, placing them in the gold medal final. It was a very close race with them coming in 0.25+ of a second after the winners. We can’t wait to see what these impressive trackies do next!! https://cycling.org.au/nsw/st-george-and-vikings-win-nsw-team-pursuit-championships...
Race Report: SDTC Kermesse 2
February 15, 2021
Another perfect day for racing was had by those who came out for the second Kermesse in the four-race series on Sunday. A stiff southerly sweeping across the false-flat finish combined with the steep rollers required racers to maintain focus for the entirety of the race or risk losing pace with the bunch. Added to the stakes for racers was the opportunity to bag a prize on behalf of Lonsdale Street Cyclery. For spectators, a solid display of exciting and powerful riding was on offer. C Grade rolled out first with Simon Bauwens (CCC) initiating a strong-pace throughout the race and was duly rewarded with top points for the intermediate sprint. Benjamin Stanyer (ADF), Tim Green (ADF) and Carmine Spagnoletti (VCC) ensured the pace remained high. Hayden Stevens showcased strong race-craft to time the final sprint to perfection taking the win by inching out Simon Bauwens (second) and Carmine Spagnoletti (third). D grade rolled out shortly behind C grade and the bunch kept its shape for the first half of the race. The bunch split into two shortly after the sprint lap with five riders were left to compete for the win. In the end it came down to another extremely tight sprint contest between all five remaining riders, with James Miller (CCC) taking the win. The timing chips once again proved their worth with Peta Brill (VCC) claiming second spot by the smallest of margins (+:00.3) and Kaitlin McGuire rounding out the podium almost equally as close (+:00.5). Congratulations to Peta who came first out of the women and Kaitlin who came second. A grade were out of blocks in blistering fashion (leaving the on-looking B graders to jointly agree to undertake a calm start to their race). Although the pace settled down shortly after, the damage was done and the bunch soon lost riders. A four-man bunch remained for the final stages of the race, each rider doing their best to leave the group behind. In the end it was Nicholas Wilson (CCC) who managed to stay away and take out the win. Christopher Hageman (ADF Cycling) and Torben Partridge-Madsen (ANU Cycling) rounded out the podium for second and third respectively. B grade started in aforementioned agreed calm start, but the power was on soon after. Jonathan Hazell and Jimmy Carroll broke away in the early stages of the race and managed to hang on to take out the intermediate sprint. The bunch soon reformed and remained a tight pack until the final stretch, where Stuart Griffiths (CCC) managed to hold out Marc Vroomans (ADF Cycling – second) and Rainer Wilton (CCC – third) for the win. A big thank you to all who volunteered at Sunday’s race. The 2021 Road season is run by volunteers from the CCC and VCC and every effort to help out goes a long way to ensuring a comprehensive schedule of races for the year ahead. The coffee cart returned for the action, assisting with pre-race perks and post-race debriefs. Special thanks for the support shown by Lonsdale Street Cyclery for supporting local racing. A thank you also to Michael Fawke and Michelle Balaz (Phoenix Cycling Collective) for more spectacular photos. See the race results in full here...
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