New Zealand Crit Champs 2012 Takapuna: 24hours of action! 35mins of racing

I’m waiting to board my flight home and I have some time to reflect on what could be easily regarded as a ‘whirlwind tour of Auckland’, but really this is what I’ve come to expect of racing sojourns to the ‘city of sails.’ It’s funny spending less than 24 hours in a city, more so when not only a great deal of it is spent negotiating traffic to and fro the airport, but also bike racing, and catching up with a good mate, and making three ‘business’ meetings.

I’ll start with what you want to read about – the race; one of the few left on the Subway calendar; one attended by more than half the team; a national championship no less:

It’s downtown Takapuna and apparently 10,000 spectators to boot make a good stage for a bike race.  Unfortunately for me circumstances did not conspire for a great race.  My opinion is that it’s not only a strongman and position-yourself-well-course but also a sprinter/standing start course.  All these attributes I have but I perform better in a criterium when it’s about positioning above all else.  I’m more a strongman/diesel then sprinter as well and despite feeling like I would have great form after being well rested after Southland, I didn’t have the ‘top end’ needed for the sprinting/standing starts out of corners needed.

In hindsight this was to be expected since feeling ‘overdone’ in mid October I haven’t done any intense training.  Southland gave me miles in the legs and fight, but not intensity since the battling/hard stuff came at the end when tired legs were extracting the dregs in the bottom of the tank, not the high octane fuel from the top.  However what I am trying to do before the race (when you don’t know exactly how your form is going to be), is to be as professional as possible in mental, tactical and physical preparation.  Getting all the small things right from eating at the right time to having the right constructive thoughts and plans in your head to making sure your bike is in tip top condition after unpacking all contribute to a better race.

Moreover mentally, during the race the best thing to think is ‘I am going to hurt’, ‘everyone else is hurting’ and ‘pain is temporary.’  I open this box of sadistic thoughts no matter how poor my chances are of succeeding because from an early age I’ve always enjoyed exercising hard-out in endorphin euphoria.

After a disappointing week in Southland, Graeme Millar (Gman), part time team director was left with the task of getting us mentally and tactically prepared to leave our mark on this race (we were also by far the biggest team).   Matt Gorter was charged with delivering Nick Lovegrove to the front for him to make the race hard from the start.  Scott Creighton and Simon Binney were expected to cover moves.  Westley Gough and I were given free rein to make the moves towards the end of the race and importantly Dylan Kennett was to not do anything and save his sprinters legs for the finale.

As with the rest of the team I still started in good position and felt I animated the race for the most part .  Mike Northey might leave disappointed with a second but put on a great show for his home crowd and worthy of a current Tour of Southland champion.  Other standout performers from the Tour of Southland made their presence felt with Alex Ray, Dan Barry, Roman Van Uden, Michael Vink and eventual winner Hayden McCormick all making the race hard by attacking when the pace eased.  Unfortunately for Subway we left empty handed and somewhat despondent with the lack of making our presence felt.

It’s not a great situation to be in when your team isn’t performing and morale is at its lowest ebb.  This begs the question – “why am I doing this?!”  It was therefore great to be able to have some time to reflect with Gman and a good friend today about our performance, ‘chew the cud’ and look at my ‘core’ motivation to race bikes.

Before I think of my inner most motivation to cycle my family is the first priority.  The motivation to cycle comes from future opportunities to deliver crushing time trial performances (aspiring to end with a 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games podium), occasional race wins to keep the pot of cycle-performance-happiness topped up, and enjoyment.

Travelling away is hard on the family but a necessary part of racing, I do my best to make up for it when I’m home.  While I’m still learning to get timing of peak performance right, I know I’m going to nail some good TTs in the next few years.  Having a role to play in races is really important to me and facilitates enjoyment, so I am actually happy to have fulfilled my role last night.  More enjoyment will come though when fulfilling a role nets a result.  I look forward to being able to do this in our last race in Subway colours at the Festival of Cycling next month in Christchurch and for the team I ride for next year.

Finally, time allowed me 2 of the 3 ‘business’ meetings while in Auckland.  I made the decision not to pursue the voluntary junior coaching position at BikeNZ for which I was interviewed last week.  Time and travel away being the biggest obstacles to making the job feasible.  Meeting up with Lynne and Amy from BikeNZ to let them know was a good thing (albeit over late night burgers and chips).  My last meeting was a positive one and will provide an opportunity for me to be able to publish more of my writing at a national level.

Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you posted.


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