Sam Miranda Gran Fondo 2015

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3 weeks ago I had actually pulled out of riding the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo. Due to injuries, I just couldn’t put any weight on my legs.  I thought it would be a miracle that I could get myself in shape to do this event. Never say never.  I put a lot of work into stretching & using the indoor trainer.  Threw myself some very challenging rides and rode myself into shape. With a baby on the way I had hopes of a fairy tale finish.

Sam Miranda Gran Fondo 2015

I knew quite a few people on the start line.  And was overjoyed when the event started at a sedate pace. We were doing between 32 – 36 km/h & it was easy for me to keep tempo. The riding wasn’t exciting.  I it was a great opportunity to catch up with some mates & have a chat about cycling.

About 30 km in I started to notice an ache in my lower right back. I tried to ride through it, but it seemed to get gradually worse. It didn’t effect my pace thankfully. As we approached the first small climb of the day I somehow found myself doing a turn at the front. I don’t know how this always seems to happen on events. I had it in the big dog.  Cranking out a big tempo & could comfortably sit on over 30 km/h up the hill.

An evil little voice was yelling out “yeah dish out some pain!”.  I looked over my shoulder to see that everyone behind me was cracking and everyone was pushing. I was doing alright for the first 400 meters of the climb until my legs went funny.  Clunk, clunk.  I was forced to drop down a few gears and cruised the final way to the top. I was the first one up.  (small victory.)  Out of breath, I needed time to recover.  Pulling over to let someone else go to the front & to try & catch my breath.

Gary Beazley

Game over

I slowed right down.  When the last rider passed me I went to jump on his wheel.  “Oh sh#t“.  They were going a lot faster than me on the start of the descent.  I tried to give it some gas to catch them, but had burnt too many matches on the climb. I lost the group and could only see them sail off into the distance.  Bu-boo!  I was riding solo.

Failing to keep the same pace as the group.  All I could do was watch as they slowly moved away from me in the distance. Guess my fitness wasn’t as good as I hoped. My back was giving me grief and I used the opportunity to slow down.  Work hard on deep breathing exercises which gradually helped to ease the pain. I rode solo for about 5 km’s and opted to slow right down to wait for the next group. They were going a slower pace than myself.  I used the time to help recover my aching back & hamstring which was starting to hurt.

More climbing

We hit the 2nd climb of the day which was around 1.5 km in length.  I easily cruised off on everyone, and paced myself up this one. The key to me salvaging some pride in the day was to get up the main climb of the day in one piece.  Then find a group to tackle the final 50 km into that forecast headwind.

I felt good after the 2nd climb & put the foot down on the descent.  Moving quickly towards the main climb.  Which is 6 km long at around 4% average. I was expecting it to really hurt, but I managed to cruise up it.  There was always a lonely rider or two up the road that I would reel in & overtake. I couldn’t get out of my seat to dance up the climb as my back would throw me a message to tell me to f#%k off. It was a surprise when I saw the sign for 1 km to go. I did well. My original plan was to listen to the body and if it wasn’t going well to rest at the top.  That wasn’t necessary. I bombed down to Whitfield and started riding solo into the wind.

I rode by myself for 5 kilometers & was just tapping out an easy rhythm. It was looking to be one of those days.  My performance sucked.  I went into today thinking this may have been a possibility. A group was rapidly catching me.  I jumped on their wheels and the pace rose close to 36 km/h & I had a beautiful break from the wind sitting up the back.

The headwind

I knew the wind was forecast to pick up towards lunch.  Thanking my lucky stars that I was getting protected from the wind & needed to really milk myself up until the finish. I rested and worked hard on deep breathing.  The pain in my back & hamstrings dissipated.  The longer I rode with these guys the stronger I felt. I was feeling really confident that I could smash this out and make amends. With 30 km to go we turned off onto the new section.

I was surprised to see that it was gravel. I was appalled to see the condition of the road. There was rocks everywhere & quite a few potholes. It was ride able on a Road bike.  But the group was pushing along at 36 km/h.  We were dodging & weaving rocks & sitting at the back of the group was great to get a wind blocker.  Now that we were out of the wind was probably the worse place to be sitting. I love my gravel, but this didn’t seem a good enough section to be racing through.

Can this ride get any worse?

The guy in front of me swerved.  All I could do was watch as a rock the size of a golf ball was flying straight at my front wheel. It wasn’t sharp so I wasn’t worried about a puncture & tried to bounce over it. Curse this section! It was a ridiculous addition. I was able to keep the pace the Peleton was setting.  Suddenly the power went out and I was struggling. I heard a familiar thump thump sound and noticed that my front wheel was flat. Pulling over at a cross section.  My day just went back to the shits as I watched as my group sailed off into the distance. Shortly after another rider pulled up with a puncture.

I had salvaged my day and was doing so well. The likelihood of a strong group behind me was slim & just had to play it by ear. 9 minutes later I got back on the bike. There was a group 1 km up the road & I was able to catch them easily. The first section of gravel was bad, the next was just plain foolish. Had the organisers actually rode their bikes down here.  Or just checked it out in a vehicle.

I’m a master of riding gravel, but to ride a road bike you need at least a riding line. Usually there will at least be a line where the car tire tracks are. The next section didn’t even have that. Riding directly over loose stones screws up the tires.  You’re liable to drop your bike.  If you’re lucky not to puncture.  The organisers were going to run a NRS race in this? They should have expected that riders would be racing at 40+km/h. I was cursing.

Dumbass!

Foolishly I pulled over to get a photo.  Should be able to catch the group in front of me easily enough. If only I knew I was right near the end of the gravel. I pushed to catch up.  As soon as I hit tarmac I could see the group was a km in front of me.  I was pushing into a headwind. My day just got worse. I pushed as hard as I could, but I was only riding perhaps half a k, to a km/h faster than them. Ever so slowly catching them.  But not fast enough to hope to catch up to them.

I was burning a lot of matches in the process. There was about 3 km into the headwind before we turned right.  I was fighting into a strong cross wind over the next 8 km. The thought of dropping the hammer was there.  But alas I had nothing in the tank. I was in no mans land and everyone behind me was far too slow for me.  I had little chance of catching the group in front. Agonizingly I made it to within 400 meters of them but just couldn’t bridge the gap.  I knew it was do or die. Once they turned onto the highway it was straight into a headwind. If I wasn’t sucking a wheel by then I’d be sucking my thumb and crying the last 15 km back to base.

The rescue

With only a couple of k’s to the highway I was resound that my day was gone. I was surprised & thankful when a really old rider powered past me at 37 km/h. It was an effort but I jumped on his wheel and sucked up the pain and I was close to dropping off.  Through the pain It watched as he reeled in the Peleton in front of us.  With 200 meters to go before we hit that headwind we caught them.  Whoo-hoo.  I sat up the back desperately trying to recover.

King of the nuff nuff’s

The rest of the ride was a blur. That wind was really uncomfortable to ride into, and I was in the zone. There was no sprint for the line this year. Everyone seemed content & relieved just to make it back. I came back in at 3 hours; 39 minutes averaging 30.7 km/h. Given dropping off early on, & the puncture and my lack of fitness that was a good result.

I hoped to do really well this year.  With my baby less than 3 months away I know I have so limited time to make the most of it. My favorite part of the rides was the chats.  To catch up with guys that I rarely get a chance to talk with. I’ve got 6 weeks of good riding left until baby time.  I’ve got to gear myself up for one last dance.

Me, Andy Van Bergen & Gary Beazley
Sam Miranda Gran Fondo 2015
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