Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Renae's Race, Technolody Park - A Grade :: 16th February, 2014

Renae's Race is a memorial race held in honour of Renae Baker and I think a sense of honour and privilege is felt by anyone competing in this event. This blog entry is not so much about the specifics of Sunday morning's race but more on the experiences I had from that race and a previous race held on the Australia Day long weekend. Both races were ventures into the Elite men's (open A grade) racing scene in Perth with the Australia Day event being my first.

Before I continue, understand that these are my experiences and thoughts and whether they are right or wrong within the context is irrelevant. The purpose of this post is to provide an insight into what it's like to race at this level and, in respect to Sunday's race, what it's like to race in a bunch with one of the world's best bike riders, Luke Durbridge. No, this is not a World Tour race. Far from it. Several levels under it in fact. This post is not meant to pump up anyone's ego (including my own), but Luke is a class rider and whether he showed his full ability today or not, his strength was definitely felt by most in the group.

My first venture into this level of racing was on the Monday of the Australia Day long weekend. I remember being far more nervous than usual and I guess this was a little understandable because I knew I was heading into a race that would be beyond my current ability. There were some who praised me for making the step up and I'm sure there were some who thought I was bonkers and probably shouldn't be there. So why do it? Because in my opinion, if you want to improve, then step up and ride with/against those who you know are stronger than you. Do it often enough and eventually, you might just become competitive ... even at 42 years of age (almost).

The Australia Day Criterium was unsupported by any team members. AP had just returned from a massive week of riding at the Tour Down Under and, thus, was not be competing while the rest of the team opted to use the long weekend to take rest. I actually preferred this because I felt I was not under pressure to perform for the team and could take the race as it came, fully anticipating that I would be unlikely to finish. I was lapped within about 15 minutes and exited with a sense of amazement. This was far harder than I expected but in no way did this put me off.

Last Sunday was no different other than the fact that Luke was riding. My anticipation was the same although I wanted to feel that I had actually done a little better than the Australia Day Crit by the time the race was over. Lining up at the start among some of WA's (or even the country's) best riders was a little daunting but this time, there were no nerves. I think this was more because I knew what to expect as I had done it before. I knew it would be hard and I fully anticipated being lapped and exiting early once again.

With both my experiences, the start was much the same. The intensity is amazing as riders lift the pace to 45km/h almost immediately and that's roughly where it stays for a number of laps before backing off slightly. Unfortunately, at my current ability, this kind of pace (on this course) cooks me and it's not long before I'm lapped and out of the race. The intensity is amazing as you barrel up Brody Hall Drive at over 50km/h. Your lungs are dragging behind, your heart is going gang-busters and your legs slowly but surely start screaming at you. When you then watch on from a spectator's vantage (after you've been lapped and pulled out), you realise that the top end of the field look like they are doing it easy. I know it's still hard work for them but having been amongst them helps put things in perspective that these champions really are at another level.

Most of these guys may have youth on their side but there are riders in that bunch that I have utmost admiration for when you consider that they are some years older than the majority of the field and often race at Masters events. I refer to the likes of Matt Upton, Chris Glasby and Unicorn's own Andrew Patterson (among a few others). On many occasions they have proven their ability to keep WA's elite riders honest and keep the pressure on during hard races. Maybe some of their ability might rub off on me if I keep having a crack at this level of racing.

These Elite guys are strong. Naturally strong. Say what you like about performance enhancements and the problems in the sport at higher levels, but I just don't see it here. To me, they are a classic example of athletes who reap the rewards of pure and utter hard work. I'm certainly not at their level but I feel that putting in the time to train to the best of my ability and to learn race craft from my peers, team members and competitors, I might, just might, be able to improve enough to be amongst them at the end of one of these races. Simply put, I'll never know if I don't give it a go.

So mock me or praise me for stepping into this arena, but I will stand by my own opinion that if I'm not among stronger riders than myself during races, my improvement may not be what I want it to be.

Thanks for reading and see you out there.

2 comments:

  1. That was very generous of you Charlie not to mention that I pulled out of that race after 12 minutes, and about 10 minutes before you....

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  2. Charlie, another awesome read and a fantastic insight into the elite level of WA's cream of the crop. Keep up the good work - I agree 100% that if we don't push ourselves against those better, the ability to improve is dampened. Look forward to seeing you again soon on the bike.
    Justin.

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