Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Thank you Kosdown - We've done alright.

It was a chance meeting while racing out at Lancefield in early 2009 that kicked things off. The bunch was being ravaged by a few teams, so I had a chat the rider next to me and we formed an immediate alliance. That rider happened to be Kos Samaras. With a little bit of team work, I ended up winning that race and Kos was on the phone to me the next day with a few ideas about setting up Team Kosdown. This soon developed into Kosdown Performance Cycling - A small privately backed team that offers a development/support pathway to young up and comers in the sport, as well as supporting a number of Elite/Masters riders.

I've clocked up over 150 race wins while representing Kosdown over the last six years. Time trials, road races, criteriums, prologues, track events, from club level to national level Masters/Vets racing, even at an international level if we include the 2014 Tour of Fiji. I've ticked off everything I'd ever hoped to achieve over the years while being supported by KPC and their sub-sponsors.

Although everything we train for is about winning races, that is only a small component of the much bigger picture.

Establishing KPC in 2009 meant over the years it grew with the emergence of social media as a platform to communicate with the cycling community and our supporters. Website updates were overtaken by more time critical and content rich Facebook posts, along with Twitter, Instagram, etc. All of which we've worked pretty hard behind the scenes with our sponsors and our riders to provide value and establish KPC as a known group of hard working, honest, and respected athletes.

I truly believe we've achieved all of the above, and more.

As KPC enters the 7th year, along comes a number of changes in regard to team management and commercial sponsor arrangements. And as I enter my 10th year of competitive cycling with my eyes firmly fixed on the 2016 World Masters ITT Championships in Perth, I will be leaving the KPC ranks.

I depart KPC while it is in a very good place. With plans to run parallel Elite and Masters VRS teams for the 2015 road season, and new sponsorship and support arrangements on the way for the riders. They'll do very well, and I'm proud of what we've created.

This isn't about me hanging up the bike. I've been hitting some of my best pre-season numbers in a long time. Let's just say I've gone off the front.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Praying Mantis TT Position - Is it back?

UCI time trial regulations are one of the most dynamic in the rule book. It seems every six months the UCI publish changes, updates, or clarifications. Things are progressing and becoming easier for commissaires to review bikes and equipment before a race, if they choose to. It is also a mandatory requirement of competitors to be up to date with the rules.... a tough ask when things keep changing!

I've had a lot of riders ask about pushing the limits when it comes to TT bars/lever height to get themselves into a very aero-aggressive TT position. Think Floyd Landis around 2006. That position worked very well for a number of riders. And like Floyd himself, it was also outlawed by the UCI....

The Praying Landis - A positively dope TT position.
The initial checks were to ensure the rider's forearms were horizontal when they were on their bike and in their TT position. This check was invalidated by the new bike check process introduced in 2014:   

....from 2014, only the bicycle will be checked. The bicycle can be presented by a person other than the rider. This will mean that riders are not disturbed in their preparations just before the start of the race. - UCI Update Info Bulletin N°4

To ensure riders were adhering to the rule without being present, a -+10cm rule for the TT bars/extensions was detailed:

"The height differences between, on the one hand, the point of support of the elbows and the highest point of the handlebar extension (including the gear levers) and, on the other hand, point of support of the elbows and the lowest point of the handlebar extensions (including the gear levers) shall each be less than 10 cm in order to guarantee that the forearms are horizontal." - UCI Update Info Bulletin N°4

It appears the most recent update/clarification has no reference to horizontal forearms as bike with a +10cm measurement means the riders forearms won't be horizontal (although they'll be far from being a Praying Landis):

The handlebar extensions plus any accessories (controls, levers, etc. and all their mounting accessories) must be within ±10 cm from the level defined by the elbow/forearm supports. Any moving parts have to be placed in the most vertical position that can remain unsupported through their range of movement. - The Clarification guide of the UCI Technical Regulation - August 2014

The UCI have included some excellent diagrams in their August 2014 Clarification Guide:

To check, rotate the levers to the highest point and allow to rest, and then take the measurement for the +10 cm position. If necessary, rotate the lever to the lowest point and take the measurement for the -10 cm position. The measurements of the upper and lower limits are taken in the front half of the handlebar extensions. - The Clarification guide of the UCI Technical Regulation - August 2014

Subtle but important detail there - Taking the measurement point from the highest point of the lever puts riders with most mechanical levers at a disadvantage if they're after maximal lever height. Chalk that up as a reason to investigate electronic shifting on a TT bike.

So is the praying mantis back? No. It'll be interesting to see if Cycling Australia have a jig that can measure this at the Nationals in a few weeks...

In the mean time, if you're "pushing the limits" pack some spacers or extra chunky arm pads to raise up the measurement point of the armrests.... or adjust your rear limit screw to stop your levers from reaching >10cm. You'll lose 1-2 gears on the rear, but you won't get a DSQ for the event.

"Factory" measurements with DuraAce levers. Hmm!

Sorted - Beanbag arm pads, UCI legal!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Tour of Bright 2014 - Masters A

While there are more races on the calendar these days, to most of us Bright will always be as Wade Wallace describes it, "Australia’s amateur Tour de France." The CyclingTips post "Tour of Bright: A Legend Two Decades in the Making" is a fantastic read if you want to know about the history of the race. You'll see many familiar names in the history books from Cadel to Keeno who've pinned a number on in Bright at some point in time.

This year was my 7th ToB start since 2007. The MMAS123 GC win in 2012 has taken the pressure off in the lead up in the last two years. Last year I was team work-horse for Stephen Lane (Kosdown) who managed a top 5 in stiff competition. This year we were both TTing and climbing well and managed a good block of training after our Masters Nationals and Tour of Fiji. There was no two-man team tactics, we were just there to race as hard as we could and see where we ended up.

Stage 1 - Time Trial

Having spent a lot of time on the course, we were getting to know it very well. The only thing we didn't train in was the rain, which came thundering in right on queue making for a damp TT and some very careful cornering.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Using the same 17min30sec ergo/prep session as last year worked again for 2014. The warm conditions and low wind also made it a faster course than last year. I rolled in 1st with a 17:31, one second off my ergo session! SLane had a great TT knocking 20 seconds off his time from last year and taking 2nd with an 18:05.

Stage 2 - Gaps Loop

Sitting 1-2 on GC in a teams race put us in an interesting position. Somehow SLane managed to slip into a good sized break within the first few kms that would have likely stayed away if they all committed to driving the pace. The chase was only organised once the break wasn't pulling away and riders were attempting to bridge across solo from the bunch.

A few kms later a group of 6-7 riders rolled off the front containing a few sprinters looking for points. Nothing too dangerous, so we thought. And with a number of teams with a lot of fire-power not represented, they'd have to ride to pull their GC guys back into contention.

There appeared to be some confusion in the bunch when a team of 5 sent two guys up the road to collect the sprint points..... points that were already snapped up by the riders in the break. A lot of head shaking in the bunch ensued. Without any representation in the break, and lots of legs in the bunch, they should have been straight on the front and driving the pace.... but it wasn't the case.

With the break out of sight and hovering around four minutes, the chase was still less than organised. I had a shot at lifting the pace up Rosewhite that was marked by Michael Gallagher (The Hurt Box) with the rest of the field on his wheel.

SLane and Adam Versteege (Charter Mason) had a few attempts at lifting the pace of the bunch after the descent with little luck. So we rolled along and watched more than one team ride their GC contenders out of the race by not committing to the chase.

Luckily the group up the road had broken up and our chase up Tawonga was swift. With 3km to go the climbing group was down to 12 riders with only two riders up the road. The best result would be a 3rd on the stage. I channelled my inner Cadel (complete with matching bum-chin) and rode the front to limit the GC time gap.

The rain soon started belting down and I couldn't see a thing. 300m to go, five riders kicked to the line for 3rd on the stage.  One rider on my wheel was yelling at me to close the gap. I was cooked! Words were spoken.

Local rider Aaron Knight (Fitzroy Revolution) took the win solo. Thankfully the effort to limit my GC losses up the climb was worth it and I was still leading GC, by 2 seconds. With most of the GC contenders still within 90 seconds, Mount Hotham was going to be a showdown!

Stage 3 - Mount Hotham

The rain that started falling on Tawonga didn't stop overnight. 70mm had fell on the area and conditions at the top of Mount Hotham were not suitable to send 600+ riders up. The call was made to cut the stage short. Taking out the steep climbs suited me perfectly. I'd managed a 3rd on the short Hotham stage back in 2011 so if I could make the selection in the climbing group over the Meg I'd be confident of my chances of holding on to a good GC position.

The twist this year was they added my old nemesis to the shorter Hotham stage, the Toll Booth climb. 1.5km ~8%.

The race to Harrietville was brisk. The teams/riders going for the sprint points were doing something, we weren't sure what... although it was keeping the pace high and the group intact so that was a good thing.

The climb started at the standard pace, flat out. Knight who needed to make up only 2 seconds on me hadn't made the front group, having paid the price for his monster effort up Tawonga during Stage 2. I didn't do a lot of homework on the other riders, the only plan was not to let Gallagher too far out of sight.

Gallagher knows his craft well and put in a number of surges towards the toll booth that put the pressure on the 6-7 of us at the head of the race. The roads were saturated as we hit the false flat section, the ruts in the road were hard to see and almost caught us out a few times. There was a lot of one-eye-closed head-tilted riding going on just so we could see.

Photo (c) Jo Upton Photography

1.5km to go we hit the final climb. Gallagher went hard with a few others trying to match his pace. I knew it'd be a tough ask for him to pull back 60 seconds on the final climb although he gave it everything trying!

Thankfully the Garmin was so wet I couldn't see the numbers. This was a good thing. The first minute of the climb was 482W. The next four minutes were an eternity.

The water was streaming down in rivers on the climb as we pushed toward the Dargo turn off. 500m to go and Gallagher and a few others had a 10 second gap. This was fine with me, I was only thinking of GC position.

An evil twist from the event organisers was to add a final kick to the race just past the Dargo road.

200m to go I could see the finish and I got out of the saddle for the final push. I saw Davey and Gallagher take 1-2 and I rolled over the line at +11sec for 3rd on the stage.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Masters A - Stage 3 Results

I found the nearest ditch and collapsed off the bike for a lie down. As I posted on Twitter, I've never had to dig so deep in any race before. I'd started with a 2 second lead and managed to defend the lead and everything that Gallagher threw down. I didn't believe it for a few minutes. I'd won my second Masters Tour of Bright Yellow Jersey. The first one meant a lot. The second one will go on the wall right next to it.

Masters A-Grade GC Top 10
1. Shane MILLER       4:29:33.71
2. Michael GALLAGHER  4:30:27.08 +53.3
3. Matthew RIZZUTO    4:30:27.67 +53.9
4. Stephen LANE       4:30:37.40 +1:03.6
5. Alexander DAVEY    4:30:38.24 +1:04.5
6. Michael TOLHURST   4:30:48.64 +1:14.9
7. Mark CRAWFORD      4:31:17.93 +1:44.2
8. Cameron CLAMP      4:31:34.40 +2:00.6
9. Aaron KNIGHT       4:32:09.00 +2:35.2
10.Brett KINGSTON     4:32:21.49 +2:47.7

Masters A - Overall GC

As fans of the sport we daydream of winning bike races on beautiful roads, with the sun beaming, everyone cheering. Here I was yesterday, laying in a muddy ditch, soaking wet head to toe, totally numb, completely exhausted, and loving every second of it.

Experiences like this money can't buy.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Perth Adventures... Rides, Wind, West Coast Masters, Uber!

Our Tour de Everywhere continued last week with a few days over in Perth. Unfortunately we missed the Tour of Margaret River by a few days but we still got in a few solid group rides and a race with West Coast Masters CC while catching up with family and friends.

I was lucky to score a window seat on the flight over and got to see my home town of Horsham and most of the Wimmera from the air.

Horsham! Where I grew up watching the plane(s) I was on flying overhead.

Wimmera represent! Little Desert National Park, Jeparit, Lake Hindmarsh.

The first ride in Perth was meant to be an easy spin down along the beach.... except the wind made it anything but easy.

 Cottesloe Beach
Saturday morning was the Papas ride. The ride was nice and fast through some sections, a good heart starter for the racing the next day. The final kms were eventful with a few riders coming down further back in the bunch.

Von and Mel (both happy not to have stacked!)

On Sunday we found a bunch to tag onto out to the West Coast Masters Kewdale Crit. Perth has some excellent bike paths, as long as you know how to get to them.

Kewdale was the first crit of their summer series, a 'SuperCrit' with a few extra dollars up for grabs.

I knew the Perth Masters racing scene was pretty solid, and it was. The result sheet shows a total of 15 teams represented across the grades. Team tents, team cars, riders all decked out in team kit and bikes. It is years ahead of what we have in Victoria. The level and depth of competition was also the best I've come up against too. A lot of the names were familiar from the recent Masters Nationals in Ballarat.

Pre race chat. Blue kit is trending...
Four riders went from the gun and opened up a gap. It was up to the teams not in the move to chase, so I sat in and watched.... and saw two riders roll off the front. By lap 2 the gap to the front group was looking dangerous, so off I went in chase. I got across to the first chase two, then only one rider made it across with me to the front group.

"The early break never sticks" was what I was told before the race. Bullshit! Not on my watch! :) I told the others I was there to work and to make the break stick, and they were all equally committed to the cause. It was only in the final two laps that the games started. I kicked clear before it came down to a group sprint. I managed to take the win, and the others collected a swag of points for their series.

Happy to see the finish line.

Sunday was an easy recovery ride with the Hall Cycle Training women's bunch. I was allowed a start too. :)

6am start... Thankfully we were still on Victorian time.

A dead whale washed up near here later in the afternoon. #perthlyf

We had a tour of this place. Excellent set up!

Perth Taxis - The awesome, the not so awesome.

We were given a $40 Uber credit at a show we saw on Saturday night. It took 4 minutes for the UberBlack car to arrive, we all were given bottles of water (and lollies!), we were driven home in style.... all within the $40 credit. Being across the technology behind the scenes and knowing about the service for a while, it was a great experience to actually use it. I can't recommend it enough. If only we could specify a large vehicle to get to-from the airport, we'd use it for those trips with our bikes too.

Speaking of the 'normal' regulated professional taxi services. We pre booked a Perth London Cab for our trip back to the airport... that never showed.. A call to customer service 15 minutes later told us there were no taxies, and the confirmed booking wasn't going to be filled. As I was saying, use Uber. The normal taxi services don't deserve their licenses with services like that. Uber is the shake up they need. Their use of technology (maps, tracking, PayPal, etc,) is just an added bonus. btw - First users Uber promo code shanem472 for a $10 credit.

Back to Melbourne... Airport security said I wasn't allowed to take this photo.

Next up - More rides, more travels, and more work on the TT rig for the Tour of Bright. I'll also be planning out 2015... and a shot at the 2016 World Masters TT over in Perth. Long term goal setting in the works.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Banning TT bikes at the National level..... not the answer.

There is banter around TT bikes for the 2015 NRS season. Will the NRS organisers flip the switch and allow TT bikes for the men and ban them for the women? I don't know the answer, but I did run some numbers about what happens when you introduce even more rules to an already rule-riddled discipline.

Back in 2012 TT bikes were banned from our 3 Day Tour, the reasoning was something about people forgetting to change their transponders. (IMO - a simple DFL time would have sufficed). I wrote an article about making your road bike as fast as possible, The Poor Mans TT Bike.

The conclusion to that article still holds true today - Allowing TT bikes and equipment actually LEVELS the playing field by regulating what equipment can be used.

Without any UCI regulation as to what constitutes a 'road bike' TT set up, it is open slather with big budget teams using disc wheels, deep front wheels, TT helmets, swapped out stems, and their mechanics with the know-how are happily setting their riders up.

The smaller teams without the equipment/budget, the very teams that the TT bike ban is meant to assist, are left at a HUGE disadvantage. If they were to race the TT stage with their road-legal equipment they'll have to ride a lot harder to make time cut, and to stay within GC contention/position.

Barriers in TTs.... unwelcome.

The Numbers..... 

A few assumptions made here. I've used estimates of the Women's NRS, however the theory applies across the board. I've guesstimated the top women TTers are putting out 315W over 20km, and the lower end of the field are around 210W. No wind. Flat course. 

Case 1 - Road bikes. (No TT equipment at all)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   40.6km/h 29:33            +20% cutoff is 35:27
210W   35km/h   34:17  +4:44     1:10 inside cutoff

210W is 66.6% of the winners power, 35km/h is 86.21% of winners speed. In other words, 2/3rds of the winners power gets you more than 3/4 of their speed. Not bad!

Case 2 - TT bikes. (UCI regulations)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   43km/h   27:54            +20% cutoff is 33:28
210W   37.1km/h 32:21  +4:27     1:07 inside cutoff

Again, 210W is only 66.6% of the winners power, 37.1km/h is 86.74% of winners speed. Same 2/3 power and >3/4 speed.

Things are pretty even here with a true level playing field for equipment in both cases. In the example above, the 210W rider can be either on a TT bike or a road bike with clip-ons with their position optimally configured (a negligible difference for these examples).

Case 3 - Tricked up Road bike (315W rider) vs Standard Road bike (210W rider).

This is the 'reality case'. Top teams with the strong riders and strong budgets to match pimp their roadies with all the go-fast equipment. Lower budget / first time riders are typically on standard road bikes and equipment.

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   41.5km/h 28:55            +20% cutoff is 34:42
210W   35km/h   34:17  +5:22     0:25 inside cutoff

The example rider on a standard road bike putting out 210W is A LOT closer to getting time cut, and a lot further down on GC.

Banning TT bikes means the equipment used is a HUGE deciding factor. The GC time gaps are greater. The result is the racing is less even.

Throw in a course with wind, corners, dead roads, hills, that cutoff will be a tour ending reality for more riders in 2015, and that isn't fair.

"I'm a bike racer damn it, give me a real bike to ride!"


Is it as easy as increasing time-cuts on TT stages? Not quite. GC time gaps are still greater when there is a disparity of equipment in use. This could also encourage riders to conserve more on a TT stage and 'save their legs', the whole reason time cuts exist.

Do they need to better define what can/can't be used in a 'road bike TT'? Maybe. It'll be outside the already comprehensive UCI rules, then they'll have to ensure commissars are skilled up on the new rules, and enforce them. Do TTs need MORE rules?!

The most logical solution? No change. Allow TT bikes, as per the published UCI regulations. Those who can't afford the cost/logistics of TT bikes can use clip-on aero bars. That'll set them back $50 per rider, add another $100-$200 for a 2nd hand TT helmet.

If you're a low budget team, then invest in training time and know-how to make the most of what you've got. This is all part of the sport. And an assumed task if you're competing at the National level within Australia.

If the organisers choose to ban TT bikes/bars in the NRS, they are choosing to put the very teams they're trying to help at a disadvantage, not to mention stunting the progress and professionalism of the sport at the same time.