A few weeks ago, I wrote about targeting the National Capital Tour in Canberra. The Tour starts tomorrow, and it’s time for all the training, strategy and mental preparation to hit the tarmac.
This year’s Nat Cap Tour consists of three quite different stages: an out-and-back individual time trial, a road race with a hilltop finish, and a flat urban kermesse.
Here are my thoughts, just 14 hours before I hit the start line.
Stage one: individual time trial
Stage one will be my first ever time trial. Ideally, I would have done a full time trial beforehand as practice, but unfortunately the opportunity evaded me. I did, however, do two twenty-minute threshold intervals on the time trial bars at Lidcombe Oval.
The route is short at just 11.7 kilometres; a gentle 1% downhill all the way out, before a U-turn to return home on the same road.
I’ll be riding to power, aiming to average over 280 watts for the race. My pacing strategy will be a negative split – holding back a little on the downhill, before squeezing out everything I’ve got on the return leg.
I’m aiming for a sub-17 minute time, which will require me to average around 43kph. However, having never done an actual time trial, these power and time estimates could prove to be overly ambitious. To be realistic, with just 30 seconds separating each rider, I fully expect to be passed by one, two, or even more competitors from behind.
Stage two: road race
The road race is the stage I’m most looking forward to. Theoretically, the hilltop finish at Mount Majura should suit my slim build, but there are 65 kilometres of flat roads before I get there.
Last year in the equivalent stage, I was dropped in the first 200 metres due to a mechanical: unbeknownst to me, my rear brake was rubbing hard against the rim. I’d just thought I had bad legs.
I’ve looked at the start list and identified a couple of riders to mark, so my plan is to stick to their wheels until we get to the climb. After that, it’s a battle of power-to-weight ratios; a matter of holding on as long as I can.
Stage three: kermesse
This is a new stage for the National Capital Tour. It will be held on a circuit within the Australian Institute of Sport grounds. It’ll be flat and fast, with three corners and one u-turn on course. The race should last for about one hour.
If I’m not up there in the general classification before the start of Stage 3, I don’t expect to factor in the results overall. This stage will likely be too flat for me to make a difference. Hopefully, I’ll have a strong overall position to defend in the bunch.
What I’m looking forward to
My first time trial
As mentioned above, this will be my first ever time trial. I’m looking forward to seeing how I go in this pure form of racing; the race of truth. I expect that my slim build will work against me. Like a Romain Bardet or Esteban Chaves, I suspect that I don’t produce as much pure wattage as others in my division. This race is a chance to confirm or deny that theory.
The preparation has been interesting. I’ve tried clip-on time trial bars for the first time, and I’ve been thinking about how to optimise my speed for the 11.7-kilometre effort. For example, I’ll be removing both bottle cages, warming up with an indoor trainer, and putting on my new tight-fitting Parramatta CC aero socks.
The highlight of the Tour should be the mountaintop finish. Mount Majura is a 2.7-kilometre climb at 8%. A similar length to Bobbin Head West, but steeper. It should take me about 11 minutes if we’re racing at full gas.
None of the race courses in Sydney finish atop a hill. Climbing is my favourite part of cycling, and I’ve always wanted to have a real chance to race up a climb. I was disappointed last year not to contest the climb after being dropped early on. This year gives me a chance for redemption.
In what looks to be a great move by Cycling ACT, lunch is provided on both days as part of the entry fee. There isn’t much by the way of dining options around Mount Majura; last year I resorted to fries and frozen Cokes at Macca’s. Providing lunch will encourage riders to stay around the circuit to watch the other races and mingle with other riders.
I’d love to win the whole thing, but I know my goals should be a little more modest. The level at State Opens is really strong, even in Division 3 (C Grade). An overall podium finish would be brilliant, or even a podium on any one stage.
Some more modest personal objectives will be as follows:
- in the time trial, average 280 watts;
- in the road race, make it to the base of Mount Majura in the front group. I just want to have a fair, clean crack at racing up the hill;
- in the kermesse, finish in the bunch.
The weather is looking cool and perhaps a little damp. Even if it’s gloomy, anything will be better than last year’s freak heatwave with ferocious crosswinds, which was like cycling in a fan-forced oven. This weekend’s forecast is for moderate winds around 20kph. I should be able to handle that with some good positioning.
Whatever happens, I’m hoping that unlike last year, I have a clean shot at putting my best performance on the road. I’m also looking forward to catching up with some friends down in Canberra. But first, a 4:00AM wake up before the drive down to Canberra. See you there!