Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Journo worlds '07

This will most likely be long and almost certainly not worth reading, but that's never stopped me in the past. And plus it's been raining and I seem to have picked up a hangover from somewhere, so I may as well make best use of the conditions.

The important one is the middle one
© Jeff Jones

This year's journo world's were in Austria, Salzburg, or the other way around if you're of normal bent. It was a relatively simple task to get there, thanks to aeroplanes and Paul Godfrey's van to take my second bike.

I arrived on Wednesday evening and was met by Primoz #2, a friend of Primoz #1, who works in the SalzburgerLand tourism dept. We had a rather pleasant fisch dinner at a restaurant on the Wallersee, north of Salzburg. It's a beautiful area of Austria: lots of greenery, lakes, hills, nice roads and dumplings. More of those later.

I was staying at the Freizeitparadis in Köstendorf, which was a an odd combination of an indoor sports centre and a hotel. Whatever, it had beer and sauerbraten so it must have been OK. At breakfast I chatted to the cleaning lady, who besides being good looking also walked like Arnold Schwarzenegger and spoke at least four languages. She was clearly in the wrong line of work.

SalzburgerLand is noice
© Jeff Jones

The top of the TT course
© Jeff Jones

The first lot of Slovenians rolled up on Thursday morning, by which time I'd already gotten ready to do a recce of the time trial course. Primoz #1 met me at the start and we did a full lap. It was trickier than we thought, starting in Henndorf at the top of a hill and rolling down it via two hairpins and a bit of gravelly road. The bottom hairpin was annoying, because you couldn't take the descent fast at all if you wanted to get around it. Oh well, it was the same for everyone.

Once at the bottom, it headed back up via a short but steep section, then turned left onto the main road and right a few hundred metres later. Then it was a gradual climb with some little steep bits until 4km, following a Mozart tourist route. We had to be prepared for quite a few changes in rhythm. Ho ho.

After the top of the hill, it became a narrow single lane road which descended and snaked around until we got to Neumarkt. There were quite a few gravelly corners in this bit, and I'm definitely glad we rode it. At Neumarkt, we shot out of a side street and onto the main drag, taking care to avoid the traffic. That caused some concern, but we assumed it would be all closed for the race. Another ho ho.

It was fairly straightforward after Neumarkt. The road became an undulating two lane affair, going past our hotel and heading down the other side of the lake to the finish at Seekirchen. The last bit was downhill into the town, and also quite dangerous because you didn't know if cars/people were going to come out of side streets.

We drove the course twice to get it properly ingrained, and I spent a lot of time awake that night a) trying to ignore my roommate's heavy snoring and b) trying not to fall off on each imaginary bend. It was a lot better when you were actually on the bike, but it wasn't a course where you could go flat out all the time on.

The evening's reception was in a bio-farm in Seeham, on a neighbouring lake. It was excellent to catch up with everyone from previous years as well as to meet a few new bodies: there were nearly a hundred journos at this year's event. Ellis, Paul and Pam from Procycling had all made it, so I guessed that my road bike did as well. I consumed as many dumplings (knödeln) as I thought wise, having also had one with my sauerbraten at lunch at 4pm. I felt strangely leaden after that. Austrians do stodgy food really well.

The highlight of the night was the crossbow shooting competition. A number of us had a go in trying to skewer a bit of wood with a proper crossbow, complete with safety catch. None of us managed to kill anyone, so that was a plus. I don't think we won.

Beddy-byes and I was introduced to Srecko, my roommate, an ex-400m runner from quite a few years ago who was just doing this for fun. He snored so I didn't sleep for the next three nights. That might explain why I'm so wrecked this week. It didn't bother me too much at the time though.

The zeitfahren

My start time was 12:07, about two-thirds of the way down the 25 starters in my category. It was a perfect day with no wind and blue skies. My plan was a) not to fall off on the first two corners b) not to fall off before Neumarkt c) not to fall off anywhere else and d) win.

I took the descent and first two corners very steadily, overcautious yes but that's how I'd planned to ride it. I got to the bottom and was so happy that nothing untoward had happened that I almost didn't believe I was still racing. I felt good going up the hill and caught my minute man after only three minutes. On the flatter bits of the rest of the climb I was in the big ring, hitting 43km/h and now enjoying it.

At the top I could see my two minute man, Primoz about half a minute ahead. But I ended up catching my three minute man before him. I got Primoz just before Neumarkt after 11 minutes. In the meantime I'd misjudged one corner and had to use the brakes too much, but it wasn't disastrous. The other corners I took steadily. Perhaps using some more aggression would have been better in hindsight, but that's easy to say.

Neumarkt was not good, as I shot out of the side street just after a woman had walked across the footpath in front of me. The one policeman there was letting through traffic in between riders, so even though I had a fairly safe turn onto the main drag, I found myself right behind a big bus that wasn't moving! I got around it and wove through a couple of other cars before zipping down the next hill and thankfully out of town. All of the riders had this problem, including the winner. That's what you get when you run a TT through a town at lunchtime on a Friday.

I checked my clock and was delighted with covering the first part of the course at 40km/h. It was altitude-neutral but most of the climbing and technical parts were now over. I was expecting an average closer to 37-38 at this point.

The last part was good because I could assume the position and try to empty the tank over the next 11km. I caught three more riders on the false flat up to Köstendorf, then another one on the nice downhill bit through Weng and Hüttich. 68km/h - the 53x11 was handy. There was a bit of an uphill with 3km to go and I knew that was the place to keep the speed up because I couldn't go flat out in the final part. It was nice to get that over with, but the last two turns were a bit annoying.

I came to the second last left hander and there were two rows of cars banked up in my lane, and another car turning into the opposite lane as I was approaching. The policeman stopped the traffic in time but I had to be careful. Again in hindsight, I should have turned onto the left side of the road instead of going all the way to the right, because the policeman at the next junction had stopped the traffic so there was a free run. But I couldn't know this and it was best to play it safe.

The last bit down into Seekirchen was better and quieter than I thought, and I didn't have to ease off the gas too much. I finished in just under 31'40 for 22.7km, and was really happy with the average of 43km/h for a course that only lost 30m. My average power output was 356W and that was also very good, considering the downhills and corners.

But with a time trial, you never know how the others are going to fare.

Me after the TT
© Jeff Jones

As I chatted to Paul, who had gotten lost at the fourth corner (no marshal, just a sign, and he hadn't pre-ridden that bit of the course. Argh), I watched the rest come in. I'd caught seven riders so I knew I'd done well. But then Roel van Schalen flew past the finish on his Cervelo P3. I checked his number: 62 (I was 49), subtracted 13 minutes, and realised he'd probably beaten me by five seconds.

The results confirmed this and I was momentarily gutted. Annoyed, too, after someone told me he was an ex-pro. He wasn't though, just a good Dutch amateur who missed the journo world's last year due to injury and was really determined to win it this year. Upon reflection, there was no shame in being beaten by him, even if it was only 4.51 seconds! We'd beaten all the U35 riders over the same course too, as their quickest was 31'58. Oh well, at least I'm in the most competitive category!

In our category, Italian Giovanni Fantozza also did 31'58 with another Brit, Julian Bray in fourth with 32'45. I have a feeling, although I can't prove it, that the Italian was lucky to do that time. Last year, he was 2'40 behind the winner in this category, and 1'40 behind Jules. And in the road race the next day, he was nearly seven minutes down.

I guess if I'd done a technically perfect ride I would have shaved off 10 seconds. Or if I'd been able to produce a measly two more watts I would have shaved off 5 seconds. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, but that's how it goes. I know I'm not a technically perfect rider so I can't complain.

I downloaded the Ergomo data afterwards and had a good look at it, seeing all the places where I braked or slackened off. It was fascinating and gave me a bit of interesting feedback. I also think with that sort of power output I can go quicker in future just through aerodynamic improvements and better pacing. Well, I'll have to wait another six months before I can really try that out.


4km: 7'05 (gain 65m)
10.4km: 15'40 (lose 70m)
22.7km: 31'39 = (lose 27m)

Avg. power: 356W (I don't think it was reading correctly the previous week, as this seemed more in line with what I'm capable of)
Avg. HR: 177

Me, Roel van Schalen and Giovanni Fantozza on the podium of the TT
© Jeff Jones

More knödeln

After a post-race beer, we headed to Neumarkt for another evening reception. I got the full run down of Ellis and Paul's rides. Paul was a bit lucky that he found the course again I think, because he completely missed the first part and went on the main road to Neumarkt, but came into it from the opposite direction! Ellis had also missed the non-marshalled corner, but realised his error quickly and turned around. He ended up last in the U35s but time trialling isn't really his thing. And of the Slovenians, my roommate from last year, Braco, did exactly the same thing and ended up not finishing. Primoz called him 'Garmin' after that.

The bio-beer was rather good, and helped wash down another mountain of stodge. Paul and I were trying to work out the density of the knödeln, and wondered whether they were actually denser than black holes. I think they were, and it would be interesting to do some gravitational attraction experiments on them.

We discussed tactics for the next day's road race. "Well, none of us can sprint, Ellis is riding in another category so...I'll probably try to attack."

With such careful planning, everything was sure to fall into place.

Stodge, Austrian style. "That's not a dumpling, it's a space station."
© Jeff Jones

Dirk, Paul, moi, Ellis
© Jeff Jones

The strassrennen

The road race was over four laps of a 13.5km circuit around another lake. It was a lot flatter than the TT course, but there was a bit of a hill with 3km to go. Unfortunately, it was a headwind so I thought getting away there would be difficult. And it was.

Andrej and Gorazd oversee Primoz's bike before the RR
© Jeff Jones

We had over 30 starters as we rolled off to the sound of AC/DC's TNT, some five minutes behind the U35 bunch. Our first lap was quite sedate, and I chatted for a bit with Mr Van Schalen. He was very keen to win the road race as well, and asked me about the possibility of an early break because he didn't want to be at the finish with any sprinters. I told him these sorts of races were tricky because the strongest riders are well marked, but wait until lap two.

To his credit, he did wait until we had crossed the start/finish line at the end of lap one before attacking. That broke the bunch up into several bits, and I decided it would be prudent to make my way up to the front bit. It came back together, but just as it did a French rider crashed right in front of me and slid diagonally across the road. I didn't quite have to go onto the footpath to avoid him, but it was close. I think he was ok but he didn't rejoin the race.

We slowed down, allowing an Italian (Maccioni) and an Austrian (Del Pozo) to go off the front. I think hardly anyone noticed this, which was weird. I watched them ride away and they had a good 40 seconds when they took the right hand turn about halfway round the second lap. I wanted to stir up the chase a bit and put in a small attack before the corner. I looked round and saw only Slovenian Robert Baumann on my wheel, so I went a bit harder to open up the gap. They let us go for some reason.

Unfortunately, Mr Baumann wasn't the best choice of breakaway companion. He did less than 1km of the next 13 in front and kept asking me not to drop him. Being a kind hearted soul, I let him stay there although a few more turns would have been nice. He apparently had no idea that we were actually chasing - he thought we were in the lead!

We could see the two ahead of us slowly coming back, but once we got over the hill near the end of the lap we could also see the U35 bunch ahead! The two in front caught the bunch with about 1km to go, leaving us dangling at 10 seconds. Annoyingly, the bunch sped up after the Austrian got one of his teammates to drive it (he admitted this later). I have no idea what speed we were going but I know the first lap was 22'30 and the second closer to 19'00.

Baumann did one more very short turn at the start of lap 3 as I swallowed my first PowerGel. Mmm, vanilla. I dug a bit deeper and we finally caught the bunch at about the place I'd attacked on the previous lap. I looked back and couldn't see a sign of anyone chasing us, so that was good: we must have had 40 seconds. We finished up with 1'36 on a chase group of four and 6'48 on our original bunch.

It was a relief and an advantage to be in a bunch again, although I would have preferred it if it'd just been four of us. I know we wouldn't have had any problems staying away because we ended up towing the U35 bunch around on the last lap anyway. I also tried attacking at the end of the third lap, but it was impossible with all the U35s also attempting to race. I use that term loosely because they limited their attacks to the hill and didn't bother keeping up the tempo on the flat.

The four of us reached a silent agreement to work on the final lap, even if Baumann still thought there were only two of us ahead. I had been feeling OK but I realised when I attacked on the last hill that I didn't have the gas to get away. The Italian was right on my wheel and refused to work, even though I told him he would beat me in the sprint. I had absolutely no confidence in myself in that regard, but maybe I should have.

I felt exactly like I did in the Thursday Castle Combe races after a Wednesday evening 10. I attacked another couple of times, each time with less oomph. It was always the Italian who marked me and I basically gave up with 1.5km to go. I ended up in fifth wheel because one of the U35s had joined us and got in the way (we had a gap to the rest of the bunch by this stage). On the roundabout with 500m to go, he swung off, leaving Baumann and I with an uncloseable gap to the front two. I had to work bloody hard to get around Baumann in the sprint to secure third, but I did enjoy watching the two leaders fight it out for the win.

The Austrian had it won and started celebrating with 20m to go, sitting up and raising his arms. He didn't see the Italian on his left for some reason and he was pipped on the line. It was bloody hilarious. Maccioni did deserve to win as he'd ridden a smart race. He'd also skipped the time trial, which was exactly what I did last year to save myself.

I didn't dwell on finishing third too much - as far as I was concerned it was a bonus after aiming for the TT. Yes I probably gave up too early after getting myself into the winning break and should have had more confidence in my sprint. But I still enjoyed the race, which was more positive than last year's. Strange to say, it was nice to see someone else win. Mr Maccioni was delighted with his jersey and Del Pozo wasn't too disappointed either. I got to shake Eddy Merckx's hand on the podium again too :-)

Then it was time to drink a lot of free beer. After the podium ceremonies, we headed into Salzburg to a bierhaus and had some tasty 'Die Weisse' beer and discussed many things, most of which didn't relate to cycling.

Me and Eddy Merckx
© Jeff Jones

Rehydrating in a Salzburg bierhaus
© Jeff Jones

The Eddy Merckx classic

Three hours sleep and a lot of beer later, I realised I had to ride a 150km cyclosportif on Sunday. I did not feel well on getting up at 6am but after the usual breakfast of bread and jam and coffee, I was at least prepared to start.

There were about 1000 starters, I think 250 of which did the 148km route. I started in block 3 about five minutes behind the front riders, and was quite relieved to get going as my head was spinning too much on the start line. I overtook a lot of people in the first 20km to end up in about the third group, where I stayed until we hit the first real hill after 90km. I could see the second group ahead and tried to catch them, but was let down when most of them turned off at the top of the hill to do the shorter route, leaving me on my own.

The last 50km was the best bit, because we were in the high hills above Salzburg. I reached a particularly steep one and saw a guy on the side of the road trying to pump up his tyre. I stopped and lent him my pump, which he appreciated. But I was passed by a few guys and it took me ages to get them. Waste of time anyway, because they dropped me on the last big climb. At the top, I enjoyed the fantastic view of Salzburg as I blasted down the other side. One more hill and it was all over with me feeling somewhat under the weather. End time: 4:24, which was 22 minutes behind the winner and good enough for 36th. That was OK as I wasn't pushing it today.

Rado and Dule before the start of the Eddy Merckx classic
© Jeff Jones

Post-ride hydration
© Jeff Jones


Monday provided an opportunity to cruise into Salzburg and look around the old city. Very picture-skew. The highlight was definitely sitting outside at the Mozart Cafe and drinking Mozart's Cafe, which tasted a bit like Welsh coffee with a hit of some liquor. Just the thing after a two hour bike ride in the heat.

Still, it was all about the atmosphere. As I sat listening to 10 minutes of bell tolling I imagined Mozart himself would have composed his Requiem here, or whatever the equivalent of AC/DC's Hell's Bells was, back in the day.

Clearly, this is the alleged coffee that Mozart himself used to drink
© Jeff Jones


And then it was back to cold, grey and wet England. At least London afforded the chance to catch up with sister Lucy and cousin Justine and drink a certain quantity of good Belgian beer at a bar somewhere near Farringdon. Noice.

Clearly, this is London
© Jeff Jones

Luce and Justine with three fine Belgian beers
© Jeff Jones

© Jeff Jones

More pics

Ah, memories
© Jeff Jones

Ein dudelsack band
© Jeff Jones

Ellis tries to kill a piece of wood
© Jeff Jones

Primoz and Miroslav warm up before the TT
© Jeff Jones

Paul G before he got lost in the TT
© Jeff Jones

Ein post-TT bier
© Jeff Jones

Ellis, Paul and Pam at pre-dinner drinks
© Jeff Jones

More dudelsack muzik
© Jeff Jones

Post-race hydration. Always important.
© Jeff Jones

On the way into Salzburg
© Jeff Jones

A noice canal
© Jeff Jones

Entrance into Salzburg's old city. Beware of spiders.
© Jeff Jones

Ein Schloss on a hill
© Jeff Jones

The mighty Salzach
© Jeff Jones

1 comment:

Ron said...

An excellent travelogue Jeff. And, btw congratulations on the ride - a good effort