Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 8 - Xmas Challenge - LAST DAY!

Last day of the Christmas Challenge.. and what a day it was. I had 125km to complete, but after two full-on cycling days the prospect of bein in the saddle for another 5 hours was daunting. Also my cycling buddy pulled out at the last moment, leaving me with tackling the distance all on my lonesome. So getting motivated was an issue.. but I put the alarm on, woke up, pottered around getting my kit on and stuff sorted, and about an hour after I'd intended to go, finally made it out the door. Today's cycle was going to be on the EN4, the main highway linking Mozambique with nearby South Africa. After cycling through town, past the tollgate and on through Matola, the road makes a right and essentially you're into the countryside. Seeing as it's quite close to New Year's the road was quite busy even at the early hour I reached it, around 6:30. I had a slight headwind which, coupled with my tired legs and drained body, made the outward journey quite slow and tough. Mentall I was fighting to stay motivated and tricking myself into believing that I was only doing half the distance, seeing as once I'd reached the halfway point.. there was no option but to do the other half back! It worked, and when I reached the Moamba Toll plaza and turned around with a fresh breeze on my back, I knew that I'd made it even before completing the distance. The discomfort of having pedaled for so long for so many days was beginning to show in calouses and blsters in my hands, numb posterior and feet, tingly hands and sharp stabs of pain in my legs at an awkward point in my pedal stroke.

Garmin data for your pleasure

On the day I consumed 1.5 litres of energy drink, half a litre of water, half a litre of coke and a glass of sugar cane juice with a splash of lemon, this last drink prepared on the roadside from freshly squeezed sugar cane. I ate one sesame bar and had one packet of gel. After the ride I feel surprisingly good, even if my bottom is quite numb.

This may be the end of the Rapha Christmas Cycle challenge, but it's not the end of my cycling for the year. There is still tomorrow! And though I won't attempt another long distance, I will certainly be enjoying myself on the bike around the marginal and my Caracol hill near my house.

Matola River crossed by the EN4 highway connecting Moz to South Africa

This challenge has been a learning experience, about discovering and extending my boundaries, of going beyond my comfort level, of punishing myself for no reason, of being satisfied that I have completed the challenge. I feel elated.. but strangely also a bit empty. I think that's a peculiarity of cycling, that no sooner have you achieved a goal, won a race, beaten a cycling buddy, that you need another goal right after, to keep you going and motivated. Keep moving. You stop. You die.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 7 - Xmas Challenge

Day 7 of my Christmas challenge, the penultimate day. I had to put in a good effort if I was going to cut down on my deficit of 245km, and indeed I managed it - 120km and 1540m of climbing. This time I avoided the whole traffic issue and drove out to Boane at 5:15am, and set out from there at 6:09 - with little or no traffic once we'd passed the Quarries. Accompanying me on todays ride was Gustavo. We kept a very easy pace for the first 40km, until reaching Mandevo where the road starts climbing for 16km up to Namaacha. There I put the thumbscrews on and powered up the hill, although my legs were definately feeling tired from yesterday's mamoth effort. At Germantine, two thirds into the climb I sprinted up the short rise and powered down the descent, leaving my climbing buddy a bit bewildered and dropped. I was testing my climbing against the climb record of 40 minutes set by Betinho Cuambe, our local Time trial specialist. I managed a reasonable 45 minutes, which considering yesterday distance and the 40km "warm-up" wasn't too bad. Still, need to work a bit more on my climbing. At the top we had a quick break and coke and then set off on the Namaacha loop, which was about as much climbing as the bit from Mandevo. Gustavo was not enjoying this, but put on a brave face. Then I tried to climb up to Mt. Ponduine, the highest point in the Maputo Province, but the guards of the Telephone Operator who own the site had strict instructions not to let anyone pass. A pity because it's a 2km climb with some very steep sections, 16%. Next time we'll get proper authorisation.
We stopped again at the Namaacha petrol station once we'd done the loop, then set off on our long descent back to Boane. The temperature was rising and hit 40 degrees celsius but even so we managed to lift our average speed and were doing 35-40km/hr on the flat section after the Mandevo descent. A final twist was the extra distance of the Pequenhos Libombos loop - we were literally on our last legs and were quite happy to reach the Boane Galp petrol station for an after cycle coke and sandwich. So... have 125km to go. We'll see how my legs hold up tomorrow but the idea is to do the Goba climb or out to Moamba - either way we'll be setting out a lot earlier to avoid the heat.

Pequenhos Libombos Dam in Boane

Proof of the ride - my Garmin data

Namaacha Petrol Station - Reflection

Just to go through the numbers.. So far have managed 5 cycling days for a total of 3828m of climbing and 375km. Just 125km to go!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 6 - Xmas Challenge

Today is Day 6 of my Xmas challenge and I am HAPPY to report that I had a really good long cycle today. This cycle was supposed to have happened on Sunday together with some mates, but in the end I did today's pedal all on my own. Set out at 5:30 hoping to avoid the trafic, but being a weekday it was full anyway, and so found some very chocked and noisy roads. Set out of town towards Matola, did the Mozal loop and then back on the old Boane road that goes towards Swaziland and South Africa where thankfully traffic thinned a bit. Once I reached Boane it started getting quiet and I could finally appreciate the scenery without having to grab my handlebars for dear life as a truck or a taxi hurtled past at F1 speed. The hills out there are nice and green this time of year and and passed a few local cyclists on their way to work or to their fields.

I must say that todays outing was almost a hit and miss affair, with my heart not really in it at the beginning. So each time I reached a junction I just pushed myself to the next one. So Facim became Toyota became Matola became Mozal became Boane became Pedreira hill.. However at the second bridge I had to turn back as Namaacha was just.. one bridge too far :-) It would have added an hour and a half to my stint.. So turned around then did the Barragem loop, cycing over the Pequenhos Libombos dam, which had both sluice gates open. Then around the back road to Boane and a Coke stop (2 plus a Snickers bar). The short stop over I was on my bike again and into a brisk headwind and into the traffic once more. The sun was also quite high and starting to make things uncomfortable.. But I was on the return leg, and just counting down the km's, which is easier once you've broken the camels back and are on your return leg.

So total of 135km and 5 hours. Would have preferred a longer run, up to Namaacha.. but we can always do that tomorrow!

Garmin data for the unbelievers

Day 5 - Xmas Challenge - No cycling!!!

Day 5 of my Xmas Challenge and sadly I must report NO CYCLING! A combination of late night tv, cooking lessons, sick children threw several spanners into my cycling plans for the next day, which was supposed to be nothing more than a normal marginal run of around 40km.. Was not to be, so it leaves an even larger deficit for tomorrow...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 4 - Xmas Challenge

Today was almost a write-off with the children sick from the night before. In the morning they seemed a bit better, but by then I'd had to forego the drive to Boane and then cycle to Goba and back. That would have been a nice 100km job with 10 km of nice steep tough climbing in the middle, and Pedreira hill on the return leg is one last sting for the legs before heading home to Boane. But it was not to be... Still I managed to grab the bike after lunch and launch myself at one of our local Maputo training hills, the Viaduto. 18 ramps and 40km later and I'm feeling a little less guilty for all the food I've eaten and the missed Goba trip in the morning. Cuts down a bit on my deficit, which now stands at 380km, or 95km per day. Will be tough, but I've got some time next week...

Garmin data

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 3 - Xmas Challenge - Christmas Day

Day 3 of our challenge. No kilometres to report as the day was spent with the kids opening presents and learning how to play with new toys. Will have to play catchup tomorrow, Sunday. Merry Chrismas to everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 2 - Xmas Challenge

Day 2 - Another 40km on the dot. Did the Maputo Marginal Road with a bit of a variation on the end. Temperature is already quite high in the morning, but again not a breath of wind. As it's Xmas eve quite a few more cars rushing around on their errands, and a few close calls with idiotic and inconsiderate motorists. Still, I think Maputo drivers are mostly considerate to cyclists and will even let you pass when they have right of way. Moning ride was done with two MTB cyclist mates, so the pace was light (for me on my road bike that is) and some pre-Xmas banter.

Tomorrow it's a toss-up between a quick morning pedal or something more consistent after the kids have opened their presents... Will see... more than likely events will conspire to keep me at home, which means an extra-long effort on Sunday. Till then.

Garmin data for your pleasure

Day 1 - Xmas Challenge

Today is Day 1 of the Rapha Xmas Challenge. Managed to do 40km's along the Maputo Marginal, the road that runs along the seaboard. At 5am it's quiet and free of traffic, with quite a few walkers and only the occasional cyclist. Met up with a cyclist friend at the allotted time and we spun along chatting and enjoying the morning light. It had been windy and wet the last few days but the road had mostly dried up and the air was quite clear, as it normally is after a shower. The waves were gently lapping at the shore and almost no hint of wind.. Well, as cyclists we OF COURSE felt the wind.. What cyclist wouldn't complain of a 1knot headwind on such a perfect day as this.. But in reality it was the perfect weather for a time trial. Instead we kept on chatting and ambled along at a brisk but unlaboured pace, with no sprints or surges or halfwheeling that we normally get into. The year is coming to a close, competition is over. It's time to enjoy the ride.

Fuelling up after the ride

Garmin data for the pixel-peepers

Rapha 500km X-Mas Challenge

Today is the start of the Rapha 500km X-mas challenge. 8 days. 500km. Winner.. Well, that's not the point. The point is to do as many kilometres, at least 500 in the 8 days. The idea is to not lose form over the Xmas holiday. The idea is to stay in shape so that next year it's not such an uphill battle to get your form back. The idea is to enjoy yourself on a bike, for 500km.

Well, while Rapha and the majority of it's readers and sympathizers are in the northern hemisphere, faced with piles of snow in the driveway and looking like black father Christmases in their Rapha de-rigeur black tights.. I will be cycling in sunny Maputo. Today was 42 degrees! Won't see me wearing black.. Might not see me wearing much actually.

here is the link to the Rapha site here
where you can get more info.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Copa Ciclismo 2010 - Winners

Well, it's been a long cycing season for the Maputo cyclists and the final race of the Copa calendar took place a few days ago, on the 12th of December. This race was to be the decider as the points race for the GC was as close as ever. In the end Miguel Teixeira managed the win on the day, but didn't put enough distance between himself and the GC leader (Me!), and so the final standings are as such:

1st place - Mario Traversi
2nd place - Miguel Teixeira
3rd place - Imran Akuji

Full standings are available at copaciclismo

The "Classica da EN1", in reality was being raced for the first time. At 135km it was going to be a long hard slog, and though the weather was overcast (a good thing, as it wouldn't get too hot) there was quite a southerly breeze blowing, which meant the return leg of the race would be into a headwind. The race progressed fairly fast with a few desultarory attacks, and some strong pulling by Matt and Patrick, with a few others also taking turns at the front. The return saw the average speed plummet with fewer willing to pull at the front, and the main contenders keeping well out of the wind. On leaving Manhiça, around two thirds into the race Kinha touched a wheel and was then rear-ended by Miguel, who went flying over his bike and landed badly. On Carlos' prompting the peloton stopped to give the riders a chance to rejoin, but Miguel's derailleur had snapped in the fall and Kinha kindly gave him his bike, so as to keep the GC fight alive. The riders set off again with attacks becoming more frequent as we neared the finish. An almost decisive attack by Miguel with 10km to go almost caught the peloton by surprise but he didn't get far up the hill before he was reeled in by Mario, and slowly the remaining peloton rejoined the front group. The next big attack came on the last long hill into Marracuene. Steep (4%) and long (1km) it allows strong climbers to make a break, and Miguel, closely shadowed by Mario, escaped up the hill while the peloton struggled behind. Miguel weaved and dived trying to shake off Mario, who was having none of it. Both riders went into the red but at the crest they were still glued together and backed off the pace, trying to outsmart the other into sprinting ahead. However Gustavo had managed a quick climb and broke up the party by quickly sprinting past, but neither rider was prepared to lead out and so Gustavo made his way towards the finish. Then Carlos swept past at warp speed and Miguel quickly latched onto his wheel while Mario got caught off guard and scrambled to catch up. Both passed Carlos and the Gustavo and pounded the pedals to the rising long straight finish, but Miguel had opened the gap and managed to hold it all the way to the finish line. Time difference was a mere 9 seconds in the end.

The final points difference was equally slim, with Mario ahead by just 0.56 points to claim the Copa Ciclismo. However the KOM was firmly in his grasp at 71 points to Miguel's 54 and Imran's 52.

I'd just like to say a big thank-you to all the cyclists who participated in this year's Copa Ciclismo. The Cup drew many new cyclists, as well as older cyclists who've just not joined the races before, and this made for a more exciting and challenging competition. We've lost riders (Mario Sauder left for Germany) but we've gained new ones such as Miguel, Kinha, Matt and Patrick and we hope many more will join. We managed to stage 20 events, compared to 15 last year, and some were quite well attended, notwithstading this year's longer events (which are in preparation of the African Games that will take place in September 2011 in Maputo). Some of the Copa cyclists will go on to represent their country at the African Games and we wish them the best of luck and success in their cycling.