Category Archives: Racing

Race to “The most Heroic Gate under the heavens”

The most Heroic Gate under the heavens

So you go to Vietnam for a holiday and at the last minute you decide to take your bike.
What to do… well, it just happened that there was a two day road race the first weekend we arrived.
Ashley was racing for one of the Danang teams and he managed to wrangle me an entry sponsored by the same team.

There are two races each separate from each other, i.e. some riders choose to ride only the one that suited them most.
Race-1 was a 39km criterium on the Saturday and Race-2 was a 9km hill climb on the Sunday, see a section of the climb in the photo below.


Friday – race meeting

Ashley and I rode to the criterium course and did a recce of the undulations and the finishing climb, although the finish ended up in a slightly different place than we though, it was still a 300m rising finish.
After the recce we rode back to Danang and attended the race meeting for officials and coaches. It was looking pretty standard with officials talking about sponsors, courses and race rules. I was thinking hurry up already so we can get our race numbers and go back home.
Then all hell broke lose, as soon as the referee completed his explanation of the rules, I have never seen anything like it, there was shouting, clapping, booing and nearly fistie-cuffs (well not quite the last but it felt that way).
A few, what seemed to me, team coaches where not happy with the rules and wanted to make their own. Each time it took maybe 10 minutes to settle the room after a query/disagreement, but luckily the referee stood strong and voted down any rule change request, to the absolute delight and loud applause from everyone else in the room.
Finally, an hour later, we received our numbers and rolled home feeling a little tired …. OH SHIT! That was a 120km demanding ride the day before our race, mmmm, not the best preparation.

Saturday – race 1

To avoid using up our legs even more before the race the decision was made to take a taxi to the opening ceremony….phew, that was a sigh of relief. Ashley’s friend, David Lloyd, joined us from Hanoi and was also representing the same club.
At the opening ceremony they had a huge stage setup on the steps of an large council building, where they had music, sexy dancers in lycra, singing girls and speeches.
Some podium girls, dressed in white, stood next to the row of new bikes that were on offer to the race winners, to the delight of some of the local riders who kept telling us the winner gets the girls 🙂
Signing on for the race was a case of chasing some guy walking around with a clipboard amongst the crowd of riders and spectators.
Once the ceremony was complete and we had all lined up behind our representing club’s name signs, we mounted up and had 20+km a neutral section to the criterium course start-line.
Seeing we had left home fairly early in the morning, we bought some Banh My rolls to eat on the way.

The race was split by age groups but combined some to reduce the number of races, under 26 & 26-35, the 36-45 & 46-55 and the 55+ made for three races. Starting with the oldies first.
The course was a 6 lane divided road dog-leg layout with only a rolling soft-closure, luckily there wasn’t much traffic.
Each side of the course was about 6km and we did a total of 39 km… up-down-up-down-etc etc.
There were a few undulation that were small but big enough to put on the hurt when attacked, of which there were plenty although always short lived with everyone wanting to keep things together and not interested in working a break away.
Ashley and I had many attempts, trying to soften the bunch, but it was only ever the whole bunch that would chase the breaks and then stall to 20km/h… we wouldn’t stand for that speed so always jump back on the front to get the average up again.
I had a massive final attack on the straight before the last corner, which broke the peloton up into a smaller group but they caught me and I was toasted, but it worked in Ashley’s favour and he managed to lead up the finishing straight holding off alls the others , including a pro-rider, Tuán Cilin, who had told Ash it was not Ash’s day, that would be tomorrow’s climbing race. He played mind games before the race but…. BANG, could not get around Ash on the finishing straight…. woohoo, Ashley took 1st place. I tried to start my legs up again the last 300 meters but there was nothing left and rolled into 20th.
There was a huge cheer squad that made the passing of the start/finish line a great experience and saw many attacks to get noticed.
David Lloyd rode well, with some seriously fast competition and managed to get on the podium in 3rd.

After all the races were complete we rolled up the road a few KMs to where they had setup the stage on the side of the 6-lane highway. There were many cheers for all the podium winners and great prices of massive golden cups and a new bike for each 1st getter.
Sitting around for a while with heart-pounding rave music discussion and eying off each others bootie. Then rolling home the Hoi An for 39km along the beach road.
Stopping for some noodles along the way.

Sunday – race 2

Again a fairly early start so not wanting to ride to and back from the race, this time we decided to get a car with driver, so that they could drop us off at the start line and drive our warm/dry clothes to the finish line at the top of the pass…. oh, and drive us back home afterwards.
We didn’t have to sign-on today but there was a roll-call on the start line.
Todays race was up the Hai Van pass to the “The most Heroic Gate under the heavens” at the top, this is a 9km hill climb at an average gradient of around 7% with not too many undulations along the way.
The weather was perfect at 23 degrees and dry, until the presentation which would end in the damp cloud at the top of the pass.
This race had graded starts with each age group having about 2 minutes between starts, and the younger grades starting first.
Before the start I thought I’d check my tyres, had wanted to do it before yesterdays race but never got around to it, finding that I was riding at about 80psi… doh!… So pumped them to 100psi and foudn them rolling much better.
Not being known as a climber, I decided to hold back and roll my own pace from the start, as apposed to Ashley who went out from the gun and quickly obliterated all his competition before half-way up the climb, after which he settled at a pace to better his Strava time, which he did.
I stayed on my own pace all the way and kept over taking all who had gone out too fast, completing the climb in 6th place, which felt very good for me. I’d never been up that climb from this side of the mountain, but do still hold the KOM on the downhill of side 🙂
David raced hard trying to ditch the last competitor from 3/4 of the way up, but it wasn’t to be and he could not shake the ankle biter no matter what he tried and got pipped to the line in a final sprint. Still improving his podium position to 2nd today.

The presentation was once again an absolute mayhem of excitement, rave music, dancing girls and dancing Koreans tourist, who just wanted to get into the action and lots of massive bling cups and new bikes for the winners.
As I managed to get into the top 10, I received an encouragement award banner, as well as a participation medal for all riders.
The clouds had rolled in by the end of the presentation but that didn’t dampen the spirits of all riders and spectators.
Racing done and tired we jumped back into our car and the driver took us home… so civilized!

Story written and embellished by: Robert Bleeker – Bleeksie

Less climbing more technical

Rode another cyclocross event and managed to get 1st in category and ca.12th overall out of about 40 or so riders.
Getting the hang of the bike but still hesitant during the mass starts.
Great to see the kids all enjoying a shorter version of the track and all getting a medal and some even cups.

Course this time was 2+km with no major pinches or down hills, just a few tiny bmx rollovers and plenty of super sharp corners. Luckily again no mud but this time some stone-pits to ride through… easy when they are straight and a lot harder when they are long and around a corner in the loose stones.

Cugnaux cyclocross results

kids are rewarded

Cross that on the list!

As the weather turns colder and the roadie season closes the Cyclocross season kicks off around Europe.
Seeing my trusty ex-Blunn Trek mountain bike was feeling a bit worse for wear, I decided to pass it onto a local rider that wasn’t relying on a 100% working off-road bike and still will be able to enjoy many hours of fun, at slightly slower speeds, on the forest tracks around Tarn France without it completely falling apart.

Being in the continent of Cross, I went off and bought a brand new bike based on the Specialized Crux Expert which I had customised with a slightly nicer, at least that’s what I think, setup.
Dumped the twin gears at the front and went for the SRAM CX1 one-by-eleven setup that is used a lot in the MTB world, this one with a 42 tooth front chain-ring to allow me to get some speed on the road.
Swapped out the combo cable-hydraulic system with SRAM Red full hydraulic brakes. Then left the stock standard Axis cross wheels on it and the bike comes in at 8.5kg, only saving to be made is with other wheels… maybe in the future.
Can easily ride this as a road bike, although it’s a fraction shorter and the current tyres are a little knobbly.

Picked-up the bike last Saturday and rode up & down a local Black Mountain loop, pleasantly surprised on how well it did on the rocky downhills.
Then Sunday was my first ever cyclocross event. As there was a car conflict I rode the 30km to get to the race at a slowish pace trying to save some energy in the legs… as if that ever helps.

Getting to the race track nice and early to ride some practice laps and to see the kids and junior races. Rolling around the track I was shocked on how bumpy the grass was and how super steep the climbs and drop-off were….. shiiiiit! Anyway, as little kids were riding it I thought I’d better not loose face so blindly roll off the edges and tried my hardest to make it all the way up the steep pinches.

The race didn’t have enough people in the seniors to split the categories, so one field of all the 23+year old racers together. As it was my first I didn’t want to go out too hard, especially not knowing what to expect on this terrain and for a length of about 50 minutes. I moved myself up the field a little on the first bitumen start section and settled into a non-rhythm of bumping around and feeling the heart-rate going through the roof. Managed to get up some of the pinches but soon found myself having the run more of them as the race progressed. Started picking off some more riders as the event went on.
The elite riders lapped me twice in the 50 minutes, but all in all it felt ok to finish in 17th out of about 30 or so.
Cant wait for next Sunday’s race.

Autumn Series Finale 2014

During the autumn season in the Tarn (district #31) the FSGT, Federation Sportive et Gymnique du Travail, puts on a cycling road-criterium series.
There are five races in the series each with a race distance of approximately 60km, for my category #5 anyway, with laps between 2 and 10km in length.
Due to my travels and visitors, I had so far only been able to race two out of four.

The final race in the series was in Villaries on the 5th September, again near Toulouse, and I managed to get myself there to ride and Brooke to come along to be bottle-bitch and general support along the side-lines.
At the previous 2 races I attended, I finished in a 1st and a 2nd place, which had moved me up into 3rd overall in the general classification of the series with 25 points, 3 points below the shared 1st & 2nd spots.

Luckily for me the two guys, Gerard & Serge, who beat me in the previous race had not raced before so were starting with fresh scores and a bit of catching up to do.
For me to get the series win I had to finish on the podium today and neither of the guys that had 28 points were allowed to finish in front of me.

I realised during warm-up that both the faster (and older) guys, Gerard & Serge, were there, so I had to make sure I’d keep an eye on them and get into a break with either or both of them.
Then when we were lining up on the start-line, I noticed the winner from the previous race, Gerard, had been put up a grade into category #4, so there was only one guy in my category (that I knew of) who was stronger than me, especially on the climbs.

Lucky for me the climbs were less severe than last weekend, and a couple of laps in I knew it was really only Serge and a couple of others who had the legs to attack the climbs, and after neutralising some early break attempts, I ended up chasing some prime-sprinters to the line and ended up in front, which was a perfect sign for three fast guys, including Serge, to jump across to me and we started a break.
All four of us worked hard to get away from the bunch and a couple of laps later it was clear to me that Serge was still stronger on the climbs than all three others in the break and true to form he managed to loose us on the 2nd final lap climb.
I could not chase him and knew I didn’t have to for the series points, so sat in and worked with the other two to stay away from the bunch.

Of course this meant my side-line support gave me hell, heckling and calling me all sorts of names, and loosing interest a little… just kidding Brooke.

Making sure I didn’t attack too much and didn’t just stay on the front, with some very strategically placed “pretending” that I was completely bugger during the beginning of the last lap, I couldn’t have planned it better, as on the final climb the next fastest guy attacked thinking I was toasted, with the third guy chasing and I sucking hard on their wheels.
On the final run in to the line, it was a fairly flat/down run-in, they started winding it up and I made sure I wasn’t on the front. Wedging myself into second wheel until the very last 200 meters, then winding it up and crossing the finish line in 2nd place behind Serge who was probably already relaxing in the cafe 🙂

Anyway, as only Serge got more points on the day and it didn’t matter who finished behind me, it meant that I had enough points accumulated to get 1st spot in the overall series classification.

It does mean they moved me up a grade for any future races, not that there are anymore road events, I may end up racing some cyclocross.


Enjoying some spoils

While in France I was able to join a local cycling club in Sorezè. I’ve tried to do well for them in several events up till now but every time there has been one excuse or another… crashes, missing the break etc.
Feeling a little stronger of late I decided to head out with the club president Hervé to race a local criterium event near Toulouse.

Bleeksie and Soreze club president Hervé

Brooke came along to hand out bottles and yell some incomprehensible words of encouragement… or was that abuse!!??

Brooke as support to Bleeksie in France

The race was a 60km criterium on a 2.4km circuit and there were prime-sprints every 5 laps or so, for money and/or prizes.
Here in the non-pro roadie scene they have categories 1 to 5 and I am in the 5 (the default for 50+ oldies, although the federation can start moving you up if you perform too well for your age group).
They started categories 1 & 2 together and then a few minutes later the 3, 4 & 5 categories rolled out en mass.

About 50 to 60 riders in our group on narrow roads with several squeeze points that really slowed the tail-end of the bunch each pass.
Being called to the line last meant our category was at the back, so I decided I had to work my way to the front 20 or so riders of the peleton to have a better ride.

Made it out there during the first 5 laps, others racing for the sprints but I just let them play a little to hopefully soften their legs. Each time they sat-up after a sprint and I’d be hitting the front and working with several others to keep the pace, with a rest back in the bunch every now and then.

It seemed there were less and less riders willing to attack towards the last quarter of the race so I started planning an escape…. probably a stupid thing. Anyway, a few guys keep attempting to get off the front for a while without success, then there seem to be a duo that were getting away, so I jumped and manage to get across to them, shortly after they decided it was not worth their effort to stay away, as they were heading back into the peleton I keep it going for a bit longer, noticing that I was now on a sprint lap with the bunch looking at each other, so I push the pace again and managed to make it across the last prime-sprint with about 50 meters spare.

Pins Justaret criterium

As usual the bunch sat up after the sprint then 6 riders decided it was time and they started trickling over to me, noticing we were getting a gap and then the attack was on in earnest.

Pins Justaret criterium

We roll over really well and get a good gap, with the peleton even out of sight during the shorter roads sections.
In the final lap we started seeing the slightly shrunken peleton again when a couple of the fellow attackers started sand-bagging.
I see that the bunch was edging closer and our pace was still dropping. I had taken note that I was the only 50+ rider in the group so thought “what the heck” and jumped on the front and kept the pace going enough to stay away from the accelerating bunch. Didn’t matter where in the break I finished, as long as we stayed away I had the category win.
Of course the serious sand-bagger made a run for the line with about 200 meters to go and my tired legs were just able to increase speed enough to hold onto 5th over the line!

1st in category – 5th over the line
and last prime-sprint for €10 and a free pizza voucher!

Podium girls and Bleeksie

Bleeksie asked to speak, being the Aussie visitor

Club president Hervé and join gun (beaten by Bleeksie) rider Sebastien

Showing the Belgium young guns how it’s done

Karl & Tom 2014 Belgium

As two of our 3FIDI members, Cath & Craig, recently finished their Euro stint, they handed over the Belgium representation to our Kiwi member Karl.

In the last two years Karl has been competing in a big event called the BKRC Challenge, organised by the Royal Brussels Kayak Club.
In the organisers words this challenge is a “endurance-type raid-form of triathlon”, and it includes Kayaking (+/- 6km), Trail Running (+/- 8 km) and Mountain Biking (+/- 38 km).

Because this is a teams (of 2 or 3) event Karl joined forces with Brussels-based Australian and long time Adventure Racer Tom Crebbin (pictured below in 2013 with wife Karen), friends of Tom and Alina, and racing under the name KIWOZZI in 2013 they finishing in 3rd spot on the podium (photo below).

Tom Crebbin 2013


Being all fired up by the experience of beating 100+ other racers to the edge of the podium, they upped their training this year to give it another go.
A few weeks ago I did get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, by joining in on a few pre-race training rides with Karl & Tom, after which my legs felt like they had gone through the wringer… ouch!
If Karl & Tom are this strong, other teams beating them would have to be seriously powerful.

Tom explains:

The 6km paddle was in the slowest double plastic kayak imaginable and we managed to bash out the fastest time.
Next was a 9km trail run, we got that done in 54 mins which was also the fastest time for the day. This really shouldn’t have been that us old farts run the fastest time 🙂
Then there was the 37km VTT (Mountain Biking) which took us 2hrs 2 mins. At the start of the ride we had a nice lead and put on a fast pace just in case. Then the dreaded call, “My back tyre just punctured!” came from Karl and we scrambled to get a tube in as the tyre slash was too big for the Stans to seal. This little circus cost us ca. 5 mins otherwise we may have whacked out the fastest time there also, we got 2nd fastest by 1 minute. Karl is incredible on his MTB, constantly pushing me to my limits and him barely breaking a sweat!
[artistic licence may have been implemented here by Bleeksie]

Even with the 5 minute loss due to the forced rest-stop during the MTB leg, they won overall by about 10 mins ahead of the 124+ teams including serious young insects… sponsored and all.
And in true Belgium style there was plenty of post-race beer after and bubbly plus a huge cup as prices.

Great work guys!!!!

Top spot Belgium 2014

RBKC 2014 booty for 1st

Full results with split timings: