Back in April we posted a story about Armidale Cycling Club member Harrison Munday, his up-coming first year as a National Road Series (NRS) rider and what that means for him. In the last 3 months cycling life has been busy for H and here he takes time out to share a few more stories in the third of our posts celebrating local riders and their Life in the Fast Lane
H has just returned from racing as part of the Paradice Investment Cycling Team in the 20th Edition of the Tour de Polynesie in Tahiti and has posted some of his adventures on his own blog which is well worth a read. In it he recounts his trip across the water to Moorea and the joys of sea-sickness and a late-running ferry causing him to engage in some dynamic off-the-bike warm up activities with team-mate Sam Layzell. We had to find out more about that one as it sounds like something beneficial in the thick of an Armidale winter.
Apparently Dynamic Warm Up exercises aren’t anything new. For H they involve running through a number of ballistic-type stretches, lunges, jumps and squats before an event in order to get the muscles warm, active and moving. He’s learned about them from Holly Harris who he reckons “has a habit of slipping in a few squats and fancy moves before a hit out” and adds, “I’m sure if you’re interested, she’d be happy to teach you”.
On the start line, even old hands who compete regularly at club level still get a few butterflies before a big race so what’s it like when you up the ante to an NRS or an International event where the stakes are higher and lets face it, the riders are more than a bit better too? H believes that nerves are good and they demonstrate that the race is important to you. He was taught to convert that nervous energy into energy on the bike but he also reflects “…at the end of the day you can’t get yourself too worked up, it’s just a bike race.”
Back in the juniors, at his first ever lap of our crit track when he was 13 years of age, Harrison reckons he was probably the most nervous he’s ever been on a bike. He was shaking so much he jumped the gun! As he grew more familiar with ACC club members, the level of the racing and the atmosphere, he became less nervous and the same applied to interclub and then state racing. At his first NRS race he reflects on being very nervous and still is today “…it’s another level of racing, different guys, faster speeds, massive groups (160+ riders) and of course, harder crashes.”
Logistically, it is hard enough transporting bikes to interclub or state races – we had a bit of fun and games getting 7 club bikes down to Albury earlier this year for the 3 Peaks ride – so what’s it like getting everything packed and sorted to travel overseas? H uses a Scion bike bag that has wheels on the outside and a frame inside which you can lock your bike to. Inside that also needs to go a set of race wheels, clothes, shoes, helmet, food, bottles, TT bars and all kinds of other race stuff but still keeping the weight under the 28Kg limit. So a bit of disciplined packing skill needs to be added to the list of rider qualities if you want to compete these days.
Another factor Harrison had to consider was the need to acclimatise, particularly when going from a dry and cold Armidale winter to a hot and humid Polynesian climate. He drank at least 5 or 6 medium-sized bidons on an average 120K stage, so 2 to 3 times what you’d consume over here right now. With 4 road stages on the tour and 6 team members to supply, that’s over 140 bottles to be fetched and carried just on those stages alone so the duties of a domestique are certainly not just confined to pacing and leading out team mates and covering breaks. Curiously enough Harrison says, “…my favorite thing to do is get water, I really love getting bidons for the team, collecting empty bidons and going back to the team car or bike and trading them for 6 or so full bottles, stuffing them down your jersey and chasing back through the convoy of cars to the peloton and handing everyone a full bidon. I’ve always watched the pros do it on TV and been amazed at how they carry all those bottles in their jerseys, chase back and then go straight up to the front.” Having experienced the role himself now for real, H reckons Armidale Cycling Club could certainly benefit from a full-time domestique during club and interclub events and nominates Kirky for the role – no complaints from us there.
Aside from water of course, we need fuel on the bike, and how does that go overseas with no access to familiar foods? The Paradice team took a lot of their own race food (bars and gels) but H ran his engine on the local bananas and found them pretty good. Aside from that it was “good fruit – epically good fruit”!
Back in Australia and Harrison is having a well-earned rest from his 2-week adventure, he’s getting to catch a lot of the TdF which of course is timed well to be pretty motivating in the middle of our winter. Having heard about the adventures to be had there, he’d love to get over to Belgium like Paradice team-mate Mitch Carrington and race the cobbles and crosswinds. While pro tour riders have a range of bikes at their disposal, this year in Australia the NRS has banned TT bikes and enforced the rule that you have to use a standard road bike which levels the playing field a little, although disk wheels and aero helmets are allowed. As the Polynesian tour was outside the NRS, H used clip-on bars for the time-trial on his 2014 Campag-equipped Focus Cayo. He’s got 3 sets of wheels – one heavy unbranded training set and 2 sets of HED’s. He uses HED Ardennes for climbing and HED Stinger 4 Carbon race wheels (44mm thick) for flatter roads and reckons they are incredibly light and stiff. He also reckons Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome used HED wheels in both of their 2012 and 2013 Tour de France wins – apparently the HED’s were de stickered and sometimes stickered Dura-Ace C50 due to Sky being sponsored by Shimano for wheels and if you look closely at the hubs of the 2012 TDF winner’s wheels you will see the evidence.
In terms of a learning experience, the Polynesian tour has been massive with plenty of take-aways, but the biggest one for H is summed up as ‘positioning in the peloton’ and explains “…apart from the pace, it is one of the hardest things – it’s really hard to move up the front, and it’s hard to move from the back half of the group to the front half as you’re competing with 160 other people all trying to do the same thing which can make things a bit chaotic, pushy and choppy at times. But it’s the art of navigating in a bunch and that’s something I’m eager to master, and more racing will help”.
When we last caught up with him, H hoped to run a few of the national races this season, he still plans to enter one or two more NRS events if he can and follow that up with the International GP and maybe a few crits later in the year but our local Grafton-Inverell isn’t one he’s tagged just yet. “…that’s a race I would love to do one day but not yet, I need a few more K’s in the legs before then, maybe next year…”
We’re sure you’ll get there H and thanks for sharing your adventures with us – more next time…