With the growing interest in our intrepid tandem riders, we bring you yet another exclusive here on the ACC website. Not just one, but two accounts of the RROTY Round 4 action on Dangarsleigh at the weekend. One from the perspective of the fearless Stoker, Andrew and the other from the rapid rope learner, none other than Phil ‘Keg Legs’ Thomas in the role of Pilot. Strap yourselves in and hold on tight…
From the Stoker
The race started well enough, considering the lack of warmup. The legs complained about being rudely awakened. The thing to remember about most tandems (and there are exceptions) is that the pedals are linked by the sync chain, so when one pedals, both pedal. Whatever protestations my body was presenting neither pilot nor my brain was going to let it stop. So putting that aside, I settled in for 30 k’s of fun.
We’d experienced some troubles earlier in the week, with Phil being a little less kind to Black Betty than Dave. She appears not to have taken too much to heart, and we survived without any issues.
As we rode along we found the rhythm we’ve been cultivating, and Phil held me back from pushing out too soon on a couple of occasions. The gear changes got smoother as we moved, Phil’s notes on the handlebars proving useful. By the time we’d got up the School of Arts climb and turned onto Enmore road everything was flowing the way you want a tandem to go.
One of the biggest things about riding tandem is communication. Firstly, the stoker can’t really see because the pilot is in the way. Secondly, this stoker can’t see because his optic nerve has the conductivity of a rubber band. Calling out climbs, turns and descents is a necessity, something Phil (and Dave, for that matter) has taken to with a skill sometimes lacking in other people I’ve ridden with.
Apart from the swap of pilots, the other thing that’s changed since the last time I raced Dangarsleigh is my remaining vision, which had gone from light, some colour and movement, to … Well … I can tell that the sun is out. Sometimes.
So we climbed past Petersons, and I totally lost track of where I was. Legs were happily turning over, and all of a sudden we were off. Phil claims he said “Stay with me Andrew” (where was I going to go?) but I missed that. About 5 seconds after the party started I caught up and was sprinting towards the finish line. Phil was hell bent on getting there… Wherever there might have been. We passed someone (who turned out to be Wilf) and kept on pushing.
Then the sound of people up ahead, which gave me my mark. There wasn’t much left to go, and I gave it a last push, once again a little late.
The lesson here: the finish needs to be called. 🙂
All in all a great race. Settling in with Phil, and a few more lessons learned.
From the Pilot
We started the race with pretty much no warm up as I wanted to avoid slow tight manoeuvres before the race as I still find these a little difficult – we will look at getting a stationary trainer at the start and that should sort that problem. So we started off with cold legs and needed to ease into the race a bit. In order to do that I took off at 5:30 – apologies to the long suffering handicapper- as I am still learning the ropes here and wanted to avoid a shaky start and slow climb up the hill with our designated group.
Was really hoping that Black Betty would hold together for the race, as we seem to have had problems pretty much every ride so far (not that there has been that many). This is because we have the force of two riders on our gears and components and when you slip a gear or change up with power, you stand a good chance of breaking a spoke or perhaps throwing a chain. With Dave and Bullen’s help we have managed to put the broken bits back together. These repairs, in combination with some improved cadence synchronicity between Stoker and Pilot seem to be paying off, in that we are having smoother rides without mechanicals. The thing is I really need to tell Andrew what is going on during the ride or race – including when I intend to change gears – that means I need to know what gear I am in and how to get to the gear that I want, prior to pushing the levers. Even when riding solo and with a familiar gearing system I don’t always get that right. However with a bit of help from some strategically placed labels on the handle bars it is coming together – much to the relief of the riders the mechanics and Black and Bruised Betty -who could do with a little less “Bambalam.”
So with the intensity of the race building, as Andrew and I find our rhythm – I try to remember that I also need to commentate the race. The important things are: gear changes (particularly the front chain-ring as it tend to be a bit of a shock if you don’t know a change is happening), hill crests and intention to sprint, stop or turn. All pretty important however when you are cruising on about 40k and you want to “get up-it” to rein in Wilf on the last crest of the race, ( a worthy goal) it is hard to find your voice and if you do manage to, it is not that easy for the stoker to hear you. So as I get caught up in the race events, riders passing and then us passing them back, I need to remember that Andrew can’t see any of the things that are motivating my actions during the race. I think I am getting better at communicating events but concede there is definitely room for improvement.
Back to the Race:
Having left the start about 90 seconds early I was encouraged that our start group did not catch us until the turn around. As we approach the turn-around we decide that we will have a go at it on the bike. To do this, we go past the turn point to give the riders behind plenty of room – away from our turning leviathan (BB). Having negotiated the turn, with a good bit of off-road work, we settle into a pursuit of the riders in front. Meanwhile Mick and Col are bearing down on us. We catch Wilf and Richard and then they overtake us heading towards the monument. As we bridge the crest of the monument hill Mick and Col call and overtake, however as the road heads downwards we then (much to their surprise) overtake them and lead out towards home at a blistering 55ks. With the last of the undulations up to the winery they take us again and express their gratitude for the ride we provided.
From here I can see Wilf about 200m in front and I thought I informed Andrew of this – however being pretty buggered at this point it is possible I didn’t. Anyway we are drawing Wilf in and I see him take a nervous glance back as we approach the last little rise before the downhill to the finish. At this point I was unaware that Andrew was unsure about where in the course we were – he certainly wasn’t holding us back in not knowing. As Wilf stood-up to drive over the last rise I yelled to Andrew “stay with me” not surprisingly he did and we overtook Wilf just after the crest. From there it was 65k + to the finish – the finish being evident to Andrew by the noise of finishing riders.
And Phil (Hess) the whole race was done by Andrew and I in the saddle – have to think carefully about out of the saddle on Black Betty – I reckon she might buck a bit.