Tour of Austria UCI 2.1
The Tour of Austria has been a very good week for the Drapac Cycling Team. Along with my first professional win on stage three, Will Clarke won the opening prologue, and I managed to finish off the week 8th in the overall general classification!!
We had guys in the break on most stages, with Koning nearly pulling off a win on the first road stage, and we generally had a good presence in the peloton and cohesion all week. Admittedly, it would have been great to finish further up on GC, but unfortunately I just didn’t perform well enough on the altitude stage up the Grossglockner (stage 4)
Nonetheless, I am extremely happy with the week of racing. With 7 stages plus a prologue, we covered nearly 1400km racing and spent a little bit over 30 hours in the saddle. I think it’s the longest and hardest tour I’ve done so far and the legs definitely started to feel it, along with everybody else in the peloton… Although after about stage 5 the body didn’t get any worse, and if anything, I started to feel better again for the remaining stage 6 and 7. It’s safe to say I am looking forward to a couple of easy recovery days now before preparing for the upcoming Tour of Portugal, which is 13 days long!!
Maybe during this time, I will make an overnight trip up to Montpellier to say hello to some old friends I made during my French exchange program before time runs out (Time runs out because after Portugal, my flight back home to Australia has been booked)!! …It is a little bit earlier than I’d anticipated at the start of the year, mainly due to not obtaining a visa and being restricted to 90 days in Europe.
This means I may even catch the tail end of the snow season and might spend some time up at Mt Buller. I think cyclists can learn a thing or two from Nordic skiing!
Anyway, back to the race report.
Stage 3 was 180km long with nearly 3000m of climbing. The final approach to the climb was very fast and a little hectic as we went through two tunnels and a couple of roundabouts before making two sharp (90-degree) right hand corners.
Once on the climb, Stefano Pirazzi from team Bardiani-CSF attacked straight away and had a little bit of a gap. I made my way up to the front at the same moment that Pieter Weening from Roompot attacked (formerly from team Orica-GreenEdge). Given my momentum, I followed his wheel, and was the only one to go initially. We had a small gap on the peloton, but Weening didn’t seem to have good legs and started to fade with his effort. I still felt good so decided to give it a crack and took off. Pirazzi was still in front of me, but not for too long! Once I caught him, I was now the leader on the road with less than 2 km’s remaining…
Constantly looking over my shoulder and seeing my gap holding for a while, I knew I was in a good position. A few riders tried to attack and bridge across, but didn’t quite make it. Around one of the hairpins, it gave me a good chance to look back and see that the remaining peloton had bunched up again – a really good sign that they had backed off the pace a little bit as nobody seemed to be willing to get on the front and ride me back for the time being – and this allowed my gap to grow out to about 30 seconds advantage.
My power started to drop a little bit, but the final KM was in sight, and I started to realize I was going to hold off for the win. My advantage was brought back significantly in final few hundred meters, but I crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of second place, enough time for me put both hands up in the air and celebrate my first professional stage win.
The feeling was incredible. I can’t really write about what it means to get this win in Europe, but I believe it will be marked as a big moment in my cycling career. At least I know I’ll remember it for a long time!
For those out there who love looking at data, unfortunately my heart rate monitor started to play up and cut out for a little bit, so I won’t truly know what my average HR for the final 10 minutes were, but it definitely maxed out at 200 beats per minute, and was probably close to that for the entire final climb. From a power perspective, I was VERY close to my all-time 5-minute best power (436w), and improved my previous 10 minutes power (410w) which is a great sign after 5 hours of tough racing, three days into a tour! Interestingly, the numbers were very similar on the final climb during stage 7 when I finished in 10th place; 5-minutes (435w) and 10-minutes (402w), although the climb wasn’t quite as steep and it was cobbled. In comparison to my Arthurs Seat effort during the 2015 Herald Sun Tour, my 5-minute power was 415 watts, and my 10-minute power was 385 watts, which resulted in 4th place.
Two of the stages that finished uphill finished in very reduced bunch kicks, and I was usually at the back end of this bunch, finishing 12th and 10th on stages 5 and 7 respectively. Not so important if you’re after the GC and finish with the same time, however if you’re after stage results as we were, it’s incredibly important (even at the end of a 16km climb averaging 7% – there were 13 riders left with 500metres to go, resulting in a long sprint to the line.)
It’s always good taking lessons home to try and improve for better results next time. I have been reading ‘The Training Bible’ by Joe Friels, which talks quite a bit about ‘limiting factors’ (not to be confused with weaknesses) and how we should spend more time working on our limiting factors than our strengths, which will ultimately enable better results than working purely on our strengths. I guess this is one of my limiting factors that needs some improvement…
It was also interesting to see my HR data during the bigger climbs. It was much lower than I’m used to seeing. Initially, after stage 4 I thought it was due to the altitude, but the same thing happened again on stage 5, which only finished at 1700m above sea level. I also had a similar feeling during the big climb in Giro Del Trentino. I’m not really sure what it means. It’s probably to do with fatigued legs, something that I hope will naturally continue to improve as I complete more of these tough tours, and generally ‘get more km’s in the legs’ each year.
In signing off, I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who got in touch and recognized my achievements here in Austria. You all know who you are! Also congratulations to Peak Cycles’ Andrew Stalder for taking out the local VRS Eildon Road Race on Sunday in Masters A-grade, and good friend Edward Green for taking out the Open B-grade victory.
I may be busy racing and travelling around Europe, but I’m always watching on Strava…. Always watching.
Lastly, ICYMI, Drapac had some exciting news last week, which I’ll discuss in more detail soon! You can read about it here
Thanks for reading,