Thursday, 17 June 2010

Marco Polo rider Brad Hall checks in from France

Australian rider Brad Hall is no stranger to Asian Bike racing, having won extensively in many Asian countries. This year he re-joins the Marco Polo team, and has just started his "second-half" season in Europe, along with several of the team's Asian Riders. 
Brad has a couple of wins under his belt already this season, and came very close to winning the overall title in the Tour of Thailand in April. Here he reports from the outskirts of Paris, just to give you a feel for what it's like to race in France.

Stage 1: 125km Tour de'L'Oise Road Race, France.

A series of 2-3km climbs was the best way to describe this stage. A total of 5 king of the mountain sprints were the highlight of today’s race. The first of which was just 5km into the start of the stage. OUCH!! Up, down, crosswind, up, down, crosswind……. You get the drift. This stage was shorter than the other stages but quite challenging as most of the climbs were situated just on the outskirts of a small French town that usually included tight corners and narrow streets. This had the effect of stringing the peloton out single file and then smashing the remaining components into a pulp up the hill.
The first ascent of 3km started only 5km into the stage and here I managed to sit my heart rate on 184bpm for the second half of the climb, that’s 95% of my max and also equated to around 480 watts for three and a half minutes with a peak one minute power output of about 515watts. To some of the readers this may all be gibber jabber, but it basically quantifies an effort that was indicative of today’s racing.
From here on end the pace never let up. The peloton split in a crosswind section but was brought back eventually by a fast chasing group. We had Leon Von Bon in the front group though he had to abandon the race due to his foot swelling abnormally during the race. A big loss as his experience and expertise are really valuable to the team and the riders.
After cresting the last of the climbs, a bunch sprint seamed definite. Getting to the front of the race was super difficult as the pace was so high due to the quality teams leading out their respective sprinters. The run into the finish line saw a speed of around 55-60km/hr. With this high pace getting to the front was difficult due to the fact that as soon as you come in contact with the wind you are forced backwards through the group. Here it pays to have someone take you to the front so that you can remain there until the sprint commences.
We finished in a small town on the outskirts of Paris with three corners in the last kilometer making a challenging finish. The Marco Polo team all finished in the bunch except for Loh and Leon who both had a bad day out with some unlucky events happening for each rider. So we are down to 4 riders already and some seriously hard racing on the horizon as most of the riders in the field are on equal time and have a lot to prove!!
Interestingly the average wattage for the day was 290 watts, with the normalized wattage around 340 watts (the average wattage recorded only when the cranks are turning: which therefore excludes down hills when one is just coasting or when one is cornering). That is a massive set of figures for me as I have averaged 320watts for a one hour time trial on a good day in the past. The weather in the north of France is going to be more like an Australian spring so I am looking forward to the opportunity to do some quality racing through some quality terrain in some quality weather. ‘Living the dream’.

Rounding it all up..

The four day tour through the north of France proved to be a challenging event. The terrain was mainly undulating with the first stage proving to be one of the hardest days racing I've done so far this year. Over the course of the tour my legs got better and better, though no result was achieved. The last day was mared by some questionable tactics as the team that was leading the tour just 'gave-up' as a group of 25 riders slowly made their way away from the peloton. An interesting turn of events considering how strong the leading team was. Looking forward to the next race on Sunday which is a pro kermesse in Belgium.

Thanks for reading. Brad.