the struggle for Ijen

with just over 2 weeks to go til crankpunk lines up for the UCI 2.2 Tour de Ijen in Indonesia with my trusty CCN Continental Cycling Team, i find myself involved in a mad rush to recapture the form that saw me getting 2nd on the GC at the Tour de East Java, that finished September 1st, and had me sitting in 5th place on the GC after three days of the Tour of Brunei. a crash followed by a case of food poisoning i wouldn’t even wish on Verbruggen put paid to another high GC finish and saw me flat out on the back seat of a bus with wooden ‘shock absorbers’ for the 120km ride back to the hotel, after i dropped out on Stage 4, amidst other riders’ vomit sloshing up and down the ridged floor and moans and groans that belonged more to Bedlam Asylum than a pro bike race…

the Ijen race is in Indonesia, around and up a crater, no less. this one, in fact:

 

and whilst the other images i found look terribly picturesque:

if not downright amazing:

i might not actually get to see it.

i’m very fortunate to be going to all these wonderful places and yes it is quite, quite incredible, to have these amazing opportunities and meet some very cool people, but we don’t exactly go out to these beauty spots day-tripping. it’s more like: airport – hotel – food – set up bikes – get internet connection – eat – watch TV for an hour – sleep. then it becomes: up at 5am or maybe 6 – eat stuffed to bursting point – head to the start in mad mad heat – suffer endless attacks all day (Asian racing) -drink fluids like a camel – finish – collapse – massage – eat – sleep. repeat for 5-10 days.
we might whizz by them at 55km/hr but that’s about it. it’s anything but a cultural jaunt. having said that we did start the 2010 Tour of China on the wall of Xian castle, all filmed live for Chinese state TV. i represented my team ans joined the other guys from their respective teams, then one by one we rode through the gates accompanied by live classical Chinese music into the square, where giant screens portrayed our images. now that was something. would have been even better had i known it was on live TV, and i wouldn’t have readjusted my nuts on the way through the gate in front of 5 million Chinese. but hey, that’s hindsight for you…

the Xian wall by day

which is spectacular by night:


yet despite Xian being home to the famous Terracotta Warriors of emperor Qin Shi Hang, we had no time to go see the world famous site, which is shame obviously but, end of the day, we are there to race.
the other opening ceremony that came close in terms of being as memorable as that was at the Tour de East Java, 2011. as we drove into the main town in the region for the start of the evening’s ceremony, our car was held up by literally thousands of people cramming the sidewalks and crossing the streets. wondering what kind of festival must be on but cursing the slow progress of the car, we urged the driver to take another route.
‘i can’t,’ he answered. ‘we have to go there.’

he pointed to a large municipal building about 500m away.

‘all these people have come to see you, the riders.’
we looked at each other, gobsmacked. there must have been 10,000 people crammed into a 1km square area, lining roads, kids in trees, young men up on trucks. finally parked, we were dressed in traditional head dress then sat us in donkey-led carts in pairs for the progression. after ten minutes of crawling along, but delighted to see so many smiling faces, my teammate turned to me to ask why my face was blotchy and my eyes bulging red.
oh sh*t. i’d completely forgotten – my horse (and apparently donkey) allergy!

yeah you’re real funny, punk

as if that wasn’t bad enough, ‘our’ donkey suddenly went on a mini-rampage and tried to bolt through the crowds. picture me sat in the back with red, weeping tomatoes for eyes and hives like the worst acne you’ve ever seen on a 15 year old serial masturbater, all the while in a cloth hat that’s perched on my head, hanging on desperately to the cart as Ol’ Pedro mounts the sidewalk and attacks children.

my old  teammates are still eking mileage out of that one.

i feel like i’m writing my memoirs here – odd. so, back to Ijen and the training. after the Brunei race i took 2 weeks off, as i often do mid season, so i can recharge physically and mentally (critical for me), then did three riders followed by the Gentlemen’s Race in which i hurt my back. then followed another 3 weeks off. so that’s 4 days riding in 5 weeks, not exactly ideal. so now the battle is to get ready to be able to be of service to my team in Indonesia.

Day 1 was a gentle 2 hour ride to get the legs going again, then Day 2 i did 3 hours at just below tempo, on a flat route with the majority of it into a head wind. i just wanted to kickstart my system again, to get the muscles hurting a bit and to clear out the lungs. Day 3 was the same route but the opposite direction, and i rode tempo with the tailwind at my back, to get the speed up. i knocked 22 minutes off the day before.

next morning (today) i was a little sore but it’s gone now, so i’ll be on the indoor trainer tonite for an hour and as half, doing a combination on 20 and 10 minute TT efforts, followed by a descending interval spiral from 3 minutes to 15 seconds. i’ll do that twice then do another 20 minute TT session, then cool down.

it’s not ideal training, and tomorrow will also be hard, but as my body is conditioned to stage racing, i fond the best way to ramp up my fitness quickly is to recreate s best as possiblea multi-day race situation. after 5 days hard i’ll take 3 easy, then do another 4 days hard. then before i have to leave for the race i’ll do a couple of 3 hour rides on a favorite course where i can gauge my progress. having a ‘go-to’ course, preferably with some climbing, where you can monitor improvements or dips in form, is very important when training – at least for me.

so, i have a feeling i won’t be winning anything in Ijen, but i will be ok i hope to help out ‘our man’ in his quest for the GC. stay tuned for further posts on crankpunk’s progress!

Ijen, here we come…  lets hope we avoid this part of the Ijen crater…

where they farm sulphur all day…

i bet they don’t take too many snapshots…

*apologies for layout, wordpress is being a princess*

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