Friday, October 31, 2014

Crocodile Trophy

Croc Trophy - touted as one of the hardest stage races in the world, and into it’s 20th year I thought it time to give Croc a visit.  

The basic outline of the event is an XC race, followed up with 7 XCM’s and then a TT to finish off … sounds reasonable.

This year Croc was categorised into the top level of UCI endorsed stage races, so with UCI points on offer a solid elite field, with multiple National XCM champs, was in attendance.

The field was strong through into the various amateur age divisions - with multiple ex-pros, and multiple grand tour riders.

We asked Max Lelli - a 30 grand tour vet whether Croc was harder then the Tour de France - his broken English response was that the Tour was for pussy (cats) in comparison. Good to know he was hurting too!

The race started with around 100 riders - of which 30 odd were Australian. About 85 riders would finish.

For me, I was racing in the A2 - Amateur 30-40 yr old category. You had to have a UCI license to race with the big-boys in the Elite category.

Day 1 - XC in Smithfield

2nd in cat / 33km / 900 vert / 30C+

The first stage was an XC race around the Smithfield tracks - just outside of Cairns. 

The trails here are pretty awesome - well made singletrack through tight trees, lots of roots and rocky gully crossings.

The start was a fast ride up a fire road. It was not quite long enough to sort everyone out, so it was quite a mess entering the first single track.

Lots of roadies had smashed the fire road but now bounced off every tree in the singletrack. I had to ask one guy if he had ever ridden a MTB before - he did not speak any English but hopefully he understood my sledge but the associated arm waving ...

After wading through the traffic and remembering why I don't race XC, I was about 4km from the finish and got lazy in a rocky gully crossing and punctured through the tread. I rode the rim to the finish - Enve's have no problems with this.

Day 1 - Smithfield
Day 2 - Carins to Lake Tinaroo

1st in cat / 97km / 2200 vert m / Best amateur jersey

The 2nd stage started with a nice neutral roll out from Cairns and up to the start of a mountain road.

Right from the gun, the pace was crazy heading up into the twisty mountains. I managed to grovel onto the lead group and did some massive numbers (for me) - over 375w for 20 min and 410 for 10 min!  Meanwhile Ivan Rybarik at 87kg was driving it off the front - do the maths!

Once we passed the Dam wall we went into crazy steep vertical track. The little 34T chain ring was struggling big time. This turned into more steep loose rocky climbs until finally fully ascending the mountain range.

The descent off the backside of the mountain was again steep and super lose.

My patched up tire lost some air so I had to stop and gas it - thankfully it held and I was joined by Guido Thaler (Best Austrian / Elite from Imst). We drove it hard across the flats - obviously Imst does not have many flats - as Guido would kill me on each climb and he could not pull a turn on the flats!

The day finished with a long and solid climb and fast run down into Lake Tinaroo. 

They said there was no crocs in this lake, but a bit of Googling indicated otherwise ...

Day 2 - Lake Tinaroo

Day 3 - Lake Tinaroo to Atherton

1st in cat / 72km / 2200 vert m / Best amateur jersey

Day 3 was a lazy neutral 20km from Lake Tinaroo to Atherton MTB park.

This MTB park is relatively new and professionally built. 

The first few km was tight, twisty and loose Australian single track. This lead into the first climb - switch backs, lots of rocks and minor obstacles. 

Then it was into tight bermed chutes to quickly lose all the vert gained. Would be pretty cool on a 26” bike!

Into stairway to heaven climb - a never ending switch back climb - which by the top was an amazing view back over the ranges. You could almost feel that you would fall off the mountain.

Over the back with a little descent and a final climb through some semi-rainforest terrain. 

The descent was fast, rocky and steep. The wrists were totally hammered by the bottom and legs spent. Repeat for 3 laps! 

I was pretty glad for the RockTape on the wrists - my body was pretty smashed from 3 laps of this course.

Check out all those switchbacks on the map ... makes Stromlo look like a straight line.

Day 3 - Atherton MTB park

Day 4 - Atherton to Atherton

2nd in cat / 71km / 2400 vert m / Best amateur jersey

Waking up to day 4 I must say my legs were feeling pretty fried. I was pretty sore from the previous day of rough singletrack.

What better way to start the day then with a fricken big climb at full gas ...

By now my A2 competition was starting to show ... Tiago Silva from Portugal had got within a few minutes of me yesterday and today was ready to make back some time. 

Heading up the climb I was with Ondrej Slezak and Tiago and it was all on.

We came across a wild bull who looked pretty pissed. Turns out that 30 secs before us, the bull had charged the lead group of riders - sending eventual race winner Greg Saw into a stinging tree!

I took the descent down to the first feed pretty easy, which was a mistake as there was a highway crossing shortly after - and I got separated from the group.

Racing back to get back on, we were heading up a steep sandy climb and I noticed that my crank had come lose and was just about to fall off. In the middle of no-where and no 10mm allen key I had to improvise from my finger and by sacrificing a bit of skin I was able to get it good enough to get me going again.

The next 15km was just an adventure of steep sandy descents and sandy turns. The euro's would later say it reminded them of riding in snow.

My bad day continued when I reached a road with race signage from a previous race. Like many others that day I took it. You can see the little loop on the map middle of the screen. The UCI commissaire would later deny our appeal because the offending sign was yellow and not white.  

The ride continued through some interesting rollers that felt very much like Husky 100 and into some crazy dense jungle moto ruts. Some of these were 6 feet deep!

Back over the climb from the morning meant a wicked descent to the finish.

Between my crank and wrong turn I managed to lose 5 minutes to Diago ... bugger.  

Day 4 - Atherton loop

Day 5 - Atherton to Irvinebank

2nd in cat / 65km / 1700 vert m / Best amateur jersey

Day 5 and I thought I had better make up for my 5 minute loss yesterday. We hit the same climb as the previous day but this time went around the other side of the mountain.

This side had a few more rollers and some near vertically steep descents and hike-a-bike.  The triple down arrow did not do some of these justice!

After the first 15km I'd lost sight of Diago and was feeling good.  

However, this quickly changed when going through a rocky creek bed I managed to slash a sidewall .... nooooooooo.  Frustratingly I watched as Diago and Max Lelli rolled by.  With a big dirt road segment coming up I knew that Max would be in his element and could give Diago a good tow.

After dealing with the flat I raced through the feed and luckily our support crew was there and I was able to restock on tubes and co2. I quickly caught back a few groups and drew out one of the solid German? elite riders. 

We worked together across the open dirt roads and into the climbs.

The day was meant to be 91km with a large climb at the end, but we got word that the stage might be shortened.  Since I was not paying attention I had no idea what was going on, and when the race director drove by and said 7km to go I assumed he meant to the next feed.

The stage was shortened due to some unscheduled bridge work, and so it was a short day into Irvinebank.

Another 5 minutes lost to Diago ... dammit!

Irvinebank - population of 40 and Google does not even have it on their map!  $6 to visit their museum which is a bargain, since it's usually $10 but on special for Croc racers.

Day 5 - Atherton to Irvinebank

Day 6 - Irvinebank loop

2nd in Cat / 100km / 1900 vert m / Best amateur jersey

Day 6 - starting to get tired now ...

Thinking back to this stage and most of it is a blur ... 

The day started out with a climb back out of Irvinebank - a lose rocky road. I pushed hard to get away from Diago and formed a group with Ondrej and Guido. Despite rotating through a larger group with Diago, Max and others caught us up.

A few attacks later and still no joy in getting away.

The open dirt roads soon gave way to the "fun" section for today. A long stretch of outback singletrack. Dry, dusty, unpredictable. Lots of dry creek crossings, little gullies, ruts that could swallow a car, mars rock descents ... 

Our group started to dwindle and heading into the final feed there was Max, Guido, myself and the German from yesterday. Sweet - just 30km of climb to the finish.

Max hit the front with one of his 500w efforts. We all struggle to hang on. After a few more of these Guido and I opted to say good-bye and continued on our own.

In hindsight this was a mistake, as with under 5km to go we looked back to see Diago getting a tow from #3 - Jiri Krivanek - and driving it really hard. 

Getting rolled in the last 2km was pretty tough and this stage goes down as one of my toughest days on the bike. Hot, dry and not getting a much needed win definitely hurt.

Day 6 - Irvinebank loop
Day 7 - Irvinebank to Skybury Coffee

2nd in Cat / 130km / 1100 vert m / Best amateur jersey / Best aussie jersey

I was a bit worried heading into day 7. A long but relatively flat stage. Today was a day where you could lose big time if you got dropped from the bunch.

The day was basically broken into a few segments. The first more of the rough and dry outback singletrack, similar to the day before. Then there was a long road (tarmac & dirt) section, another outback singletrack segment and more corrugated dirt roads to finish.

Hitting the first round of singletrack the pace was intense. Everyone was trying to get a gap and rocks, sticks and dirt were flying.

Interestingly, once we hit the tarmac at the end it all came back together. Two riders were off the front but were quickly reeled in. 

It was then roadie tactic games and for me watching Diago.

The road group made up mostly of the elite riders came apart once we hit a long river crossing. About a 400 meter stretch of sand and a knee deep 50m stretch of water.

Luckily in my group was still Ondrej and Diago.  Sitting in on Diago for the rest of the day I was more then happy for him to take the stage win, and stoked just not to lose any more time. 

An added bonus to the day was having some real food and drink at the Skybury Coffee plantation!

With Ondrej flatting again on this stage I moved into the best aussie slot!

Day 7 - Irvinebank to Skybury Coffee

Day 8 - Skybury to Wetherby Station

1st in Cat / 98 km / 1300 vert m / Best amateur jersey / Best aussie jersey

Day 8 was just going to be about not losing any more time to Diago. I had a 10 minute buffer but did not want to risk having to use any of that.  So right from the gun I was just glued to Diago's wheel.

The stage had a mixture of everything - road, dirt, outback singletrack, sand, creek crossings, grass, rainforest and even bush fires. Yup - riding past flames 6 feet high just a few meters away. Apparently it was all ok because the wind was blowing away from us ... 

The altitude graph shows just how many little rollers there were on this day. It was quite a taxing day in the saddle.

Heading into the last corner it was Diago and Max, and I got the inside line and took the sprint finish. yay!!!

Day 8 - Skybury to Wetherby Station

Day 9 - Wetherby Station to Port Douglas

1st in Cat / 30km / 350 vert m / Best amateur jersey / Best aussie jersey / 9th Overall

Day 9 - woohoo! Just a short 30km TT - how hard can that be?

The setup for the day was a reverse start in 1 min intervals, and 2 min intervals for the top 10.

So at 9th in GC I was not up until 11:15am - so, by then it was hot and windy. With a 2 minute gap between riders I was unlikely to see anyone else on this segment.

The altitude graph does not do the rollers justice for the first 10km of the ride. These hurt! And with big head winds I felt like I was going backwards.

The descent down the "bump track" was fun - steep and rocky. I took it pretty easy as I was paranoid about flatting on this last day.

Through some random back streets and bike paths of Port Douglas it was soon onto the sand for the final 4km.  4km is a long way when you can see the finish the whole time!

Day 9 - Wetherby Station to Port Douglas


Wow - what a race and experience!

Would I do it again - definitely.

Firstly, a huge thanks to our support crew of MaryAnne and Monica - this race definitely needs as much help as you can get, and you guys really made a difference.

A big thanks to my Croc Team of Jason Chalker and Dan McNamara.  If Chalks had not flatted 7 times it would have won the A3 category. At least we still got 2nd in the teams classification!

A big thanks to our Croc Team sponsors who helped us get to the race - Vie13, Hedley Group and Anytime Fitness QBN.

A big thanks to my usual sponsors - Cannondale, Sugoi, SRAM, Magellan, FE Sports, Stages, The Cyclery. Diago also rides a Cannondale and for many days we had 'Dales as 1, 2 and 3 on the A2 podium! Diago's wife also ride a Cannondale and she took out the amateur women's win. Go the lefty!

Finally, a big thanks to Robyn and Indi for letting me out for few weeks!

Some stats to finish with;
  • ~ 10 x gels / day
  • ~ 4 x electrolyte bottles / day
  • 6 x co2
  • 3 x XX1 chains
  • 4 x tires
  • 2 x bb bearings
  • grip shifter rubber worn away - it's almost smooth now
  • 28hr : 55min ride time
  • countless bowls of pasta

Chalks & Andy haul
Lead amateur jersey

Wheel sucking (again)

Best aussie's

My "this really hurts" face

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Magellan Cyclo505

Magellan Cyclo505

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to test out the forthcoming Magellan Cyclo505.

This is the flagship model of the new Cyclo500 series, which are due to hit the AU and NZ shelves in Jan 2014.

Cyclo505 home screen

The Cyclo505 is a new approach to the standard cycling computer. It's tempting to compare it to a Garmin, but really it is quite a different product.

The Cyclo is less about structured training and metrics, and more about finding and exploring new places to ride. Being powered by the extensive Navman maps, the Cyclo has a strong map and routing technologies.

Rich navigation maps and routing

I will come back to the Cyclo's focus on exploring new places to ride shortly, but first lets look at some of the basics.

The 505 is has a large display, with the unit coming in around 61 x 103mm - at 129 grams.

Under the hood, the unit supports communicating with standard Ant+ sensors (ie heart rate, cadence, power etc), as well as newer Bluetooth sensors. 

The unit logs both an industry standard .FIT and .GPX file. These can then be processed by most 3rd party analysis tools. A cool little feature of the generated filenames of these files is that it includes a name of the location in which you were riding. This makes it a bit easier to spot which file you are interested in.

One of the novel communication features is that the unit has an inbuilt wifi module. The intention of having wifi support is that the unit can automatically sync completed rides - "recordings" in Cyclo talk - to the web site, and then onto other 3rd party sites such as TrainingPeaks or Strava.

This is a pretty neat feature, and certainly saves time post-ride from having to plug the unit into a PC/Mac and manually upload the workout files.

When you connect the Cyclo505 to a PC via USB, you will get two (2) mounted drives. The 2nd drive (Mio_data) will have your recordings under the /Dodge/Tracks// directory.  On a MAC, the device will mount as /Volumes/Mio_data/ and the .fit and .gpx files are under the /Volumes/Mio_data/Dodge/Tracks/.

Even with the large screen and these sensors, the claimed battery life is around 12 hours. 

Another unique communications feature is the ability to share your ride route with your fellow Cyclo friends via the "shake and share" feature. Simply shake your unit to initiate sharing your files with nearby units.

From a standard cycling computer perspective, the 505 supports all the standard display metrics. Time, heart rate, cadence, speed, elevation gains & loss etc. It also supports a range of basic power metrics - such as 3s avg, TSS, NP, avg power, 5m peak, 10m peak etc. 

The Cyclo505 allows a user to customise each "dashboard" view - selecting the number of display metrics (max 8 per page), and the individual elements.

Power metrics
Standard metrics
Custom dashboards

When you start a new ride, you start a new "recording". You press the little red button on the Dashboard screen to start.  Once started, you can choose to either stop or pause your ride.

A little tip is to press "pause" first. Pressing "stop" will clear all the dashboard screens, and if you want to review your ride metrics you have to go into the History screen.  So, at the end of your ride, hit pause, check out your dashboard stats and then hit stop.

History summary

Ride history details
You probably noticed in the above history screen the different profiles - Evo and Flash. The Cyclo has the concept of different "Profiles". You can add your different bikes under different profiles - ie race bike, mountain bike, city bike, running etc.  

These profiles serve a double purpose - one is to track which bike you did a ride on, and to associate sensors with different bikes. But the other is to set different options related to map routing.  

ie if you select a city bike, it can have different map navigation routing rules then your road bike. 

This leads to answering a question lots of people ask "What is the Surprise me" button?

Surprise me is one of those defining features of the 505 - providing unique ways to help the user find new places to ride and explore. Select the Surprise me button, enter a desired distance or time and your estimate riding speed - and the Cyclo will automatically generate you a route!

This same concept is applied if you select the "Workout" button. Again, you just enter the time or distance for your workout, and the unit will generate a route for you.

Time or distance workout

In both cases, the generated route will give you turn-by-turn navigation directions, along with audible alerts as you approach turns. There is also zoomable and scrollable maps so you can see more about where you are going. 

Map view

Overall, a pretty neat feature for find new and random places to explore and ride!

Workouts can also be set based on target calorie counts, power zones, and heart rate zones. ie I want to ride until I burn 2000 calories, or I want to ride for 1hr in my HR zone 4. 

These workouts are obviously a lot simpler then the more complex, highly interval structured workouts that you might find on a Garmin. For most users, this simpler functionality is all that is required. 

It's simple to set your target workout goal and just get out and ride to this. 

As you have probably picked up, the Cyclo505 is very focused around it's navigational routing and maps. This leads to some other neat functionality which can come in very handy, especially when riding in new or unfamiliar territory.

Like in a car navigational unit, you can search for nearby places. Some of the pre-canned categories include "Emergency" - which will find you pharmacies, medical and shops. "Bike Store" is pretty obvious and at least for the Canberra maps is very accurate and up to date. "Food and Drink" will take you to the pub, cafe or grocery stores.

The Cyclo505 is pretty simple to setup. Whether it be configuring your dashboard displays, routing preferences, wifi, or sensors - the setting screens are all pretty logical and self-explanatory.

Setting up and configuring ant+ and bluetooth sensors is quite simple. For each sensor type, you can select the communication method and either manually scan and set the sensor association, or just select automatic and the unit will automatically pickup your local sensors.  

Easy sensor setup

For the power meter sensor there is also the option to perform a zero offset calibration. 

I've tested the Cyclo505 with both my SRAM Quarq and Stages meter. Both detected fine. 

A note on the Cyclo505 and power meters. At least in the beta firmware which I have been testing with, the sample rate at which the .fit file is logged to is 2 seconds. What this means is that the norm power calculation will be lower then from units which log every second. 

Does this matter? Not really. The most important thing with power meters and their associated metrics is consistency. It does not really matter what the power numbers are, as long as they are consistently generated. ie do the exact same ride at the exact same output and you get the same numbers. So, if the Cyclo does result in a lower NP, that is ok as long as all your other power recordings are also done on the Cyclo.

Because the NP will be lower, you should adjust / re-determine your FTP. If you keep an FTP which you determined on a different head unit, then you will get low TSS and low IF values.  

Something I have not mentioned is the unit mount. The mount is quite simple, simply place on and twist. It locks solidly in place. Provided mounts include a stem or top-tube mount, which is attached via cable ties. There is also a mount which can be clamped onto your bars - extending the unit at the front of the bars. This is quite useful for the roadie.

I mentioned earlier on the auto wifi sync to the This is an equivalent to Garmin Connect - where your recordings can be uploaded and shared.

The interface is quite simple, clean and easy to use.  One little limitation is that on a MAC, you need to use Safari as Chrome is not supported.

The home page gives you a summary of all your rides.

Dashboard / home screen

Viewing your recordings / rides, gives you all the usual graphs and metrics you would expect. Note that you can directly share your ride from this page. ie facebook, twitter etc

Detailed ride statistics

This site also extends the concept of finding new places to ride and explore, providing a simple interface to search for rides by distance in a specific area. You can then download these routes to your device.  I think in the longer-term, this site will also provide an ability to custom build a route and down this to your Cyclo.

Searching for new places to ride

Overall, the Cyclo505 is an impressive unit.

The big screen is easy to read and interact with. The simplified metrics and workout concepts make it simple to setup and immediately use out of the box.

The features geared towards helping you explore and find new places places to ride are really cool - and quite simply make it real easy to go places you might not ordinarily know about.

The units are meant to hit the AU and NZ shops in Jan 2014, and the pricing is quite competitive. Something like $399 for a straight Cyclo505 unit, or $479 with a unit with cadence and heart rate ant+ sensors.

I'd definitely recommend checking these out!

I'm going to keep riding and training with this unit, and am looking forward to trying out more of the navigational features of this unit. I'll report back on how this goes over the coming months!