It’s been a while since we've done one of these, but after another outstanding NRS race it’s time to look back at what it takes to compete at the premiere NRS race of the year. For this article, I’m going to focus on one of the young up and coming riders on the team - Sam Bascombe. Sam has yet to even turn 18 and he is already turning out some great results in his first year in the NRS, finishing in the top 10 at the hill climb time trial at the Tour of Gippsland. Considering Sam was racing VRS C grade last year, we are stoked with his progression! He is seriously one to watch for the future. Sam for this race was weighing in at 65kg.
Prologue – 700m @ 8%
For those that know Sam they will know that short high intensity stuff isn’t really his forte - the longer the better. So going into this 700m uphill blast it was just about not losing too much time. Sam ended up finishing in 64th position with a time of 1 min 55.62 sec, 24 seconds off the winner Cameron Ivory of GPM. Looking at his numbers, I feel the way he rode this technical climb might have played into this, as comparatively to others his W/Kg were quite good and not far behind some of the top placing riders. This was a PB for both his 1 and 2 minute power so as his coach I can’t be disappointed with his performance!
A quick Strava stalk of the fastest guys on the day shows Cam Ivory did 683 W for 1:31 to win the stage with Tristan Ward netting second with an average of 770 W for 1:33. I am not sure exactly what these two guys weigh, (maybe they could confirm in the comments and we can figure out their W/kg for the ride?) either way, it is impressive and probably looking around the 10w/kg mark. Both being mountain bikers, this sort of technical climb suits them well.
Stage 1 - George Town to Grindelwald 116km – rolling hills finishing finishing with a ~3km climb at 6%
The more punchy style of the finish to this stage still didn’t suit Sam perfectly, but going into it we were hoping he could finish in the front bunch and not lose any time. Hopefully this would help him move up on the young riders GC. The race was quite aggressive throughout, but Sam kept good position and tried to save as much energy as possible using his teammates for support. Despite trying to do this he still had relatively high avg and NP for the stage even before the climb (204 avg 256 NP). This is something we have been working hard on with Sam - his relative inexperience racing means he ends up using more energy than needed, which can cost him at crucial times.
Apart from a few early flurries (first 15min of the race was 310 NP), Sam was well within his limit for the entire stage leading up to the climb.
Coming into the climb, the team positioned well having guys up the front for Chris, Ben and Sam. From the base of the climb however, it was carnage. The field was decimated. Sam sadly couldn’t make the front group finishing 33rd. He fell just short of regaining contact, finishing 18 sec down on the winner and 16 sec behind the front group. For the 12 minutes from just before the base of the climb to the finish, Sam averaged 365W - a seriously impressive number. Again, these numbers were not far from Sam’s best. Not bad at the end of a stage!
Just a handful of seconds faster up the last climb would have had Sam make it over with the front group, with riders in the 6:56 mark making the front group (Sam was 7min). Again, a quick Strava stalks finds the fastest time of the day (and fastest ever) to be Cam Roberts at 6:46 with an impressive 406 W. At a guess this guy would be the same weight as Sam or a bit lighter.
Stage 2 – Poatina – Queen Stage - 71.5km finishing up a Category 1 climb (13km @ 5%)
At 70 km, this stage was shorter than in previous editions but still had the same final climb that makes it the Queen stage (of probably the entire NRS season). We were hoping this stage was Sam’s to shine, as the finish was similar to the climb he did so well on just a few weeks earlier at Tour of Gippsland. The longer more sustained climbs generally suit Sam. Unfortunately, this was not to be. While he rode well (which the numbers below reflect) it was a little bit of a reality check for how good the competition was.
Sam finished in 23rd position, 3 min 23 sec behind the stage winner Michael Vink (Rabble). This was enough to move him up into the top 10 - 1 min 30 sec off the leader of the young riders classification. This was a little off the goal of top 3, but considering Sam still has many years left in this competition it’s still a good result.
The race started hard and fast, and continued like that all the way to the finish. There was a bit of wind, so the non-climbers tried to inflict a bit of hurt on the peloton on their way to the base of Poatina. This was not easy for Sam as you can see from his power to the base of the climb, which was the equivalent power of a very solid bunch ride.
There’s a climb before Poatina for a few kilometres, then it levels off for a short period before going up again for the climb proper. Sam’s power up the climb were PBs (or within a few watts) for 20 min right out to 40 min. Coach was happy with the effort and performance, but it shows how good the top of the NRS bunch is that 5.5 w/kg still finishes outside the top 20 on the stage.
The fastest up the climb was Michael Vink, who was just 40 sec outside of Ben Dyball’s amazing effort in 2016 despite a headwind up the climb. Michael averaged an impressive 399 W for 41 min on the climb to win from a select bunch of 4 riders. For the climb proper he averaged 440 W for 28:30, with Cam Roberts second fastest on Strava with 370 W. These numbers are nudging up towards 6 w/kg for just short of 30 min. While these numbers are truly impressive, the more impressive thing is that the NRS now has 20 riders within the 2 minute or so mark.
Stage 3 – Gunns Plains - 70.5 km of rolling terrain finishing just over the top of a ~3.5km climb at ~9%
This is a truly iconic stage in Australian stage racing, featuring in many Tour’s of Tasmania as well as Junior and Women’s tours over its time. Those that saw the vlog would know this wasn’t a good day for us, with far too many crashes inside the first 20 minutes. Unfortunately, with a race this short there was no waiting for those riders affected to get back onto the bunch, so it was a chase. Given the nature of the course this didn’t end well for the team, with only Ben Van Dam returning to the race. It would be the end of Sam’s tour, as despite chasing hard he never made the aggressive time cut for the stage.
Sam’s numbers show how hard it can be doing all the work into the wind, as often he had to ride by himself or with just 1 or 2 other riders. The boys were also active at the start trying to get into moves to make something of the day after a less than ideal day the day before. You can see this in Sam’s numbers - he averaged 370W for the first 7 min! The first 10 min of his chase after the crash was at an average of 340 W, and the NP of 290 W (4.46 W/kg) for an hour of chasing shows he was working hard for a long time to try and make contact.
Seeing the peloton slowly go further and further away Sam sat up - knowing his tour was likely over he rolled into the finish at a reasonable pace hoping to make time cut, but it wasn’t to be. After a little Strava stalk, we find the fastest time up Gunns Plains was Dylan Sunderland - boasting an impressive time of 9 min 47 sec, with an average power of 406 W. Cam Roberts came up in second, 1 sec adrift with 397 W (at a likely weight of low 60’s kgs). These numbers are likely to be in excess of 6 w/kg, towards the end of a very tough stage with a few tough days of racing in the legs. This is amazing riding by these guys to day in day out put out such impressive numbers.
All in all it wasn’t a bad tour for Sam with some decent results, a bunch of power PB’s, and a lot learned. The results weren't what we hoped for as a team, but that’s purely due to the quality of racing at NRS level these days. As a coach, I was very happy with Sam’s effort and perseverance and it shows good signs leading into Nationals in this weekend. We hope you follow along for the journey - stay tuned for another ‘by the numbers’ blog post Nats!