Friday, July 30, 2010

A quick update

Well it's been a while, but I've been sitting on the couch all day because I've managed to get myself a cold, so it's time to stop procrastinating!

What have I been up to since the Czech race? What haven't I been up to?!

I've driven along the race route of the TDF
I've spent a week in the Pyranees doing a little bit of Col Bashing
I've done the Tour l'etape - 170ks, 4000m+ of Climbing, 8 hrs of riding & 35+ degree heat the whole time
I've driven 7 hours solo across France to Paris
I've driven through the middle of Paris and lived to tell the tale
and I've partied with cyclings elite at the TDF After Party!

Me and my bike have been through 4 flights, 3 train rides, multiple car rides and lots of vertical meters of climbing!

No wonder I got sick this week! It was all bound to catch up to me at some point..

So now I'm in London! The cold hit me the day I travelled here, so I've barely seen anything. I've been on 1 ride this week, and just about died, so with the Essex Giro coming up this weekend, I've decided the best option is to just do nothing. Plonk my butt on the couch for the whole day and cross my fingers that this is gone by tomorrow!

Coming up - Essex Giro, 2 day stage race north of London

Hopefully a couple of healthy days to head in to the city and see the big London Sights
Then a road trip to Belgium with a couple of really cool Brits to hit up some Kermesse Racing!

After that, the plans are still being finalised, but I'm pretty sure there'll be at least another 2 weeks somewhere in the Mountains of France so I can tick off a few more of the big climbs!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tour Feminin - The Rest

Day 3 & 4 -

21k (Actual 18.5k) ITT - Bogyatnia, Poland

So the morning started with all the teams having to depart the race hotel at the same time as we were crossing the borders of Germany and Poland under Police Escort to ensure no need for Passport Checks which meant we were at the start with plenty of time. As I was one of the last riders on GC, I was off pretty soon after the start.

I felt OK in the warm up, not great, but not terrible. Did a lap of the course and found it to be hot, windy, hilly and most of the road surface was appalling. Oh well, it was the same for everyone.

The team kitted me up with an Aero Helmet, Disc Wheel, and even tried to find a TT bike for me but the only one they had spare was too big, so we went with the road bike. At least I looked the part! Bike check done, and got to the start ramp in plenty of time.

Took off with Lukas following me in the team car, and instantly new it was going to be a loooooong TT. I had nothing in my legs. I don't normally do very well in TT's, but this was just going shockingly bad. I got my HR up reasonably well, but I just couldn't push any gears.

Made the turn around, and still had nothing, so just focused on finishing.

Jarmila did really well and posted a top time, Gabi a little faster than me, and me... DFL. Haha! First time I've ever been Dead Last in anything that I can think of!

Lunch in Poland followed by a couple of hours rest at the race hotel where I had time to have a cold shower to try and cool myself down a bit, which was proving difficult.

Road Race - 104k - Start/Finish - Rumburk

The course profile basically had 13k uphill, 13k downhill, repeat x 4. As I'm finding with this race though, the course profile wasn't quite right. It was more rolling up and down, with some stupid steep climbs again. With the race set to start at 4pm, it was going to be a scorcher. As it doesn't get dark here till around 10pm, mid to late afternoon is usually the hottest part of the day. Reports are that it was 44 degrees standing in the sun on the start line, with the race being about 39 with heaps of humidity.

This was the first time that I'd got the start line thing right. 2nd Row, just behind all the jerseys. WOO! Hopefully I could hold my position.. Yeah didn't happen. We started the race on Cobbles, and trying to clip in quick on cobbles proved rather difficult!! Maybe something I should practice.. Oh well, back to the middle/tail end of the bunch where I belong!

The first 8 or 9k went ok. I didn't feel great, but I was hanging in there, and then the Hill Premie (QOM) came up out of no where. When the road really went up, I imploded. Like I never have before. It was more that I spontaneously combusted from the heat. I was cooked, and try as I might over the next few k to hang on to any wheel I could to continue on, I couldn't and my mind gave up on me. When I saw Alesh handing out bottles, i crawled to the right side of the road and all but fell off my bike. My tour was over.

As I lay on the side of the road in the shade, pouring ice water over myself, I was kicking myself for not continuing on. I know it was weak, and I knew the race would be hard, but at the time I'd done all I could. Hindsight makes me think there was more I could have done, but at the time it was over.

Day 4

Road Race - 98km Start - Varnsdorf, Finish - Krasna Lipa

Today was a lovely day for me and a couple of the other girls that were out of the tour. The race was starting in the town we were staying in, so we rolled to the start with the super cool Rapha All Start chicks, watched the start and then headed off after the convoy for an easy cruise on the course. An easy cruise isn't so easy with some of the terrain around Krasna Lipa, including the fact that we went up the dreaded Vapenka climb 2 times and did 700m of climbing in 50k, but we literally just rolled along actually getting to enjoy the beautiful scenery! The heat wasn't even a bother as we weren't racing..

We went to the top of the Hill Premie to cheer the girls on over the hardest part of the course which proved perfect. To see the front of the pack going over that climbing looking like they weren't even puffing was amazing. The levels of fatigue by the top of the hill as you went through the peloton was apparent, and by the 3rd time up the climb the front bunch had dwindled to about 20. We rolled down to the finish after most of the bunch had gone past and that was us done for the day!

So that was the Tour over.. Trixie Worrack, Ex World Champ, dominated. She won every stage and overall.. From 170 starters, there were 105 finishers.

I had an awesome time racing with the Dukla Praha team.. They looked after me from the minute I arrived in Prague until the time I left.. I can't wait to go back again next year!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tour Feminin - O cenu Ceskeho Svycarska, CZE, 2.2 - Stg 1 & 2

So here I am in the Czech Republic, racing for the Czech Army team - Dukla Praha - in my first ever UCI race.
Some said I was crazy for this adventure.. "You've only been racing bikes a few months, give it time" etc etc, but I'm all for throwing myself in the deep end, and considering I was planning on coming to Europe anyway, I figured why not??

First off, the team. 6 girls including me, all the others are normally on the team and have raced with each other before. Then there's the Mechanic, the Team Manager, and the swanny. Added are the Team Bus and the Team Car, and here I am racing with a full on Pro experience!

Day 1 - 116km, Start/Finish - Krasna Lipa

The day was planned out, and the schedule translated to me, Team Breakfast in the dining Hall, then team lunch, then we depart to get to the start in time for Team Presentations and sign on. It was a 1310 start time.

After Presentation, i went for a big of a warm up ride, then got a quick leg rub, before going to head out for a bit more of a ride only to find half the field already on the start line, and it was 20 minutes to race start! So for fear of having to start completely at the back, I jumped in too, and waited.. and waited.. HR was sitting around 130, I felt sick, it was hot, and I was bloody nervous!

Finally we got underway and it went like this - fast, slam brakes and yell WOAH, fast, slam on brakes and yell WOAH.. There was a silly stack only a couple of k in, and I really wanted to move up, but I started in the middle of the pack, and I never got even close to the front. 170 girls take up a lot of room on the road! The first big climb started about 15k in to the race and due to my lack of being able to get past about 100th wheel, I found myself off the front pack quickly with a bunch of about 15. Almost made it over, but the heart and lungs just gave out! I was still feeling like I was about to puke, and it was soooo hot!
That's pretty much how things stayed for the next 100k, we picked up a few other girls who'd been dropped along the way, and no one was really too keen to do too much to chase after about 50k, so the pace slowed and we just concentrated on getting to the finish. There wasn't much talk either, considering everyone speaks different languages! When they did speak, I had to wonder if they were doing a Bridget - "My bits hurt!!"
Had a quick glance of my average HR after an hour of racing, and it was 178!
Made it over the final killer climb and then we rolled through 17mins down on the leaders. Looking at the results it seems there was some serious action where the race was at!
I completely underestimated the climbing that there would be.. The Mocka didn't look too bad, but there are a fair few steep pinches around that sap the legs!

Finished the night with Team Dinner, then Massage, and then an earlier night to bed. Jet Lag really sucks and I'm struggling to sleep. Combined with sharing a room with 3 girls all gibbering away in czech non stop, I'm a little sleep deprived!

Day 2 - 110km - Start/Finish - Jirikov

Today was set to be brutal. 3 laps around Krasna Lipa which included yesterdays final climb, and then back to Jirikov for 3 more laps with a slightly less steep climb. Yesterday's 30 degrees was set to be topped, and it didn't dissapoint. The Garmin says we hit about 33/34 by the end of the stage.
Learning from yesterday's start line mistake, I headed out earlier for the warm up and managed to get 20 minutes.
Another 20 minute wait on the start line in the hot hot sun, and oops, I've forgotten sunscreen. Going to pay for that!
We got under way and it was similar to the previous day. HR was a little more under control though, a few less nerves, but still the pack was twitchy, and yet again getting past 100th wheel proved elusive to me! There are lots of train crossings in these races, and they're quite bumpy, so there's ofter a massive slow down to go over them. About 15k in we were stopped at one, but the pack was all together so no issue, then 20k in we hit another, and there was a stack taking out about 20 from both sides of the pack. I even saw one of the English girls climbing back up the embankment! I managed to get through unscathed, but a big gap opened up and we spent the next 5k chasing back on, which meant I was on the back for the 1st time up the infamous Vapenka climb. So I started the climb near the back, what's new? and as predicted didn't make it over with the front bunch. We chased back on though, and made it back at the same point, roads too narrow to attempt to move up! 2nd time didn't go well at all and was dropped pretty bad.
Spent the next lap with 2 other girls Who almost dropped me coz I was pretty fried!!
Up Vapenka one more time, another couple of bottles in the feed zone and then drama! The team bus came up to give me a coke and in the handover hit the edge of the road and fell in to the ditch!! OH MY GOD! I turned back to make sure they were ok. With limited english, they said - OK! RACE! so I headed back on my way and caught the other girl who I'd been with.
Yet another train stop and a group of 10 or so caught us. Yay, more workers!
With a little outside assistance, we managed to stay ahead of the charging Peloton and got on to our final 9k loop before they overtook us. Rolled over the line as a bunch except for yet again someone stupidly attacking and sprinting for no reason. Results aren't out yet, but I think we were about 17/18 minutes down again. Hopefully just enough to stay within timecut..
Yet another 1500m of climbing today, and I feel like I'm burnt to a crisp from the beating sun!

Oh, and both days we've had little cobble sections! Only about 50m at a time, but YUCK!! And some stretches of road are so rough they're like cobbles..

The Mechanic has just set up my bike for the TT tomorrow morning.. Disc wheel and all! On the table now getting my 3rd massage in as many days... I could get used to this life!

On tap for tomorrow - 21k ITT, with no flat bits (surprise surprise!) and then a 104km Hilly Road Race in the afternoon.. And at least as hot as today.. Oh Gosh..

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Tomorrow is the day of what I believe will be the hardest race of my life. After that will be 3 more days of the same.

Tomorrow I take to the start line of the Tour de Feminine - Krasna Lipa. UCI 2.2. 180 starters.
Of which every single one I've seen so far looks super skinny, super fit, and tanned!!

Oh and 98% of them don't speak English, so I've not got any idea whatsoever of what's being said. Could make for interesting racing!

Wish me luck...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Czech List

2 hour easy roll through the country side – Czech
4 hour walking tour of Prague – Czech
Eat Pork, Sauerkrat & Dumpings – Czech
Drink ‘Black Beer’ – Czech

Let’s start with the ride:

Magnificent Scenery, only 10 minutes out of Prague and there’s wide open paddocks & reasonably quiet roads. I decided to head in one straight direction, in the hope it would be easy to make my way back. The sun was out, the birds were chirping, it was heaven! I had to make a turn at one of the towns as the road stopped, which I figured was fine, I’d be ok! Went out for about 30k, turned around and it starts drizzling.. As I’m going along, the wind picks up, massive crosswind, rain gets heavier until there are mini rivers on the roads, and then the lightening started. Oh Shit.

I get to the town I think I turned at, turn, nope, Prague the other way. Everything looks different in the rain compared to the sunshine.. I remembered I had a headwind almost the whole way out, so by this point I picked the road that had the tailwind and crossed my fingers. Going through towns I didn’t recognise, signs I couldn’t read, in the pouring rain with Lightening and Thunder clapping over head, I finally got to the end of this road which turns out was about 2k from where I was staying.. Massive smiles and I’m there! Phew.

The lady behind the desk just laughs and shakes her head at me when she sees me dripping wet on the doorstep..

Mental Note – Might be an idea to record the name of the town you turn at...

The rest:

The son of the Team Manager for Dukla Praha and his girlfriend picked me up at 2 for a 4 hour walking tour of Prague. Prague is an amazing city with so much history. Buildings dating back to the 15th Century, the 4th largest Cathedral in the world, and not to mention all the political issues of the past. Where did I go? Everywhere. There are so many things we saw, so many km’s we covered, and it was all amazing.

287 steps, all going round and round and round..
Ouch! But the view from the top was stunning.
We finished off the tour by going to a local brewery for dinner. Pork, Sauerkraut & Dumplings, a traditional Czech dinner, washed down by the local Black Beer. I could get used to this!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The weary traveller

My longest every flight, plus layover, plus another flight half that.. 27 hours of travel and I've arrived in Prague!!

From what I've seen so far (not much) it's a friendly city.. Shopping was interesting not knowing what I was getting, but I seem to have done ok.. Being back in Summer and daylight savings is weird! It's 8pm and it's still broad daylight! AND I'm in shorts!

I'm staying at the Dukla Praha team hotel/hostel, which is actually the Army Sporting facility. Simple, clean room, which is all I need! The guys who run it, Mirislov and Milan, are lovely guys, all too willing to help out.. Mirislov is probably even going to get up early and come for a ride with me at 10am tomorrow so I don't get horribly lost!
The only issue is, this team think I'm racing for them, however I"m supposed to be racing for Team Mix Serbia!

They arrive tomorrow evening, so everything should get sorted out then. Regardless, I'm racing in 3 days, and the way my legs feel after all the travel, neither of the teams will want me!!
Although, if I keep forgetting to look the opposite direction for oncoming traffic, it might not be an issue!

My job for the next couple of hours is to just try and stay awake. Almost no sleep in the whole time I travelled, plus being awake all day on the day I left means I'm starting to struggle big time! Lucky I have no Wifi where I"m staying so had to come out in the the beautiful evening to steal some from a neighbour   :)

No matter what country you're in, there's always one constant!!