Monday, October 8, 2012

September Racing!

Whilst I'm not really focusing on racing at the moment and am mostly just doing some base training, I’ve done a few races since getting back on the bike, all of which were extremely supportive of women’s racing and deserve a shout-out!

St Kilda CC Road Champs.

I wasn’t going to race. For starters I’d promised myself that I wasn’t going to jump straight back in to racing everything and anything, and was going to enjoy some base training properly. 2nd, I was in my 2nd week back in to training, so I thought I’d get my butt kicked and that it’d be a pointless day. But after some convincing I agreed to go, because it was club/world champs afterall, and it turned out to be a good solid day on the bike. I managed to get in the break and then went on to do a 60k 2 up TT with Lucy from Holden whilst her team mate Miranda was up the road solo. Lucy then broke me after a few attacks, and I solo’d in the last 15k and held off the rest to claim 3rd.


Amy’s Gran Fondo

Whilst this is a Gran Fondo, there’s also an element of racing involved with Prize Money up for grabs for first 3 in each age category. Being in the Under 30’s category, there was some tough competition with not only Lucy who’d kicked my butt last week, but several AIS/VIS/SASI riders. As we were all set off in different waves and therefore had no idea how the other girls were going, I figured I’d just take the day as it came, and if I felt bad I’d just enjoy the lovely ride. The intensity hurt, and I was definitely lacking in the top end, but I was travelling ok so pushed it all the way to the end. I managed to get in a good group by the top of the climb, with Nic Whitburn & her super domestique Conan, as well as Rob Crowe and a fair few strong riders. I grovelled along clinging to the bunch until we reached the final climb of the day and just rode up as hard as my very close to cramping legs would let me. Turns out I just did enough to come in 3rd in my AG which I was stoked with!

I highly recommend the Gran Fondo if you’ve never done it. It was amazing getting to ride along the Great Ocean Road with no traffic and 4,000 of your closest friends. The climbs and scenery are spectacular, and I can’t wait to go back again next year.. Hopefully a little fitter though!

Damian Mcdonald Memorial

The Damian McDonald Memorial is held in Eildon and ran by the Blackburn Cycling Club. This year they have been extremely supportive of women’s racing by offering 2 grades and very generous prize money, so it’s unfortunate that the weekend clashed with another women’s race held on the other side of the state the previous day. If not for that I envisage there would have been many more starters!

Women’s A set off with the Men’s C Grade bunch, in total there might have been about 20 or so of us. The skies were threatening to open up, but thankfully we stayed dry and the worst we had to contend with was the rather strong wind. Things were fairly neutral the first lap of the lake, and it wasn’t until we hit the ‘Skyline’ climb that things heated up. It didn’t help that I thought the climb came about 10k later in the race and so wasn’t really prepared for when a couple of the whippet U17 riders in our bunch lit things up straight away. Confirming we were in fact on the climb, I grabbed their wheel and clung for dear life. The first 1.5k of the climb averaged almost 9%, and then eased off slightly for another k or so, then there was a flat section where I was hoping for some recovery, but as our group of 7 was keen to keep the rest of the bunch at bay the pace was on. The last 2.5k was again a solid gradient, and though I was really starting to feel the lack of real hard racing in my legs, I managed to stick with them over the top. Our group then worked nicely together for the last 40k, with only 1 guy sitting out turns.

As I had the women’s win stitched up, I led out the sprint into the final corner and watched the guys battle it out. The juniors took the podium places after some very strong riding all day.

A big thank you to Blackburn and all of the sponsors of the race, hopefully we can get a much bigger field of women next year!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The last of the Europe Trip

Well it's time for a long overdue catch up on what happened in Europe post Belgium!

After Dwars door de Westhoek, it was time to head to France for my final race, the Tour of Limousin. 4 days through the French Countryside, racing alongside* none other than Marianne Vos and the Dutch National team that were prepping for the Olympics, as well as many other top teams.

Tour of Limousin - Team Ibis - Marolijn, Me, Natalie, Julie & Esther
Thankfully I didn't have any bad luck or muppet like crashes during the tour, I felt good, was climbing good, TT'd like the usual bad TTer I am, but my lack of confidence being in the bunch was my major let down again. Starting these short, but steep climbs from near the back of 100 girls is not the best place to be in, and as such each day I finished in the 2nd group.  

Jo & I on the start line for the last stage

The whole tour was a great learning process though and being a part of Team Ibis Cycles, who were an awesome bunch of people made for a great week. It helped getting the full pro treatment - no filling up your own bottles, massaging your own legs & oiling your own chain here! It was great to ride as a team, and do my bit where I could to help Esther in her GC hopes.

On the start line for the TT

Safety First for Julie!

Graham, our 'sweary bear' mechanic. Doesn't 'DO' photos!

Beautiful French countryside and sunshine!

* I rode alongside Marianne for maybe all of 500m, the rest of the time she was about 5minutes off the front of the bunch...

From there, I palmed my bike off to the For Viored - Escentual team to be carted back to London, and I hopped on a plane from Paris to Barcelona for the start of a 2 week "Real/Non Bike" holiday!

5 days in Barcelona, with a quick day trip to Girona, eating and drinking as much Paella, jamon, fruit, juice, Gelati and Sangria as I could possibly fit in. Barcelona is such an amazing city, and one that I'll definitely be visiting again.
The only bike I touched in 2 weeks

Get in ma BELLEH!

The Boqueria Markets - My idea of heaven!
After Barcelona, a quick plane ride over to Gatwick to visit with Hannah & her parents & Tanya and have a great weekend watching the Olympic Road Races! 

Hannah, Tanya & I roadside at the Mens Road Race
The last leg of the holiday had Hannah & I setting off to the French & Italian Rivierias! We flew in to Nice and stayed in the nearby Villefranche sur Mur. After 2 days there we packed up the little hire car and drove across the border to Alessio in Italy for 2 days. It was another 4 days of amazing food/apertif's/gelati, with not a day going by where I didn't go to bed feeling like my stomach was about to explode. 

Hannah & I looking for rich husbands in Monaco

We swam in the Cote d'azure - which whilst beautiful, was quite painful given the size of the pebbles/rocks on the beach - Hired sun loungers and spent the majority of a whole day on the beach, ate Pizza & Gelati in the country famous for them, drank espresso's like locals, stopped in Monaco to check out how the rich & famous live, and all up had an amazing relaxing holiday.

An afternoon Apertif? Don't mind if I do..
The holiday was over all too quickly though, and after a delayed flight back to London (and a very funny evening at the Nice Airport), I met up with Rene to go reclaim my bike and pack myself up for the journey home.. Very sad to be leaving, but excited to return again next year!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dwars door de Westhoek

After the excitment on Friday's race, there wasn't much sleep had the rest of the weekend.. But on Sunday it was time to line up to race again, this time for the UCI 1 day race Dwars door de Westhoek. This race cut 2 laps of the Schomenkleberg and Monteberg climbs in southern Belgium, and then 4 local laps which had about 800m of rough cobbles each time. I was guest riding for the Dutch team SwaboLadies, which suited me perfectly given their kit is pink 
Team Presentation
120 starters, rain, wind & cobbles. I was nervous. My positioning is getting a little better, but all of the elements combined to make me struggle today. Every time I moved up the front, I would be at the back again within 30 seconds. Less than ideal when you're going up 15% climbs on narrow laneways with people dropped wheels and having to unclip everywhere. Thankfully I managed to avoid any near misses and stay in contact with the front bunch through both laps of the hills, and so knew I'd be fine for the last half of the race.

Going up one of the climbs
After the hills were done, I misunderstood the motorbike giving time information to us, and thought there was a breakaway up the road. Turns out it was the gap between our bunch and the 2nd bunch back on the road. Yeah, not smart. Because of this, I let myself stay near the back of the bunch as the gap to what I thought was the break was really large. Had I known there wasn't a breakaway, I might have raced a little differently, but I can't change that now.
Jo had a good race, managing to get 2nd in the QOM competition by only 1 point. Unfortunately for her, she just missed out on winning a Colnago frame! She was also very active up the front, and was involved in most attacks. It's great to see her racing so strongly over here and I can only hope that I can get to that level soon! I know I've still got lots of improvement to come though, so that's a big motivation for me. More time in the Euro peloton will be a big key to that for me as I really suck at the big bunches!
Jo going for a QOM
The cobbles on each lap were vicious. Thankfully there was a slightly smooth bit down each side of them for a part of it, because by the 2nd last lap I was busting to go to the toilet and the cobbles weren't helping the situation at all!
The bunch going over some of the cobbles
Soon enough we were coming in for the final lap and so I just stayed out of the way for the sprint and rolled in at the back of our bunch. I was happy to have made it through, and will chalk it up to experience to build on!
Again a big thanks to Hans for letting me guest ride with his team, and picking Jo and I up to get to the race!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My first win!

After Krasna Lipa it was time for some well earned reco days in Germany with Jo and Emma before the next few races. On the plan was to head to Belgium again on Friday morning, race a Kermesse Friday afternoon and then Jo and I would race the Dwars door de Westhoek 1 day UCI race on the Sunday. This is the week I also discovered I don't hate coffee as much as I used to, and as long as there's plenty of sugar in it, I can actually drink it! UH OH....
Driving Glasses - only able to be worn by the person in control of the road trip vehicle
The first great start to the weekend was getting to the car rental place and picking up a brand new BMW 5 Series Station Wagon that would be our 'Team Car' for the weekend! It was an absolute blast to drive, especially through Germany on the open highways. Wow that thing could go! And it practically drove itself.
Road Trip buddies!

So we headed off in the rain to Belgium and ran in to a fair bit of traffic. By the time we actually made it to the race site it was only 45mins until race start. Quick rego, unpacked the bikes, pumped up the tires and it was time to get on the start line. Talk about cutting it fine! Todays race was in Vrasene - Beveren, and was 96km's around a 6.5k loop. Having missed out on a warm up, Jo went straight to the front and had the pace high, whilst I was still trying to find my legs! The wind was up a fair bit today, but thankfully the course was dry and no more rain came along. It was quite an attacking race, with all 3 of us making sure we were involved in anything that attempted to go. There were sprint primes for various amounts of money every lap, so many tried to get away to soak these up. The most promising move of the day happened when Jo attacked with 6 laps to go and was joined by 1 other. They got a large gap, but some strong work from a Rabobank rider and a few others within the bunch that had missed the move saw them reeled in with 3 laps to go.
Yes Pippa - Black Socks.
Talking to Emma in the bunch, she'd decided by then to have a go at the sprint at the finish, so it was up to me to counter attack. I didn't get very far though, and so thought I'd stay on the front to keep the pace high. Jo tried again on the 2nd last lap, but was quickly brought back again, which was when I found myself in an ideal position to try and get a gap leading in to the final sprint prime to at least get some cash. Attacking hard and getting a gap in to the corner, I won the prime and decided to keep going with the gap for as long as I could. The first half of the course was crosswind and headwind, so I felt like I was going no where, but the bunch appeared to not be chasing. I kept going with the thought in my head to just get to each corner, and then get to the tailwind section. A little bit of me was thinking I might actually be able to do it, but I didn't want to get too excited too soon and just kept pushing as hard as I could. Getting to the final corner and hitting the tailwind with only 500m to go, I looked back and knew that I had it. I could barely believe it, I'd finally won a road race, and on European soil no less! It was the best feeling going in to the finishing straight with time to enjoy the moment.
Standing on the podium, getting flowers and a trophy, being interviewed.. It was the real deal. Even though I still wasn't sure I believed it had happened, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tour Feminin Krasna Lipa

The race I was most looking forward to getting a start in this year was Krasna Lipa. It was the first international race I did on my last trip, and it didn't go anywhere near as well as I would have liked that time, so I wanted to go back and redeem myself! Last time I had a melt down on Day 3, so I was looking to first and foremost make it to the end of the tour.

After a few teams that I was lined up for fell through, I finally got my confirmed start with a club team from Norway called CK Victoria. Also racing on this team were some friends from back home in Aus Jo Hogan and Emma Mackie, so I was really looking forward to the week!
Team CK Victoria

 The 3 of us drove across Germany in to Czech the day before the race. Taking our time and enjoying the sunshine, we arrived at our accommodation Wednesday evening and met the team we would be racing with. A great bunch of chicks, even if understanding their names was rather difficult at first! Norwegian appears to be a very hard language to get your ears around.

On to the racing! I knew things would be difficult back in my first big tour, with bunches of 120+ girls all fighting to be up the front, but I just accepted that and tried to bit by bit work on improving my positioning.

On the first day I felt ok, but not great. Probably a lot of nerves combined with the rather warm/humid weather made me feel like that. By the time the race got to the final climb - the infamous 'Vapenka' Climb which was my nemesis last time around! - I was still with the main bunch, but my positioning was shocking. Unfortunately I got tailed off the front bunch behind some dropped wheels and didn't have the legs to go around. With a 2.5k fast downhill run in to the finish from here, I ended up in the 2nd bunch only about 30 seconds down. A major improvement! My team mate Jo Hogan set herself up nicely and managed 7th on the stage, and with some bonus seconds in a Sprint Prime was sitting 5th on GC. I wish I could say I helped with this, but all I can claim is giving her some water after she lost a bottle!

Day 2 was another couple of times over 'Vapenka' as a part of a loop. With sprint primes and bonus seconds up for grabs just after the hill, the goal was to help Jo get these. First lap I found some balls and managed to make my way to the front in time for the climb, and held it. With Emma's help, we kept the pace up leading in to the climb, and Jo managed 2nd in the sprint after. Second lap I faltered again and found myself mid pack and unable to move up on the narrow roads. I held on to the bunch though and finished at the back after a tight and technical last few kms. Jo moved up thanks to her sprint bonuses and was now 4th on GC!
Rolling to the start of Stage 2

Day 3.. The Double Day. In the morning was a road trip in to Poland for an 18km ITT, followed by going back to Czech for an afternoon Road Race. The TT just plain sucked. I tried to push, but really had nothing. I guess it was an improvement from last time, where I came DFL.. but still. Onward and upward to the Road stage! Jo lost a few places on GC because of not having her TT bike, but we figured the tour was still redeemable!

Hiding out from the lightening storm before Stage 4
5 minutes after we got to the start of the PM stage, the heavens opened and it started bucketing down. Lightening and Thunder crashing overhead, we all too shelter in the hotel nearby hoping that they would cancel the stage! In the end they delayed the start by 45 minutes, and cut our race one lap short, so it would only be 74k. Lining up on the start line in the rain, with only the occasional thunder clap, I took solace in the fact that I was shorter than a few in the bunch, so I wouldn't be the one hit by lightening! 3 Laps of 21k, the course profile basically looked like it was uphill for the first half, and downhill for the 2nd. As soon as we got going, I realised I felt great. I was even a little more comfortable in the bunch, although the wet roads killed that a little. After the first couple of climbs, I found myself easily up near the front and so tried to maintain that. Sitting on the front to keep the pace high felt like the safest option for me and to help Jo, so that's what I did.. Until I came in to a corner near the end of the first lap a little too quick and the bike slid out from underneath me. Yep.. Here I am, on the front because I didn't feel safe in the bunch, and I took myself out. MUPPET.

Picking myself up and assessing the damage, just some skin off, and the chain, so I managed to shake off the shock and get going again, but the Coms were being really strict on the cars helping people back to the bunch, so I was on my own. I got tantalizingly close, but couldn't quite make it, and once I joined with a small group who were off the back I decided to save the legs for tomorrow.

Top 10 (minus Jo) on the Podium
Day 4.. After a pretty crappy nights sleep due to my left side being too sore to sleep on, it was time for the last stage. Thankfully the sun was back out and we were set to have a nice day! The road were a bit damp, so I was a bit of a pansy in the corners, but thankfully my legs felt good again so I was looking forward to the stage! A 50k loop with 2 QOMs, and then 3 laps of the 'Vapenka' climb again.. GC was close in the top 10, so it was going to be an active day. 20k in to the stage, whilst the bunch was strung out, I clipped a big stone and had a sinking feeling.. sure enough, puncture. So, last time I punctured in a race it was in Aus.. Automatically I've gone to the left. BIG NO! Service from the right! Arg! So, by the time I got that sorted out and got going again, the bunch were long gone. Same as yesterday.. Chased and chased, made it back to Groupetto and that was it for the day. At least it was a lovely day for a training ride! We had a nice little bunch with a couple of girls from England from the For Viored team who were nice to chat to, and we made our way around the course and finished together. Tour complete! Jo rode awesome and made her way back up to 10th on GC
Jo and Meike with the 10th place Trophy

After the tour was done, it was time to go back to the Penzion Liberta with Meike for a well earned celebratory meal and glass of Red Wine! Then the next day it was back in to the car for the journey home to Dortmund! Racking up the k's in the car over here, that's for sure!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Belgium - Race 2

So after Steenokerzeel I drove to Roubaix to my accommodation for the night. Typical of Belgium it went from 28 degrees and sunny, to 17 and raining on my trip there. I was pretty excited that I would have the whole morning the next day to explore and visit the famous Velodrome, so had a makeshift dinner and went to bed.

Heading off in the morning for my adventure, i'd forgotten about how lax the French were with labeling roads. And so many u-turns and detours later, I made it to my destination and proceeded to cut a couple of hotlaps of the track. It was pretty damn cool being there and can only imagine what it's like when the race is on! It was concrete and bumpy, so I can't think it'd be nice to race an actual track race there, but they were building a new Velodrome just around the corner. After some happy snaps I headed off, content with the mornings activities.

Then it was time to get in to race mode again! Todays race was in Zwevegem, south Belgium. I wasn't too sure how I was feeling, and the wind was up, so I decided to start with no expectations (and a lot of caffeine in my system!). On tap today was 20 something laps of about 3.5k. Primes every 2 laps from 3 to 21, and then the finish! The course was pretty standard, bumpy, cobbled, but fairly wide roads which makes moving around easier.

Todays major presence was from the Lotto Belisol ladies team, with Topsport only having 1 rider. Sengers Ladies were also present, and a lot of the faces I remembered from the day before were there. That was good, because it also meant I had an idea of which wheels to be near/away from!

With the wind up, it was always going to be a harder race. Lots of time spent in the gutter! An early break went about 20k in, and managed to stay away for about 30k. Sengers missed it so had to chase, and them along with a couple of other girls brought the break back. I helped out a little, but was struggling in the headwind section and knew I had to conserve a bit if I was going to make it to the end. More attacks came after they were brought back, and I just tried to make sure I went with anything that looked threatening. By 60k I thought I was done.. So broke out the emergency TORQ Banoffee and within 5 minutes I came good. Rocket Fuel!

It was perfect timing as a break of 5 went up the road, and I managed to get in the chasing bunch of 10 or so. We worked to get across, and this unded up being the winning break! So given that I was feeling ok again, I worked a bit to help make sure it stayed away. I knew the move was coming from the eventual winner. But missed it. Just over a lap to go she launched solo and managed to hold off the bunch. About 500m later I had a go at getting across to her, but when I turned in to the headwind section I went backwards and was picked up by the chasing pack a short time later.
More attacks went and a couple got away to take the minor podium placings, but by then it was all I could do to hang on to the end! I sprinted as best I could, and managed 11th over the line. So close to the top 10 that I would have loved to have got, but a massive improvement than on last time I was here! And it leaves some more room to move up too :-)

After the race it was straight back in to the car for the 3hr road trip back to Germany! Great recovery.... Nothing like lollies, chips and a protein shake as a post race meal whilst cramped up in the car!

Next up is the Tour Feminin Krasna Lipa in the Czech Republic. Racing with the team CK Victoria from Norway, I'll also be on the same team as Jo and Emma which should make things pretty fun! It'll be good to catch up with a few other girls I know that are racing too!

Back to Belgium

Well I made it to Europe! First stop - Germany.

After just 2 days here, I picked up a zippy little Audi A1 from Europcar and headed cross country to hit up some Belgian Kermesse racing!
I want one. So much fun to drive!
Well there's no better way to get your race legs back than to just get out there and race..
First up was Steenokkerzeel, 16 laps of 5.5kms. Non typical weather greeted me, with a shining sun and 28 degrees! The wind was up like normal though, but would be mostly head/tail with not much crosswind action.

I met up with Jo at rego, and it was nice to see a familiar face amongst the crowd! We commented how weird it felt to be racing together again.. It was almost like being at a St Kilda crit! Just with 3 times as many girls racing.

Race numbers go back at the end of the race, and you get 5 Euro back!
After checking out the course and waiting for ages for the juniors to finish their race, we were finally underway about 45 mins late. The first attack came about 20m into the race and that's how it continued the whole time. Jo was stomping and very active up the front.. I let myself have the first few laps to get used to the bunches again and then worked on staying in a good position up front. Much easier said than done, but it's something I'll improve on with each race.

About half way through I finally felt like my legs were waking up from the flight over, and started to get a bit more active, having a go at getting off the front etc.. But nothing I was in would stick. Topsport Vlaanderen were the dominant team at the race, and nothing was let go without them in it! Eventually with 3 laps to go, a break of 2 went up the road and it looked like the one. Jo broke away from the bunch and bridged across, and it was the winning move! Unfortunately she didn't have much left for the sprint, but managed 2nd which is awesome!

I rolled in on the back of the bunch, happy to have the first one out of the way and to have felt pretty good all things considered. Looking forward to Zwevegem tomorrow!

The Tour that almost wasn't

The North West Tour.. Round 3 of the NRS. The reason I didn't go to America to race dairylands, and I almost didn't even make it to the start line!
The only reason I did was thanks to some very special people who I owe massive favours to now!! Thank you to those that helped me. You know who you are.
Once there, I believed I was meant to be. Everything happens for a reason, and I channeled that as much as I could for the 4 days. Enjoyed the racing, the company of those I'd not normally get to stay with, and focused on staying positive for the race.
So the actual race. My prologue was pretty appalling. I had nothing and was just glad it was over.. Stage 2's crit was a disaster for everyone pretty much. With a crash happening 7 minutes in to the 30 min race and then no one knowing if we were still neutral or not. At least it was safer that way because it was a very nervy bunch. All of a sudden the 3 to I sign was flashed and the race was over!
Stage 3. The queen stage with a 12k climb up to the finish. I just don't have the climbing legs yet to go with the moves, and was happy to hang on to the chase bunch until a couple of k to go. I'd have liked to have gone a bit better, but was ok with the day. Although I never want to be that cold again. It was awful.
Clear Skies for Stage 4, but geez it was COLD!

Stage 4 & 5 were very much the same as each other. Flat stages, some attacks, nothing let get much rope with Pensar Hawk reeling everything back in. The finish to Stg 5 a small break managed to get a few seconds on the main field within the last 5k and held off the charging bunch! Chloe McInosh who'd been the most aggressive all day managed a 3rd which was well deserved! I spent some solo time off the front in the middle of the race, but it was to no avail. Oh well, got to try these things! You just never know.

After the race was over it was straight back in to the car for the trip to Sydney airport and home. A very long day, but with only 72hrs until I had to fly out to Europe, there's a lot that had to get done!

Link to the YouTube video of the Tour Highlights thanks to SBS -

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going in to Battle!

Battle on the Border appears to be the QLD version of the Tour of Bright. A QLD long weekend with grades A-C for Men, Masters and Women, plus some juniors racing! 500 competitors over all the grades, but no mountains to ride up, some lovely warm weather and a location next to the beach. Sounds pretty great to me!
The depleted team!

The Pro sign on board..
We went in to Battle already outnumbered. 2 team mates had been detained by their places of employment, and a 3rd was recovering from injuries sustained in the previous NRS fight. We tried to call in reinforcements, however several girls made the decision not to come which they would later regret when they saw all the photo’s of most of the peloton enjoying their recovery time at the beach.

Day 1 was a 7.2k TT in the morning. I’d decided not to take the TT bike because it’s a major hassle to fly with, and then couldn’t find my clip on bars before I left. Oh well! Carly and I both posted solid mid field rides about 1m20 down on the super TTer Beck Wiasak of Suzuki.
Putting the feet up between stages on Day 1. Probably Instagramming the sh*t out of it...
 A couple of hours later and we were kitted up again on the start line of the 98km road stage. This race had a couple of steep climbs, some rolling hills, and a lot of bumpy water damaged road! Almost 70 girls in the bunch, with the usual first day jitters, plus the fact that the lead Police vehicle didn’t know how to control traffic, resulting in cars on the other side of the road hurtling at us at 80kph, it made for a stressful race. I thought I’d made it through safely until just over 10k to go where someone went skittling sideways in front of me, and I was on the deck. Chain back on the bike and a quick chase through the convoy and I was thankfully back safely at the front of the bunch. Ruth Corset, super mum, ex National Champ, having only just retired from the Euro Peloton, attacked up the climb on the 2nd lap of the course and solo’d away from everyone and took the win comfortably by a minute. I finished in the main bunch, thankful to have most of my skin still intact.

Hot weather, hot racing!

Day 2 and more sunshine, today’s stage was another loop – 85k and 2 goes up the QOM of the day. Not steep or long enough to split the bunch unfortunately – which 12 months ago is not something I ever thought I would say! – but long enough to cause a fair bit of pain. At the start of the 2nd lap I was caught napping at the back of the bunch again, and missed the move of the day. Steph Ives, along with Zoe Watters & Narelle Hards managed to get away from the bunch and were never seen again until the finishing straight! After the 2nd time over the QOM I tried to get across, and whilst I could see them up ahead, the gap was too far and the bunch too intent on not letting anyone else away. Another bunch finish…
Vollies from the local TAFE gave us free post-race Massages! Pro!

The great thing was, our race was over by lunch time, this meant that we got to spend the afternoon recovering at the beach and eating Gelati from the local ice cream store in Kingscliff! I could get used to that kind of lifestyle…

My kind of recovery...
3rd and Final Day was a technical 1.1km Crit circuit. I was excited. Traditional crits don’t suit me as I’m clearly not a sprinter, but the fast technical ones are becoming a favourite of mine. The goal was to stay safe up near the front of the bunch and have a crack if the legs were there nearer to the end of the race. Well I did, and they were there, but nothing was getting away from the Pensar Hawk team. VIS superstars Chloe and Lisa were super active throughout the race, trying to get a break established, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Ruth showed how amazing she was by basically controlling the whole race herself, marking all of Chloe’s attacks, and then in the end leading out the last 2 laps and still winning the bunch kick when it was apparent her sprinter wasn’t able to come around! I managed to get around some dropped wheels and fight my way back to the leaders and finish off the tour with a top 10 on the stage.

Whilst I would have liked to have gone better, overall I’m ok with how the tour went. How could you be unhappy with weather like we experienced?!

Special thanks to Nadine Le Mescam and Ryan Moody for the photo's. And to Nadine for helping both Carly and I out during the racing. Made life much easier.. And those Banoffee TORQ gels.... Rocket Fuel!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tour of Mersey Valley - Team Race Report!

Held in Mersey Valley Tasmania, the first round of the Womens Nation Road Series was raced over challenging terrain in equally challenging conditions. 3 stages over 2 days compromising a Time Trial and 2 hilly Road Stages, the Women’s Total Rush team were looking forward to racing against Australia’s best.

Cosy accommodation on the Spirit of Tassie

The Stage 1 Time Trial was 15km of flat to undulating dead country roads, finishing with a nice little pinch just before the finish line that was guaranteed to finish you off and make you hurt. Suzuki/Trek rider Beck Wiasak took out the Stage with her usual impressive TT, with 2 of Total Rush’s team members not too far off the pace in the top 15. Thankfully the conditions stayed dry with only a small amount of wind, but that was soon to change!

After heading back to the Accomm for some food and recovery, it was quickly time to get kitted up again and head out to the start of the 2nd Stage. The drizzle had set in, and the temps were dropping, so the team were extremely grateful to have just taken delivery of leg and arm warmers and some stylish rain jackets from Specialized which kept them warm and dry on the 15k ride out to the start!

The warm gear was quickly ditched for the 58km race from Forth to Moina, which finished with a 5.1km climb which averaged 8.3%, with the final couple of kms averaging up to 10%! Some steep pinches only 10km in to the race split things up, however most of the bunch regrouped on the road following. Unfortunately TR rider Carly Williams had some bad luck and punctured only 20km in to the race and was missed by the spares car, resulting in her not being able to complete the stage. Leading in to the final climb was a twisty, technical descent, and the pace was on during the climb to get there first. Amy and Tanya made the front bunch, and hurtled down the descent knowing it could make or break the race for them. Hitting top speeds of almost 80kph and tackling hairpin bends, we were thankful that we were on our rock solid Specialized Amiras which handle like a dream.

The race exploded on the climb, and Holden Cycling’s Miranda Griffiths showed she’s the climber to beat this year taking an impressive win ahead of Lisa Jacobs. Amy held on for 5th Elite about 90 seconds down and moved in to 5th on GC. The rest of the team finished strongly and were looking forward to the next day!

Finishing the tough climb. Yep, 10%.. ouch.
More rest, more food, and staying rugged up was on schedule for the evening before heading off the next morning to Stage 3 which was starting and finishing in Sheffield – known as the city of Murals. The rain from the previous day was still hanging around and the temps were quite chilly again. Stage 3 was a 92km Road Race incorporating 2 laps of a tough hilly circuit in the middle and finishing with a 5k climb followed by 5k of undulating roads. The first time up the QOM a selection was made with Amy making the front split of 12 riders. Half way around the loop an attack came from U19 rider Ellen Skerritt, which Amy decided to try to bridge to not long after. Not quite making it, she rejoined the group behind to recover for another trip up the steep QOM climb. Not long over the top of this climb Ellen was reeled in, and the front bunch was down to 11 riders. The group worked well together and put more time in to the chasers, until the final climb of the day when Miranda Griffiths attacked trying to gain some time on GC leader Lisa Jacobs. Lisa managed to go with her, and they rode away to take 1 / 2 on the day and on GC. Amy stayed with the lead bunch in to the finish and managed to place 3rd elite across the line. This meant the team had managed to secure 3rd on GC! A great result given it was their first NRS race together.

The final selection on the last stage.
 A big thanks to Bec Domange who was our Team Manager/Swanny for the weekend, Total Rush for getting our Amira’s running smoothly, and of course thanks to Specialized for the great winter gear which made the weekend’s weather bearable!

Next up for the team is NRS #2 – Battle on the Border, starting May 5 near Tweed Heads in NSW. Carly, Amy & Liz will be making the trip and are hoping for some slightly better weather conditions!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cykel Events Womens GP – Rd 4

The original round 4 of the Womens GP was rescheduled due to a bucket load of rain, and the new date set for last weekend. The race was sure to be on, with our Total Rush team wanting to give it everything to take out the Series, both for the Team and the Individual Ranking where Carly was in the lead. We also wanted the team win on the day, as not having had a full team for a couple of the races, we’d not been able to secure a team win yet!

Starting with the prologue, it was the usual affair. Go as hard as you can for just under 2k, and hope that your hard was in the top half of the field! The split came out pretty much as expected, however SKCC/Giant had one team member not make the A Grade Cut. With all 5 of our team in Div 1, we were looking good for all of our goals. Having recruited sprinter Laine Hammond for the day, we were confident of getting some good results if it came down to a bunch kick!

Just a quick turn around after the prologue and we were away racing. Things were rather subdued, with the SKCC team chasing down anything that even looked like having a flash of pink in it, wary that it could cost them the overall win. An unfortunate accident in the B grade race had proceedings halted temporarily about half way through the race, and after around 15-20mins things got underway again.

There were several more attempts to get away after the restart, but it was clear the race would be decided by a bunch sprint, until Chloe McIntosh of TORQ/BSS put in a last ditch effort to shake the sprinters with a lap to go. She almost held them off, but was caught on the fast run in to the finish, with the Goddess of Thunder, Nic Whitburn of Liv/Giant showing her power once again taking the win from young gun Lauretta Hanson (Kosdown), with Total Rush’s Laine Hammond taking out 3rd.

The results! First of all, we secured the team win on the day, which meant we clawed back some points from SKCC, however it wasn’t enough. They managed to secure the overall series win! We did however keep a hold of the leaders jersey, with Carly Williams taking it out by a small margin over Nic Whitburn, and we also maintained our 2nd position in the team rankings overall. A highly successful series in our first as a team together!

We’re already looking forward to next year’s series and will ensure we have a full team at every round to put us on an even playing field with the rest of the teams.

Winning Team!
Note to self - the tallest person should not stand up on the curb...

A massive thanks go to the following people –

Rob Carson of Cykel Events – without your passion for Women’s racing, this series would never have been ran. We thank you, and hopefully by the numbers you had each round competing, it shows how much we appreciate what you’re doing!

Doug Armstrong – CV Commissaire extraordinaire. Without Doug, the races can’t go ahead. I see him at so many women’s races across the state supporting us and making sure we can race.

Total Rush & Specialized – Of course we thank Total Rush and Specialized Australia for their support. From keeping our Amira Pro’s running smooth, to providing us with (what I believe) is the best looking kit in the bunch. This is just the start of big things to come for the team this year!

Bec Domange – Donating her time to the cause and providing comedic relief on the mic at all of the races, this chick is tops. She even went above and beyond and let us bring her out of retirement for Round 3!

And to all of the girls who have competed across the series. Without the support of girls racing, the series wouldn’t go ahead either. It’s been a great experience getting to race against you all, and for the newbies out there, I hope it’s gotten you hooked on racing so we’ll be seeing more of you throughout the year!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tour of NZ - The Race Wrap Up!

So, finally I have something worthy to write about, and I procrastinate over it for almost a month.. Typical.

I’ll keep it brief (for me). There’s plenty of blogs, reports, interviews etc out there, so I’m going to be selfish and just focus on the ‘Me’ bit.

I met Janine from the Wheelworks team I’d be racing for the day before the tour started, and Tristan the team manager. Was thankful that they were both super awesome people and I hadn’t landed in a bad team! Janine and I headed up to ‘Palmy’ Wednesday morning ahead of the afternoon’s first stage to meet with the rest of the team.
Introductions done and I knew it would be a fun week. Janine, Ash, Dee, Hannah, Pip and I all got along like a house on fire from the start! Stu, our swanny for the first couple of days arrived after an epic 6 hour ride from Wellington and he and Tristan were the best team support we could ask for. After a team chat, some talking about our goals and what we wanted to get out of the race, and getting our awesome new Pink kit ready, it was time to head to the Team Preso and Stage 1.

A new way to pin numbers! Hadn't seen this before..

Stage 1 – 7.1k TT. Rookie error number 1, in the pouring rain I misunderstood a marshal’s direction and made a wrong turn. My own fault for not knowing the course properly, and not the end of the world. Might have lost about 10-20 seconds, so it’s not like I was going to win it!

Team Presentation

Stage 2 – 137k Road Race. The longest of the stages today, including the neutral it was a 152k day. Neutral was shocking. Pouring rain, inconsistent pace, nervy bunch. In the race, I lacked the power I normally have. Possible cause was Rookie error number 2 for the tour, panicking after the TT that I was slipping down on my saddle too much and lifting the nose of it slightly. DUMB. Anyway, the main climb of the day had me out the back of the main bunch, but I made it in to the second group. We worked together and came in about 12 mins down. Thankful for the stage to be over after battling rain, sketchy descents and super gusty wind that had me close to being pushed off the road a couple of times.

Stage 3 – 121k Road Race. The sky looked ominous, but the rain held off. Thank god! Today was the reverse of the day before with a slight variation, so lots of climbing again. The wind was back again and causing havoc in the bunch. I felt much better today, made it over the first few climbs with the bunch, but then Rookie Error number 3, bad positioning in the long Crosswind section had me caught behind some dropped wheels and I rolled in a couple of minutes down.

Tonight was Stu’s last night, and he outdid himself with the pasta bake he cooked for us. Ash & I, being the only 2 glutards, were presented with what we later found out to be 2 whole packets of pasta in ours, and we managed to eat the whole thing between us… We also went and visited Dee in the local hospital where she had been since a crash on stage 1 where she fractured her back!

Team Photo! Not the best setting...

Stage 4 – 110k Road Race. The day started off with team Karaoke. Old school 80s and 90s hits and some really bad dancing. Spirits were high in the team after our visit with Dee, and we had all decided that it was now or never, it was time to have a crack and ‘Rock out with our Pink Kit out!’ I forgot to start my Garmin at the start, and ticked it on about 6k in to the race. A mistake I would spend a lot of time thinking about later on! The start was tough. I felt like my legs were made of lead. They thankfully came good though, and by the time we’d made it through the first few rollers and up to the base of the KOM climb I was feeling good. It was a tough climb, and I made it over with the 2nd group and had rejoined the main peloton by the end of the descent. Getting to the bunch, they were crawling along. So without even thinking, I went straight past and kept on going. Turning around, I had my team mate Pip on my wheel and a big gap to the bunch. There was a small group about a minute up the road, so we worked together to bridge the gap. Arriving to the breakaway, it was clear that all the main teams were represented, but none of them wanted to work because their GC players were back in the bunch. So after a little while Emma Crum from Cyclosport NZ attacked the group. Gaining a small margin, I decided to jump across to her and we quickly started working together and established a handy lead. Looking at the garmin I was calculating the distance to the finish, and figured we had about 45k. All good, either the break works, or it doesn’t, but if I didn’t try I’d have never known! Going up the KOM the 2nd time was tough, Emma is a little pocket rocket and climbs very well.

In the break

After the climb, we got back into a rhythm of sharing the work going back in to town. All I remember is the burning in my legs, and thinking ‘this could actually work…’ regular time checks from the Comms car had us holding the gap until about 15k to go, when it started to come down. The chase was on. This only spurred us on more with a noticeable lift in the tempo from both of us. Every time check they were gaining, but we stayed positive that we could hold them off. With less than 10k to go, the gap was 37 seconds. That was our last time check! With 4k to go, we turned on to the main highway in to the typical howling cross-headwind we’d come to expect from the past few days, and it hurt. I think that was the most painful 4k I’ve ever ridden. Not knowing if the bunch was breathing down your neck, struggling back on to the wheel after taking a turn, looking for the finish line, and begging for it to come sooner so you knew the outcome. There was no foxing or playing games. There wasn’t time. Knowing Emma has a good kick on her, and suffering as much as I was, I saw the jump at 300 to go, but didn’t have the legs to go for it. So I crossed the line in 2nd place and I was actually laughing. I couldn’t believe we’d pulled it off!
Stage 4 - Pain Rating - 10

No sooner had we congratulated each other, and we turned around and the bunch was sprinting for 3rd. 22 seconds was the final gap! A big shuffle in GC and a couple of friends and fellow St Kilda club members – Jo Hogan and Miranda Griffiths – had managed to move themselves up to 4th and 6th on GC respectively! A great day all around. 

Happy Team!

Alcohol Ban lifted 1 day early. I think it was deserved!

Stage 5 – 119k Road Race. The last day. As we rolled out behind the lead car for the neutral, I had this feeling of being calm. The whole peloton seemed calm. The nerves were gone, the hardest days were over, and this was it. The final stage. An uneventful day for me, I actually felt surprisingly good but just hid in the bunch all day. I was happy with how my tour had gone!
Sometimes you need to be reminded...