Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A week in Holland

After Gelderland Julie and I were off to Loosdrecht to stay with the wonderful Welter family in the 'Green Heart of Holland'. It was a beautiful area to stay and train, and I couldn't believe we were only 30k from Amsterdam! Quiet country roads with well maintained bike paths, lots of Spring lambs and baby ducklings to look at on our rides, except for Thursday when the wind was so strong it was all I could do to hold the bike on the road! No sight seeing that day!
Training around the Lake in Loosdrecht, Just waiting for a mate. Or a boat to pass.
The week passed really fast, lots of sleeping, eating & riding, and then we were being picked up again to rejoin the team for the weekends races!
Dutch racing at it's finest was on show at Omloop van Borsele on Saturday.. The organizers are mental.. Let's start the race on a big open road, with 180 starters, a roaring tail/cross tail wind, and then 3k later hook a quick left hand hairpin onto a single lane road. Needless to say, the pace was on at the start and everyone was fighting for the front. There were crashes. So many crashes. Being a little bit further back in the bunch possibly saved my skin and I managed to avoid them all, but it meant I missed the split on the first lap. Maybe 40 or so were off the front and I was in the 2nd bunch chasing back on when we came to the whole road being covered with bodies and bikes from a stack in the front bunch. Reportedly the crash happened at 52kph, so I don't know how someone wasn't seriously injured! One of the hardest parts of racing is seeing friends down on the road, possibly injured, and having to keep going.
Only about 20 made it through, and we were left to pick our way around the carnage and chase some more. The gap held at about 1min for a lap and a half or so, but then the legs went out of the chase and it became evident that we weren't getting back to the front. Soon after another group joined us and we had about 50 in our bunch which is roughly how it stayed until the end. I crossed the line quite spent, but happy to have made it through. Julie and Eileen were both in my group also, and it was great that we could look after each other.
Numbers pinned and ready to go!
There were some moments I just had to laugh though, seeing one girl go tumbling down an embankment only about 5k in, and then another go flying up one later in the race! At least they were spectacular looking crashes.
Sunday was Dwars door de Westhoek.  I was actually looking forward to this race, because not only did it have some hills in it, it was a race I'd done last year and having an idea of what's ahead in these races can be a big help. I knew the climbs would split the bunch, and I tried my best to get up the front for the first one, but got there a bit too early and couldn't hold it, so spent the next 20k chasing my tail and working my way back to the front bunch of 50 or so. It was fruitless however as another 50 or so rejoined later in the race and so there were about 100 back together for the last 50k which were all flat with some nasty cobbles through the start finish area which we went through 5 times. Every lap of the cobbles my legs felt like they were being sapped more and more and my whole body felt jarred and I was left wondering how on earth the men race Paris-Roubaix.
Again, Julie and Eileen were up there the whole day, and Gaby and Molly did fantastic to make it to the finish too!
It was another great weekend with the team, and so good to get to meet some of the other girls! I can't wait until we have our team house next week and we'll all get to settle in and get some more racing done! Next race is Knokke-Heist Breden, and you can find a race preview here - Knokke-Heist Bredene Preview . Another nice flat, windy, cobbled race.. Just my style :/.. 
This site is a great resource for most of the UCI races too! Previews and history for all the big ones.
Now I'm back in Girona until the house is ready in Belgium and I have to say, it feels like I've come home. I really love it here! Looking forward to some sunny skies and some good training! Hoping to even slip in a trip to the beach if the weather plays nice.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ronde van Gelderland Ride report..

It was finally time to get this Euro season underway and meet some of the rest of the team! Flying in to Amsterdam and meeting the other girls was great.. Scoring myself a mega sized mug thanks to Penny, and then off to 'Rabbit Hill' holiday park which we would be calling home for the next few days.

Lucky we met Esther along the way and she could take us on a nice ride instead of us heading in to town and getting lost!

Pre race roll through some nice Dutch countryside. Tailwind home was a ripper!

Once Julie arrived Saturday lunch time, we went for a spin around the area and managed to run into Esther our old team mate who took us on a really pretty ride. The sun even came out and made us all happy and smiling! This wasn't at all what we were expecting coming to Holland given the previous few races had been next to freezing.

Race day - So I'm calling this a ride report, because I can't really say I raced today. I was there, it was a race, but I was just 'rolling' around at the back of the bunch trying to stay upright and hold the wheel in front..

Team Presentation - Photo thanks to Anton Vos
Me, Ann, Laura, Jane, Julie, Penny

As my first race of the season in Europe, it was a decent sized one.. 170 starters, racing over 139kms plus 7kms of nerve wracking neutralization. Mostly flat, although thankfully there were a few small hills early on in the race to keep me happy. I even managed to get up the front of the bunch for a brief period of time, only to shit myself as I got swarmed from all directions with girls going everywhere and 'nekkminit' I was at the back again..

Controversial sock choice it seems.. They were either loved, or hated. Of course I loved them!
The bunch split on the hills, and whilst I had no trouble with them, being at the back meant I ended up 3rd bunch. I rode across to the 2nd bunch on the bigger hill, but 2 and 3 came together by the end of the hills and then worked to bring back the leaders.

We went through lots of narrow twisty roads, lots of corners, constantly coming to close to a standstill to get around them. There were at least 3-4 crashes, all just right in front of me which I was thankfully be able to avoid, but still had to get around the carnage on the road to get back to the bunch. Thankfully my Bianchi was rock solid throughout and that was one thing I didn't have to even think about!

Coming in to the last local lap there was a group of maybe 90 or so left with Shara Gillow from Orica away solo. The chase began properly with about 10k to go, and a few kms later I looked up to see someone up the road had dropped the wheel and there was a gap. Completely my fault for being where I was, but knowing that and doing something about it are two completely different things. Much the same as someone standing on the side of a crit telling you to move up.. Everyone knows they have to, it's just hard to do it sometimes! It was a little frustrating feeling quite strong and being able to ride in the wind/the gutter for almost the entire 3.5 hours, yet not having the balls to be up the front being a part of the race. At least I know my weakness and can work on it over the coming races!
Move up? Where......?
Photo from the Gallery by Bart Hazen at Peloton Cafe

Julie rode awesome and was in the front bunch all day. She came top 30 and is hoping to improve on that next weekend at Borsele and Westhoek. So my goal is to stay near Julie!
For now the 2 of us are staying with a lovely Dutch family not far out of Amsterdam, so we're planning on trying to fit in a day trip at some point for maybe a little bit of shopping and sightseeing :-) Then the rest of the team arrive back on Friday for us to race at Omloop van Borsele in Holland Saturday followed by Dwars door de Westhoek in Belgium on Sunday!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hola Espana!

A few days after landing in freezing cold London, it was time to head to a warmer climate to get settled in to the new time zone and get back into some training.. So I jetted off to Girona to stay with Jo - for a couple of weeks.
I'd spent an afternoon in Girona last year when I was holidaying in Barcelona, and I knew it was a place I'd love to go back to. Given that a good portion of the Pro's from Aus/NZ choose to make Girona their home, you know it's got to be for a reason, and this past couple of weeks I've found out why. Whilst the rest of Europe is struggling to even hit 10 degrees, some parts still snowing, I've been riding in the sun almost every day. The roads are fantastic, there's flat if you want it, or hills of any length and gradient, and the traffic is very light and accommodating. It's fair to say I've fallen in love with training in Girona and really don't want to leave!
Just chilling with my mates in L'Escala
Climbing to St Hilari, a beautiful, beautiful climb.
However the time has come to get out of holiday mode and get down to the reason I'm here.. To race! I'm off to Holland now to meet with my Breast Cancer Care team mates, where we will be racing the Ronde van Gelderland UCI 1.2 race. Having minimal experience in Dutch one day races, it's fair to say I'm a wee bit nervous given the size of the field (just a lazy 170 starters..) and some of the names on the start list. Having said that, I'm super excited to get into it and start getting that experience. It's what I'm here for! I know it'll be tough going, but every race I do will help for the next race.
Holland is even turning on a relatively warm day on Sunday for the race, so things are looking good already!
Race report to follow next week..

Friday, April 5, 2013


Well, if Aus is 'Down Under', then maybe Europe is 'Up Over'? Probably not, but I'm going to run with it for now..

I've been on the other side of the world now for a week, yet it feels like so much longer! When you're constantly still trying to adjust to the new time zone, adding in the change of daylight saving, plus calculating what time it is back home, it's hard to remember what day it is. But it's Thursday, and so much has happened in the past week!

First off I should recount the last month before I headed away because I did have a great few last weeks in Aus. The highlight had to be coming 2nd in the Oceania Road Champs in Canberra in a really tough race with a class field. My happiness is tinged with a slight amount of regret at not doing things a little differently in the race and the 'what might have been's', yet I also couldn't be happier. Since finishing up at PMP I've had a great summer of training and racing which all culminated in getting my chance in this race, and I want to thank all the girls in the Specialized Securitor team for believing in me, as well as my coach Stu and all my friends and training buddies that have been there! Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, even when you might let doubts slip in, is something I'm finding is the key.

Oci's Podium
 The other highlight has been Melbourne's weather! My oh my it was amazing to have a real summer and to train in the sunshine every day. I think I only rode in the rain once in 2+ months, and the resulting tan made the girls in England jealous when I arrived, although I fear it's fading already...

So where to next? Well I landed in London to 2 degrees, a rude shock when 30 hours earlier it had been 32 and sunny in Melbourne.. But things are on the improve. I spent a few days in London with Rene my team manager and his partner Marion who was amazing and cooked up a storm every night, even making a Sunday Roast! I fitted up my new Bianchi Sempre Pro and had 2nd Christmas getting all the goodies to go along with it including some Lake Shoes and a Kask Helmet. Kit is still coming, but it's going to look awesome! For now I get to rock out some sweet Rapha gear, which is so comfy.
New Bike!
I arrived in Girona a couple of days ago to stay with Jo until my first race in Holland next weekend, and after that things get fairly busy with racing which I'm looking forward to! The weather here is a good 15 degrees warmer than London, and is constantly on the improve, so hopefully Belgium and Holland follow suit fairly soon too!
Racing at Hog Hill