Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oceania Champion & Racing Worlds..

I wasn't really sure what to write about this subject.. It's been a bit of a surprise followed by a stressful few weeks with leaving my team, organising a bike, organising guest rides for upcoming races, and then planning to get to them. It’s all left me a little frazzled.

There will be a few people surprised to see my name on the list, because to be honest, it’s not like I’ve had a stellar season here in Europe. But I didn’t know this was coming. My season wasn’t structured to plan for this, and my focus wasn’t on making the team this year. I wanted to come here, experience a season as a full time cyclist in Europe, and learn the ropes as much as I could. So how did this come about?

Basically, back in March when I finished 2nd at the Oceania Road Champs, I was actually the first Oceania resident to finish. This was only established a few months after the fact, and therefore not really communicated to anyone, including myself. I started hearing things when the rumors over who would be selected for the Long List for worlds started circulating which was late July.. A quick email and it was confirmed that I was in fact the Oceania Champion, and as such had automatically qualified for a much coveted position on the long list. On top of this, there is actually a place at the World Championships race reserved specifically for me on top of the 7 others that Australia has qualified for. However this does not mean I will be going. I still have to be selected to be a part of the team. I have to prove I won’t be a dead weight and am able to contribute to the team objective and make an impact on the race.

I think I can do it given the chance, the support, and the opportunity to do so. To race for Australia, to help the team to win the Worlds, that’s motivation enough. I don’t care if the job given to me means I’ll be out of the race within the first 30k. None of that matters. I know what it feels like to win races as a part of a team, and for some reason it seems to drive me more when I have the team goal to work for.

So for the next few weeks I’m trying to race as much as I can to prove I can do it. The clock is ticking, and being that the parameters around selection are tough in an environment where you’re basically going it alone; I’m pushing the proverbial uphill to do it. But it won’t stop me trying.. 

I have to finish by again saying a HUGE thank you to Specialized Australia & Europe for helping me out whilst I've been here. Their support has been invaluable and I only hope to repay them and make them proud!

Sweet Ride!

Thanks to the huge intercontinental combined effort of many many people, I am lucky enough to be riding the 2013 S Works Amira for the rest of my time here in Europe. I know that sponsored riders opinions of bikes are usually taken with a grain of salt, however I need to just state - WOW.

I don't know if it's new bike syndrome, or just the bike, but it feels like I'm comfortable riding my bike again. Cornering and descending, where I'd been a bit hesitant lately, feels so smooth. It could be the fact that the bike comes with the sweet as Roval Carbon Clinchers, which I'd had the pleasure of test riding back in Aus, but hadn't had a proper run with them.

To be honest, I don't care if it's the placebo effect. It is just wonderful to feel like when I pedal, the power is going through the bike and making me go where I want.

And really.. It looks pretty darn sweet too if you ask me!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sparkessen Giro

So the Summer racing season here in Belgium is in full swing. Most weeks there are at least 3-4 Kermesses on, plus there's some UCI racing on the calendar dotted in there too. So after getting back from Limousin it was straight back into it with a Kermesse in Strijpen/Zottegem on Tuesday afternoon. The race was supposed to be 90k, however due to the 35 degree heat they cut 2 laps off the race which gave us about 75k to race. 10 laps on what turned out to be a lumpy course with a nice little kicker of a hill out the back. Although the ride there my legs felt like lead, I knew I'd work into it so I was looking forward to the race! It's not often you get any hills in the Kermesse' here! Had a good race, with each lap feeling better and better and tried to split things up on the hill.. We managed to halve the bunch by the end, both through the hills and the heat taking a toll, and I did my usual trick of avoiding getting mixed up in the sprint and rolled in just inside the top 20. 
On the descent - Strijpen Kermesse
A couple of days later and it was off to Bambrugge for another 90k race! This time we were lucky enough to have Graeme drive us, which we were extra thankful for once the heavens opened resulting in the last 5 laps being in torrential rain. My slow to wake up legs had me sitting too far back early in the race and I missed the break of the day which ended up sticking, and then every move I went with was the wrong one so I rolled in with the bunch happy to be able to dry off..
Lucky I wore my black socks....
The next day we were picked up by Rene for the trip across the border to race the UCI 1.1 race, Sparkassen Giro. This race is an all day festival in the town, with participation rides, the womens race, a Men's Post Tour Crit, Derny races and then fireworks at the end of the night. It was a great atmosphere to race in! Our race was short for a UCI race, at only 78k, and it was very straight forward.. Go around the town centre, head out on a main road slightly uphill for 5k, do a U-Turn, and motor back down the other side of the road. Repeat this 6 times and you've got a sprinters dream race. The team were keen to come away with a result, and having 2 sprinters we were in for a chance. Coryn and Eileen are both on form with some good results lately, with Jane, Lucy, Gaby & myself to support them. With Kirtsen Wild & Chloe Hosking in the bunch, there were lots of teams hoping to force a break away, so it was an agressive race from the start. We were well represented most of the moves, with Lucy doing her trademark solo attack which lasted about 1k before she was reeled back in. In the end the inevitable sprint happened, except the difference being the first person around the corner hit it too hot and came down disrupting things a bit. Coryn recovered well and sprinted to an impressive 5th, with Kirsten Wild only just pipping her on the line. Eileen had a solid 14th place in what was her first European race in a long time. I felt good during the race and made my way into a few moves, but being the scaredy cat that I am when it comes to a sprint, I sat well out of the argy bargy that was going on and stayed safe.
Skinsuit Sunday!
So basically from what was a very disappointing start to the second half of my season, I'm happy with where I'm at now. Racing into some form and being active and actually being a part of the race instead of pack fill is definitely good for the head, because I have to admit there were a couple of times a few weeks back where I'd started doubting myself and questioning if I should be here. I keep reminding myself that this is my first season out here and that every race and every challenge that comes my way is a learning experience and will make me a better rider and racer. I feel so young in terms of cycling age, especially when hearing stories from team mates who are almost 10 years younger, yet have twice as many years racing experience!
Rolling to the start of Sparkessen Giro
Next up for the team is the Lotto Cup race Erondegemese Pijl which is a UCI 1.2. Another flat, fast Belgian race where hopefully we can improve on last weekand hit the podium!