Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ride Happy highlights of 2010

One of my highlights of 2010

Another year has rolled around and it feels like only yesterday we were getting around in happy pants and bleached denim and listening to Bon Jovi. Or maybe that’s just me. 2010 has been a massive year for Ride Happy. In the spirit of nostalgia, here’s a look back at my highlights for the year. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Or even VOTE at the bottom of the article – it’s similar to the ‘like’ button on Facebook, where you kind of want to write a comment on someone’s status update but really can’t be bothered.

Hardest race
There are several contenders here. First is the road race at nationals in January, where the mercury nudged 47 deg, the roads melted and most of field didn’t finish. If it weren’t for Andy giving me icy bidons each lap, I would have been one of them. Next is the Baw Baw Classic in April, where we had rain, driving cross-winds, hail, then snow going up the steepest, most brutal climb in Australia. Should have packed a jacket. If anyone here did either of these races, RESPEKT. You are hardcore. But I think the gong goes to the Giro Donne – 10 days of racing through the toughest, most mountainous terrain around in the height of Summer. No rest day. Lots of gastrolyte. Full of Italians. I think that’s why they called it the hardest women’s tour in the world this year.

Happy days!
Best race
Undoubtedly Tour of New Zealand in February. This was a 5 day, 6 stage race where Donna the Supercoach had gotten me into amazing form and it all paid off. I now get to point at photos of Linda Villumsen, who recently podiumed at the world champs in the time trial, and say excitedly, ‘I beat her in a TT!’ But apart from being in shape, the tour was awesome because I had the best teammates ever and the team (Aust-NTID) all got along really well. Bron Ryan, Sarah Roy, Alex Carle, Bec Halliday and Laura Luxford – you guys rock. Someone now only has to say, ‘No.7 Special Fried Rice’ and I get the giggles. Sorry, that’s an in-joke. You’ll have to ask the girls. Or you could ask our team managers Ben Cook and Paul Larkin, who were equally awesome. I don’t know how you can plan a good team and leadership dynamic, but crikey if I could bottle that one I would.

Team Aust-NTID and red van

Nicest gesture during a race
At the Baw Baw Classic, I didn’t bring spares, thinking we had neutral service. We didn’t. In steps Sean ‘The Man’ Hurley, who offered me his spare wheels and went without himself. This is in a 100km point-to-point road race. Luckily, neither of us punctured. When I asked The Man what he was going to do if he punctured and didn’t have spares, he said, ‘Are you kidding me? This is Baw Baw! Puncturing will be the best thing that could happen to me!’ What a star.

In Stage 7 of the Giro Donne, I was in a world of hurt going up some berg near Lake Como when 2010 world champion Bronzini offered me a can of Coke. I could have kissed her. Lucky I didn’t, because her girlfriend was in the group behind us and would have kicked my arse.

In a kermesse in Belgium – my first ever race with the national team – Lauren Kitchen moved to the front of the bunch to protect Spratty, who had just gone up the road in a break. A Belgie didn’t take kindly to Lauren being in her way and hit her and yelled at her in Flemish. I then saw Kirsty Broun ride up to the Belgie and say something which made the Belgie retreat immediately to the back of the pack. Later I found out that Kirsty had told her that Lauren was her teammate and if the Belgie dared do that again she would have to deal with Kirsty. That’s a mate.

Fun and games in Belgium

Best insult
‘You’re stupid’ – said by a 40 year old professional cyclist while tapping across the finish line 30 minutes down on the winner. Yes, Carlee Taylor, that is IRONIC.

Best soigneur
This is also a highly contested category. Beth Duryea @ AIS is pretty amazing, not least because she managed to get me into THAT skinsuit. She knows what everyone in the team likes and she operates by stealth, so the only clue you get is a pack of your favourite flavour gels in your bag, or your favourite cereal appearing in the breakfast box. However, first prize goes to the Lovely Andy who drives all over the countryside with me only stand by the side of the road in rain, hail or shine and wave a bidon. He even listens to my boring race debriefs, makes the right sounds and gives me hugs. In 2010 he has come into his own as an excellent mechanic and has shown a willingness to be paid in coffee and fruit toast. High 5!

Andy and his #1 fan

Quirkiest drug test
Two spring to mind. The first was at Tour of Canberra in April, where it took so long to process the athletes that by the end they took the blood sample from me by torchlight. My relationship with the ASADA chaperone could at best have been described as frosty. The second was in Italy at the Giro Donne where they were a little more relaxed with their protocols. In Australia, ASADA sit there and watch you take a whizz. In Italy, they give you a cup and point you to the toilet. No one spoke English and I probably should have thought twice before asking in mime whether they wanted to watch me pee.

Getting chaperoned, Italian style

High point
Getting selected in the Aussie team for a season in Europe. All my dreams.


Hope you have had an equally eventful year. The lows only make the highs higher.

Ride happy

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Have a Ride Happy Christmas

Just a quick post today to say that I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas and a fantastic holiday break. I've got a week of fun in the high country to enjoy and perfect conditions for getting my leg back on track. I hope you've got similarly awesome things to look forward to.

Ride Happy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's REHAB time

In a perfect world, cyclists would be able to ride and ride and never have to stop for annoying things like snow and fresh knicks. But this is not the Natural Order. There is, always, some limiting factor that will step in to make athletes slow down and take stock of things. For some (Euros), it's winter. For others, it's sickness. For me, it's biomechanics.

I believe that athletes fall into two basic groups when they train lots. There are those who get sick, and those who get injured. I rarely get sick. My immune system has just returned from awards night at the Golden Nodes, where it won Best Supporting Immune System in a Melbourne CBD Office Block. Suffice to say, it is awesome. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of my lumbar-pelvic stability.

I have had an incredibly frustrating few months of late. I got a mysterious hip injury in late Sept, which referred laterally into my knee. With some carefully managed physio and rehab from the good folks @VIS, we got it under control within a month. I was stoked: I had lost some time to prepare for nat champs in Jan, but not a critical amount. I was back on track.

Then, with no warning, I had a relapse in early November. Back to square one. More rehab, more physio, another ultrasound. First was the unpleasant realisation that my window to prepare for nationals had closed. Second, the frustration of not being able to ride. At all. And not knowing why. Third, the realisation that the deep-rooted biomechanical imbalances I'd worked so hard to correct over the past year were still there, and back with a vengeance.

So my last few weeks - or maybe months now - have been pretty subdued. Despite getting injured relatively often, it still amazes me every time how depressing injury can be. Past rehab, no matter how dilligently performed, attracts no karma. I'm lucky to have some amazing resources at my disposal - the VIS have pulled out all the stops - but it doesn't quite fill the void created when riding my bike was taken away.

I missed the Tour of Bright last weekend. It's my favourite race. Instead, I went to Bendigo and tried to play support crew for Andy who was racing an mtb enduro. I wasn't very good at it - as most athletes know, being around people racing when you can't is not very fun.

On the plus side, I am feeling a lot more relaxed now than I usually do this time of year, which for cyclists is the last month before nationals and the time when all the precious final touches are put on your form. I've even started to like rainy days (I KNOW, it's schadenfreude). And this weekend I went home to Adelaide for a Jacobs family Christmas and enjoyed all the pudding I could handle. What's more, I've tried all these cool new things since being injured that I haven't had time or reason to do when in full bike training. Water running, weights, massage, core work, pilates, paddling, jogging... I even got to make my christmas presents this year for the first time in ages.

I admit, I'd still prefer to be riding though...

Ride happy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things I don't understand about cycling

I should start off by saying how cool it was to have some hate mail. I felt a little funny about it at first, but it was touching to see so many people coming to my defence. I still don't know who Anonymous is (I am assuming a triathlete but I am nothing if not open minded), but if you are still a reader, welcome back and feel free to leave more feedback, so long as you LEAVE YOUR NAME YOU WIMP. C'mon mate, have some guts behind your swagger.

another Anonymous cyclist

But back to more important things.

There are a LOT of things I don't understand about cycling. Having said that, I promised myself that this would be a short post, so please consider what follows as a highlights package. Please feel free to add your own suggestions as comments.

  • When they do track sprints, why don't they go hard from the gun? I'm aware this probably sounds stupid to a trackie, but really, WHY? I'm not sure who first came up with the idea of playing cat n mouse instead of going for it, but man, that must have taken some guts.
  • Why do boys never smile on the podium?
  • Why do people attack at the start of a race? Unless you're Emma Pooley and this is the Plouay World Cup, you're never going to stay away. Don't give me that 'exposure is good for the sponsors' line. Stupidity is bad for the sponsors.
  • Who made the unquestionably awesome decision that we always race for money? What other weekend sport lets you do that, other than poker?
  • If you have a race that involves skinny blokes racing up to 200km a day, up mountains and across countries, for 3 weeks at a time, at a pace that is faster than most people can ride for an hour, why are people surprised when some of them get busted for drugs?
  • Why don't time triallers get along with other time triallers?
  • Why do I climb so much faster when I'm 2kg lighter? It's not much of a difference compared to my overall body weight. Come to think of it, why do my scales consistently measure 2kg too much for most of the year? 
  • Why is cycling a team sport but only 1 person gets the Olympic or world championship medal? If I could change one thing about the Olympics (and miniature dachshund harness racing was already on the fixture), it would be to give medals to the whole cycling team. This would also help out multiple generations of cyclists giving talks at their grandkids' show-and-tell who have to explain to a class of 5-year olds that grandpop drove himself into the ground, his friend got the medal instead of him, and he couldn't be happier.
  • Why, in the peleton, is it wrong to wear black socks, but fine to wear a teeny-tiny little hat that looks like it should have a propeller attached to it?
  • While we're on socks, what is with this obsession with long socks? The only time in my life I remember long socks being fashionable was at school when your legs were getting a bit prickly. Ladies, do you REALLY want your calves to look any bigger? 
Get this man some long socks

No long socks required

Got an answer to any of these conundrums? Or do you have a conundrum of your own? Send it through to jacobs.lisa@gmail.com and I'll put Lisa's Mum on the case.

Ride happy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A solution to magpie season: the RMD project

The following dropped into my inbox earlier this week and I enjoyed it so much I had to share it. It’s proof that strategy consultants can solve just about anything. Here they tackle the classic problem of magpie attacks in Spring in just 3 Powerpoint slides. Jerry Castle is the genius behind it. Hope you laugh as much as I did.

If you are finding the writing a bit small, just click on the slide to enlarge. Take the time to read it... I promise your efforts will be rewarded!


Monday, November 22, 2010

It's here! By unpopular demand... Ali Baba and the 40 Triathletes!

Once upon a time, there was a poor cyclist called Ali Baba. Ali Baba had a bike made from pre-loved parts that he had salvaged from his neighbourhood environmental collective. The wheels squeaked, and it had only one gear, but it was a homely bike and got him safely to the organic sustainable fair-trade childrenswear shop where he worked, and home again, every day.


Ali Baba on his way to work

One day, Ali Baba decided to go home a new way and found himself lost in the middle of a big forest as it was getting dark. Ali Baba felt scared. Suddenly, he heard the unmistakeable squeak of unlubed chains and the clap clap of cyclists clicking out of their cleats 200m away. Ali Baba hid behind a tree and waited. Sure enough, soon a tribe of 40 lycra-clad blokes wearing tiny singlet bra tops appeared in the clearing. They all had expensive featherlight bikes with bottle-cages behind their saddles and aerobars pointed toward the sky.

‘Oh no,’ thought Ali Baba. ‘Those pretty boys will see my old bike and will know I am here. I am just a poor shopkeeper and cannot afford holidays in Noosa or GPS wristwatches. They will laugh at me.’

But Ali Baba’s bike was old and pre-loved and invisible to the eyes of the 40 triathletes, who could only see bikes made after 2008. The men got off their bikes.

‘Open sesame!’ one of the triathletes cried.

Ali Baba could not believe his eyes. In front of the triathletes, a big stone rolled away to reveal a cave of riches. There were deep dish wheels, and aero helmets, and little belts with room for gel bottles. There were weighted vests, and pool buoys, and elastic laces. In the corner, there was a row of Softrides, hanging on the wall gathering dust. Ali Baba had never seen such so much carbon.

The triathletes spoke to each other in a funny code that Ali Baba could not understand. They talked of thresholds, and zones, and nutrition plans. He felt sure they were terrorists and were plotting their next hit in a land they called ‘Kona’. What the hit was, Ali Baba did not know, but he knew whatever it was would involve something called a ‘negative split’ and lots of ‘bricks’. They referred constantly to their leader, a guy called ‘Training’. All the triathletes loved this Training guy and never stopped talking about him. Ali Baba felt very scared and hoped he never met Training. He sounded very demanding and not altogether productive.

The men shared protein shakes and then left, saying that they did not want to be late for Training. Ali Baba stayed hidden until they were gone, then leapt out and cried, ‘Open sesame!’ The stone rolled away and Ali Baba ran inside. He grabbed some power bands and creatine and stuffed them in his pockets and pulled on a shiny new pair of fluoro yellow racing flats. Ali Baba pedalled home as fast as his rattly old bike would take him, his head filled with thoughts of the treasures in the cave and the strange men in lycra.

Over the next few days, Ali Baba noticed a change in his behaviour. He liked his fluoro running shoes and found himself timing his rides into work. His powerband helped him sell more childrenswear than ever before. And the creatine... well, Ali Baba grew muscles he never knew he had. Pretty soon Ali Baba had changed his ebay username to slowtwitch9999 and had posted his old singlespeed for sale.

But it wasn’t enough. Ali Baba couldn’t get that cave out of his mind. All those treasures... it was too much. He had to have more.

The next day, Ali Baba rode back to the clearing with a plan and 3kg of Rohypnol.

‘Open sesame!’ he cried. The stone rolled away. Ali Baba danced inside. He gathered some bidons and filled them with food colouring, water and roofies. Then he walked outside the cave and waited.

Soon, Ali Baba heard the sound of grunts and unclipping. The triathletes had returned.

Not all of the triathletes unclipped in time

‘Good evening gentlemen,’ Ali Baba said, ‘I am a travelling salesman and I am peddling super-elite wares. This high performance drink has eleventy million vitamins and minerals and will improve your performance by over 11%.’

The triathletes looked at Ali Baba suspiciously. ‘I’m not sure,’ one said, ‘It looks a bit carb-heavy.’

‘It smells a bit funny,’ said another. ‘Say, where did you get those fluoro shoes?’

Ali Baba took a deep breath. ‘It’s very expensive,’ he said. ‘I guess it’d only be for the more serious competitors amongst you. But because you guys look nice, I’ll give you a free sample.’

‘I’ll take it!’ they shouted.

And so Ali Baba gave all his drink away and before long they were all out like a light, curled up on the ground in their compression pants. And Ali Baba backed up the large cart and donkey he had parked nearby and loaded into it all the treasures from the cave (except the softrides).

It was a lot for Donkey to handle

And later, Ali Baba opened an internet-based triathlon store and never had to sell childrenswear again.

The End.

Riding unhappy?

Hi guys

I’ve just received a comment on Ride Happy which made me stop and think. I’ve reproduced the comment below to save everyone having to look it up (comments can be viewed by anyone, but you need to click on the link below the post):

Sounds like you're riding a bit unhappy there. I figure if people are out and about, cyclists, triathletes or what not, they are out and about, and riding their bikes. Why so much negativity if they're not as "euro" as you think people should be. How boring if we were all the same.

I’m not sure who made the comment, but it’s a valid one. My previous post was a bit snobbish and you were right to pull me up on it. I agree – whatever your poison, getting out and about on your bike is awesome and there should be more people doing it. If more people rode their bikes instead of driving we would all be better off. And yes, I would HATE it if we all rode Colnagos and didn’t get out of bed for less than 100km. I admit, I would prefer it if some people washed their bikes more often but honestly, if you saw my commuter bike you’d say the same to me. (But yes, that’s my snobbery again.) The fact is that this weekend was beautiful in Melbourne, sunny and still and perfect bike riding weather. I was stuck having coffee at a cafĂ© by myself because I’ve just gotten injured again and on physio’s orders I couldn’t go ride with my mates. So instead of getting out and about I was moping around feeling sorry for myself. So I think I vented some of that cabin fever in my post. But that’s no excuse and I apologise to anyone I may have offended, whether you are a triathlete or not.

Having said that, I try hard to ensure that Ride Happy isn’t a skipping-through-the-daisy-fields plain vanilla type place. Life’s too short to take too seriously. Yes, I crossed the line from whimsical to cynical in my last post… but if we can’t laugh at ourselves what’s the fun of it all?

I’m still trying to decide whether to publish my Ali Baba and the 40 Triathletes story. Perhaps it’s better left out. Happy to take comments though.

Ride happy – I’ll do my best to do the same!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ali Baba and the 40 Triathletes: Part 1



I try not to make fun of triathletes. As Andy says, it’s like poking fun at retarded children. Also, I used to be one, and it seems hypocritical to take the mickey out of people for doing exactly what I thought was super-cool back in the day.* But then again, isn’t that what we all did with hypercolour t-shirts? And the Spice Girls?


Lisa’s Mum, however, has no such qualms. On Saturday, she was feeling extremely lively because I swapped her decaf coffee for regular without telling her and she was bouncing off the walls. We were parked at our local cafe and a swarm of walruses had descended, fresh from beach road and swapping stories about how carbon their gear was. They had taken up all the tables around us and were talking loudly and had stacked their filthy bikes against the window in front of us. We marvelled at the size of their saddle bags and wondered what treasures were hidden inside.


The sight prompted Lisa's Mum to tell me the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Triathletes. By the time she had finished my eyes were the size of dinner plates and my flat white had gotten cold (truly the sign of a compelling story). I'll recount the story here soon... stay tuned.

*Actually, I did duathlon, not triathlon, because I swim like a rock and I get no joy from people swimming on top of me in the ocean and kicking me in the face. I looked up to triathletes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NEW Letter of the week! Lisa's Mum returns

This week, Lisa's Mum was very excited to get a genuine letter in her mailbox! We all had scones to celebrate. Please keep them coming... just between you and me, Lisa's Mum needs all the mail she can get.

Dear Lisa’s Mum,
I’ve heard that you are a font of wisdom on legs and international cycling events. So I am writing to you to ask for some advice about bikes. I fancy myself as a jack-of-most-trades athlete. I can run, swim, bowl, kick and shoot….and I can ride. Boy can I ride.
So when it comes to buying a new bike, the decision is really important. I don’t want some run-of-the-mill bike which try-hard road warriors are riding. I want something that will really set me and my awesome skills apart.
What should I look for? Where should I go? And who are the people really in the know?
Signed,
Ego (is not a dirty word)
 
Dear Ego
To start with, let me just say how happy I was to receive your letter. There is nothing that gladdens my heart more than the thought of a gentleman like yourself joining the cycling community. My local bike shop mechanic coincidentally also needs a new car and a holiday to Bali, so I think he will be similarly pleased to hear of your desire to have the very best.
I have given great thought to your needs and the word that keeps coming to my mind is: hand made. Preferably by someone European, but from one of the nice European countries. My great friend Spiro knows someone whose uncle once played cards with the nephew of Eddie Merckx. This man makes beautiful bikes, which he crafts by candlelight in the basement of his tomato canning factory. He only works on his bikes on Saturday and Sunday mornings so that the frames are conditioned to perform on weekends, and when his birthday falls on a Saturday or Sunday he works anyway, and his tears fall on the frame and add a lovely gloss to the paintwork. And for an extra $1,000, he will give you 12 cogs at the back and etch 'even superer record' onto all the parts.
Not everyone can afford a bike like this, Ego, which makes it all the more important to have one. It may cost a bit, but like a wedding ring, you should really spend at least 2 months' salary to get the bike of your dreams.
Other things that are important in a new bike include knowing the weight of all its parts. Perhaps you can ask your friendly bike mechanic to provide a spreadsheet listing the weight and dimensions of every component. He will also be able to advise whether any part of your bike is available anywhere else in Australia (of course, the answer you are looking for is NO). The spreadsheet is also good opportunity to tailor your bike according to your needs. For example, if you will only be riding your bike once a week to the cafe, I would recommend you only purchase titanium bolts rather than the ivory ones, which I find durable but expensive. If you are planning to ride lots, it may be worth investing in wheels made from 2m x 2m blocks of carbon, which are chiselled down to create a single wheel. I find these wheels provide excellent stiffness when compared to lesser models made from more than one piece of carbon.
Good luck Ego! I look forward to purchasing your new bike off Ebay some day at a gloriously discounted price.
With love,
Lisa's Mum

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Letter of the week to Lisa's Mum

Dear Lisa's Mum,
I desperately seek your counsel. Yesterday, I was the victim of a traumatic incident. I was out riding and this cyclist came past me and almost sucked my helmet off. I chased for a while, then just as I was about to give up the cyclist turned around and it was a GIRL! I have never been passed by anyone before other than that guy at work who trains really hard and is going to race the Gatorade triathlon series in the Summer with other elite athletes. I am a happily married diesel mechanic with 4 children and I love steak and AC/DC, but this has compromised my manhood. What should I do?

Horrified,
Williamstown

Dear Horrified

I believe your experience is what is known in common parlance as ‘being chicked’. Don't be too hard on yourself. Some of my best friends are chicks, although I never let them ride with me because they half-wheel and have no respect for wicker baskets. My advice to you is that next time you feel in danger of being chicked, just feign a rear wheel puncture and pull over with a concerned look. If the chick offers to help, insist gallantly that she ride on, because changing a tube IS a man's job, after all. If the chick is a friend of yours, you can follow up later on with an explanation of the diabolical mechanical that prevented you ripping her legs off, which is, you can explain, what would have happened on any other day if only you hadn't punctured. For your convenience here is a picture I prepared earlier of that puncture you had. Man, it was a beauty. If only you hadn't got it at that crucial time.
 
This, I trust, will get you over the line. As for preserving your manhood though, I'd give serious thought to moving out of Williamstown. Full of hippies.
With love,
Lisa's Mum

Lisa's Mum provides thoughtful advice on most conundrums and moral dilemmas. Please address all correspondence to Lisa's Mum c/o jacobs.lisa@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lisa's Mum interviews David Millar's legs

Lisa’s Mum has been at it again. Fresh from supervising the CWA scone tent at the Royal Adelaide Show, Mum headed straight for the Chrono des Nations, where she caught up with David Millar’s legs enjoying a well-earned rest after setting a new course record for the TT. Please excuse any errors & omissions in the interview transcript, those legs sure do have a strong Scottish accent.

 

Lisa’s Mum: Mr Millar… um… Mr Legs… um, David. Sorry, what should I call you?

 

David Millar’s Legs: Well wee lassie, David has lots of names for us. Sometimes, we’re his Mortar & Pestle. Other times we’re his Bread & Butter. Lately he’s taken to calling us the Scottish Thighlands. But you can just call us DML, which incidentally is our rapping name, for when we pursue a career after cycling.

 

Lisa’s Mum: OK, DML it is. Now tell me, you’ve had a massive month. Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, 2nd at world champs, and now a new course record for Chrono des Nations. And a tidy 10th at the Vuelta time trial to boot. How are you feeling?

 

DML: Well, obviously, we’re happy. I mean, mostly happy. We’ve been able to deliver for David when he really needed us, so that’s good. But we’re a bit disappointed too. We rode our guts out for him and do you think we get any recognition? No! It’s all “preparation” and “discipline” and missing rear breaks and stumpy helmets. Where’s the “Well, I am happy to accept this win but it was my legs who really delivered today”?? How do you think 2 legs are going to share one gold medal? The problem with this sport is that there’s too much emphasis on the individual. No one cares about the team around him who brought him to the finish line first. We’re just cannon fodder to him.

 

Lisa’s Mum: Really? Do you think David doesn’t care about you? What about all those rubs?

 

DML: Oh yeah, we do get looked after. I mean, we are high performance animals after all. We get shaved regularly and once a month we get a little exfoliation. And sunscreen. Boy, do we get a lot of that. But all we’re asking for is that one day in cyclingnews.com they put up a picture of us, and not his face. What did his face ever do? It’s not even aero!

 

Lisa’s Mum: There must be other parts of David that contribute to the win. What about his heart? And his head?

 

DML: Lady, his head was the idiot who got him into all his doping trouble. Granted, it got him out of it too, but it’s got a lot of brownie points to make up yet. As for his heart, well, I guess it does do some work but it also gets to carry the medal at the end of the day, right? You put a picture in the news and there it is, front page centre. Such a media hussy.

 

Lisa’s Mum: So where to from here then? Do you have a nice end of season break lined up?

 

DML: Oh, do we ever! First we’re going to hit the beaches in Thailand. Then we’re heading to Scandinavia for some ice fishing. We want to do some volunteer work too, you know, to give back to the community. Maybe volunteer teaching in Africa.

 

Lisa’s Mum: Wow. Does David know about these plans?

 

DML: As if! David goes where we take him. And he owes us too, so he’d better be booking us business class seats.

 

Lisa’s Mum: DML, this has indeed been an illuminating interview. Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TTop Day for Durbo and Pooley

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent today frantically re-booting the cyclingnews.com live feed on the U23 men’s and women’s time trial. I’ve been on the edge of my seat. When Luke Durbridge and Rohan Dennis were sitting 1-2 in the order I was so excited. Both spent this year as members of the Jayco Skins U23 AIS team in Europe (aka the gold medal factory). They are machines. I know Rohan from my SASI days but Durbo I met for the first time when I was over in Europe this year. He’s a fun guy. Both have already achieved so much on the bike – track and road – and it’s incredible to think they’re still getting better. Look out, world!

 

The women’s TT was awesome. Alex Rhodes, Shara Gillow and Vicki Whitelaw did us proud. Shara’s ride in particular was spectacular – 8th!

 

Emma Pooley (Gr Britain) dominated the TT and won her first world title by a fair margin. What a ride! Emma has had a great year and went into the TT as one of the favourites. To pull off such a commanding win under such enormous pressure and expectation is impressive. And she is a Top Chick, so you can’t help but be happy for her.

 

I can’t let her win pass without recounting to you my favourite Emma Pooley story. In stage 7 of the Giro Donne, which was one of the big mountain stages, I was climbing the second mountain pass of the day with a small group consisting of a couple of Italians, a couple of Dutchies and a crazy Russian who kept hammering it. We had been dropped by the lead climbers (including Pooley) but were ages ahead of the grupetto so we were just getting the day over with. The conditions were blisteringly hot and getting up the mountain was a chore. At the bottom of the climb, the crazy Russian snapped her chain and with no team car in sight we were down to 5. Around halfway up the mountain, one of the Italians turned to the other and blabbed something in Italian. I can’t understand Italian, so what I heard was, ‘blah blah blah Emma Pooley: do-di-do-di-do-di-do!’ and she pretended to tap up the mountain like she was frolicking in the park. It was hilarious – I almost fell off my bike. Some things don’t need a translator.

 

Enough of this computer re-booting – I’m off to Geelong! See you there. Ride happy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Not About The Blokes - Aussie women's team preview

Hi guys, just a quickie from me but you’ll have to go to www.cyclingtipsblog.com for your Ride Happy fix today… I’ve done a guest post previewing the formidable Aussie women’s team for worlds. CyclingTips is one of my favourite cycling websites and Wade has some excellent behind the scenes Worlds articles so check them out if you get the chance.

 

P.S: Also, this is probably not news to regular readers but if you’ve just jumped on board, let me introduce you to regular columnist Lisa’s Mum. She’s controversial, she’s a loose cannon on the keyboard… and she IS NOT REAL. My poor Mum will never hear the end of it.

 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lisa's Mum presents The Non-Cyclist's Guide To Cycling

Wondering what all the fuss is about? (Cadel @ TDU 2010)
Today's post (I say this like I write them everyday...) is for a good mate of mine from college, Trupti. I caught up with Trupti and a handful of uni friends last night over dinner. My friends from college are some of my dearest - it's hard not to become close when you spend 3 or 4 years living with each other. Since leaving uni, though, it's been hard trying to keep in touch with everyone, especially my non-cycling friends. I seem to spend all of my spare time now riding, or thinking about riding, or trying not to think about riding. There just aren't enough hours in the week for drinking red wine and catching up with friends.

If there were more pubs with bike stands like these outside, I could combine the two

Anyway, last night I was chuffed to discover that Trupti was a Ride Happy reader. But some of the cycling lingo in my posts is just plain hard to follow for someone who isn't into racing. This was clearly a job for Lisa's Mum. I unlocked her from the cupboard under the stairs, put a cup of earl grey in her hands and set her to work. So here it is Trup - Lisa's Mum's guide to cycling lingo, especially for non-cyclists:
  • Classics: A type of one-day race in Europe in the Spring, usually combining rain, sleet, mud and cobblestones. Not in any way classical.
  • Tours / stage racing: A big race run over multiple days (or 'stages'). If you think of one day races as the racing equivalent of slamming your hand in a door, stage racing is when you take your hand out of the door, then put it back in and slam it again, over and over. The winner is the one who slams their hand fastest.
  • World cup: The highest level of racing, comprising a series of one-day races held over the year. The winner claims the title of world cup champion and the losers claim that they were never really targeting it, anyway.
  • Bleeding from your eyeballs / Scraping the bottom of the barrel of hurt / In the box: Essentially, you are f*cked. There's no other way to put it. Your lungs are probably screaming, but you can't hear it because the screaming from your legs is louder. You would sell your own grandmother to make the pain stop. I've tried.
  • Chewing stem / humping the top tube: Similar to above, but it's much more drawn out. Comes from the position of a cyclist's body towards the end of a race when they have absolutely nothing left in the tank. Bent over double, a spectator could be forgiven for thinking they were trying to unwrap the tape on their handlebars with their tongue.
  • Ergo: Something Melbourne cyclists do a lot of in the winter, involving a stationary bike trainer and an ipod. Not a lot of fun if you're doing it because the weather's too rubbish to ride outside. Hence the latin expression: cognito, ergo shit.
  • Intervals: A particular type of training exercise, often quite difficult, done multiple times in the vague hope that it will get easier. It doesn't. (See also In the box, above)
  • Soigneur: If you translate it from French, it means 'trainer', 'groomer' or 'one who cares for others'. Really this is because the French have no word for 'Team Mum'. The soigneur washes, cooks and cleans, picks up your dirty shoes and kisses your grazes when you fall off. Everyone knows that without them the team would fall apart, but no one wants to give them a public holiday once a year in May... because who would wash the bidons?
  • Form: Everyone wants it, you know when you've got it, but I'd be buggered if I could tell you how to find it.
  • Coach: Helps you find Form (see above). Also provides lifestyle, career and relationship advice, if you're lucky.
  • Race wheels / carbon clinchers / titanium bolts / Super Record: Things that will cost you a lot of money and a few awkward moments if you and your non-cycling partner share a bank account.
Getting ready for some hand-slammin' fun

Next week: Eur-wrap up #3 - Back To School

Until then... ride happy

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eur-wrap up Part II: The skinsuit

If you thought time trialling was hard… try fitting into this!

Congratulations to Vicki Whitelaw for winning the time trial on stage 3 of the Trophee d’Or in France. Vicki’s win has inspired me to reflect upon time trials a bit more.

It takes a very special type of person to be a good time trialist. Apart from the power and the engine, you need a capacity to hurt yourself like nothing else. This takes a very special type of personality. Without going into specifics, it’s fair to say that if Australia were called into an Armageddon-style war, I’d want to have the time trialists in my battalion. I would put them in the front line and just when my men were floundering I’d yell, ‘Oi! HTFU* soldiers! You think this war is hard, try bleeding from your eyeballs as you push 400w for an hour!’ Then I would send in my time trialists and they would crush everyone and stop only for gels or to recharge their SRMs.

But now I have a whole new reason to respect time trialists: the skinsuits.

During the Giro we were kitted out in the latest Aussie team skinsuits. Technically, these things are at the cutting edge. They are the same as those which the track riders use and have different material for the sleeves, chest and legs depending on which bits need to be more aero. They are also TOITE. Tight is aero, you see. Very tight is very aero. By that logic, the aero factor of the Aussie skinsuits is off the frickin planet.

We were issued with our skinsuits at the beginning of the tour and I didn’t really feel the need to take mine out of its packaging before the time trial on stage 3. The night before the time trial, my roomie Kirsty Broun and I decided that a fashion parade was in order and we got kitted up, just to make sure everything was ok. Can you sense danger? I couldn’t.

The first warning I got was when I had trouble getting my suit on OVER MY CALF. That’s right, the bit that was meant to be snug around my quads was feeling pretty tight and I hadn’t even got it past my knee. Oh boy. It took a great deal of wriggling (picture a fish flapping around on the ground) to get the suit up to my waist, then over my shoulders. Getting the suit over my shoulders involved popping each of my shoulders out of its socket, rotating it outwards and jamming it into a sleeve the size of a baby’s sock. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating… but only about the popping bit. FINALLY, I got the suit on. Only problem was, the length of fabric that had been allowed for the torso was insufficient for my (apparently) Amazonian proportions by about 20cm. Instead of standing up properly, I had to hunch over like a gargoyle, my arms dangling in front of me like a T-Rex’s. Any more upright and I ran a very real risk of ripping the fabric in two.

I held out hope that I had been given Tiff Cromwell’s skinsuit by mistake, and that she was in her room floundering around in a much bigger skinsuit meant for me. But no. This is, apparently, how they’re meant to be. You’re not standing up straight on a bike, so the suit is designed to be skintight WHILE YOU ARE BENDING OVER. It gave me a startlingly accurate insight into what life will be like when I’m old and hunched over. When that happens, though, I don’t plan to wear a one-piece corset made of lycra.

Getting the skinsuit on pre-time trial the next day was a two-person job. I had to schedule in a booking with our soigneur Beth to lever me into the top half of my suit. It was also the first time I had to allocate a good 10 minutes of my time-trial warmup just to getting dressed. Did I go fast? Yes I did. Did I feel aero? Yes indeed. Will I ever, ever, fit into that suit again without the help of the indefatigable Beth? Probably not.


 *HTFU is an acronym you may already know. H is for Harden and U is for Up. I will leave the rest to you. Incidentally, you will notice that in this war I have appointed myself to the position of general or commander-in-chief. My mum says I would be good in this role because I enjoy telling people what to do and I quite like the colour green, although not so much camouflage green. If I could change our armed forces’ colours to more of a froggy green I would probably consider the role more seriously.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Getting hard core in the off season

Your body changes a bit in the off season

I’ve been back in Australia and my office desk for a bit over a month, and after some quality time away from my bici we have patched up our differences and are back together. So apologies for the blogging drought – I’ve been off doing other things.

Some of those things include getting settled in at the VIS. In the last 3 weeks I’ve seen their doctor, physio, strength & conditioning coach, physiologist, masseur and nutritionist. It’s nice to have the luxury of having some breathing space now before the next race target, which is nationals in early January. It means I can really get back to basics and iron out all those niggles I’ve been keeping under control during race season. Despite what the ID man at Liquorland says, I am getting OLD. And with the Melbourne weather being as charming as a slap in the face from a polar bear, now is a good time to get into the gym.

One of my favourite core strength activities is pilates. I was introduced to it last year when I got injured for 6 months. I had a very frustrating year in 2009 – I had some blinding form, and then I got injured for pretty much the entire racing season. All my mates were overseas doing amazing things and I was stuck at home feeling sorry for myself. Getting injured for that long is a real headcrack and there were 2 people in particular who really helped me through it. The first was Andrew Wynd, who now heads up Balwyn Sports & Physio Centre in Balwyn. The amount of time he put into my rehab was incredible. Wyndy has spent his fair share of time as an elite athlete himself and is now keeping busy managing everyone else's injuries at his clinic. If you have a sports injury, I really recommend giving him a shout.

The second was Marcus Speed at Perfect Pilates in Brunswick. Everyone has their favourites, but I think he is the best pilates instructor in Melbourne. It helps that he's a cyclist too! Marcus used to take the pilates classes at my old work gym and, when I couldn't do anything else except rehab exercises, twice a week I'd rock up to his classes. I started off pretty crap and inflexible, but slowly got better, and my pilates classes became the highlight of my week. Marcus went out of his way to give me help and encouragement and it really helped get me through a very difficult period of injury, mentally and physically. It's also improved my core stability no end, which is a big thing for a bike rider. I now count pilates as an essential building block for my training. When I went to Europe I missed it so much that I had to put in an emergency call to Marcus, who sent me a heap of 'pilates homework' to keep me going. Now that's service! Marcus has just invited me to be part of the Perfect Pilates family and this week I've been to a couple of his classes. If you want a good hard workout, try his Thursday 5:30pm sessions - if you can do all the exercises I'll send you a free St Mel Ride Happy t-shirt!


I’d like to say all this gym and core work is for self-fulfilment, but to be honest I’m motivated by a deep-rooted fear that I won’t be able to hold Jo Hogan’s wheel at our next training session. Man, she is GOING! I’m really looking forward to racing as a team with her and the other VIS chicks, Kendelle Hodges, Steph Hansen and Bridie O’Donnell. They are a top bunch of girls. We haven’t all been in the same place at the same time yet so I can’t wait to get out and have some good hard racing together.

Till then, ride happy

Gunz

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Eur-wrap Up: Part I - The Local Rider


It's been a couple of weeks since the Giro and the end of my first season of racing in Europe. There wasn't much time to unwind afterwards and within a couple of days of finishing the Giro I was back in the office in Melbourne, squirming in my powersuit and trying to remember how to put on make up. It's good to be back, and once I stop feeling like a steamroller has run over me, stalled, and then backed up for good measure, I'm sure I'll be itching to race again. But right now I'm still pinching myself that I was over there at all, and struggling to believe that it wasn't all a crazy, fun, exhausting dream.

I promised I'd write a wrap up of Europe and here it is. Or maybe we can call this Part I, because there are so many stories to tell that I can't fit them all here... and judging from my boyfriend's reaction to my 3-hour monologue, some of my stories aren't as exciting as I think they are. So maybe small installments is the way to go.

I've been meaning for a while now to share with you my story of the Local Rider. This makes me giggle just thinking about it, in the same way that you giggle when you remember the time when you walked out of that restaurant with toilet paper trailing out of your trousers.

During the Giro, there were a number of jerseys awarded - leader's jersey, mountains classification, sprinters' classification, young rider etc. Especially towards the start of the tour, I still couldn't recognise most of the famous riders, so the jerseys were quite useful in helping me know, for example, which one Marianne Vos was. But it was fair to say that I still had some trouble knowing some of the riders apart. So anyway, there we were in the middle of stage 2, and this GIANT of a rider comes near me in the peleton, wearing a hideous bright purple jersey. She's giggling, bumping into people, apologising, giggling again, and generally looking like a walrus in the pack. So I was looking at this rider, and the jersey, and trying to work out which team she was from. The jersey was pretty plain - just horrible and magenta, with 'Safi-Pasta' written on it. It reminded me of some of the jerseys I wore in my early cycling days, when I was too poor to buy a team replica jersey, and too crap to get a sponsored one. The knicks gave me no clue either, as they were just black with no team logos. They reminded me of the generic knicks they gave out in the Tour of New Zealand a couple of years ago to riders in composite teams.

Then I realised. This wasn't a team rider at all. This was a local rider, whom the organisers had allowed to ride in the Giro as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Italy. It had to be. How nice, I thought. Here is a local rider, doing her best to fit in maybe a ride a week down to the shops, whose dream it was to race in a big race but who would probably never have had the opportunity or talent to do it. And sure, she can't ride - I mean, there she was, bumping into people, knocking handlebars, laughing - but good on her for having a go. She is probably having the time of her life. I made a mental note not to go near her, and spent the rest of the stage thinking kind thoughts about the generous spirit of the race directors.

It wasn't until after the stage, when we were in the team car heading to the next hotel, when we started talking about some of the riders and the jerseys they were wearing. There was Ina Teutenberg in the leader's jersey, some chick in the mountains jersey (sorry, no disrespect intended, I just can't remember who you are), Marianne Vos in the young rider jersey, Kirsten Wild in the sprinters jersey.... Hang on, I said. Bronzini was in the Sprint Queen jersey. I saw her. It was blue.

Oh no, the girls said, Bronzini was in the blue jersey for the highest-placed Italian rider. The Sprint Queen was that awful purple jersey. Kirsten Wild was in it. You know, rides for Cervelo. One of the best sprinters in the world. Black knicks, bright purple jersey. Unbelievable rider. Coming second in the world cup standings. But boy, that's an ugly jersey.*

*PS - Congrats to Local Rider for winning the latest world cup in Sweden last week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A post for Pete

My Top Trumps card, taken from Cycling Podium's 6 Riders Who Blog

This post is for Pete Lockett, to keep him amused and out of trouble. Pete rescued me 2 years ago in his trusty Subaru when I came off my bike training one morning before work and broke my collarbone. It had been a rough morning. My training mate Jacqui and I had gotten up way too early in the Melbourne winter, and had braved the cold out to do our regular morning session on Kew Boulevard. 10 minutes into our ride we saw a dead cyclist. The ambulance guys told us that he had had heart failure while riding, and it was a fair shock to see the poor guy, still in his kit, on the side of the road.

The emminently sensible Jacqui decided that that was enough for one morning and headed home, while I decided to keep going. Half an hour later I hit something on the road, went over the handlebars and that was it. Andy was up in north-east Victoria at the time, so I called Jacqui to drive me to hospital. Jacqui's car was at the mechanic's, so it was Pete to the rescue. Those guys were amazing. They drove me to the hospital, told me jokes while I was in triage, nursed me through my morphine-induced haze and then drove me an hour away to Monash to get surgery. And they never once complained that I had made them late for work.

So it's fair to say that I owe Pete one. I owe him and Jacqui especially for fast-talking their way into securing me Melbourne's best shoulder surgeon, but that's another story. So when Pete sent a text reminding me that it had been a while between blog posts, I thought this might cheer him up.

Onto today's blog. The highlight of my day today, without doubt, was discovering that I have made a Top Trumps card. For those of you who do not live in the UK, just be assured that not only is this hilarious, this is A Great And Special Honour. Podium Cafe did a special 4 part series entitled 'Women's Cycling Top Trumps'. Each of the parts profiled 5 or 6 riders and put each of them on a mock trading card (this is the Top Trumps bit). I got a guernsey for their Riders Who Blog section. Check out their other parts, The Sprinty TypesNational Champions, and their Best Of... section.

A big high-five to 'Pigeons' who posted the article. Pigeons, today you made the 2 years I spent as an overworked trainee lawyer in the UK all worthwhile, because it meant that now I know what a Top Trumps card is, and you gave me a great laugh today. I am also impressed by your extensive knowledge of my background and I shall view my neighbours with more suspicion now. I am not sure if you are in cahoots with the crazy Greek guy who lives in the block next door and peers at me through his curtains, but if you do can you get me some baklava?

Ride happy

Monday, July 19, 2010

I am wearing streamers at Nationals

I received this communique on Saturday:

NOTICE OF 'MISJUDGEMENT'


Lisa Jacobs (#126) and Emma Mackie (#127) from Australia have been fined 100 Euro, 1x case of beer and the hummilation of starting the 2011 Road Race National Title with streamers attached to their bicycles.


This fine has occurred due to the actions of Kirsty Broun, Amanda Spratt and Carly Light..., who easily inhaled one balun pizza at Della Monte Pizza resturant on the evening of July 16. Photographic evidence was obtained and will be sent shortly. Along with the photos of the rich chocolate, pear and pistacchio birthday cake that was then eaten upon return to Castronno.


Sorry to inform you of this news,


Regards,
Chief Commisaires; Carlee Taylor, Lauren Kitchen and Shara Gillow 



I think the photos say it all. The girls definitely earned their win- RESPEKT! And, just to rub it in, they followed it up with cake afterwards! Impressif.

As well as the Ballun pictures, I also found some other pictures of the girls, taken post-Ballun Challenge:
I'll see you at nationals. At least, you'll see me, and Mackie...

Eat happy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Wager

The Great Ballun Pizza Challenge of 2010

I've just arrived back in Melbourne, and I am due back at work tomorrow. I've got Donna's permission to lie low for a few weeks, and the only exercise I plan to do this weekend is some cross-country skiing up at Lake Mountain in Vic. I'll write a Euro wrap-up soon, but for the moment I'm looking forward to having a complete break from the bike.

I could not, however, let this week go past without a mention of The Wager. The night before I left for Australia, all the girls went out for pizza at Della Monte restaurant in Varese, to celebrate the end of the Giro. Della Monte is famous for its 'Ballun' pizzas (see above), and I have attempted 3 times now to finish one off. That night marked my 3rd attempt. I had been confident, after 10 days of racing the Giro, that a Ballun would be no match for me. I may or may not have expressed this confidence to the other girls. I was wrong.

The girls did not let this failure go unnoticed. In fact, I think the whole restaurant heard all about it. To cut a long story short, a gauntlet was thrown down and The Great Ballun Challenge of 2010 was born.

The challenge is thus:
  • Madames Kirsty Broun, Amanda Spratt and Carly Light will attend Della Monte Pizza Restaurant at some date before the end of July 2010 (This date has been set as Sunday July 18);
  • Each will order and receive one Ballun pizza;
  • Each must consume said Ballun wholly, without interference or assistance from each other or any third party. There is no time limit for eating;
  • If all 3 girls successfully finish their Ballun, they will receive, from Emma Mackie and myself
    • 1x case of beer
    • 100 euro
    • and will have the pleasure of seeing Mackie and I ride the 2011 road nationals with streamers attached to our handlebars.
  • If K.Bru, Spratty and Barky fail to complete their Balluns, it's reversed - i.e Mackie and I get 100E + a case of beer, and they have to put streamers on their bikes at nationals.
The trash-talking has started, and both teams are confident of winning. I have to say, I thought we were pretty safe until I saw that crazy look in Spratty's eyes. Now I'm not so sure. Either way, I'm disappointed to be missing the action - although I'm confident Chief Commissaires Carlee Taylor, Lauren Kitchen and Shara Gillow will oversee proceedings in our absence. It's not about the money, it's not about the beer, it's not even about the pizza... it's all about the streamers.

Stay tuned for results... or just rock up to Buninyong in January and see who's wearing the streamers.

Ride happy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giro Donne - what really happened in stage 10



So I have just seen the stage report from yesterday's stage 10. It was so hilarious I had to share it. Check out this report from CJ Farquharson (http://www.womenscycling.net/) who was one of the moto photographers following the race. CJ's Italian is much better than mine and she managed to work out what the circus was all about:

What was expected to be a procession, turned out to be a race of immense activity and attacks. A number of teams wanted to win the final stage and launched attack after attack to try to break up the race and gain an advantage. Evelyn Stevens (HTC Columbia) was the most successful of the breaks. Stevens gained almost one minute advantage before being pulled back in. It was as the race started the last 10km that it got really interesting. The roundabout just before the 10km to go sign was incorrectly marked and sent the leading Police, cars and eventually the whole peloton ahead instead of left. While the race headed towards a housing estate and dead end, Lisa Jacobs (Australia) and Lusia Tamaini (ASC Chirio Forna D' Asolo) who had dropped back to get support from their team cars, correctly turned left and headed fore the finish.
There was a complete panic from the police and organisers to get the race back on track and the two lone riders were stopped before they could reach the finish. They were held and waited for the leading group to go by before joining the back of the peloton.

And this:

Photo courtesy cyclingnews.com

The peloton detoured from the parcours with around 10 km to go. Lisa Jacobs (Australia) and Irene Falorni (Vaiono) were behind the main group when they took the wrong turn and became the leaders on the road. With spirit of fair play, the pair stopped and took their rightful position despite technically being permitted to continue.

We've all had a good laugh here imagining the scene if the police had let us ride on. We were a good 10 minutes ahead of the bunch and even pedalling squares we probably would have won had we kept riding.
CJ is also being very generous in her report - she is right that we would have waited anyway, but I have to admit I had no idea what was going on at the time. But Macca, look, I got in a breakaway!

Giro Donne - well, we knocked the bastard off

The team at Livigno, smiling because we hadn't yet seen the 42 switchbacks to Stelvio

The Giro is over and crikey, we are wiped out. I have never been this written off, ever. We are now back at the team base and contemplating big issues like how many gelatis we could put away this evening.

Stage 10 today was on like Donkey Kong. 112km of very fast action and my legs just didn't work. I knew what I needed to do - it was be on the front and cover moves - but I just couldn't get up. Couldn't. The 5% gradients turned into bergs of Baw-Baw like proportions. How do these girls do this? I got dropped with 30km to go, then hitched a lift from a sympathetic policeman on a motorbike (for future reference, the flashing police lights that stick out on the back of the moto do not withstand the force of a desperate cyclist hanging on at 50kph), then stuck with an Italian rider in a similar predicament. Suddenly, we reached a police roadblock and were flagged down. Lots of Italian shouting and gesticulating. The word 'casino' was bandied around. Circus. What the? We were told to wait. I had no idea what was going on, but we were assured by the policeman that the race organisers had stopped the clock, and the bunch would be coming past in 10 minutes. We were to wait for them and then join back into the bunch. What the...?

As it turned out, the bunch had been inadvertently sent down a dead-end street and was made to wait for 10 minutes while the organisers sorted out where they were supposed to be going. They u-bolted, then came back past our way. Casino indeed. I didn't know this - I was busy wondering whether I would be allowed to finish, or whether my Giro had just ended, unglamorously, outside a petrol station somewhere near Monza. But I tacked on all the same, and then promptly got dropped again with 3km to go. But I got to finish.

So I've finished the Giro and in 2 days I fly back to Melbourne. In 3 days I will be back in my corporate suit, sitting in the office and contemplating Risk & Compliance issues for Australian lawyers. In 5 days I will see Andy again. No prizes for guessing which I am looking forward to most.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Giro Donne- stage 9

Stage 9, up Stelvio, I had nothing. No legs, no energy, and rapidly no will to live. The pace was on early and there were 2 significant climbs before we hit Stelvio.

There is something calming about having absolutely nothing left. It's not about position, it's not about missing opportunities, it's not about not eating or drinking enough. There just comes a point where your body has hit its limit.

I was disappointed that my limit came before Stelvio, so that I couldn't really see what climbing it at max effort was like. But climbing it in grupetto was pretty boring.

Stelvio is quite spectacular- 42 switchbacks over 23km or so. You pass the treeline, then you pass the cowline (a few hundred metres above the treeline), then you pass the snowline. At almost 2800m above sea level it's the highest pass in Italy.

Today is the final stage- some circuits of the Monza F1 racing circuit in Milano followed by a jaunt around Milano itself. 112km in all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giro Donne- Stage 8

Day 8 of the Giro and what we are losing in energy, we are gaining in altitude. Today's stage wound through Switzerland, past St Moritz and finished in Livigno. The last time I came through these parts was when I did a ski marathon 3 years ago. It was awesome to come back in the Summer, and even better to think that way back when I last came here, I would never have predicted that I would be here 3 years later, riding for Australia in the Giro d'Italia.

Today's stage was 90km of almost pure climbing. My day started well and on the first climb I was in the lead group of ~30 with Shara and Tiff. After yesterday I was keen to have a good stage and my legs felt good. Unfortunately, Tiff's legs weren't feeling the same way and I was called back to help her. I was more than happy to- that's what teammates are for!- but it effectively meant my day was over. On the plus side, it did mean I could enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit more!

I particularly liked seeing the Swiss cows along the route, tinkling the bells around their necks whenever they moved. I figure those cows have a pretty good life, living in the Alps with those views. But I'm glad I'm not a Swiss cow, because I would sure get sick of the constant ringing in my ears. And I'd probably have to learn German.

Tomorrow is the last mountain stage- a summit finish up the Stelvio. At almost 3000m it's going to be one big day in the saddle.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Giro Donne - stage 7

The view from our hotel

Today was the first of the grand mountain stages in the Giro, which made it an inopportune day for me to have no legs. But that's bike racing. The stage started in Como and hit a 12km climb early before descending, winding around Lake Como, climbing up the second mountain (Ghisello, home of the Madonna del Ghisello which I wrote about before) and heading to the finish. Because the first 15km leading into the first climb were narrow and quite hilly too, it was on like Donkey Kong from the start. USA got to the front and drove it, and no matter how much I screamed at my legs, they just didn't behave and I ended up in a piano group of 5. Some parts of it were quite cool, like when the ambulance drove up to our group on the climb and gave us some ice cold water and a can of coke. Problem was, there was only 1 bottle of water and 1can of coke, so we were passing it around from rider to rider, each savouring a couple of mouthfuls. I had just assumed I would miss out, until Bronzini (ex world champ on the track) passed me the can and immediately became my favourite person in the world. Happiness is a can of coke on a mountain climb in the summer.

Also in my group was a lady from Fenix who kept going to the front and driving it. I have no idea why. Our day was clearly over, but she just kept wanting to bridge the 15 minute gap to the leaders. I asked her whether she spoke English, so I could find out what she was thinking, but she said no. I assumed she was a hack who had no idea how to ride piano. Later I found out she was a former world champion on the road, which may have explained those little rainbow loops on her kit. And she was Russian, which may have explained the rest.

Shara, Tiff and Carlee all had good days, hurrah! Tomorrow we ride to Livigno, which means around 90km of almost pure climbing. And with that, I am off to bed.

Ride happy.