Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stage 6- Ride your f*ing legs off

Stage 6 has just finished and we've packed up our bikes for the plane tomorrow. The stage was a 1hr crit (+3 laps) in Wellington. It was incredibly windy and the pace was on from the gun- or, to be specific, from the 'neutral lap'- which wasn't very neutral. Within the first couple of laps there was a selection of 20 or so riders and everyone else eventually got pulled from the course. I made the selection but my team mates got caught by the wind and weren't so lucky. The race was so hard, it was a mission just to hold wheels, try to hold position and not crash. There were also 5 sprints, each 10 mins, which added a bit of extra pace.

I finished around 10th-15th, which was enough to retain 5th on GC. Stoked. This was a major objective of the team and it's really been a team effort. Thanks guys, it's been a privilege to be your leader.
Thanks also to team manager Ben Cook of SASI fame (who has a career beckoning in motivational speaking if he ever gets sick of coaching), and uber-mechanic Paul Larkin. This has been without question the best team support I have ever had, in any sport, on any trip. Thanks also to Tammie Ebert, Donna Rae-Szalinski, DC at Fitzroy Revolution and John Hill at Fastgear (High 5). One day soon i'll do another entry about race nutrition, it was pretty interesting.

Stage 6- almost done

It's the morning of the last stage, a crit this arvo in Wellington. There are some small time gaps and opportunities for girls to move up gc so the tour is certainly not over. After yesterday I am still at 5th on gc but linda villumsen (ex high-road columbia) is 4 secs behind and will be looking to make it up today. We're ready.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stage 5- a breakaway and a red hot go

We are sitting in the team bus on the way back to wellington after stage 5. Wow, what a day.

Our team plan was to get me up with the lead group on the first and major climb of the day- a 4km climb starting 12km into the 112km stage.Alex was my lieutenant in the mountains and Sarah was covering early moves. At the 12km mark Ruth (polka dot jersey) attacked and Amber Neben (yellow jersey) and I joined her. Ruth kept the pace on up the climb and we shelled Tiffany Cromwell and everyone else and soon had a sizeable gap. I couldn't really believe it but remembered the 2 bits of advice Ben gave me before the stage: 1. When you make a decision, stick with it, and 2. Ride your f*cking legs off. So I did. Amber made clear early on that she was under instruction not to work, and so sat on. Ruth and I pulled turns like crazy and held the bunch at around a minute until getting caught at the 50km mark. It would have been unreal to pull off a breakaway that stuck but we really needed another pair of legs at least and the AIS and NZ teams were on the front chasing so we were up against it.

Once we got caught it was game on and I was kept fully occupied just keeping good position in the bunch and following the attacks. The team rallied together and Alex, Sarah and Laura found me in the bunch immediately and looked after me unbelievably well. I was able to recover enough to try to organise a lead-out for the final stretch but we couldn't quite get it together. In the end i think i was around 15th and it was a bunch sprint so hopefully will hold onto GC position. I'm really stoked and it was a great team effort today.

The race of truth

I just found out that I came 5th in the TT! Amber Neben (ex world champ) won. It has changed GC a lot. I am now sitting 5th, 6 secs back from Ruth Corset. I'm stoked- it really gives us a huge leg-up for today's stage. The whole team is committed to getting as good a gc result as possible and we are fired up. I've got some great support and a super-lieutenant in the mountains, Alex Carle, and a top crew each with a job to do. Mine is to stay as far up as possible amd out of trouble. Today's stage is 114km from Palmerston North to Masterton.

I didn't mention it before but yesterday's TT was not a smooth affair. Our start times were delayed twice, first by 30 mins ans then by another 15. I almost got jack-knifed by an over-zealous marshall with ambiguous hand signals, then had a citizen driver pull in front of me as i entered the final motorway. By the time I finished it was almost 7pm. It's impossible in an event as big as this for there not to be hiccups, and the organisers for the most past have done a great job. But when the policewoman came into the dining room last night and demanded to see the driver of the ntid vehicle, well, it's easy to lose perspective. Luckily no one went to jail and we are all starting today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

stage 4- time trial

Well, it's late and i'm beat and about to go to bed, but the tt was good. I still haven't seen the results but I felt good and passed 2 ppl (we went in reverse gc order and i was sitting 16th so was near the end). I also had the luxury of having ben and paul follow me in the van, which was awesome. They yelled and tooted and kept me pushing hard. I don't know what gc looks like now but i'm guessing it's been shaken up a bit. The tt was only 11km but it was windy and hilly and there were loads of spots to lose time on.

Now it looks like i may be the protected rider for the team for the rest of the tour, although it'll depend on how alex went today in the tt as she is also riding really strongly. Either way i'll be happy to work for her or her for me, and we have a great team and support crew so we'll be able to race well together.

Tomorrow is 114km- bring it on.

The case for race radios

Our team manager Ben and I were talking today about the race radio debate. As you may know, the UCI has banned race radios and we can't use them anymore in races. I've raced with them and without them, and my first thought when I heard about the impending ban was, 'Great! Now riders will have to think for themselves.' It means breakaways are more likely to succeed (like what happened today) because riders don't have someone on the other end of a radio telling them how big the gap is and when they should attack. So it encourages risk-takers, which I think is a good thing for racing.

However, after yesterday's stage i am now firmly in favour of radios. Yesterday we had a number of crashes, bad weather and sections of loose gravel unsealed roads that we didn't know about before we hit them. In one case, drivers in the convoy only narrowly avoided hitting riders on the road after a crash on a blind corner. The managers had gotten out of team cars to flag people to slow down, but we were lucky no one got seriously hurt. Especially in wet conditions when braking power is reduced, we need all the help we can get to keep races as safe as possible. Radios play an important role in warning riders of upcoming obstacles and sudden changes... as well as telling them when to attack.

Stage 3- a dead stage

Today's stage was what I know know is called a 'dead' stage- that is, all the teams with hot gc contenders just sat tight and watched, saving their legs for this arvo's stage. A break of 4 got away early, but because none were a gc threat, teams were under instruction not to worry too much. The break actually stayed away- just- they were almost pipped on the line but Prime Estate's Irene Diginis, who had been in the break all day, held everyone off to claim the win.

I was in the bunch, trying to stay near the front and ready to go if a big attack went.So with a bunch kick finish, nothing much changed in the overall standings.

And the rain miraculously stopped for us! Awesome.

This afternoon we have an 11km TT, starting at 5pm.

Looking toward stage 3

We've just finished breakfast on day 3 of the tour. I'm getting a new appreciation for exactly what tour de france riders go through for 23 days. The hotel we're in now we have for 2 nights- a real treat after shifting around each night. It's nice to unpack and not have to pack everything up again in the morning. And we're luckily that our stages finish right near our hotels, so we don't have to worry about lengthy transfers between stages. But the hotel food, well, that's another story... But Andy, you'll be chuffed to hear we had sausage surprise last night! Your signature dish has crossed the tasman!!

Today is 87km around Palmerston Nth. Although the long-range weather forecast had looked good, it is now raining quite heavily and doesn't look like letting up in the hour and a half we have before race start. Looks like another wet day. We also have 2 stages today with a TT this afternoon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stage 2: Crazy times

Wow. What a day. Today's stage had everything- gusty winds, rain, large portions of unsealed road, slick descents and surprise climbs. The stage was 114km from Masterton to Palmerston Nth. Not as hilly as I'd have liked, but with a few pinches to break it up.And so many crashes. 3 of the team crashed, luckily not too bad but the road claimed a lot of skin today from a lot of riders.

Sarah 'Bernard' Roy got in an early break and held it for around 40km. Top effort. Alex overcame an incident with a creative bike handler (and has the ripped knicks to prove it) to finish just back from the front bunch. Bec 'I'll just finish this stage before knocking out some REAL work' Halliday and Bron 'Does the left side of my arse look big in this photo or is that just the haemotoma?' Ryan stuck with Alex and helped her limit time losses.

Meanwhile, Laura 'is there an AA for compulsive stretchers?'Luxford and myself found ourselves at the pointy end of the field and in a break. We put in a lot of work and caught Ruth and the NZ chick before being caught by the chase bunch.We both finished in the front bunch of around 40 riders. It was disappointing to put so much work into the break and still be caught but that's life. The good news is that we have some good legs in the team and some good chances coming up. For now, i'm just happy that stage is over.

getting ready for Stage 2

Stage 2 starts in around 2hrs and just outside our hotel, so i'm taking some time to relax beforehand.

Unlike last year's tour, when we were controversially billeted with local families (I loved it, but that's only because our family was grouse), this year all the teams are staying at the same hotels together. We move around almost every night so after the stage we go straight to the new hotel.

Our team manager Ben Cook and mechanic extraordinaire Paul Larkin are working their butts off to make sure we just need to concentrate on racing. They prep our bikes, get us food, run our ice baths and do our washing. It's a huge luxury to have a support team this good. A big thanks to Tammie Ebert at Australian Sports Commission for making all this possible.

Last night I think everyone found it hard to sleep. A 5.30pm race finish, new hotel and 10am start time today doesn't leave much time for recovery. But it's the same for everyone. Today is 114km with some longer hills. My job is to keep good position at the front of the bunch as we expect a break to go, particularly if the wind picks up.

I'll keep you posted.right now, it's time to put my race numbers on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stage 1 - a hard start!

Stage 1 started off easy enough- in fact, the race director threatened to pull us all from the field at the 30km mark if the pace got any more pedestrian. (The phrase 'if you just want to have fun, go home now' made me giggle a bit, but then I realised that put me in serious danger of having fun so I put my race face on again)

The fun soon stopped once the hills started. The main climb was at 69km and that was the main selection, with Ruth and Vicki setting off, then Ruth solo, and me around 8th wheel.

I finished in the front bunch of 15-20 girls, very happy, as did another teammate, Alex, even better. But if tomorrow is as hard as today, we are in for a long week.

Arrived in NZ

Hi all, this is a quick experiment to see whether my setup of email-to-blog works. The Australia NTID team arrived in Wellington yesterday arvo. All the teams are staying in the same hotel in Lower Hutt, just outside Wellington. So far not much has happened- we met everyone, built our bikes, went for a quick spin and had dinner. NTID looks to be a good team, with a good spread of talents and a good bunch of chicks, ably led by team manager Ben Cook (SASI) and Paul Larkin (mechanic, token kiwi and local interpreter).
Athletes comprise:
Bec 'Pride of the West' Halliday
Sarah 'Crash Test Dummy' Roy
Bron 'Legs of Steel' Ryan
Laura 'I'm Not From Sydney, Even Though I'm Blonde' Luxford
Alex 'Ranga Pride' Carle
Lisa 'Spends Too Much Time Blogging' Jacobs

Our stage today is 98km from Martinborough to Masterton. There's one Sprint and KOM up for grabs, but mostly it's about getting a feel for racing and the other riders. It looks like one of the hardest stages is stage 2 so some will be saving their legs.

We're pumped! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quick update

Hi guys, after the hustle and bustle of TDU, Lisa's Mum has been packed off to a sunlounge in the Carribbean and I'm back. Phew. Let me tell you, wrestling the keyboard off Mum was no easy matter. She'll be back soon but for now I thought a brief race update might be in order.

In just over a week's time I'm off to NZ for the Tour of NZ, a 5-day, 6 stage tour in the North Island. Following the nationals road race I was invited to join the national talent id/development team for the tour. I'm pretty pumped and the team looks pretty darn awesome. The last 6 weeks or so since nationals have been a lot of hard work and I'm really pleased with where my form is at. It'll be a tough tour and there are a lot of top class riders going so I'm looking forward to it.

My race calendar after that will depend on how NZ goes, but it's likely I'll take it easy for a week or so to recover before starting on the domestic racing season. There are some good races coming up early in the year like the Baw Baw Classic and the Aust mtb marathon champs.

In other news, the lovely Andrew is being sent to Canberra for work for the next few months, and so from late March-ish I'll be doing a fairly regular weekly commute between Canberra and Melbourne to spend as much time with him up there as possible in between work. I haven't done a lot of riding up there yet and I've heard it's great, both for mtb and road. I'm looking forward to checking it out and catching up with the Canberra cycling chicks who are still in town.

Thanks, as always, to the sponsors whom I'm looking forward to representing for another year, in particular major sponsors Fitzroy Revolution, Australian Sports Commission and High5/Fastgear. I've been trying out some of the new High5 products - in particular a newbie called 'Zero', a zero sugar electrolyte tablet, which has been fantastic for Summer training when you need to be hydrated without taking on too much sugar. My other favourite of the moment is their Energy Bars, which are basically pressed fruit. They've just changed their recipe and they are AMAZING. And they don't melt in your pocket or break your jaw. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

And finally - today in training, I headed out with some of the TE bunch to do the 'crucifixion' in the Dandenongs - 4 major climbs over 5 hours. We did almost 2500m of vertical climbing and don't my legs know it now! I'll keep most of the stats for the mathematicians but we did a 15:20 up the 1 in 20 which is a PB for me by a fair way. At one point we were sitting on 38.5kph on the false flat section - I had to look at my speedo twice.

Stay safe and stay pedalling