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 and I'll put Lisa's Mum on the case.

Ride happy.