Verita Stewart

Writer, blogger, social media | Racer of bikes with Specialized Women's Racing Team|

Wowsers, I think I’m a climber

2 Comments

Caution of language my mother would not appreciate

My attempt to get serious about cycling has started.

I’ve got myself a coach, training program, race calendar, some great mentors at Total Rush – so here we go – let the seriousness begin at the first event of Cycling Victoria’s Road Series: The Mansfield Criterium and Mt Buller Road Race.

Righto so game plan? Kind of. I’m the biggest culprit for being too enthusiastic and wasting energy on the front. I’ve got to stop it, reign it in. So my one job given to me by Bec Domange, my coach extraordinaire was “Get off the front, Grasshopper!”. Great in theory, but everyone knows I have a shit memory…so I’ve printed it on my bike, to assist in my memory efforts. Subtle reminder hey!?

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Photo Credit: Murray Payne

Mansfield Crit
As usual, I had the mega jitters. C grade was scratched so I was lumped in B grade and it was my first race in Total Rush kit (very happy) …if all that did not make me nervous enough – the heavens opened and it pissed down rain about an hour before the start, now the stupid shape course (like a hotdog, with an outgrowth) was wet. Phew, lucky I had my fabulous TR team mates in Bridie O’Donnell and Liz Hall, and my HCC team mates in Deb Richards and Manuella Marasco to keep me calm!

As Deb, Manni and waited on the start line in B grade (Bridie and Liz in A) all I could think was ‘get off the front’…And I did. It was a tough, fast race, and with a crash early in A grade, we were all a little rattled early on. The corners were wet, and tight, and one with a speed hump in the middle. It was a challenge of bike skill more so that strengh in a lot of the race. Who could corner the best? My confidence grew.

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The final sprint
Photo Credit: Jo Upton Photography

Deb did a great job and kept the pace fast on the front, meanwhile I sat a few wheels back, with Manni in sight. I felt really good during the race, I was confident, cornering well, and comfortable sprinting out of the saddle. The bell lap rang and it was race on…Manni and I moved up towards the front and came around the last corner with speed…now I had the opportunity to try my first lead out for Manni, we did it!…bang bang bang and Grace Phang appeared! She just pipped Mani for first place, but did a fabulous job in snatching 2nd. I rolled over the line 4th, and very proud, chuffed. A fabulous team effort by all! To top it off, and to my surprise, I came away with the “most aggressive rider” award – and so did my fellow TR team mate, Bridie! Ha, me, aggressive! Never!

Strava link here:

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Bridie and I – aggressive? No?

Mount Buller Road Race
Again, Manni, Bridget, Deb and I lined up on the start line, with jitters, this time for the road race – my first. Deb was in B grade and Bridget, Manni and I in C. The plan, again get off the front and stick in the bunch. So, B and C rolled out together and rode together, in a relatively strung out manner for the majority of the race.

Now. It was bloody windy, and I was freaking struggling, I felt like I was peddling but not going anywhere. My knees were sore, and mind was telling me to give up…but luckily I had Bridget and Manni acting as my motivators, and wind breakers protecting me from being blown into the paddocks with the cows.

With about 10kms or so to the bottom of the Mt Buller climb, a breakaway formed – Deb was leading a cracking pace…and that was it, they were gone. I blinked and missed it, and there was no way in hell i was getting back on. But, before I knew it, we in the 2nd bunch were climbing. I managed to get my mojo back and found my rhythm quite quickly. I looked around and noticed that it really was just another rider, Grace Phang and I – so we began the 15.4km climb together, on her wheel.

I looked back as Grace tipped the water out of her drink bottles to get rid of excess weight. Far out! I had 2 near full bottles, 1kgs worth probably. Out went my water too! We stayed together for a while, but I soon found myself alone, in a world of pain. I needed to get on top of my breathing.

I felt like I was in a comedy show.

My sunnies were foggy, I had a not-open-enough gel hanging out of my mouth obstructing my breathing, I was crazily muttering out loud in disgust at the terrible, freezing head wind that was trying to break me, I was trying to get one glove out of my pocket, whilst not losing the rest of its contents, cursing frustratingly by the bottle neck of cars, and overall I was not impressed by my state of mind. I was starting to panic….Not to mention I was feeling hot, but cold, to take the arm warmers off? Leave them on? Arrrgh! First world problems!

I find wind demoralising. It sends me in a weird spin, I hate it, it is like a school bully – it causes me pain, pushes me around and calls me names, pulls my hair…

But I showed it, by sticking to my tempo, gritting my teeth, sucking air, some gels and then spent an eternity rocking around one handed trying to put that glove back on (note to self, don’t bother). I bought enough time fluffing around to get in top of my breathing. Phew, panic subsided.

I took advantage of some of the false flats and ended passing Jennifer Frankhauser (MA Cycling), she told me that “the bunch was just around the corner”. Before I knew it, with about 4-5km to go, the men (who started earlier) and A grade women began passing me on the decent… I knew the finish was close. Thank god! Having them pass me was awesome motivation, they were screaming encouragement – the most notable was Von, it was great to see her smiling face, albeit for a few seconds! Peddle faster! Forget the wind, you are better than that!

Blink and holy hell, I’d caught some of the ladies from the breakaway! What!? They were just around the corner. Phew, It was great to finally have a bunch to ride with. We could share the pain together, or at least, now I could mutter to someone! Ha!

Oh my lordy lord the last 2 kms of Buller is the toughest part of the climb, all together our little bunch passed Hell Corner (with a gradient of about 13%)… It was the pointy end of the race…I got out of the saddle, dug deep and started swearing and pedalling…I managed to get in front of the others…bhouy I was hurting, boo hoo! AsI came over the crest towards the summit – hoping to see the finish line, my heart sank, I was pointed left…70m to go. Faaaarrrrkkk….My legs were gone, but I found something extra, and a few pedal strokes later I was over the line.

1st

Time elapsed- 2:13:27
Mt Buller Climb- 59:30.

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Hells Corner
Photo Credit: Cycling Victoria

Wiped the sweat/tears from my eyes to see Liz about to descend, our Soigner, Gav who quickly pulled my arm warmers up and told me to”put some warm clothes on”, Manny too was there,fresh from the chauffeur driven sag wagon, and DEB who rolled over 1st in B Grade! It is awesome to complete such a race to have your team mates there at the end, the support and friendship is why I cycle. It means a lot to have them in my life

Just to mention that Bridget did a massive effort, backing it up after three peaks the weekend before and Manni did a great job getting me to the bottom, but pulled out at the bottom of the climb. Liz and Bridie also did a fabulous job in a tough A Grade field.

Thanks to our awesome HCC crew , who travelled to Mansfield to race or do the Scody High Country Classic, it was great to have you guys there to bunk with, have dinner and laughs with and to cheer us along…and special mention to Muz the paparazzo and Soigner Gav.

Props also to my TR lades, Liz and Bridie – you guys did a great couple of days racing, thanks for the wise words and encouragement…I’ve got a lot to learn, keep it coming!

My god, I did not expect the win at all, especially after the break away left us at the bottom of the climb. It had psyched me out, I thought I’d never see them again… but I stuck to my tempo and well, I realised quickly that I’m a okay climber, wowsers! So, give me a hill, and I’ll get up it. Put me on the flat and you’ll have to put up with me whining or riding on your wheel! I got serious today, I think.

And did my job…you know what? Bec’s advice worked (that’s why i’ve got a coach right?).  I did “get off the front”, well, untill I needed to be first over the line!

Women’s cycling is fucking awesome! Get amongst it!

Check my Road Race Strava file here.

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Photo Credit: Cycling Victoria.

Results Mt Buller RR:
Women’s A Grade:
1st: Lisa Barry, 2nd: Lucy Coldwell & 3rd: Crystal Wemyss
Women’s B Grade:
1st: Deborah Richards, 2nd: Grace Phang & 3rd: Prudence Rothwell
Women’s C Grade:
1st: Verita Stewart, 2nd: Danielle Garden & 3rd: Samantha Smagas

I’m not sure how accurate this race report actually is..bad memory remember! If it has failed me, let me know and I’ll edit the post! But either way, too many caffeinated / guarana gels and you get this… so suffer because you chose to read it! Ping!

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Author: Verita Stewart

Cyclist for Specialized, Instagramer, blogger, desk sitter, coffee lover, recycler

2 thoughts on “Wowsers, I think I’m a climber

  1. Great report!! And yes, you ARE most definitely a climber!!! Well done!!

  2. I believe you because you are the truthful one! Great achievement Grasshopper! It was good to meet you. Giovanni.

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