Verita Stewart

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

South Gisbourne Saturday, Skinsuit Sunday and a weekend of 6ths

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Hawthorn Trophy Race – Northern Combine Women’s Series Race Two – South Gisbourne

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Well. What to wear? I distracted myself with some serious fluffing on the morning of the Hawthorn Trophy Race. I stood, staring at a pair of leg warmers for a good twenty minutes before putting them in my bag. I wanted to bail. But it was the second Northern Combine Women’s race, so I couldn’t, could I? No, come on…support women’s cycling and all. Just get on your bike and ride it.

I had raced the course once before. At last years Hawthorn Club Championships. I cringe when I remember that race. I was all fresh faced, nervous and excited. It was my first race. Ever! I did not know what to expect.

All I can say about that first race, is that it was torture… probably the hardest riding I had done up until that point. I was so new to cycling. I was naive. I was not prepared. Had done absolutely no training…. I was used to just getting on my bike and riding it, and not very fast.

I was in a world of pain. I was dropped. I had never peddled so hard in my life. I thought about giving up. But I didn’t, I finished… I was exhilarated, on an adrenaline high. You live and you learn. Despite the fact that the race could have broken me, it made me want to get better and made me want to race my bike. In a strange, strange way. I’m sure that was where I picked up the cycling bug.

But today, I wanted to bail… because… well, I did not know what to expect.

That sounds silly because, well, I did know what to expect. I knew the course, I knew it was hill-descend-repeat, I knew it was going to be tough. Very tough. My brain was harassing me again. What if I was not better, what if it was going to the last time I race there, what if I can’t keep up.

On the start line I gave myself a pep talk. Told myself to get over it. Everyone is probably feeling the same. This time, it was different for me. I had been training, it was not my first race, I am better now.

Fast forward 55km and 1 hour 48 minutes.

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I rode as best as I could. I did the things I wanted to do, like give the climb a good effort, and all the things I was not supposed to do, like stay on the front too long. But I rode hard, I rode to my strengths. Of course I could have done a few things better. Manage my energy levels for one. The last lap was tough. Physically and mentally. I was mentally drained by that stage and the prospect of smashing it up the last hill was daunting, everyone else seemed so fresh. I probably psyched myself out of it in many ways, bloody brain. The course had a distinct pattern, a rhythm, of decent, climb, repeat.

That last lap I did not replicate my pattern. Especially on the last little climb. Usually I would punch up the first section, then on the second section put some more power. This time I punched up the first section, and then ran out of gas. My gasket blew again. Just like Tour of South West. Great.

Bummer hey. Not that I was even close to the front anyway. That last little section, the section I want to be good at, the hill, I bombed it. You live and you learn. Just like I did almost a year ago after the club champs. This time I rolled in 6th, B grade women. The race did a lot for my lack of motivation of late. It reaffirmed a few things for me.

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Almost 12 months on and the race was still torture. The funny thing is, of course it was going to be. In reality, racing is always going to be tough. If it is not tough, you either are not peddling fast enough or your in the wrong grade. Each time you race, you will be pushed to your limits. It is never going to be easy. It is racing. You train for this. You train hard to be able to push yourself. Each time you move up a grade, it is because you need to be challenged.

I’m glad it spurred me to start training and racing. I’m so happy with my progress to date. You know what? You can never know “what to expect” going into a race. As someone once said to me “try to plan, but expect the unexpected”?

I’ve just got to get over my doubts and get on my bike and ride it, and try not to blow a gasket. I need to get out and have some fun on the bike.

Results can be found here.

Skinsuit Sunday SYCA-Cross

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I was exhausted after the previous day’s racing and needed some fun on the bike. So I blew off my scheduled hill efforts and opted for some SYCA-Cross cyclocross. In hindsight. It was probably just as hard as hill efforts!

Cyclocross racing is kind of like a criterium race, in that you do multiple laps of timed, short course, but it is frantic. Throw in a few barriers, requiring you to mount and dismount, bunny-hop or stack. Throw in a variety of terrain, mainly mud, gravel, grass or whatever then hell you can get your bike and ride over. It is a crazy mix of mountain biking and cross country and road riding. It is addictive. It is well, the hardest racing and the most fun racing you will ever do. You will fall off. You will love it.

So I joined a few skinsuit clad cx-ers route en route to Mill Park where  Whittlesea Cycling Club  was hosting SYCA-Cross. We all rode out together, looking like a weird bunch of colourful cyclists riding weird road bikes with knobby tyres.  I was out of place. I had the colour. I did not have the skinsuit. That must change! Despite my not fitting in with appropriate cx attire I was pumped. Looking forward to some bike fun.

We got to the track early. So had heaps of time to take advantage of the coffee van and Beatbox Kitchen Burger Van. We also had heaps of time to cut a few laps of the track. The course was awesome, very technical, windy, with grass, a few little pinchy climbs, gravel, mulch, hay bails, logs and a bmx track!!!

Fast forward three hours and we were racing. Actually some were racing, I was scrabling!

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The stronger riders were straight off the front and I was left peddling frantically to try and catch up. Think scramble, people, riding bikes everywhere, sliding, weaving, stacking, on-off-on. There I was, my heart beating at 200 bpm, weaving, sliding, jumping, stacking, sweating!

The feeling I  get during a CX race is so hard to describe, it is a mix of pleasure and pain. I love the adrenalin, it is fun, but it is hard and it hurts. My attitude towards cx racing is very, very laid back. I’m not taking it seriously. I’m doing it for fun, and a laugh. I do not worry about placings. I worry about staying upright and negotiating barriers!

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I just got in my bike and rode it, like crazy for 40 minutes. I think I came 6th… again. We had an awesome day on the bike. I loved every minute of it. Sometimes a fun day out on the bike is just what you need!

Results can be found here.

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What’s next? SYCA-Cross is a four race series, I’ll do them when I need the laughs and same with Dirty Deeds, if I get a costume together – I’ll do them too.

Next on the list: Pink skinsuit. Pink Stackhat.

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Author: Verita Stewart

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

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