Verita Stewart

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

Santos Women’s Cup Adelaide

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The first Tour of the year. Santo’s Women’s Cup.

Kelly, Penny, Bridie and with new member Jess flying in from QLD to join us, that made a full team of 5. I was really looking forward to some time away from work, hanging with my team mates, and racing of course. Who would have thought this tour was going to turn into such a leaning experience!

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Photo credit: Matt de Neef (CyclingTips)

The Peoples Choice Classic Criterium was held in Adelaide’s CBD.

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The paparazzi were out – @Kirstybaxterphotography

We arrived at the race and I could not believe the crowd! Thousands of fans were lining the barriers to watch us race. It was by far the most spectators I’ve seen at a race! I was excited, but also nervous to race in front of so many people. Bridie gave us some tasks to do within the race, my main one was to ‘keep overtaking people’ with the aim to stay towards the front. “Only bad things happen on the back, you either crash, or get dropped”.

All of a sudden we were on the line, with the pros from Orica AIS, Vanderkitten and all the other big names in women’s cycling. I was star struck and excited to be racing.

While Bridie was mixing it up on the front, we were sitting in, trying to maintain our top 20-30 positions in the peloton. To my surprise, after narrowly missing a number of crashes early on, it was working, we were towards the front. I was trying to keep about 2-3 bike lengths from Penny at all times.

The plan was all going swimmingly. Until a rider hit the deck, right in front of Penny. Penny dove head first into the barrier, and along with quite a few other riders, were left sprawled across the road. I somehow avoided the carnage. I stopped and weaved around them and rode my butt off until I realized I was not going to get back on to the front bunch. In the mean time, Penny had got up, brushed herself off and got back into the race! 

As I did laps, I was picked up by a small group along the way.

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Photo credit: Matt de Neef (CyclingTips)

In the end, Kelly, Penny and I finished up below 40th position. Bridie and Jess around 20th position the best for the day which meant the qualified for the Elite race on Stage 3.

Penny was ok, and only suffered a mild Harry Potter graze on the side of her head, and the bike was fine too. The barrier on the other hand is feeling a little worse for wear! (watch the vid here 1min20secs) In hindsight, I probably could have had a lap out and rejoined the bunch where I left it after stopping to avoid the crash. But I’ve learned that that is what I should do next time.

Barossa Road Race, Angaston – 2 laps, with the last lap going up Menglers Hill

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Loading the car

As we found out from the speed of the crit on the first day these girls are fast, throw in the fact that it was scorching HOT and the brutal final climb up Menglers Hill (1.25km climb with an average gradient of 8% and some sections at 18%), the next 98 kms were going to be very very tough.

It was hot on the start line, we were carrying a spare bottle in our jersey pockets to be safe.

It was on. Heart rate from 100bpm to 190bpm in the blink of an eye. Within 1km we turned the corner to see the aptly named “breakneck hill” before us. It was 500m of pure pinch, with the final half half reaching a scary 20%. Somehow we got over it, relatively all together. The first lap was fast, I managed to hang on as best as I could, though I was not feeling great. Bridie was mixing it up at the front, we were all riding well as a team, as best we could to be in good positions. 

The second lap, and break neck hill, broke me. The first time around my average watts was 290 for the short pinch, the second time, closer to 190.

That was pretty much the end of me. I got half way up and decided that zip zagging up it, like it was Baw Baw was the best option. Probably not. I lost contact with the bunch after I crawled to the top over the curse of 1km or so and drifted my way to a Penny and Jess who were rolling turns in another bunch, I dropped off that, got paced back on with a police car, then dropped off again.

That’s where all my problems started!

After losing sight of the bunch in the rolling hills, I followed some bunting and managed to navigate myself on a lovely wild goose chase around the Barossa. I ended up flagging down a man in a ute who sent me back on course. This was my worst nightmare, lost, with no phone, water or money. Turned back around and began riding for what seemed hours. I eventually flagged down a police car and asked them kindly for a lift back to Angaston. They were not keen on that, instead gave me a bottle of Powerade and sent me packing with the idea that Angaston was only 15 kms, that way! I started again, slightly deflated and wondering where I went wrong. Toot toot. The sag wagon was tooting me. I have not wanted to get in a bus so quickly in my life. That was it. Race over.  We collected Kelly at the KOM who had dropped off early and decided to feed us. She has just come off two days of intense MTB racing so was understandably feeling a little weary in the legs. I on the other hand, didn’t have any excuses.

View my strava file here – where’d I go wrong!


Prospect Criterium

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Pre race r&r is essential to success!

Unfortunately our placings after stage 1’s crit meant that Penny, Kelly and I were advised to race the Support Race. We were feeling pretty good considering the smash fest we had been enduring.

Racing the support race was going to be a good opportunity to test out some race tactics and fly the pink colours. We warmed up together, cutting laps of the street and sorted our plan, “just keep attacking”.

The race begun. As we cut laps, we got quicker and quicker. It was time to launch an attack. I turned around to find that I had a decent gap on the bunch! It was time trial time. 

I dug deep and kept pushing, and pushing and pushing.

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Photo credit: Craig Sinclair

It was awesome to have so many spectators out screaming support, also great to have team mates in the crowd to cheer and remind us to drink. 

Meanwhile in the bunch, my teemies were doing what they do best, controlling the bunch. I was hurting, but was motivated by every rider that I picked off and lapped along the way. I looked down and I had been off the front for 20 minutes, no wonder I was tired. 

I lapped the field on the last lap and that was it. Race over.

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I have not won, or placed in a race for a very long time. It was a great feeling, and great to have team mates there to assist, it makes the victory even sweeter!

Jess and Bridie did really well in the Elite Race. It was the Orica AIS show again.

After the race we all went to have beer and burgers and celebrate the few days racing. All in all, we had a great weekend racing and hanging out together. I certainly learned a lot. I’m never getting lost again!

Can’t wait for NRS to start!

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LOL. Guess what happened here?

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What racing away from home is all about?

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Author: Verita Stewart

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

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