Verita Stewart

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

Holy Wowsers Bay Crits!

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This is just a short post, I’m doing it in my lunch break at work and to be honest, I was in the box for most of the races that I actually can’t remember much – other than the sound of chewing my handlebars.

The title sums up my feelings on racing my first full Michelton Bay Cycling Classic. Four crits over four days, on some of the hardest courses on the Aussie circuit. With a start list that was who’s who of the Pro peloton, Bay Crits were going to be intense. Ultimately it would be a good hit out for me in the lead up to Nationals, so the super coach said…

Specialized Securitor were represented with a team of four (myself, Soph, Liz and Jaz), amongst Orica-AIS, Wiggle Down Under, Roxalt Ladies, Holden Cycling as well as individual riders, like Peta Mullens and Lisa Jacobs. I was a tad star struck to be honest, I was racing with many of my cycling idols! Cromwell, Rowney, Bronzini, Elvin to name a few! Safe to say that racing with these world class athletes would mean that our legs were going to be ripped off.

Our DS, Bec, didn’t set us a game plan per say for the races – she wanted us to go out there, have fun, learn how to position ourselves in the bunch of such experienced riders and do our best. It didn’t matter if we finished or not. It would be all about the experience, riding with some of the best cyclists in the Pro Peloton. My personal goal was to finish as many of the four races as possible…whatever happened after that would be a bonus.

Stage 1. Ritchie Boulevard Hotdog circuit. Hotdog crits are brutal. They are short and sharp and intense (think a 10 second power effort/sprint every 30 seconds), throw in the ridiculous temperature (40 degrees) that we were riding in and you can start imagine our pain. The race started at full gas, as expected. Lap after lap riders were being shelled. There was attack, after attack. One minute I was scrambling to stay on, then all of a sudden I was on the front pulling turns with Soph. Then all of a sudden the race was over. Chloe Hosking sprinted for the win. Liz came in 13th and Soph, myself and Jaz after. I think we were all suffering a bit of heat stroke post race.  That evening was all about recovery, laying horizontal, lots of peanut butter and rice cakes, dinner , then we sat motionless under the air-conditioning.
hotdogRitchie Boulevard
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Kirsty Baxter Photography
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Of 46 starters, 18 DNF – full results here.

Stage 2. Eastern Beach. It was hot. It was windy – I mean 50km/hr windy. I was nervous as hell. My legs were tired and I was nervous with visions of myself blowing like a kite all the way back to Melbourne. The course had a hairpin bend on a decent, then a straight, a short climb, and another (relative) straight back to the start finish line. The wind would be a deciding factor here, the importance of position too. If the wheel in front of you dropped, you were a goner. We needed to suck wheel like no tomorrow! The race was on from the gun. I had a pretty poor start, my legs were not moving like I’d hoped, so I ended up towards the back very quickly. Jaz’s race ended early when she ended up in the dirt, in the wind and not protected any more. I lasted a few more laps, but was defeated after a wheel dropped in front of me as we went around the hairpin. I was with Soph and I knew it would be race over if we didn’t get back on… I dragged Soph back on just as the bunch hit the climb, that’s where I started going backwards.  Kudos to Gracie. She broke away solo and rode away for the win comfortably. She was all class, so strong in the windy conditions – she’s definitely in good form for Nationals. Soph the bloody trooper was the only one of the team that finished the race. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t finish. My legs were tired, I had no gas – in hindsight I probably should have warmed up longer, also I was in a terrible position from the start – something that I’ll be improving on this year that’s for sure. But, I helped Soph get back on, so that made me feel a little better. We spent the rest of the afternoon caffeinating, hydrating and eating peanut butter on rice cakes (for something different).
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The wind!
Of 47 starters, 25 DNF – full results here.

Stage 3. Portarlington. This was going to be a smash fest, there was a decent, a nasty off camber corner and then a 200m steep climb. This was going to test the legs of us all. Probably more suited to the climbers, they were the ones to watch. I was hoping that my legs had recovered from their pathetic attempt in the wind the day before! Smash fest it was indeed. Holding a good position wasn’t really working for me. Jaz on the other hand had a cracker, started out of the blocks first wheel and had a couple of laps on the front at full gas! I was holding a pretty good position at the back of the bunch, then on the climb would move up a few spots, only to be on the back again. It was a pattern of up, down, up, down…Before I knew it, the race was over. I can’t exactly remember anything that happened in the race. I was too busy gasping for air – chewing stem. Peta Mullens rode away solo to win comfortably! I did a wattage PB during this race, max of 693 watts! The pattern continued of hydration, caffination and peanut butter on rice cakes – prepping for the final day of racing the next day.
Portarlington
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Photo: @xhotbradx
48 started the race and 26 DNF – full results here.

Stage 4. Williamstown. The final day of racing. Another fast one was to be had, flat, four corners – not dissimilar to SKCC circuit. Last year I raced this course, and lasted 7 minutes, so I knew it would be fast. I started the race on the back – which was not the plan, but I blinked and that’s where I was. The girls had a better position towards the front. It was fast out of the blocks, into the first tight corner. This corner, then the proceeding pace made the peloton string out immediately. I was dangling on the back telling myself that I was not allowed to be dropped. As each lap went around, a few wheels would drop in front of me. I’d go around them and slot straight back on to the back. I tried moving up, but it was almost impossible for me. There were a few moments in the race where I had to dig deep to get back on. I really didn’t want to get dropped. The pace was only getting faster, as teams continually attacked each other. I was still dangling from the back oblivious to the tactics at the front of the race. All of a sudden the race was over. Bronzini sprinted for the win. I somehow came through 10th.
Williamstown
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Photo: Con Chronis Photography
Of 38 starters, 28 DNF – full results here.

What an experience!

Well, I’m absolutely stoaked to survive at least three of the four Bay Crits! It was defiantly an experience (and a half). I learnt a lot about the why your position within the bunch is so important – I didn’t do it too well this weekend and something that I will be working on in the future.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Bay Crits where I will be strong enough and experienced enough to contribute positively to the race, rather than to just be at the back – scrambling and surviving. What an honor to be racing and learning from the Pros.

Bring on Nationals!
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The usual pre race peanut butter and rice cake party.
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Huge thanks to our sponsors, Specialized Australia, Securitor Financial Group, Capo Australia and Asidas eyewear. Now we are looking for a peanut butter and rice cake sponsor… Anyone?

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Author: Verita Stewart

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

One thought on “Holy Wowsers Bay Crits!

  1. Super Effort V!!!!!! To get 10th in Bay Crits is a great effort, even better on the final day of racing!!! Yew! Bring on 2015!
    Dan W.

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