More January racing: Nationals & Santos Womens Tour

Wow. I’m back to work and the reality that is paying for my racing shenanigans.

This month has been a big one for me and by all means it’s not over yet. Last month, this month and next month, has been and will be full of racing. Tour of Bright, Nationals, Tour Down Under and next, Cadels Race, something and then Oceania’s in Toowomba.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve barely had time to get my nails done. This post will be short and sweet.

Nationals…. Cramp city

I went in with a whole lot of expectation. Mainly that I’d finish. Last Nationals, I didn’t finish – I completed 7 laps before being pulled off course. So this year it was my personal aim to better 7. Let’s just say that this race was a whole other kettle of fish. I knew it was going to be fast and the 7 would be tough… Bay Crits had shown that there were a lot of women that were in form and a lot of talent out there with the aim of taking the top step, so it was no surprise then that it was ON from the gun. In fact the first three laps for me were the fastest of the whole 100km race. For me the 1st climb was the 2nd fastest, the 2nd climb was the 3rd fastest and the 3rd climb was the fastest of the race. The third lap is where things started falling apart for me, I started to question if I’d finish.

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PDitty Images

I don’t think it was the pace that got me… it was my legs that were falling apart. Letting me down. They were cramping. Bad, bad, bad, cramps. Cramps that meant that I nearly gave up and had me dangling off the back multiple times. It was here that I experienced a new level of pain. Both physical and mental. My legs didn’t want to pedal, they would grab at me each pedal stroke. My head told me to give up. I didn’t want to give up. I had to finish that race. There were times when I dangled off the back, where I sucked wheel, dug deep and even crawled back through the convoy! I took motivation from the Hells500 QOM cheer squad, from my coach, partner and many friends each lap. I had people yelling at me to keep going…so I did. I pushed through the pain and I finished that god dam race. I ended up in a group of about 10 riders and rolled with them until the finish, +4.32 down. I think we were all in a similar world of pain! I could barely get off my bike my legs were so crampy.

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PDitty Images

Why did I cramp? Now it wasn’t hot, at all. In fact it was mild. In hindsight, I was just dehydrated to start off with. I didn’t drink enough fluids the day before. In fact, I barely drank anything. Lesson learned. I never want to experience that pain and disappointment again. But on a positive note, I finished that race! Jenelle, my team mate came in top 10 too! Peta Mullins took the win in an impressive show of strength.

Full results here

Santos Women’s Tour

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The first Tour of the NRS season and run along side the Tour Down Under! Four stages, two road races and two crits. We had a full team, with Jenelle, Liz, Jaz and Anna-Leeza ready to rock.

Stage 1. 60km road race, from Woodside to Murray Bridge. The profile was deceptively down-hill. It had a number of pinchy climbs that were sure to split the bunch. Split the bunch they did. It was a race that was full of fast climbing and full of gutter action! Liz managed to grab some intermediate sprint points, Jenelle and I finished managed to finish just off the front group. Orica-AIS showed their massive strength and class in putting us all in the gutter and taking the win! It is an awesome feeling to race with these pros – many of which race OS and are my cycling idols! This was the fastest 60km race I’ve done. The average speed was about 42km/hr. Valentina Scandolara (Orica AIS) took the win.

Stage 2. 35 minute crit in the CBD. We were racing before the men, so the crowds were huge! It was so exciting to race in front of so many people. Again a fast one, at just under 45km/hr. Nothing really to report here, Melissa Hoskins from Orica-AIS took the win. We finished on bunch time – my legs were almost ripped off. Lord.

Stage 3. Road race from Tanunda to Campbelltown. The QOM was on the top of the infamous Checkers Hill climb – which reaches a 23% gradient – this was going to be a race splitter! Our team objective was to ride together and near the front so that we could get over the QOM with the lead group. As we turned the corner into the QOM myself, AL and Liz were too far back and watched Jenelle climb over for 3rd on QOM and stick with the lead group. That group organised themselves fairly quickly and managed to stay away with Jenelle finishing in 6th position. We were in the 2nd group of about 20 riders that finished +1.14. Jaz finished in the 3rd group. This effort moved us into 4th in teams classification and Jenelle moved up to 6th on GC – only 6 seconds behind the leader. Georgia Bronzini came away with the win!

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Stage 4. Victoria Park Crit. Again going with the theme of this tour – it was fast. Our objective again was to ride together, towards the front with the hope that we could move up on teams classification and maybe move Jenelle up as well. The peloton was split in two after the first lap – this was not great for our teams classification aim! AL and I were stuck in the middle and worked hard to try to bridge back over. The front group seemed to sit up after a few laps and we all came back together after a few laps. The pace was high, I was struggling but determined to stay on. Struggling with position, I was towards the back, but each lap would make an effort to move up to my team mates. Before we knew it the race was over. Melissa Hoskins took the win!

Overall 1st Valentina Scandolara, 2nd Melissa Hoskins, and 3rd Loren Rowney (Roxsalt). Jenelle 7th, me 20th, 27th Liz, 29th AL and Jaz 59th. We finished up 4th on teams classification, and 3rd in the NRS teams aggregate – which is awesome for the 1st race of the NRS season! It was an awesome experience to ride with such an experience bunch of women, I learnt heaps from this tour, straight to the knowledge bank.Full results here.

Bring on Cadels Great Ocean Road Race on the weekend!

We consumed 3 jars of peanut butter, 3 jars of honey, 4 loafs of bread, 6 packets of rice cakes, 25 kgs of bananas and 12 bottles of soda water… we are looking for sponsors from Kraft, Beechworth Honey and Sunrice…know anyone?

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Someone asked me recently how I keep motivated when ‘winning’ the race isn’t necessarily my objective, when surviving is reality. That is the beauty of riding in a team and having a great support network around me. I find often my personal ‘wins’ come from helping your team mates and executing our team plans. Some of my most satisfying moments on the bike have come from these ‘wins’. I take the small gains or learnings from a race, rather than looking at results I look at what I did within the race – I moved up, I rode with my team mates, I climbed with the front group, I learnt something from other riders…Those learnings are valuable to my progress and the motivation that I am improving as a rider and my training is paying off #patiencegrasshopper. Most importantly, my coach, my partner, my team mates and my friends all believe in me and in my goals and dreams – having them as my support network is number one to my motivation and success! Thank-you.

Specialized, Securitor Financial Group, Capo Cycling, Adidas Eyewear and Pro4mance Sports Nutrition are the sponsors that keep us going! Thanks to PDitty Images and Kirsty Baxter Photography for the pics 🙂

Holy Wowsers Bay Crits!

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.
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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.
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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?

Tour of Bright, exceeding my own expectations

This is just going to be a short post. Mainly because I’m tired, but also because I’m typing this on an iPad as my computer has cracked it at me and… also because Brenton Canty has challenged me to a “blog post” race (pity this isn’t Strava because this might be the only chance I get at beating him).

Exceeding my own expectations
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Images by Verita Stewart – GoPro Hero 3+

So I have been hanging for Tour of Bright all year. Last year was my first ever stab at A grade racing with Total Rush and I finished within top 15 in a field of about 40, which I was pretty stoaked about. I actually wrote a blog about my experiences for Peloton Cafe, you can read it here. I spent the year looking forward to racing Tour of Bright  with the hope to improve my result.

I have had a big year – racing a full NRS season, had a change of teams and have been training my butt off with my super coach, seeing improvements here and there. I was starting this tour with a lot more kilometres under my belt, a new team and a lot more race experience than last year – that’s for sure.  So was hoping for a good result all round.

My lead up was good. My elbow has recovered from the TTT crash at Goldfields. I was rested.  I had two new stealth looking bikes which Total Rush had just built for me during the week. All that was left was to get to Bright and get on with it!

We had a full team here, though not an official team entry (we all supported ourselves to get here) we had some team goals and personal goals to achieve. The Super Coach was racing too, making her race comeback! My goal this year was to finish top 10, which the coach thought was achievable. Anna-Leeza wanted to give GC a good crack, Liz wanted to have a crack at the sprinters jersey and Soph and Jaz were in for a smash fest. Overall, we wanted to nab the team’s classification and work together to practice executing our race plans.

Day 1: 13.5km ITT  

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Image Verita Stewart

The TT was all that could be expected. 20 odd minutes of pain. It was the first ride on my new TT bike, so was nervous as to how I would do. I set out a little hard, and was probably pushing a bit above my average, but settled down into a rhythm and tried to keep my cadence high. After the roundabout I concentrated on keeping a steady pace up the climb. My legs were full of lactic and I was looking forward to the fast downhill section to spin the legs. Spin the legs I did. Nearly running out of gears ad trying to keep my power up. The final 2km was a slog. My legs were burning and all I wanted to do was get over the hill to the finish. Before I knew it, race over. Average heart rate 199 bpm. To my surprise I set a new PB, shaving 30 seconds off my time from the year before. What a start. I finished 11th. AL smashed it and nabbed 3rd possy. Soph was hot on my heels, as were Liz and Jaz! Time to recover and put our feet up.

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Full results here.

Day 2:  92km road race finishing on Tawonga Gap climb

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Racing VRS road race was a rude shock indeed. The bunch was very sketchy and we were confined to half the road. It has been a long time since I have raced in these conditions (NRS you have two lanes and full road closure) and I found it really hard to hold a position or sit comfortably in the bunch. I spent most, 90% of this race on the back of the bunch. The very back. I really only made an appearance at the front at the beginning of the climbs. The first QOM I rode in the gutter, over logs and gravel to get myself where I should have been. I was in such a bad mood. Stewing that I was doing such a crap job of holding my position.

The girls did a better job at holding a position than me, Soph and Jaz sat at the front and controlled the race, AL sitting in saving her legs for the climb and Liz priming herself for the sprints. The race wasn’t very eventful, just a few attacks here and there. Liz took some sprint points along the way. I was still on the back. I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t make it to the front in time for the final climb. But as we passed through the feed zone, Jaz appeared and pulled me back up to the front! Perfect timing.

With that help, I was able to enter the climb towards the front, with AL. The race was on from there. We sat at a solid pace until the hairpin, when I think Miranda attacked and strung us out. Her and Lucy Bechtel comfortably rode away leaving us all to chance. I just rode at a solid pace, passing people when I could. I caught up to Laura from Suzuki Brumby’s and Kate from Total Rush. We rode together for a little bit, until we got to about 2km to go we split up. My legs were burning… I just wanted to get to the top. Dreaming of peanut butter on rice cakes! Kate was hot on my tail, but I managed to come over the line, IN 3rd POSITION! I couldn’t believe it. My best finish ever! I was so happy. I exceeded all my own expectations. I didn’t think that I could finish on a podium. At all. High fives all round.

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Miranda won, followed by Lucy 2nd. AL finished top ten and the girls not far behind.

The rain came in on our ride back to Bright and pretty much stuck around until the morning.

Full results here.

Stage 3: 50km road race, shortened from the summit of Mt Hotham

WOWSERS. My legs hurt. We were on the start line, then Nekminute I was nearly dropped in neutral at 47km/hr. My god it was the fastest 25km I’ve ridden in a long time. It was a bunch smack down. I was hanging off the back in a similar fashion to yesterday. Again, the girls were doing a great job at the front. Liz nabbed the final sprint points too. I kicked myself in the butt and got myself to the front at the start of the Hotham climb, and stayed with the diminished bunch through the toughest section, The Meg. AL was there too. Along with all the usual climbers. There ended up being a bunch of about ten leading into the false flat section.

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We were all stung out patiently waiting to get to the toll booth, where the gradient kicked up for 1km before the finish. All of a sudden we were at the steep point, 1 km to go. Everyone else darted up the climb and I started going backwards. I was pushing all the power I had through those pedals and the girls just rode away into the distance. I finished 10th. Miranda won, followed by Kate and Lucy. AL finished 7th.

Full results here

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Image thanks to Jen Matthies

Exceeding expectations

Overall I finished 5th on GC. I exceeded all my own expectations at Tour of Bright. I did a better TT than I could have ever expected shaving off 30 seconds from last year. I finished 3rd in Stage 2 with my first ever A grade podium and top 10 on Stage 3 too.

It is very satisfying to know that my training and hard work has paid off for the past 12 months. I can’t wait to see what another year in my legs can bring me! Cycling is one of those sports where it never gets easier, you just get a little bit faster and a lot smarter. Thanks to my super coach for all her time and patience with me, because without her, I wouldn’t be here.

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Image Purdie Long

 

So Specialized Securitor finished 2nd on teams classification. AL finished 4th on GC. Liz got the sprinters jersey and Soph and Jaz rode their guts out all weekend. SC finished well in the bunch too. I’m so proud of the team worked together this weekend, a sign of things to come I think! What a massive start to the season.

Whats next you ask? Well, I’m going to eat some peanut butter on rice cakes… Then start looking forward to the Shimano Super Crit next weekend and then Nationals next month, it’s going to be epic!

A quick shout out needs to be had… Huge thanks to our sponsors, Specialized, Securitor FG, Capo and Adidas Eyewear who without we wouldn’t be as fast or as stylish as we are. Thanks also to Pro4mance Sports Nutrition for looking after me!

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All photos courtesy of Peloton Cafe unless otherwise stated. Images can be purchased here.

You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter @lowercasev or Strava Verita Stewart

What the hell are they talking about?

It has been a while since my last post. Since chipping my elbow at Goldfields Tour (you can read about it here), I have had some time up my sleeve to write things that I have been meaning to for a long time.

This post was inspired by a conversation I was having with a fellow cyclist about how the terms we use when explaining racing/riding are absolute jargon! They often mean nothing to the layperson.

So I’ve got together with my Specialized Securitor team mates and we have put together a list of terms that cyclists use, and what they mean…So here goes….

Being aggressive. When riders and/or teams constantly attack and/or ride hard during a race with the general aim to splinter the peloton or get in a breakaway. This is how you should ride the SKCC crits.

Bonking. When you effectively loose all energy in your body and fell like you are riding backwards. This is common when riders do not eat enough during a race. Used in the phrase, I’m bonking or I bonked.

Breakaway or the break. A break forms when a solo rider or group of riders attack the peloton, they form a group (or solo riser) that rides ahead of the peloton. They have broken away from the peloton.

Chasing. This happens when a break is up the road and a team or individual rider decides that they want to chase to bring the break back. Chasing also occurs if a rider attacks and riders chase them so that a break does not establish.

Chewing the handlebars . A term use to describe the feeling when you are completely in the hurt box, often focused on your Garmin, looking at the ground or in the general direction of your handlebars. I was climbing and chewing the handlebars in pain.

Chopping wheels. When a rider cuts sharply in front of your wheel. It can happen when a rider tries to fill a gap too quickly.

Creepin’: Underperforming despite best efforts, or when hungover. “urgh, I was creepin’ out there today”

Drafting. Is the art of sitting behind someones wheel. Riding directly behind someone is the most aerodynamic and efficient place to be. By drafting you can use up to 40% less energy than if you were riding in the wind.

Echelon. Is generally described as a long string of riders that are in a formation that shelters them from the wind. The front rider will pull off the front, towards the direction of the wind and make their way to the back.

Filling gaps. Self explanatory, if there is a gap in the peloton, fill it. Often gaps form in the peloton from riders moving round or dropping wheels. Not filling gaps is a recipe for getting dropped, because you are exposed in the wind and if the bunch surges, you have more distance to cover to maintain contact. Always fill a gap.

Getting dropped. The moment when you loose touch with the peloton and end up riding on your own.

Grupetto. The last group to make time cut. The groupide together to make time cut. Laughing bunch.

Lumpy course. When the race profile includes rolling hills and is essentially not flat.

Noodle arms. A disorder suffered by climbers when them move their arms around like noodles when climbing. If done effectively, the movement should increase torque and power when climbing, when not done effectively, you look like a noodle.

Head bobbing. Often a symptom of riders who are suffering in a race. They generally bob their heads and bodies to get power into their pedals from every part of their body apart from their legs. It is not very affective.

Using the convoy. If you are ever dropped from the bunch, it is important that you use the convoy to get back on. This generally involves motor pacing behind various team cars, resting then moving to the next one until you eventually make it back to the peloton.

Leading out. This is a tactic used by teams or individuals to set up a sprint. Riders line up and drive the pace, putting out a sustained effort before peeling off until the last rider is left to sprint for the win. This is an effective way of driving the pace in the lead up to a sprint.

Motor pacing back on. The art of using a car, motorbike or rider to draft behind with the aim to get back on to the bunch. I was paced back on by the team car.

Moving up. An important skill of bike racing. You must always move up the bunch/peloton. This will mean that you will always be riding towards the front.

Off the back. Similar term to that of getting dropped. When a rider loses touch with the peloton and is effectively off the back.

Back on. A term used to describe when a rider is off the back of the peloton and then manages to get back on.

Peloton or pelo. The group of riders racing.

Pile up. When riders crash in a pile on the road.

Pointing or calling at obstacles. If you can call or point to an obstacle on the road, do so. There is noting more annoying than hitting a pot hole at speed on your carbon rims. Be alert and courteous to the person on your wheel.

Pulling turns. When you are on the front (driving the pace) and pull off to let someone else continue the work, the cycle continues as each rider pulls off after pulling there turn. This enables a faster speed to be maintained as each rider puts in a hard short effort.

Pointing. Often used to take a wheel that you want without being obnoxious or aggressive. A simple point of the finger to indicate where you would like to go generally results in you ending up where you want to go.

Responding. This happens the moment after someone in the peloton attacks. The rider responds to chase, suck their wheel with the general goal to not let them get away.

Sitting in. The art of using the peloton to conserve your energy. Sitting in the middle of the bunch means that you are protected, out of the wind and using less energy than everyone else. She sat in all day and sprinted for the win.

Stealing a wheel. When someone is following the wheel you want in the peloton, you move to steal it from them.

Surfing the peloton. The fine art of navigating your way around the peloton. Done with grace and ease and always ending in the perfect position.

Splinter or split peloton. When the peloton is split up, usually as a result of an attack, chase, terrain, sprint point, wind etc. The peloton is splintered into smaller groups.

Up the road. A term that refers to riders, generally in a break, that have left the peloton and are up the road.

Up up up. A method of alerting the peloton to an attack. Not only is it incredibly annoying if someone says this when you are attacking, it is detrimental to your team if you foolishly call “up up up” when your team mate is attacking. Just don’t do it.

Washing machine. What happens to your position within the bunch when trying to maintain a position towards the front. You are churned around like a washing machine, one moment at the front, one moment at the side, one moment at the back.

The wheel. A term to describe a rider. I was on a good wheel when the sprint started.

Wheel sucking. When you follow the rider in front of you, drafting, and sucking their wheel as if your life depended on it. On a windy day, you will realise how important this art is. Drop that wheel and you will regret it.

Zig Zaggig. A movement across the road, generally used when you are on the front of a peloton and want to get off and everyone follows you not allowing it, when you are playing cat and mouse in the lead up to a sprint, when the gradient is way too steep to ride up in a straight line.

If I’ve missed any let me know and I’ll add them in!

National Capital Tour: the hardest one, but my best one yet

It was a quick turnaround between events. Before I knew it, we were in Canberra for National Capital Tour, the hardest Tour on the calendar.

I had spent the past 5 days between Amy’s Otway Classic and Nat Cap Tour recovering from the smash fest that it was, and stressing about my elbow, which still wasn’t 100%. One week had passed and I still wasn’t able to get on my TT bars without pain. With the first stage of the Tour being an ITT, I was worried that it would ruin my chases of a top 20 finish. That worry aside, we had a strong team, with little Claire, Jaz, Cass and Kimbers (her first race back after injury and wielding the home ground advantage) ready to put our climbing legs on for the weekend. Zeke tour master Mechanic and Super DS Bec were there to support us. It was going to be a great weekend of racing and consuming our weight in peanut butter, honey and bananas.

Day 1 – Stage 1, 17km ITT
We woke to a blue sky and zero wind. Perfect conditions for an ITT. Let’s just say that I didn’t have the most ideal time trial I’ve ever had. 1. My elbow was still sore and 2. I slightly misinterpreted the course map and veered left one corner too early. That cost me probably 30 seconds of braking, turning around and trying to get my speed up from the biggest-big-dog-big-ring possible. I spent the next 5km cursing myself and pushing 30 watts too many before I realised I was on the way to implosion. Which almost happened, after the turn around I was cooked. I had gone too hard to make up time and then was rapidly passed by another rider – they had managed to get 1 minute on me in about 10km. I managed to finish in 20th position. This tour had us starting at the crack of dawn, on one hand it was a pain because it was cold, on the other it was awesome because we had the rest of the day to relax. So we did just that. Spent the arvo packing our TT bikes back up, laying horizontal, consuming peanut butter and honey (on rice cakes) and preparing ourselves for Stage Two’s epic race.

In the end the victory was taken by Ellen Skerret (Holden Women’s Cycling), Bridie O’Donnell (Total Rush) and Alison Rice (Suzuki Brumby’s). Stage 1 results can be found here.
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PDitty Images

Day 2 – Stage 2, 120km road race, finishing on the Honeysuckle climb
5:00am and the alarm went off. Race start was at 7:30am and a balmy -1 degree. Claire had come down with a head cold and scratched from the race, so we were down to a team of four. This was going to be a hard day in the saddle for the following reasons: a) The race is 120km b) there are 7 QOM and sprint points c) There are 7 categorized climbs d) we climb 2500m of elevation e) There is a nasty hilltop finish after 10km climb… enough reasons?
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We did not have a race plan as such. It was going to be one of survival and for Cass and I to get to the bottom of Honeysuckle climb with the front group. There were a couple of climbs that could split the group along the way, including Mt McDonald and the Three Sisters so it was important to stay alert and stay with the group. We knew that there were some strong teams in Suzuki, Boss and Holden who would put the pressure on, the race would be on from the gun.

Almost cruely, 9km into the race was the first climb and the first QOM point. Yep. Feel that lactic burn. 10 km later I found myself off the front. On a solo stupidity mission, as the peloton let me dangle out like a carrot in front of a donkey, I was probably the donkey. They let me stay out there for enough time for me to pick up a sprint point, then was reeled in on Mt McDonald by a little Boss rider, then on the crest, the group got me too.

I can’t remember too much of the rest of the race. There were some attempts at getting away, we were covering everything we could. There was a nice dead section where Kimbers took the opportunity to go back to the team car to feed us. I felt so pro as she sidled alongside with a jersey full of bidons! Before we knew it we were at the pointy end of the race and tension was building. I was so busy pedaling that I didn’t even realize that we had already climbed over the Three Sisters. While we were sleeping, Lisa Keeling (Bicycle Superstore) and Emma Viotto (Suzuki Brumby’s) went up the road. Perfect. That meant that Holden would have to chase. We chased for the next few kilometers before the bunch launched into the bottom of the climb. Riders, including me, were being shelled.

I trailed off the front group of 15 or so riders who set a tempo too fast for me. Cass darted off into the sunset. Somewhere along the way we caught Lisa and Emma, and the predictable was playing out – it would be Ruth and Ellen 1 and 2. So I just kept riding,  picking off who I could. Gee Honeysuckle is a biatch. It has sections that feel like 20% and you start to feel like you are going backwards. I ended up finding a second wind and managed to crest the hill in 10th position and 11th on GC.

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It was a Ruth, Ellen and Alexandra Nichols (Suzuki Brumby’s) that rounded out the podium. Cass came in 13th, Kimbers 29th and Jas 29th. We were smashed. We spent the arvo in the hotel pool, eating and sleeping – wondering how the hell we were going to back it up with the double day which awaited us.

Stage 2 results can be found here. See the Peta Stewart video from Peloton Cafe here.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Day 3 – 80km road race around Lake Burley Griffin AND a 38km (brutal) criterium at Parliament House
We had nothing to lose today and everything to gain. We had a very clear game plan: 1. Be aggressive, attack and try and get in a break, 2. Take the win 3. Move me into 10th on GC. On the line we were tired, but so was everyone else. We had a job to do.

As soon as we were rolling we knew that it was on. The girls had a couple of stellar stabs at getting away, only to be chased down. Eventually, when Jess (Total Rush) launched, it did get away. Georgie (BikeBug NextGen) and our Jas joined her up the road and they rolled turns and got a lead of up to 1.20! Holden and Suzuki started to get on the front and bring them back with 2 laps to go. Race plan was going well. The girls stayed away for 80% of the race, taking every single time bonus along the way. As soon as they were absorbed into the bunch, Cass attacked again – just to keep everyone honest. At the pointy end of the race, Kimbers launched her way up to the front. I knew that the only way I was going get a few more seconds was to finish in the front of the group. So I did just that – moved up. There were a few corners leading in to the uphill sprint, Kimbers was in prime position and bam – sprinted for the win. I managed to finish with a few seconds up my sleeve and moved up to 10th on GC. Race plan achieved. I can’t describe the feeling of elation when you realise that your race plan has worked. We jumped around with excitement, with Zeke, Claire and Bec (who had been biting their nails in the team car all day) as the reality sank in. Kimbers WON! The girls did a great job responding and attacking. Jas spent most of the race off the front, came in 20th and Cass rode soooo well coming not far behind.

Watch the Peta Stewart video on Peloton Cafe here. Stage 3 results can be found here.
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PDitty Images
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Photo courtesy of Mark Walker Photography

Stage 4. Parliament house criterium
By the time we got to the criterium, we were all cooked. I was nervous as all hell. Unlike club crits, in the NRS if you drop off the back of a crit, you are pulled off the course and given an average time. I knew that to retain 10th on GC I’d have to finish the race. This course was hard, one side was uphill, one downhill. 40 laps, 38km. My legs didn’t want to do it. I had my usual pre crit combo of a gel and a can of V and I was as ready as I’d ever be.

The race was on. Just keep going, I looked up to see how far we were into the race… 5 laps… It felt much, much longer. 35 to go. I tried to stop myself from counting down and concentrated on staying towards the front. This was not working like I’d hoped. Ellen, Ruth and Allison Rice managed to break away on the first lap and the bunch was left, sort of chasing. Kimbers was on the front trying to rally more troops to bring them back. I tried and failed to join her every lap and pretty much stayed in a stagnant position. I was in the hurt box. There was no way I could have moved up, as much as I tried to go and help her. It ended up being like that for the rest of the race. As the laps counted down, half the field was shelled. I was still there. Just.  Ellen, Ruth and Allison rode their way to the podium. Race over and I looked down to see my Garmin, still at 0. I had forgotten to press start. Oh well, I didn’t really need it to tell me that my heart rate average would have been 200 and my watts very high.

Stage 4 results can be found here.
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hoto courtesy of Boss Racing

Race over and the mad rush began to get the bikes packed up and get to the airport. By the time we did do that, I was bonking big time. My legs were shattered, my brain was not functioning. I was relieved to get home, eat two bowls of muesli and pass out. I love going on tour and recounting what we ate – this one we consumed two jars of peanut butter and honey, 2 packets of rice cakes, 3L of milk and 10kg of bananas.

We finished 6th in teams. On GC I finished in 10th, Cass 13th, Kimbers 28th and Jas 32nd.  NCT certainly lived up to expectations. It is definitely the hardest race on the calendar. I’m so proud of the team. We worked so well together, we did our jobs, executed our race plans and had a great time doing it. And I had my first top 10 finish on GC. This was the hardest one, but my best finish yet! Can’t wait for the next race, the final one on the calendar, Tour of Goldfields. More peanut butter and honey, more rice cakes, more bananas…. and more gels.

Until next time. Get on your bike and ride it! (PS I finally took my throbbing elbow to the doctor, diagnosis…bursitis.)

Full results can be found here.

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Photos taken on GoPro Hero 3+ 

The Inaugural Amy’s Otway Classic

I’ve never participated Amy’s Gran Fondo. I’m not sure why. About 5000 other people do ever year.  It is touted as the best Gran Fondo in the world. On the weekend I had the opportunity to participate in something better. Amy’s Otway Classic. The favourite Gran Fondo of many was turned into a National Road Series race. It took advantage of the totally closed roads that the Gran Fondo allowed, giving us the best racing conditions of the NRS. Specialized Securitor had a 4 woman team, and the other big teams of the NRS were represented too.

My preparation was good. That was until I had a minor mishap on the Friday morning where out on a cruisy spin, I managed to put myself on the ground, taking some skin off and landing on my elbow, hard. No the GoPro was not involved. I spent the rest of the day strapped to a bag of peas, hoping that I had not broken anything. I kept telling myself that it was going to be ok, but I could tell that my arms lack of weight baring ability, that this elbow was going to be the issue.
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So my partner Purdie and I drove down to Lorne that afternoon and we settled in with my team mate Claire and Bec our Super DS at our accommodation. Our accommodation was conveniently located at the top of Everest, a 200m crawl at 19% was not ideal for both cars and bikes.
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Saturday morning I woke to a semi functioning hand and very tender elbow, but to my surprise, an incredibly sore body. It was the weirdest feeling, like I had been doing weight sessions all week, all my muscles were seized up and sore. Somehow I had a severe case of DOMS slowly emerging. I could barely walk down the stairs. That aside, a short spin was what the doctor ordered and we took the opportunity use our pro hours license to spin to Wye River for coffee. Ignore the elbow, spin the legs – that was all that was going through my head as we cruised along the Great Ocean Road. The scenery along here is amazing, we soaked up the sights with the knowledge that on Sunday, and we would be too busy chewing our handlebars to look up.
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Lucky my GoPro trigger finger still was working!

It was nice having the opportunity to relax before race day. Usually it is a mega rush, with a lot of running around.  This time Claire and I had time for a Aussie rules style dip in the ocean ate some delicious food and explored Lorne waiting for Cass, Jaz and Zeke to arrive.
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5:30pm came around quickly and it was soon time to blow the DOMs out of the legs and compete in Amy’s Wall, a 120m uphill sprint run by Cycling Tips. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a great idea considering how my body was feeling, but I wanted to show my support and boost the women’s numbers. It was sure a spectacle, with spectators lining the course cheering and people dressed up as super heroes. Lets just say that my effort was a bit of a fail. A combination of busted elbow, poor start and poor gear selection saw my chances of winning some cash get blown to pieces. Peta Mullens took the cash.
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That was that, time to head home and head to bed. Because we had a 5am wake up to look forward to and a 7:30am race start.
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We woke to this. Not a bad start to the day!

The race took us along the Great Ocean Road, then up the Skenes Creek Climb, down (ish) around to Deans Marsh, finishing on the top of Benwerrin. It was a route that I have done in the past, only the reverse. But one thing was for sure, there was not much opportunity for rest, as although you climb to the top of Skenes Creek, you still have to climb out of there, the decent after that is only short, but fast. Something to look forward too. Our race plan was simple, Jaz and Claire were going to help us get to the base of Skenes and Cass and I were to try and get ourselves over Skenes with the front group.

A relatively uneventful 40km began, hun “relatively”. It was quite uneventful in that we were just cruising along, responding to attacks and enjoying the rollercoaster terrain.  It was eventful in that were ended up doging the photographer’s camera which he smashed onto the road in front of the peloton and navigating around the crashed police motorbikes. We were preparing ourselves for Skenes Creek Rd climb, which was going to be the maker or breaker of the race. When my concentration lapsed and I found myself at the back, Jaz did a stellar job of moving me back up.

9km at average 5%, it did just that. As predicted, Ellen from Holden attacked, attacked, then attacked again and got away. A short time later, Ruth joined her. The 15 or so of us were left chasing, uphill, trying to get them back. I was absolutely in the hurt box. But I had my team mate Cass with me and she provided some good encouragement to snap me out of any negativity. I really didn’t want to get dropped, so just dug deep and began the process of slowly chewing through my handlebars.

By the time we got to the top of Skenes Creek, the pair up the road had a whopping 3 minutes on us. The race was not over there we still had to climb out of there, we weren’t treated to a decent until we reached Forrest. I managed to clock 86km/hr on that one. I’ve never reached that speed. Ever! Somewhere between Skeenes and Forrest, Bec Locke (Liv/Shimano) had attacked in an attempt to bridge over the Ruth and Ellen. Not long after, Bridie (Total Rush) bridged to Bec and we slowly, slowly, slowly worked to reel them in.

Suzuki Brumby’s had four team mates represented in our group and were getting organised trying to chase down the girls up the road. When the time blew out to about 4 minutes, that idea seemed impossible. Before we knew it, we were at Deans Marsh, and about to start the climb to Benwerrin. This climb feels like it has more down than up, with the last 2km pinching up to a steep gradient. This is where my legs decided to implode. As Bec attacked with about 1km to go, I managed to yell some encouragement to Cass and watch everyone else dart up the hill to the finish line as I began to go backwards. Cass finished in 7th, her best result of the season. I finished 16th, followed by Jaz and Claire in the 2nd group. I was cooked.
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Looking back, I did as much as I could in the race and stoaked to get Cass over the line in 7th. On the drive home I ate a packet of sour cream and chives rice thins, and then fell asleep mouth open. A quick trip to the hydro pool for some recovery, a massive dinner and I was asleep at 9:00pm.

The team did a great job overall and we’re all looking forward to Canberra Tour this coming weekend. Let’s hope the DOMs I’m suffering subside and my elbow heals itself quick smart, because Canberra Tour is going to be HARD.
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Sunshine, Prosecco and Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley

After a stellar three weeks holiday pedalling up the famous mountains of Italy and the Pyrenees, my body decided to punish me for returning to Melbourne’s dreary winter and I spent a uncomfortable 5 days in bed with a temperature of 40. One could say that I didn’t have the most ideal prep for the upcoming Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. But hey, by the time Friday rolled around I was back on my bike and was excited to be racing my first NRS tour with Specialized Securitor and not to mention we were racing in my home town of Wangaratta!

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

We arrived at Wangaratta on Thursday, after a detour via the airport to pick up my new team mates. We had a full team, Sophie, Ash, Cass, Josie and Jaz plus super DS Bec and super mechanic Zeke. We were here to race Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, a four stage race held over three days. It is arguably the best on the women’s NRS calendar, with a TT, crit and two road races.

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

The King Valley had certainly turned on the weather for Stage 1. It was blue skies all round. The TT was based out of Dal Zotto Winery and featured a 20.7km lumpy course. Bec our DS had set us our aims. Which were to ride hard, try to break into the top five. Pre race we had our bikes checked by the officials. Slight fail there with Josie’s and Cass’s Shivs not being UCI legal, so they had to ride their roadies and my tiny Transition needing its saddle put back 10mm – not going to be the best fit. The course was going to be a great one for inflicting pain, the rolling hills hurt the legs and the headwind home provided a bit of unwanted resistance. I was nervous about the TT. Mainly because I hadn’t been on the bike all week and was unsure if my legs and heart would handle 200bpm for 30 odd minutes. Nerves were channelled into the legs off the start ramp and I concentrated on keeping a solid pace. Nothing much to report along the way, my nose was running like a tap, my legs were heavy pushing too big of a gear and the headwind home made for a very snotty finish. Ash had a stomper of a ride, crossing the line in 2nd position and climbed herself into the QOM jersey. The team had three riders in the top 20. Thumbs up. Full results can be viewed here. 

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Photo courtesy of Jo Upton Photography

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

After the TT we packed up the bikes and headed to the next stage, a 38 km Crit (or rather a Kermesse) at the Wangaratta aerodrome. The laps were a long 3.3km, with two hotdog style corners, on a cheese grater surface that would make for interesting riding. Last year, the weather made this crit horrible as we raced in torrential rain and gail force winds. This year it was the exact opposite, relatively still and the sun was shining, perfect. We knew that this one was going to be an aggressive race, so that was going to be our objective. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The race was just that. Aggressive. Riders were going off the front, but no-one was letting anything get away. We were doing our best to cover breaks and attack when we could. It was a battle to hold position, like a washing machine that we just kept churning around in. I was struggling to hold my position – it was so frustrating getting squashed out around the corners and then having to spend the straight moving up. Nothing really significant happened for the entire race, apart from Josie getting a flat, and Cass and Jaz throwing some attacks into the fold. So we just prepared ourselves for a bunch sprint. We knew it would be critical to hit that last corner in top 5 positions to have a chance at the podium. So thats what we did, we got Ash around that final hairpin bend and bang, she battled it out for 4th. The rest of the girls finished with the bunch. Her result here meant that we held the QOM jersey, 2nd on GC and we are 2nd on Teams Classification. It was now time to go home, lay horizontal and consume as much peanut butter and honey on toast as our stomachs could handle. Full results can be viewed here. GoPro YouTube video of the crit can be viewed here.

We welcomed the later start for Stage 3, fitting in a 200m coffee ride and some time to bask in the sun. The 102km road race had 3 intermediate sprints, 3 QOMs and one 6km gravel section called the strade nero. This gravel section could potentially make or break the race, so our objective was to be aggressive on the climbs, and do everything we could to maintain 2nd on GC and in teams classification. We started off after neutral at a rather leisurely pace, only really ramping up after the first sprint point. We were all climbing well and made it over the first two QOMs comfortably. Somewhere over the QOMs a breakaway group of riders, including our rider Sophie ended up the road with a good amount of time on the main bunch. This was ideal, because Ruth was with us in the bunch and they were taking any bonus time points away from her. With the strade nero approaching, we made sure that we were at the front and started the climb at pace. Ruth had attacked and bridged over to the lead group of riders. Despite Ash’s saddle dropping and her having to pedal with her knees around her ears, we made it over the climb just behind the race leaders. We smashed the descent, a vast contrast to my descent the previous year… where I did a similar climb, only to get dropped on the descent. It was my mission not to do that this year. We formed a group of about 15 by the time we got to Whitfield, we rode the next 20 or so km together. Nothing exciting was really happening, the bunch kind of sat up. There were a few attacks here and there and we were responding when necessary. Gradually, the riders that were left behind on the climb, sorted themselves out and caught us. Most of the peloton were all together with 20km to go. Then we just went through the motions. As we got closer and closer to the finish, the bunch started to swarm and things got a little hectic. Unfortunately with 2km to go Sophie crashed. She hit the deck pretty hard. Before we knew it, we were sprinting for the line. Job done. As suspected, Soph had not only broke her collar bone, but shattered it. It was a huge day with mixed emotions for the team. Race wise we were very happy with the day and how we were riding, but sad to have lost Soph, she was riding so well! Full results can be viewed here.

Sam Miranda, NRS Womens RR Stg 43, 24/08/2014
Photo courtesy of Con Chronis

Stage four was an 86km road race, with two QOMs and not much time between Ash and Ruth (Holden Cycling), it was important for us to grab as many QOM time bonuses as possible to retain 2nd on GC. That was it. Our aim was clear. The race was aggressive from the start, with riders going off the front left right and centre. Early on as the rolling hills started, I managed to get myself in an early break with three other riders. That was short lived as we weren’t going to be let get away, we got reeled in soon promptly. That was going to be the going for the majority of the race. Attacking and catching. The first QOM was fast approaching and teams started to organize themselves towards the front. You could feel the tension brewing. The pace ramped up significantly in the lead up to the 1km to go sign, to prevent anyone attacking early and riders were launched into the climb. Our team all made it over with the group, with Ash sprinting over the top grabbing 2 points behind Ruth. This splintered the group somewhat. Though the bunch came together on the decent and we again were preparing ourselves for the next QOM. Again, the first 500m of the climb were fast paced, waiting for the inevitable attacks to happen. Making sure Ash was in position was critical because when Ruth kicked, Ash had time to respond and again managed to get 2 points behind Ruth. We crested the climb and the decent started. The next section was slightly downhill for 10 or so kms, so it was fast. Very fast. This is where an attack went and got away. A Bicycle Superstore rider Crystal, Boss and BikeBug-Next Gen rider Juzzy went into the distance. The next few kilometers the bunch cruised along, with various teams making an attempt to bridge over or reel the breakaway group in…until about 10km to go when the breakaway had a good minute on us and everyone seemed to panic. That’s when the pace started to pick up and the group started to chase.

Sam Miranda, NRS Womens RR Stg 43, 24/08/2014
Photo courtesy of Con Chronis

Fast forward a few kilometres and the bunch was sprinting for the line. The breakaway had stuck. The team all crossed it in the chase bunch, with only our bonus points in tow. Ash set herself up for the bunch sprint for 4th spot leaving 9 seconds between Ash and Ruth. Our job was done, we protected Ash’s 2nd place on GC plus 2nd place on Team’s Classification. Full results of the stage can be viewed here.

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The team all rode strongly this weekend, we had a good result, ate lots of peanut butter, drank lots of coffee, enjoyed the sunshine, had Prosecco showers and most of all, had fun doing the thing we love, riding our bikes. Fast. Though sad to have Soph injured with a confirmed broken collarbone, but that is racing and she’ll be back soon enough (actually she is probably on the trainer as you read this!).

You can see the full GC results here and the official gallery of images and videos here.

Finally I just wanted to say thanks to everyone involved in this tour and especially for supporting women’s cycling. The team and I really enjoyed racing the Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, it is one of the best races on the calendar. A huge thank-you goes out to Bec Domange our DS and Zeke Ashworth our mechanic for keeping us and our Amira’s in order. Also thanks to our legendary sponsors Specialized, Securitor, Capo and Adidas for getting us on the road in the first place.

Until next time, get on your bike and ride it.

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+ Vsport Australia

The final hoorah at Lake Como

After our little adventure in Bormio, we headed to Lake Como for some R&R – well that is what P thought we would be doing.

I wanted to cram in some more climbing. We pedalled a little, up the Madonna del Ghisallo, up a 17% average pinch called Mur di Sormano and even pedalled in Lake Como – a pedal boat. But we also ate ice-cream and pizza, and relaxed. Como was my favourite part of the trip, and was definitely the last hooray.

I don’t have many more words, so here are some photos instead:

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All photos taken on my GoPro Hero 3+ camera with LCD screen and all the attachments! #gopro #vsport. You can follow me on Instagram @lowercasev to see more photos.

 

Italy, where the real climbing began

It has been a while since my last update. I guess I’ve been having too much fun. I’m not going to say much here, I’ll try and upload some photos instead.

So we arrived at Bormio Tuesday hoping for the same sunny skies that we had in Nice.

Well, that was not going to happen. It was raining.

The Hotel that we were staying at, is where fellow Victorian cyclist Danielle Garden works as a bike guide. It was awesome to have a friendly face to pick us up from the station and spend the next 5 days with. Danielle holds most of the QOMs around these parts and is quite the climber. She had challenged me to beat Emillio, another tour guide up the climbs. I wasn’t so sure.

Our first day started in sun shine and ended in torrential rain and a 30km decent home.

Mortirolo and Gavia

Stelvio and Bormio 2000

130km Valley loop

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It was going to be baptism by fire.

Mortirolo and Gavia, a 100km loop with 3000 m of elevation and a climb that averages 10% for 14km. In terms of climbing, Mortirolo was going to be the most challenging. I was looking forward to it. One of our tour guides, Elmillio, a skinny little climber, that speaks no english, had challenged me to this one. I gave him a head start (only because I needed to take some clothing layers off)., then began the climb. This was the steepest climb I’ve done. Relentless gradient, that made the legs burn every stroke. You only couldhave one speed this climb. I had no gears left and my 28 was being used to its full capacity. I came within about 50m of Emillio with 1km to go. But he heard me coming and turned the gas on. I had nothing. I didn’t catch him. He won.I completed the climb in around 1.07. Not too shabby for my first go. The 2nd climb of the day, Gavia, I did with P. Half way up, the weather turned for the worst and we had a wet 30km decent home.

Stelvio was the next challenge. Arguably the most famous of the climbs in this area, it has 30 something switchbacks, 20km but a more manageable gradient of something like 8%. The cat and mouse challenge that Emillio and I were playing was on again. This time he gave me a 30 second head start. He only caught me as we were going through the tunnels, mid way up the climb, as I was bonking. I still had 10km to go. I got on his wheel, for about 1km. Then I was not. 2/3 of the way up, the gradient flattens off. I must have had my second wind, because I caught Emillio and overtook him. Going into the last 3km I had about 500m on him. He was hunting me down. 20m from the top he overtook me and we sprinted for the line. He won, by a tyre. But yeah, he did give me a head start. I climbed in about 1.25. After the Stelvio, we dragged ourselves up Bormio 2000, just to get some extra kilometers and elevation in.

The next loop we did was just a quiet 130km ride down the Valley, and up a small climb. It was a picturesque little look, where we passed through farm land, apple orchids and small towns whilst meandering along a bike path. Again, the weather turned and we had a pretty miserable 80km in the wet. The final 1/2 was up hill. We were happy to get home.

The other side of the Gavia was next. It was about a 14km climb, at 7% or so, with some tricky 14% sections, but also some flatter sections at 2-3%. This was going to be my chance to beat Emillio. He was feeling tired, and I was feeling ok. We started off together, I quickly rode away from him. And didn’t see him until the end. We sat in the bar, waiting for the others when the weather turned again. Thank god that Danielle had driven up to meet us with our clothes for the decent, instead we got in the van and got a dry lift home. This side of the Gavia is my favorite, it had heaps more to look at, was greener and the gradient  more enjoyable.

Our last day. Danielle’s day off. She took us up the best climb so far. Cancano. We cruised up, taking photos along the way. It was definitely the best climb so far. It was not long. It was not steep. But it was beautiful. Numerous switchbacks, tunnels, a lake and even ruins of a castle or something at the top. The view looked over the switchbacks we just rode up, and Bormio in the very distance. This was only a short day like yesterday, but definitely one of my favorites so far.

I swear that I have ridden more in the wet on holiday here, than I would have in Melbourne! That is for sure.

Huge thanks to Danielle for looking after us this week. What an awesome place to ride your bike, find more information on the hotel we stayed at here.

We’re in Lake Como now, for some supposed R&R. I think we’ll find ourselves some cool places to ride, as well as cool places to relax.

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All photos taken on a GoPro Hero 3+ camera, with LCD screen and all the accessories. #vsport #gopro.

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