Three goals, embrace the change

I woke up to a familiar sound this morning. Is was the distinct buuuurrrr of the wind trainer in full time trail mode. It was a strange thing, because, for a change, it was not me that was making a racket. It was not me, red faced, sweating all over the carpet. It was Purdie. Instead of getting on my bike, or the trainer… I was off to the gym. Something that I am slowly embracing – all to kick the three goals for 2015 that my coach set me in the butt… Let’s see how I go – embrace some change.

Goals for 2015 as set by the Super Coach…#1 improve my strength and core strength, #2 embrace time off the bike and #3 improve my concentration.
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#1. The fact that I’m a relative newbie to cycling and coupled with the fact that I don’t have a sporting background means that my general strength and core strength is lacking. A lot. I bob around on the bike worse than anyone I know. Not very efficient. That’s why I have been embracing the gym and why I’m wearing ankle socks. I’m actually quite enjoying it. The gym is a different kind of challenge for me. Like cycling, I like seeing the improvements each week, I like the satisfaction I feel when I complete a set or go up a few kilos in weight. Just like doing a new watt pb on the bike. I’m putting in the time at the moment in the gym, so I’m hopeful this improves with time!
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#2. Now I’m in the gym more, I’ve backed off the specific training that I had been doing. No more early morning wind trainer sessions for me, and not as many hill reps. I’ve had to embrace my rest days, and… actually rest. In the past, my rest days would still involve a 30km commute to work by bike. I’ve had to replace this with catching public transport. Cringe. I hate PT. It takes me longer to catch the train to work than it does to ride, plus it costs me money and my sanity! This aside, I am embracing my rest days and time off the bike… For me, it is all about routine… I’ve now started to walk to the station, stopping to smell the roses, a coffee and enjoy some people watching. It is doing me good in the long run… Even if I go a little batty.
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#3. People that know me will understand how hard #3 is for me. I’m fidgety. I struggle to concentrate on one thing at a time. I can’t even watch TV for longer than 10 minutes! I get too distracted. Getting distracted and not concentrating are all things that can be your downfall as a cyclist. Get distracted = miss the winning break. Don’t concentrate = lose time in a TT. Short of doing a Sudoko puzzle every day to train my brain, I’m working on it. Learning to focus and concentrate. Let’s just say that of all these things, this is going to be the hardest for me and new years resolution. I’m not sure how to measure it though…maybe if I can watch a TV show from start to finish?

Bring on the rest of 2015! I’ve had a flying start with lots of racing over summer… Now to get prepared for the rest of the season with even more things happening on and off the bike.

I won’t be at Adelaide Tour this year, but will be ready to get my climbing legs on for Mersey Valley Tour at the beginning of May.

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

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Going backwards at Oces

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Small lesson to be learnt. a) sunscreen applied at 5:45am wears off well before the 8am race start. b) should reapply when packing bikes in the searing heat.

I wrote this last night whilst sitting on the plane home from Brisbane, rather cooked. For me it was a whirlwind visit to race Oceania Championships in Toowoomba, QLD. I arrived Saturday and flew home Sunday. It was my first Oces, a 105km hilly road race, from all reports, I knew it was going to be a hard race. It certainly was that.

So, I’ve had three hours to sit here at Brisbane airport, to reflect on the race and how it all went backwards. Reality is, I know how. I went in the race feeling cooked and ended the race feeling cooked (literally and figuratively). My recollection on the race isn’t as exciting as those that finished ahead of me. My race involved going backwards, getting dropped and a lot of grovelling…I just about chewed through my handlebars.

As predicted, it was windy and hot. Our first lap was tame, we were all kind of looking around at each other, sussing each other out. I was concentrating on keeping a good position in the tiny field of 24, whilst wondering when my legs would come good. There were a few aggressors that made the race a little more interesting. It seemed like everyone was taking a stab at an attack, one would go, get caught, another would go, get caught…Nothing really stuck though.

Ultimately it was an attack at the pointy end of the 2nd lap that splintered the bunch… and that’s where it all went wrong for me… I started to go backwards… pretty darn quickly. I was off the back, but I could see two riders in the distance that had been dropped too, so I focused on catching them. It would be way easier to do the last lap with some companions, share the load so to speak. The three of us grovelled our way through the windy dead roads for the final 35km and that was that. Race over. Cooked. I finished +17:10 behind the winner.

In the end it was the final climb that decided the race, with Lauren Kitchen, Lizzie Williams and Katrin Garfoot taking the podium. Jenelle the little superstar got top 10 position, and 3rd in the U23 classification. Full results can be found here. My Strava file here.

The thing is, going backwards in a field of 24 is a pretty awful feeling. In a small pelo like that, you are either on the front or on the back. So I was on the back, then off the back in a matter of seconds. There is no mid bunch to sit in, or to filter back through, there is nowhere to hide or scramble back on to. My legs didn’t have anything today, they never came good. I pretty sure I left them on Mt Donna Buang. (I must remember to go back and collect them).
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All of a sudden, it is Monday. I’m burnt to a crisp, sitting back at my desk, dreaming of riding my bike up hills.2015/02/img_7366.jpg Photo: Cycling Australia

Everesting. Yep, we did that.

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Photo: @fairflyer

The call up
I certainly didn’t expect to be planning an Everesting attempt when I got the invitation from Laura Wilson from Specialized Australia to catch up over coffee little over two months ago. What she proposed to me over that coffee seemed madness, but something not totally off my radar. She asked me to represent Specialized in a little Everesting attempt that Hells500 were cooking up. There was no expectations for me to participate, it was merely an offer. My eyes lit up.

I have been following the Eversting craze ever since Andy van Bergen from Hells500 set it up back in September 2013. I’ve been attending Andy’s Hells500 Tuesday #RFWYA rides for a while now and following the stories of many others who have completed their Everests. The proposal Laura and Hells500 had put in front of me was outstanding – how could I not be involved. 25 women + Mt Donna Buang, 8848m, the largest group everesting on record all to inspire, motivate and encourage female cycling around the world that anything is possible. I immediately said “yes”. February 7th at 11:59PM we were going to begin our Everesting attempt of Mt Donna Buang, 25 women attempting in solidarity, but all riding together to climb Mt Everest. The date went straight into my race calendar, I would clear it with the coach later!

The prep
The enormity of what Andy had planned for the 25 Everesting women didn’t really kick in for a few days. I began researching what Everesting Mt Donna Buang would involve – 300km, 8848m elevation, 20hrs+ in the saddle. The good thing was that I didn’t really have the time to dwell on the details too much. I was too busy racing my bike. For those that follow my blog will know, Specialized Securitor had a very busy summer schedule. January went by in a blur of Bay Crits, Nationals, Santos Womens Tour in Adelaide and Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. The bad thing was that I wouldn’t get much, actually ANY, endurance training in the legs at all. The furthest I’d ride in the lead up to the Everesting attempt would be racing Cadel’s race the weekend before. So as far as physical prep, I didn’t really have much. While I focused my physical and mental energy on racing, it was only the week before (once racing was over) that I had time to think about things properly.

For me, the most important part of the ride was my clothing/equipment choice and what I would be shoving in my mouth for fuel. They were the two things that were key to Eversting success. I spent the week leading up to the event writing lists, charging lights and getting my gear together. Laura had organised a Specialized care pack for me, which included some clothing for all occasions and some prettly slick high power Flux lights. The next thing that I had to organise was my nutrition. From what people had told me, it was all about real food. As much as possible. So that’s what I did. On the Friday I spent the day baking fruit cake, making sandwiches and picking bananas. I think I was sorted. Too many clothes and too much food. Check.

Excitement was brewing as word got out about the event. Andy had organised a Domestique ride on the day so that the community could come to support by riding a lap or two with us. The women, from all walks of life, chatted excitedly on our Facebook group and rallied our friends and family to support us on the day. Before I knew it, it was 10PM and my partner Purdie and I were driving out to Warburton. Purdie was going to ride the first few night laps with me, then go off to assist the Start Foundation fundraising BBQ she had organised, then re-join me in the afternoon. I had friends coming to roll laps throughout the night and day, so I was never going to be alone. The fact that I was never going to be alone, made the whole thing way more palatable. As Purdie and I chatted about the pending epicness it became apparent that Purdie could actually Everest too (we had friends that could manage the BBQ)… We got to Base Camp at about 11PM to a massive crowd of riders and supporters, we unpacked our bikes and food and soaked up some of the atmosphere. It was buzzing, a mixture of excitement and nerves. A little whisper to Andy and Purdie had her name added to the rider sign on board and it was official,  she was doing it too! That grey stripe we often talked about, we were about to earn together.

The day/night
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The crew on the start line.

Lap 1. Our Garmin’s were started at 12:01am and we were off, pockets full of food. It was a balmy 17 degrees at the summit, quite humid, but perfect weather. Dressed in short sleeves, we rolled into the darkness, beginning our first lap into the unknown. The group stayed together for most of this lap, chatting away, full of energy. It naturally broke up as people climbed at their own pace. We needed a strategy to get through the monotony of 9 laps and had planned to break it down into bite sized chunks to allow us to get through. 3 blocks of 3 laps, with a short break in between seemed the best way for us to get through. This meant that we would break as it got light at approximately 6:00am. Purdie and I rode in relative silence for the first lap, concentrating on the road in front of us, getting used to riding in the darkness and enjoying the peaceful surrounds. The decent was a little scary, buy we had high power lights that were shining the way. There was a huge sigh of relief when we completed the first lap, simple because we did it. It was possible.

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Rolling into the darkness for the first time.

Lap 2. The second lap I was feeling sleepy and hungry, it was time to eat some food. It was just gone 2am, a time where I would very much be asleep. Again, I concentrated on the road in front, turning the pedals. I checked my phone at the top and saw a welcome message from my friend Luke. It said:  “I’m 20 minutes away, see you at the bottom”. I couldn’t believe it. It was 4am now and we weren’t rolling a lap alone! Lap 2 video here.

Lap 3. Having help at lap three was just what we needed to keep us awake, someone new to talk to and distract our droopy eyes. It was just starting to get lighter as the sun rose between the trees. The sky was turning a beautiful rose colour and we began to see our fellow everesters, passing up and down the mountain on their respective laps. I couldn’t stop smiling, it was perfect. It was a magical time of the morning and a time at which Purdie and I were hanging for our 1st proper break. We arrived at the bottom to be greeted by our next two helpers, Bec and Tanya. They all waited patiently whilst Purdie and I filled our water bottles, pockets full of food and put on a new set of lower power lights – the sun was up!
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All good

Lap 4. We were feeling much slower at the beginning of lap four. We had lapped the first three in just under two hours, this lap seemed slower. We couldn’t really complain, Bec had forgotten her cycling shoes and was to ride the next lap with us in her runners. Now that is dedication and a true sign of friendship and support! With the new help, we were a group of 5 and we chatted away, passing the time quickly. Descending this time was a lot different, we had full visibility as it was now around 8AM.  We could see the massive trees and ferns – absolutely beautiful. As we climbed there was a constant exchange of waves and an encouragement yell to the women we passed! The time was flying! Luke left us after this lap, only to be joined by more friends – David, Martin and Grace. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Photo @fairflyer and @fameandspear

Lap 5. Our group had grown again. We were a group of six at lap five. I was feeling the pinch at this stage, we had  been in the saddle for six hours or so and feeling rather weary. Here we did split up a bit, which didn’t matter. We waited for each other every few kilometres. I mean, Purdie and I were in it for the long haul. We were going to ride it together. Our helpers were fantastic at riding at our pace, not once did I get half wheeled or felt pressured to ride faster! We had some fun along the way with Ron and Andy who were taking some photos… Before we knew it, that was that. We were about to descend, ready for lap six. The final lap of our second set. 15618_10153094182473258_3315477707437790933_n
Just waiting for some mates.

Lap 6. We started lap six feeling weary. Though Bec, Tanya, Dave and Martin had left us, we were joined by our other friend’s Bec and Sam. This would be by far the hardest lap for Purdie and I. This one felt like a never ending grind to the top. Each pedal stroke hurt. I just wanted to get to the top… I knew that the sooner that I got there the sooner that it would be over. I ended up riding the second half solo, whilst Purdie rode with Bec and Sam. Purdie was hurting. I felt bad that I had left her. But I needed to get to the top. For my sanity, and hers too. The last three kilometres of the climb are the worst, I felt like I watched my garmin like a hawk as each metre passed by. The relief I felt when I crossed that mark at the top was amazing. It was only a 25 minute decent to our next big break. As I waited at the top, I got a text message from Purdie. She needed food and I had just eaten my last piece of fruit cake. I felt terrible that I didn’t have any, so I scrounged a banana from a stranger (thankyou) and rode three kilometres to where she was to deliver it. Purdie got to the top and we decended like mad women to Base Camp, sat in the room and ate everything in sight. Without stopping for breath I ate two sandwiches, two pieces of fruit cake and smashed a can of lemonade. We sat there on the floor, looking at each other, not speaking a word for what seemed an eternity. Once we came to, we laughed. I think that’s what bonking feels like! We filled our water bottles and with new energy in our legs, we set off once again. 1454606_10153094182553258_6568630474620730341_n
Questioning life

Lap 7. It was 2pm and the Domestiques had began their support ride. As we rode, we bumped into our friend Monique, who we rode with until the top. She was a welcome distraction and set a perfect pace for us to follow. She provided much welcomed inspiration with her epic stories of racing across America. Lap seven flew by, a combination of distraction and excitement that the end was near. We knew that after this lap, we only had 1.2 laps to go! Purdie and I had a good laugh at each other this lap. Laughing at the fact that we managed to let ourselves bonk in such a manner and also at the fact that we were nearly there. We were nearly at the end! There were so many supporters on the road at this time who rode with us for various amounts of time. Everyone was excited and we were smiling from ear to ear! There was a huge crew at the bottom at this stage, Janet was handing out baked goods and heaps of people cheering us on…One more lap. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Food thanks to JK

Lap 8. Our final full lap. We were so excited for this lap. Joined by our Wednesday crew, Manni and Bec (again), we smiled from the top all the way to the bottom. We were smiling, but our legs were screaming. I felt like mine were on fire. I had been grinding away at an average cadence of 60 for just about 15 hours now. I was starting to fatigue both mentally and physically. The distraction that Bec and Manni provided was an amazing help in getting us through. Seeing our fellow everesters pass us on the decent for their respective laps was encouraging too, everyone was so happy with the knowledge that it was almost over. We had almost completed our Everesting.  As we approached those final 3km I could see a familiar car in the carpark up the road. It was my friend Meg. She had driven all the way from Melbourne to see me come past on my final lap. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt at this moment. I stopped and gave her a sweaty hug and she pushed me off up the final 3km. I can’t thank her enough… Purdie and I had a little hug when we reached the top. We had done it. Only 0.2 of a lap to go. We signed the board for the final time and sluggishly accelerated off up the Mt Donna Buang climb for the final time. 10665830_10153094182688258_8512311464232267535_n
The Wednesday crew ft. Andy van Bergen

Lap 0.2. This was it. We had just under 4km to go. I had mixed emotions – so happy that the end was near, and utter relief that the end was in sight. Those 4km ticked the slowest of the whole day. We turned the pedals in sync, going so slow we were almost going backwards. We were cooked. We crossed the line together, breathed a sigh of relief, high fived and decended that bad boy (or girl) for the last time. At the bottom there was a crowd, cheering us on. Purdie and I proudly signed the board for the final time. 7:59PM. Doneski. 1925293_10153094182898258_2322567944719081057_n
Signing off at the end of a long 20hr day.

The end.
What an unforgettable 20 hours we had on that mountain. Sharing this experience with a group of women from all walks of life, levels of experience and all with different stories to tell. Although we all rode in solidarity, we rode together with the ultimate and almost unthinkable goal achieved – we Everested. There were some that didn’t get to the end, but they fought hard to get there and tried their god darn hardest. I hope that our feat has inspired and encouraged women to dream, believe, push themselves, and ultimately get a bike and ride it. I have raced many hard races in my short cycling career, this was the hardest thing I have done on the bike up until now. We waved goodbye to Donna at 9:30pm. We stopped off and demolished a pizza on the way home, and I vowed never to do that again… (well, for this year anyway).

The Thanks.
Thank you so so much to all those that came out and supported me, both on and off the bike – you know who you are. Thanks so much to Andy (and Tam) from Hells500, to the Warburton Community. Thanks to Specialized for giving me the opportunity to be an ambassador – representing Specialized women around the world. Thanks to my team Specialized Securitor for supporting me and our sponsors, Specialized, Securitor Financial Group, Adidas Eyewear and Capo Cycling. Thanks to my super coach for letting me do this crazy thing… and finally, thanks to Purdie who supported me wholeheartedly in the lead up to the everesting attempt and at the last hour decided to join me on the road. I’m not sure I would have been able to do it without you. Couples that Everest together, rest forever together! (we didn’t even argue once, although we did get a little hangry at 9:00pm before we ate pizza). Pro photography thanks to Ron @fairflyer and Andy @fameandspear.

On a final note, Purdie and I wanted to make this ride something special and give something back to the cycling community. We want to dedicate this ride to raise money for START Foundation, Ride for the Adelaide Hospital which Purdie is participating in April. If you have a spare few dollars, please head over to their website using this link and donate to Purdie Long. 10414451_10153094182748258_6302043880185292974_n Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Photo: @fairflyer and @fameandspear 10957870_10153094182423258_8384640522242849205_n 10394007_10153094182643258_3405773721673019633_n Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Photo: Grace Phang

The stats (my stats)
Everesting check my Strava file here.
Distance 283km
Elevation gained 8848m
Moving time 17:05:06
Average cadence 62
Average speed 16.6km/hr
Average power 103w
Calories 7040
Temp average 16C
Elapsed time 20:03:00
Suffer score 394
Friends – many
Non riding friends – 1
Food
1 peanut butter and jam sandwich
1 vegemite sandwich
1 avocado and cheese sandwich
3 bananas
8 slices of fruit cake
2 cans of lemonade
 and much much more

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.
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.
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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.
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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!