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

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

Mansfield Crit and Mt Buller Road Race

Regular readers of The Climbing Cyclist will know how far I have come in my short cycling career. Thanks to a lot of great mentors and supporters, some awesome opportunities, a great Team in Total Rush and… a lot of hard work, too.
The hard work seems to be paying off. I’ve been training consistently for about 12 month now with my Super Coach and feeling great because of it. With two new signings in Kate Perry and Emma Scott, our Total Rush team is looking as strong as ever.

Verita does a turn of pace on the front of the breakaway.

This year is going to be a big one, with the Mt Buller Road Race the second on the VRS Calendar. My lead up to the Mt Buller Road Race was looking good. That was up until about two weeks ago, I was feeling super strong on the bike. I had some success during the last race of the Femme Vitesse crit series, where I picked up the most aggressive rider, laps leader and 3rd overall in GC (you can read about it here )… And although I has not trained specifically for it, I completed Three Peaks, in a time just under 11 hours (you can read about it here ) where my legs were feeling fantastic throughout. So I was looking forward to a strong performance in the looming Mt Buller Road Race.

My good feeling were short lived. Two weeks ago, I somehow acquired a nasty virus, that put me in bed for a solid three days and suffered what some called “post viral” fatigue for another week. I was a disappointed to say the least. I was itching to get on the bike, but my body would just not let me. Everyone told me, “I had to listen to my body”, and I did, I got back in bed. Cadel’s secret, sleep, was going to be my friend.

One week out, I mustered up the courage and got on the bike, and my legs felt like led. I felt like I was riding on 60 psi tyres. I went from feeling as strong as ever, to struggling to put out 100 watts along Beach Road.

I always place a lot of expectation on myself when racing, and this time was no different. Last year I came 4th in the Mansfield Crit and I won the Mt Buller Road Race, albeit in C grade, but wanted to prove myself and do well again. So my lead up to the race was not as I imagined it to be. My mind was saying yes, and my body was saying no. I had a goal of finishing top 5 before getting sick, now I doubted my ability to achieve top 10.

It was race day. After a pedal with the girls in the morning, I was feeling okay. I nervously lined up with my team mates Kelly and Kate, ready to go for the Mansfield Crit. There weren’t the starters that I had hoped for. I’m not sure why? There were plenty of A grade spectators on the sidelines, cheering us on! We lined up with 11 others all the same and got on with it. Our plan was to be aggressive. With three of us from Total Rush represented, there was a good opportunity to test our team tactics.

The course is quite fast considering how technical it is, with a left, right, right, left, right, right, roundabout, left, left… essentially a three sided short hotdog circuit, I was in the hurt box from the gun. I’d say that the race itself was fairly un eventful. With a break away of four establishing almost straight away, with Lizzie Williams (Specialized Securitor), Lauretta Hanson (Building Champions Squad) and Shannon Malseed (Holden) all pushing the pace from the gun. There were a couple attacks on our group of four, but we pretty much stayed together until the final corner, where the sprint started and I was left behind. There was no way that I could take on Lauretta, Lizzie and Shannon, who finished in that order. Not a bad result, my legs were definately awake now! (see the strava file here )


Finish line photo from the crit

That evening whilst we ate dinner we all sat down together and discussed the looming race . It was Kate’s first road race since taking three years off to study and it was Emma’s first A grade race after a dominating performance in B grade at the Tour of East Gippsland. This was going to be a short race, about 2 hours and 47km. The final 16km would suit the climbers of the bunch, with the gradient at about 6%. We were all feeling good, excited to be racing together for the first time.

It was a cold start on Sunday morning for the Road Race. Kelly, Emma, Kate and Myself lined up with 30 other ladies, all wishing we had worn our long finger gloves.  I had a pretty ordinary sleep the night before, and was feeling a bit fatigued after yesterdays efforts, and my legs were not feeling as fresh as I’d hoped.


Sucking up to Scotty McGrory

After a few attempts by various riders, including myself, Bike Bug-Next Gen, Holden and Hampton Cycles, it was apparent that no one would be allowed to get away. We rode almost two by two for the first 35km, Bicycle Superstore had a rider sitting on the front controlling the pace, and I sat towards the front (where I probably shouldn’t have been). Meanwhile Kate, Kelly and Emma sat in, ensuring they were a good position to start the climb.

As the toll booth loomed, the mood in the bunch changed and the pace picked up. It was on. The tempo was kept high as we climbed, which prevented early attacks. I kept turning around to see where the rest of the team were positioned, I could see Kate’s helmet bobbing around, tucked in behind Tessa. At the half way point of the climb, there were still about 16 riders together, Building Champions Squad, Bicycle Superstore, Holden, Hampton Cycles, Lizzy Williams and Tessa Fabry were all there, in the bunch… until about 4km to go.

It was getting late in the game, we were hardly going to have a sprint finish at the top… so I was nervously listening for the tell tale change of gears and the jump of the bunch. As soon as a lul in tempo came, the almost predicable happened, someone attacked. The attack went, it was Tessa Fabry, with our new rider Kate, on her wheel. I was too slow to respond, but others including Lizzie, Flick (Bicycle Superstore), Georgina Beech (BikeBug NextGen) and Shannon were quick to follow.

From then on the bunch of 16 was no longer, with a group of 6 or so up the road, myself and everyone else chasing. In the end, it was Lizzy Williams 1st, Tessa Fabry 2nd, and Kate Perry on the podium for Total Rush in 3rd! I managed to hold on to a top 10 finish in 7th place, with Kelly and Emma not far behind. Great team work saw Kate on the podium, can’t wait for more of that to come! (see the strava file here )

So despite not having the lead up I would have liked, I’m happy with how both the crit race and the road race turned out. I finished top 10. I was certainly not expecting that result, at all. Seeing Kate on the podium was awesome result for the team! That girl can climb! In hindsight, I probably spent too much time on the front as usual. The usual fears of getting dropped the main driver for me, especially considering how my legs were feeling. I think I need to get my top tube sticker back to remind me “get off the front grasshopper”. I’m working on it.

It is time for a rest week, after which I’m looking forward to feeling 100% again and to having a better lead up to the next race on the calendar, Mt Baw Baw Road Race.

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

"Get off the front, grasshopper!"