Dealing with disappointment

It’s been months since my last post, I’ve been busy racing, managing illness and injury, working full time, writing my regular column for Cycling Tips Ella and doing some side projects for Bike Exchange. I thought it best that I give you an update on what’s going on in my life. Apologies in advance, I brain dumped this post – tried to be grammatically correct and coherent, yet full of emotion.

The second half of the NRS season has been run and won, unfortunately, my performances in these races has been for whatever reason, less than impressive. The last few months for me has been full of bad luck and disappointment. I have struggled to find positivity out of training and racing, and to be honest, they have been hard, really hard, both mentally and physically. It all really starts with the fact that I have also been sick too many times this year to count, I’ve had annoying injuries, and the latest, I got hit by a car (just when I was starting to feel good again). I’ve had more DNFs this last three months due to injury or illness than you can poke a stick at. In fact, they’re the only DNFs of my short career and all happened within a short 3 months period.

I’m not good at dealing with disappointment, even though I’ve been sick and injured, trying to rationalise what has been going on with me felt impossible. I was feeling out of my depth and frustrated at what was happening with me and my body. That I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted, I couldn’t train and race at my peak. Getting hit by the car, was just the icing on the cake. I sustained an injury to my lower back, which meant that I couldn’t ride at all for two weeks, and then lingered – it put me off the bike for longer than I wanted, put a huge dint in my training… it was just another thing that was holding me back. For all of you that know me, I’m impatient, I wanted to be fixed and better yesterday, and it was not working that way.

All these together, I had not had a solid block of training in my legs in months. Hampered by injury and illness, I’ve just rolled on, trying to be positive, hoping that everything would straighten out.

As an athlete, I strive to be at my best. To give everything I have and it is incredibly disappointing when I don’t perform or can’t for whatever reason. My expectations of myself seem to override any rational thought and as my coach reminds me often, I quickly forget legitimate reasons for under performing or not performing as I would have liked.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption. This explains so much of what has been going on in my life, why I’ve been constantly sick, why my race performances have been less than impressive, weight gain, frequently upset stomach and generally explains why I’ve been feeling like crap for some time now. This news is almost like a proverbial weight off my shoulders, relief that I have an answer for the way I’ve been feeling for a long time now. I’m seeing a dietician to help me with a plan going forward. I’m feeling really positive that a few dietary changes here and there will help me on the way to good health again.

Everything has straightened its self out, it just took time. My injury sustained after the car accident has settled down and after much soul searching and enforced rest (thanks coach), I’m back training.

I’m rolling along now, back on track. It’s been a two solid weeks of training, and you know what, it feels great!  My power numbers might be down, my lungs and legs hurt every training session, but do you know what… the pain is strangely satisfying!

I am coming to terms with everything that has gone on and feeling positive about the my changes in diet.Most sports nutrition (and delicious food) contains fructose, so cutting them out and finding alternatives will be challenging. So interesting times ahead whilst I try to manage this fructose malabsorption thing, that is another blog…

I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the past three months, dealing with disappointment has been one of them. I’m excited to work towards future goals.

Bring on the summer of cycling!

PS. Follow me on Instagram (@lowercasev) and watch out for some product reviews coming soon. I’ve tried and tested the new Specialized S-Works 6 women’s road shoe and some of the new women’s kits on the market from MaapRapha and Specialized.

Non-existent motivation and Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley

I’ll admit it; since returning from the US summer, to dreary old Melbourne, my motivation has disappeared. I’ve struggled for the past couple of months with finding any want to ride my bike.

The person I was – the rain, hail or shine rider – has slipped under the doona and lies somewhere with the odd socks that I’ve lost over the years.

For almost two months, I’ve dragged myself out of bed each morning (ok ok I’ve hit snooze a couple of times), reluctantly put every layer of clothing on, and scraped myself through trainings sessions.  Fair to say that I have had to top up my Myki card more times than I did the last financial year, which is money I could have spent on cycling accessories!

Thank god for Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley (TOKV), it was the light at the end of the bad weather vortex. Over the last few weeks it has made me drag myself out of bed and scrape through those sessions. Knowing how tough racing would be if I didn’t put in the hard yards.
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TOKV is my favourite race of the year.

I first raced TOKV three years ago, with Cycling Victoria Development Team. It was my first race at the NRS level, the race that got me hooked on NRS racing. Here I am, three years later, lining up with Specialized Securitor, just as excited and nervous as that first race.

This year the racing was everything I expected and more. I must say, the level of the NRS has increased and we faced hard and fast racing for three days straight.

The courses had changed this year, with a shorter ITT, a downtown crit and a new road race course for Stage 3.

Stage 1 ITT was a bit of a fizz for me, I couldn’t find my rhythm and wasn’t really happy with my time.

Stage 1 Whitfield TT 9kms Tour Of The King Valley.  Sat, Aug.  2015. Photo: Con Chronis
Stage 1 Whitfield TT 9kms Tour Of The King Valley. Sat, Aug. 2015. Photo: Con Chronis

I was particularly looking forward to the Stage 2 Crit. I was keen to test my legs and apply the skills that I have learned racing crits in the U.S. The added bonus, Wangaratta is my home town and was keen to race in front of a home town crowd, friends, girlfriend, coach and family supporting me on the streets I grew up.

Stage 2 Dockers Street Wangaratta Criterium Tour Of The King Valley.  Sat, Aug.  2015. Photo: Con Chronis
Stage 2 Dockers Street Wangaratta Criterium Tour Of The King Valley. Sat, Aug. 2015. Photo: Con Chronis

Stage 2 was awesome! The team had a great race, setting up Sophie for the sprints and countering each sprint lap. It scored me most aggressive rider, my first NRS jersey! The result made even sweeter because it was in front of everyone that I love in my life. It ended up a fast one indeed, 40km/hr average thanks to sprint laps every three laps. It was very similar to U.S. racing in that regard, though cash primes would be great along with time bonuses (haha).

It wasn’t in just the crit where my team rode well, we had a great tour across all stages. The racing was hard, fast and tactical, and we performed well as a cohesive unit. We hit all our team objectives and ended up in teams classification jerseys too.  Stage 3 and 4 was hard, fast, and tactical and the team performed as a solid unit, it was awesome to be a part of.
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There’s nothing like a confidence boost to try to snap you out of the winter blues, though, it’s raining right now and I haven’t ridden my bike all week. Lucky it’s my rest week and I can get away with it.

Next focus is Amy’s Otway Classic in two weeks’ time. It will officially be spring and I can’t wait.

Has anyone else found this winter particularly hard?

All results can be viewed here. My Strava files from the weekend here.

Women's Stage 3 Strade Nero Road Race 106kms Tour Of The King Valley.  Sat, Aug.  2015. Photo: Con Chronis
Women’s Stage 3 Strade Nero Road Race 106kms Tour Of The King Valley. Sat, Aug. 2015. Photo: Con Chronis

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All photos courtesy of Con Chronis and can be purchased here.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @lowercasev.

Thanks always to Specialized Securitor sponsors. Securitor Financial Group, Specialized Australia, Capo Cycling, Adidas Eyewear. Also to Pro4mance Sports Nutrition and Strava Cycling.

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!

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

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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

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

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+