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!"



Wowsers, I think I’m a climber

Caution of language my mother would not appreciate

My attempt to get serious about cycling has started.

I’ve got myself a coach, training program, race calendar, some great mentors at Total Rush – so here we go – let the seriousness begin at the first event of Cycling Victoria’s Road Series: The Mansfield Criterium and Mt Buller Road Race.

Righto so game plan? Kind of. I’m the biggest culprit for being too enthusiastic and wasting energy on the front. I’ve got to stop it, reign it in. So my one job given to me by Bec Domange, my coach extraordinaire was “Get off the front, Grasshopper!”. Great in theory, but everyone knows I have a shit memory…so I’ve printed it on my bike, to assist in my memory efforts. Subtle reminder hey!?

Photo Credit: Murray Payne

Mansfield Crit
As usual, I had the mega jitters. C grade was scratched so I was lumped in B grade and it was my first race in Total Rush kit (very happy) …if all that did not make me nervous enough – the heavens opened and it pissed down rain about an hour before the start, now the stupid shape course (like a hotdog, with an outgrowth) was wet. Phew, lucky I had my fabulous TR team mates in Bridie O’Donnell and Liz Hall, and my HCC team mates in Deb Richards and Manuella Marasco to keep me calm!

As Deb, Manni and waited on the start line in B grade (Bridie and Liz in A) all I could think was ‘get off the front’…And I did. It was a tough, fast race, and with a crash early in A grade, we were all a little rattled early on. The corners were wet, and tight, and one with a speed hump in the middle. It was a challenge of bike skill more so that strengh in a lot of the race. Who could corner the best? My confidence grew.

The final sprint
Photo Credit: Jo Upton Photography

Deb did a great job and kept the pace fast on the front, meanwhile I sat a few wheels back, with Manni in sight. I felt really good during the race, I was confident, cornering well, and comfortable sprinting out of the saddle. The bell lap rang and it was race on…Manni and I moved up towards the front and came around the last corner with speed…now I had the opportunity to try my first lead out for Manni, we did it!…bang bang bang and Grace Phang appeared! She just pipped Mani for first place, but did a fabulous job in snatching 2nd. I rolled over the line 4th, and very proud, chuffed. A fabulous team effort by all! To top it off, and to my surprise, I came away with the “most aggressive rider” award – and so did my fellow TR team mate, Bridie! Ha, me, aggressive! Never!

Strava link here:

Bridie and I – aggressive? No?

Mount Buller Road Race
Again, Manni, Bridget, Deb and I lined up on the start line, with jitters, this time for the road race – my first. Deb was in B grade and Bridget, Manni and I in C. The plan, again get off the front and stick in the bunch. So, B and C rolled out together and rode together, in a relatively strung out manner for the majority of the race.

Now. It was bloody windy, and I was freaking struggling, I felt like I was peddling but not going anywhere. My knees were sore, and mind was telling me to give up…but luckily I had Bridget and Manni acting as my motivators, and wind breakers protecting me from being blown into the paddocks with the cows.

With about 10kms or so to the bottom of the Mt Buller climb, a breakaway formed – Deb was leading a cracking pace…and that was it, they were gone. I blinked and missed it, and there was no way in hell i was getting back on. But, before I knew it, we in the 2nd bunch were climbing. I managed to get my mojo back and found my rhythm quite quickly. I looked around and noticed that it really was just another rider, Grace Phang and I – so we began the 15.4km climb together, on her wheel.

I looked back as Grace tipped the water out of her drink bottles to get rid of excess weight. Far out! I had 2 near full bottles, 1kgs worth probably. Out went my water too! We stayed together for a while, but I soon found myself alone, in a world of pain. I needed to get on top of my breathing.

I felt like I was in a comedy show.

My sunnies were foggy, I had a not-open-enough gel hanging out of my mouth obstructing my breathing, I was crazily muttering out loud in disgust at the terrible, freezing head wind that was trying to break me, I was trying to get one glove out of my pocket, whilst not losing the rest of its contents, cursing frustratingly by the bottle neck of cars, and overall I was not impressed by my state of mind. I was starting to panic….Not to mention I was feeling hot, but cold, to take the arm warmers off? Leave them on? Arrrgh! First world problems!

I find wind demoralising. It sends me in a weird spin, I hate it, it is like a school bully – it causes me pain, pushes me around and calls me names, pulls my hair…

But I showed it, by sticking to my tempo, gritting my teeth, sucking air, some gels and then spent an eternity rocking around one handed trying to put that glove back on (note to self, don’t bother). I bought enough time fluffing around to get in top of my breathing. Phew, panic subsided.

I took advantage of some of the false flats and ended passing Jennifer Frankhauser (MA Cycling), she told me that “the bunch was just around the corner”. Before I knew it, with about 4-5km to go, the men (who started earlier) and A grade women began passing me on the decent… I knew the finish was close. Thank god! Having them pass me was awesome motivation, they were screaming encouragement – the most notable was Von, it was great to see her smiling face, albeit for a few seconds! Peddle faster! Forget the wind, you are better than that!

Blink and holy hell, I’d caught some of the ladies from the breakaway! What!? They were just around the corner. Phew, It was great to finally have a bunch to ride with. We could share the pain together, or at least, now I could mutter to someone! Ha!

Oh my lordy lord the last 2 kms of Buller is the toughest part of the climb, all together our little bunch passed Hell Corner (with a gradient of about 13%)… It was the pointy end of the race…I got out of the saddle, dug deep and started swearing and pedalling…I managed to get in front of the others…bhouy I was hurting, boo hoo! AsI came over the crest towards the summit – hoping to see the finish line, my heart sank, I was pointed left…70m to go. Faaaarrrrkkk….My legs were gone, but I found something extra, and a few pedal strokes later I was over the line.


Time elapsed- 2:13:27
Mt Buller Climb- 59:30.

Hells Corner
Photo Credit: Cycling Victoria

Wiped the sweat/tears from my eyes to see Liz about to descend, our Soigner, Gav who quickly pulled my arm warmers up and told me to”put some warm clothes on”, Manny too was there,fresh from the chauffeur driven sag wagon, and DEB who rolled over 1st in B Grade! It is awesome to complete such a race to have your team mates there at the end, the support and friendship is why I cycle. It means a lot to have them in my life

Just to mention that Bridget did a massive effort, backing it up after three peaks the weekend before and Manni did a great job getting me to the bottom, but pulled out at the bottom of the climb. Liz and Bridie also did a fabulous job in a tough A Grade field.

Thanks to our awesome HCC crew , who travelled to Mansfield to race or do the Scody High Country Classic, it was great to have you guys there to bunk with, have dinner and laughs with and to cheer us along…and special mention to Muz the paparazzo and Soigner Gav.

Props also to my TR lades, Liz and Bridie – you guys did a great couple of days racing, thanks for the wise words and encouragement…I’ve got a lot to learn, keep it coming!

My god, I did not expect the win at all, especially after the break away left us at the bottom of the climb. It had psyched me out, I thought I’d never see them again… but I stuck to my tempo and well, I realised quickly that I’m a okay climber, wowsers! So, give me a hill, and I’ll get up it. Put me on the flat and you’ll have to put up with me whining or riding on your wheel! I got serious today, I think.

And did my job…you know what? Bec’s advice worked (that’s why i’ve got a coach right?).  I did “get off the front”, well, untill I needed to be first over the line!

Women’s cycling is fucking awesome! Get amongst it!

Check my Road Race Strava file here.

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Photo Credit: Cycling Victoria.

Results Mt Buller RR:
Women’s A Grade:
1st: Lisa Barry, 2nd: Lucy Coldwell & 3rd: Crystal Wemyss
Women’s B Grade:
1st: Deborah Richards, 2nd: Grace Phang & 3rd: Prudence Rothwell
Women’s C Grade:
1st: Verita Stewart, 2nd: Danielle Garden & 3rd: Samantha Smagas

I’m not sure how accurate this race report actually is..bad memory remember! If it has failed me, let me know and I’ll edit the post! But either way, too many caffeinated / guarana gels and you get this… so suffer because you chose to read it! Ping!