Verita Stewart

Writer, blogger, social media | Rider of bikes |


1 Comment

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.
11911112_1137648032915050_1581096767_n

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.
A31B0667

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

A31B0794 A31B0403  11949775_1137647686248418_1324702463_n 3B2A9232-2

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.

Advertisements


2 Comments

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
image3

image2
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  

image1
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.

A31B7294

Full results here.

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

A31B8153
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.

A31B8266
image4

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.

_JXP0127

IMG_5744

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

image7
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.

image5
image6
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!

3B2A3359

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


1 Comment

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!

TKV1
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.

TKV7
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. 

848197_orig
Photo courtesy of Jo Upton Photography

TKV4
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.

TKV8

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.

TKV2
TKV3
TKV5
Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+ Vsport Australia


Leave a comment

Wah wah wah winter. The holiday countdown has begun…

I’ve been going a bit crazy of late, my bike mojo is waning, I’ve got the winter blues. End of financial year madness at work is stressing me out and this weather, i.e. rain/wind is giving me the royal shits.

Lucky for me though, I’ve got heaps to look forward to! I’m about to head off for three weeks cycling in France and Italy with Purdie. I’ve been waiting all year for it.

I’m looking forward to riding  in 30+ degree weather, not wearing gloves, jackets, shoe covers.

I’m looking forward to pro hours, pro kilometers and pro recovery – i.e. baguettes, poolside.

I’m looking forward to delicious food, cheese, cheese and wine.

I’m looking forward also to some Strava Challenges too… Rapha Rising and Women’s 100. These have added extra excitement to my trip!

Rapha Rising. This is something that ordinarily, I’d struggle to complete at home in Melbourne. But when my home is the Pyrenees for 7 days… this should be a breeze.  The Rapha Rising Challenge gives you 9 days, from the 19th to 27th July to climb an altitude of 8,800m. Consider this challenge done.

This is what I’m planning for the Pyrenees, thanks to The Cycling Life…10,000m of climbing in 6 days…. yes please AND we will get to ride to the top of the Hautacam to watch Stage 18 of Tour! This is what we’re planning:

Sunday 20th – Women’s 100. Route yet to be determined, but likely Bagnères de Bigorre including the Col du Lingous and Croix Blanche.
Total – 100km /1800m climbing

Monday 21st – Col d’ Aspin and La Hourquette d’Ancizan
Total –108km/2268 climbing

Tuesday 22nd – Col de Soulor and Col d’Aubisque
Total – 101k/1821m climbing

Wednesday 23rd – Col du Tourmalet (both sides…maybe)
Total 100km+/ 1961m+ climbing

Thursday 24th – The day that we climb the Hautacam and witness the finish of Stage 18 of the Tour de France
Total – 75km/1480m climbing

Friday 25th – Luz Ardiden
Total –  112k/1752 climbing

Saturday 26th – Sleep in

You can see my full itinerary here.

rapharising-cycling-v1

Women’s 100. Thousands of women around the world will ride 100km on the 20th of July. Take the Strava challenge here to earn your woven badge.

There are four women with me on the Cycling Life Tour – Purdie, Trace and Kristina. We will be taking this challenge head on, we will ride 100 jet lagged kilometers together, uniting in the spirit and support of Women’s Cycling. There will be many #foreverbuttphotos #womens100 hash tags, bananas consumed, laughs to be had. I can’t wait!

I encourage you all to do so as well. You can join the Melbourne Women’s 100 in Kyneton by registering on the Facebook event page here. Or just get on your bike, and ride 100 km on July 20th.

rapha-womens-100-2014-v1

Following the Pyrenees adventure, Purdie and I are heading off on our own adventure. Strava challenges aside, this will be where our adventure will begin. The adventure –  lugging our bike bags across France, stopping off at Nice, then ending up at Bormio – Italy. Here, in Bormio we will ride the iconic climbs of the Dolomites, including the Stelvio, Passo del Mortirolo and Foscagno among others (and guided by fellow Melbournian Danielle Garden).

6 days later we will again pack our bike bags up and travel to Lake Como, for some real R&R (haha sure) before heading back to everything winter in Melbourne has to offer. I hope my body forgives me. Going from winter – summer – winter. Lets see what happens.

My holiday can’t come quick enough, 20 days and counting. 20 days of wind, rain and work left. Tomorrow it will be 19 days. I’m so excited! Can you tell?

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Battle on the Border, where I think I found my watts

The last month or so I’ve been complaining that I had lost my watts, I wasn’t really sure where they had gone. I was running 20 watts short on almost every training session I was doing. It was getting me down. My Super Coach assured me that athletes don’t feel fresh all the time, and that they (the watts) would come back, I’d just have to be patient. So I suffered through, feeling rubbish on the bike, waiting until the day that they would magically return.

Fast forward to last weekend. It really did feel like that, fast forward… All of a sudden I was packing my bike bag, getting ready to race Battle on the Border.

The four stage tour was held around Murwillumbah (NSW) and included an 86km road race, 9km ITT, criterium and 77km road race. Battle was going to be our (Total Rush’s) first National Road Series (NRS) race this season, with Jess Toghill (QLD) joining us, along with Bridie (who had solo’d it at Mersey Valley Tour) and NRS first timers, Emma Scott and Kate Perry (Kelly was unavailable for this tour). We were here, totally unsupported, and were crossing our fingers for a trouble free, strong weekend of racing together.

We flew up to the Gold Coast on the Thursday morning, hired a car and drove to our accommodation in New Brighton, which was about 40 minutes from Murwillumbah.  We settled in, and went for a quick pedal.

image-2

The start times for this tour were outrageously early. 7:45AM starts every day, which meant that we would need to be up at 5AM and on the road by 6AM to get to the start with enough time for my usual faffing about. I was not sure how the early starts were going to affect me, both mentally and physically. I was already tired from the early starts I’d had all week… and I wasn’t sure how my legs would go for my first NRS race of the season.

Stage 1. Murwillumbah Road Race
So we were up and fed at 5AM, at the race start by 6AM. With not enough luggage allowance to bring trainers, we would be warming up on the road. This would prove to be an interesting experience for me, because usually I need a good 30 minutes on the trainer to get the legs going. So we rolled around the cane fields, turning the legs over. I was feeling ok, but those little efforts were nothing compared to the intensity that I was expecting from the race. This course was going to be a challenging. The terrain was quite lumpy, weaving in and out of the rainforest, into flat cane fields. It had in two sprints and two QOM’s to add to the pain. One of the QOM’s was going to be particularly tough being about 2.5km long, it was sure to suit the climbers, and possibly split the field.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

After a quick team chat, we were on the start line with 55 other women. For some strange reason I was not feeling nervous on the line as I usually would. In light of my missing watts, I probably should have been panicking. After a hairy experience getting out of the neutral zone, we were racing.  Not long after battling through traffic on the road (vehicles and other competitors!), Jess went for and got the first sprint point! It was a battle and a half to keep a good position and out of trouble, I felt like it was a washing machine and we were churning around the front. I can’t really remember detail of the race, but there were a few attacks here and there and the pace was high, especially on the climbs and the descents.

To my surprise, my legs felt good and I was climbing better than I had done all year. I was able to stay with the bunch over all the climbs, and not get dropped on the descents. This is probably the biggest improvement I have noticed since the last year. In 2013 I would get dropped on every decent, I simply did not have the balls, skills or speed to hang on to the group. This year, I think I had the confidence, a little more race experience and I wasn’t getting dropped.

Nothing was being allowed to get away. Well, that was until, well I can’t remember exactly where, but somewhere after the 2nd QOM, a group of three being Tessa (VIS) , Lizzie (Specialized-Securitor) and Anna-Leesa broke away on some fast descents and smashed it solo all the way to the finish line. They finished approximately 2 mins ahead of the bunch.

I managed to hold on and finish with the bunch. Stage 1 complete. My legs were still attached.

The race was over and it was 10:30am. We had a a full day to put the feet up and go to the beach! I was very exited about that!

image-5

Results

Stage 2. Dawn ITT.
The ITT would be interesting for the team for several reasons… a) we were racing at the crack of dawn b) we had no gear! The team was all in the same position, no proper warm up, no TT bikes, no aero helmets. All we had were our roadies and our legs. Bridie, who has just come off her Mersey Valley Tour ITT win, would have to go the roadie too. As everyone knows, the ITT warm up is very specific and important to prime the legs and get the heart rate to my usual 205 bpm… all we had was the wide open road…. and a can of V.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

The SC had given me an average speed to aim for rather than average watts. Partly because I was complaining so much that my watts had gone, and partly because the course was fairly technical, average speed would be easier to focus on. This was probably all an attempt to distract me from my whining about my watts. It worked. The course was a weird shape, with an uneven road surface, a pinch, sweeping bends and sharp left handers. It would be easy to brake too hard and wash away any speed and momentum you built up. That’s exactly what happened to me. In hindsight I was way too cautious of the corners, I lost so much speed braking and then having to make that time up. Still, I did a respectable time of 14.28 to finish 25th.

Tessa won, and did an incredible time, of 13.04, which was 1.24 faster than my time!

The time was now only 8:30AM, we had hours to wait until our crit at 1:30PM. Recovery time!

image-3

image-4

Results

Stage 3. Crit 
After a 5 hour wait until the start of the crit, it was time to get excited. I was nervous and feeling very jittery about this one. My fear and increased heart rate could have been as a result of I drinking two “V’s” whilst waiting around, but in reality, I put my nerves down to the fact that the course was just plain frightening. It had three pinches, with each getting progressively steeper, combined with a steep decent to navigate and some left and right corners. All this technicality and the climbs, were going to split the field, that was for sure.

It was on from the gun, with various riders taking the opportunity to smash the field’s legs off. Our team goal was to, “just move up”. Riders were being shelled every lap. No surprise really, with Bridie, Holden and Bicycle Superstore setting the pace it was a fast climb and fast decent. We were strung out, almost in single file for most of the race… I was hanging on for dear life and “moving up” where I could.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

I was in a world of pain from that first pedal stroke. Too preoccupied with the pain that when I eventually glanced down to my Garmin to see how much more of this torturous circuit I had to endure, I saw that I forgot to press start. Bugger. I didn’t know how far in I was, how far I had to go. Ain’t no body got time for that. I didn’t have time to dwell. I just kept moving up, moving up.

I was in the hurt box so much that I had no idea what was going on at the front of the bunch. Ruth had attacked, and managed to get a good distance on the front of the bunch. The speed was picking up, then all of a sudden Lizzie kicked and skipped up the hill, down the decent and then everyone slowed down.

I was so confused, I didn’t realise that was the last lap. The race was over. Thank god. I was glad to just survive. Jess, Bridie and I finished with the bunch. Half of the field were pulled. Emma and Kate did a great job but got pulled after about 15 minutes of madness!

crit file
This is 23 minutes worth of my file. Let’s just say that it HURT!

Results

Stage 4. Kingscliff Road Race
It was the last day of racing. We were all feeling weary. This course was full or rolling hills, a couple of pinchy climbs and a few flat sections around the cane fields. Our race objective was to stay towards the front, especially coming into the QOMs. The first part of the race was relatively uneventful. The bunch was staying together. Lizzie grabbed the first QOM and sprint points.

We had just gone over a little pinch, at about the 46km mark, when I did a very opportunistic thing. I managed to get myself in a solo breakaway. I’m not even sure how it happened. We were going over a little pinch, I followed the wheel of someone, then all of a sudden I looked back and there was a gap. Started to descend, looked around and the gap was bigger. I was at the point of no return. I then proceeded to TT my way for the next 25km or so, my biggest gap getting to 1.05 secs thanks to some great teamwork going on in the bunch.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

Riding solo I had a lot of time to think. My thoughts were mostly about keeping my speed at about 40km/hr. I also had time to ponder my missing watts, and of course, what I was going to eat for dinner. I was having a great tour, in terms of the goals I had set for myself. I had given it my all, and was not doing too badly overall. My legs were feeling great, considering they had three days of racing in them. I just had to keep pedalling, my team would have been working hard in the bunch. I was going to have Baby Pizza for dinner.

I ticked along, concentrating on my speed and picked up the next sprint and QOM points. The further I got, the more I begun to feel the bunch hunting me. I knew they would. I knew that the VIS, Holden and Specialized-Securitor trains would be forming and they would start to chase me down. They wanted the win. There was not much time separating the overall GC positions, a win for them here could easily change the standings.

At about the 70km mark I was joined Shannon Malseed (Holden), Bex Heath (Bicycle Superstore) and Emma Viotto (Brumby Suzuki) bridged over to me from the bunch. There was not much left in the race, with only about 10km remaining. The trains were coming! We spent the first 5km or so working turns and yelling at eachother, then we settled into a rhythm. We were aiming to stay away, but the trains were coming.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

With 600m to go, we were caught. I was just behind Emma going around the roundabout when Lizzie came hurtling by, then all of a sudden, Emma was horizontal, Lizzie had gone wide left and I slammed my breaks on and went right, towards the gutter. I managed to get back on track, with a little less momentum, and get around the corner to finish 9th. My best NRS finish so far!

To top off my efforts on the day, I had the pleasure of being ASADA tested. Now that is an experience and a half. Quite amusing really because I had beetroot for dinner the night before. #pinkreallyismycolour

Results

I had an amazing weekend racing and spending time with my Total Rush team mates. We did well as a team and all learned a lot, such a pleasure. We survived three days totally unsupported, with no on-road mechanicals or flats, we picked up sprint points, rode aggressively, climbed our hearts out and survive the three 5am starts in a row – with not being late once. I can’t wait until our next race together, for me that is Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. My home town!

I learned a lot about myself this tour too. What SC had been telling me  about being patient and my watts would return, was true. She was right, of course, I think I found them somewhere on the border.

GC results

image-1

And yes, I did have Baby Pizza for dinner. My usual Peroni and a fungi pizza. Delicious.

You can watch the NRS race videos by clicking here. Race photos supplied by TBS Photography and used with permission. Thanks to Total Rush for keeping our bikes in top race condition, to 4Shaw for keeping my feet warm and to my Super Coach, Bec Domange for always being right.


Leave a comment

Mt Donna Baung ITT when almost #nogarminnorules sort of comes into play

3B2A2385
Lets just say that I was not enthused at all about riding the Mt Donna Baung ITT. It was a real case of CBF from my part, especially when I woke it to torrential rain.

I was off at 9:30 am and it was a 1.5 hour drive out there. It was raining, I mean belting down. I checked the radar and it was not looking like it was going to stop anytime soon.  I tweeted @CyclingVictoria, with the hope that the race was cancelled. It wasn’t. So I reluctantly dragged myself into the car, Purdie driving and we set off into the washing machine to the start line.

I had never ridden Donna. I only studied the profile for 15 minutes or so the night before, from what I could work out, Donna is just a steady uphill climb. No real false flats, no real pinches, just steady. My race plan was simple, I had a goal in mind to try to maintain 220 watts for the entire climb and/or keep above 16/17km per hour average, this would get me a time of +/- 1:03 minutes.

My enthusiasm to race didn’t get any better on the drive out there, in fact, I fell asleep quite quickly. I was not looking forward to racing in the rain. But thank god I wasn’t doing the Warburton Road Race, like my teamie Kate Perry was. Don’t get me wrong. I’m far from a fair weather rider. I commute every day, rain hail or shine. But pushing yourself to the limit in the rain, is less than ideal, especially when the finish line is at the top of a mountain at 0 degrees.

We arrived at the start line, and I sat in the car. Delaying the inevitable warm up. Purdie almost pushed me out of the car. Just get on your bike and ride it. So I got on the trainer and did a half effort warm up. Reports that it was snowing at the top was not encouraging me to go any harder.

I was off at the head of Mens A grade. I had my goals, just needed to stick to them. Don’t focus on the wet, or the cold. Just focus on the numbers, I thought.

Within the first 10 minutes, I was passed by the whole of Mens A grade that started behind me. Not long after, I realised that my trusty Garmin was having issues. As I wiped the beaded water from the screen my speed was going from 6km/hr to 30km/hr. I was confused. Was I going too fast, or too slow? It was affecting my distance measure too. I had no idea how far I had gone. How hard was I pushing… well I forgot my heart rate strap, so that was another number I was missing.

I don’t know why I was stressing, I could barely see the screen anyway, it was still raining…so I just thought to myself, #nogarminnorules. Suck it up and ride. My legs felt like rubbish, full of lactic. I was stressed that I was going to hard, I I had no idea how far I had to go or how hard I was pushing. I was too much in the hurtbox to take my hands off the handlebars. I just kept spinning as fast as I could. I started to pick off other riders. As I gained elevation the visibility became poor, I was riding into a cloud. Finally I saw the 5km to go marker on the road.

This is where I started to get into a rhythm, then before I knew it. It was snowing, and I crossed the finish line. I put my 100 layers on, and descended with no idea of the time that I did. I got changed and got in the car, and waited for the results to come out. As we drove back home, I was anxious at what time I did. I felt like I did a good time, I pushed hard, but I had no idea how hard I really went. I just rode as fast as I could.

57:23 was my time. Remarkable, I was not expecting that time at all. 2nd fastest time by a woman!

A31B1836
There is something to say for riding without the stats. Just riding as hard as your body will let you. #nogarminnorules, sort of. It was fun, but next time, I’d prefer my Garmin was visible.


1 Comment

The Sunday Smashfest (SKCC crits and Femme Vitesse)

It was my team mate Kelly’s birthday, so it was destined to be a awesome day. We were set for the double, am SKCC crits and pm Femme Vitesse Round 2. Sunday started off with a pleasant smash fest at the SKCC crits. Long story short, Kelly donned her birthday sash, riders went off the front left, right and centre, including Bridie. Kelly and I did not chase and Bridie came away with the win. Like I said, an awesome start to the day!

IMG_0499

image

Femme Vitesse Round 2 was held at Richmond Boule, a 1.3km long hotdog course that was going to test the best. No one likes hotdogs, they are pure, pure punishment. Despite this, Kelly, Bridie and I were all there and pumped, we were going to be aggressive. So when we kicked off, the plan began and Kelly went off the front early in true birthday style. A couple of laps later I attacked, got reeled in, then I attacked again. I looked back this time and found myself with 20 ish seconds on the bunch in no time. They let me go. This was about 15 minutes into a 60 minute race.

Each lap I watched as the rest of the bunch started to string out and blow apart as riders tried to hang on with the fast pace. I can’t really remember but I think that Minda, Lauretta and Tayla from BCS were driving the pace, with Nicole Whitburn from Liv Giant, Tessa Fabry and Grace Phang from Kosdown, Bec Domange from WDP, Helen Kelly from Park Trent and my team mate Bridie were all being sucked along for the ride.

_MG_9204a

The wind was feral to say the least. Each lap got harder and harder. I was  slingshotting between about 20 secs to 10 seconds lead. I was time trailing my guts out. After what could have been over 30 minutes off the front, I was starting to fail big time. Each lap I was getting slower into the head wind, so when Lauretta attacked to bridge, with Bridie on her wheel, they caught me within a lap.

_MG_9233a

I was a slight bit relieved that they caught me. I sat back in with the bunch to recover. Two laps later, as the pace slowed, I attacked again! The bunch caught me  and then all of a sudden Bridie went, Lauretta was on her wheel, blink and they had almost a lap on us. They put a fair distance to us late in the race, there was no way we were going to catch them.

Lauretta 1st, Bridie 2nd. Our bunch sprinted for 3rd position, I was somewhere towards the back. There was no way I could have sprinted over Nicole, Bec, or Helen. I could barely get out of my saddle. My effort was rewarded in that I came away with Most Aggressive, Sufferfest Laps Leader and the Sprint Points. I also got 3rd on GC too. Total Rush won the teams classification for the day too. What an awesome birthday for Kelly and a great result for the Team!!!

IMG_0533

_MG_9463

_MG_9428

I’m pretty happy with my efforts, especially considering last week I was recovering from being sick and raced like an angry sack of potatoes. It’s funny to think back to this time last year when I raced the last Cykel Series. I started in the Novice Category and ended up racing in B grade towards the end of the series. Only one year later and I am racing in A grade, sometimes I have to pinch myself. It is an something else to race in a team,  working together with my Total Rush team mates makes the results all the more rewarding.

photo 3

It was great to see so many teams, clubs and people supporting the Cykel / Femme Vitesse series, both in Bendigo and Richmond. Hawthorn Cycling Club and the Women@HCC had a strong presence in showing their support, along with Women’s Design Project showing off their new kit. I smiled to myself when I overheard men who have been around the racing scene for years, talking about how exciting it was to watch the high calibre of women’s racing – especially with such an “aggressive and riveting race”. What an exciting start to the year for both my Total Rush team and myself.

5 days until 3 Peaks 2014…..get on your bike and ride it (a really long way up really steep hills!).

strava
For those interested:
Ave Speed 34km/hr
Max Watts 667 – Average Watts 196

Photos – Bridie’s, Craig’s or my own or used with permission from JXPhotograpgy.com or Peloton Cafe Gallery here:   | You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @lowercasev