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.


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!



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!




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!


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


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


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.

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

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!

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.

April obsessions

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my monthly obsessions… so here we go, I’m back on the bandwagon!


Muesli – This one is particularly delicious, from my 2nd favorite café Palate 

My new 4 Shaw merino arm warmers and socks, get yours here

My new Alice McCall dress. I rarely buy anything that isn’t cycling related. This is one item!

Vegemite on rice cakes, with tomato. Delicious.

I get my nails shellaced fortnightly. This is my latest colourway.

My new TT bike thanks to Total Rush. I looooovvvveeeee it!

My new cat Vans. I love cats. Sooo cute!

Icy sticks. These ones are made with yoghurt. Also a fave of mine!

Wunderunder pants by Lululemon. Perfect for mooching around in.


Finding that motivation, rain, hail or shine

Yesterday was the first time since I sold my car, where I really wished I hadn’t.

It was raining, and I mean bucketing down. I had to get to work, trains and trams are not so convenient, so on the bike I got. As I pedalled, dripping wet, I really started to resent the fact that I had to ride my bike… I was feeling daunted by the weather to come, this was only the start… winter that is. Sigh. The worst is yet to come.

My motivation for riding my bike always seems to wain this time of year, when the darkness sets in and the temperature starts to drop. This is the time of year when I find it increasingly hard to get myself out of bed in the morning and find that motivation to get on my bike and ride it. Don’t get me wrong. I love riding my bike. I once did this:


But still, there is something about this time of year that gets to me. There is a brief adjustment period. Though my motivation starts to wain at this time of year, it is a good time for me to revisit my goals. So why do I get up to train in the morning? The underlining motivation is my love for riding my bike. Bike riding keeps me fit, happy and if nothing else, sane. Often it is the 45 minutes I spend commuting to work in the morning that is almost the most enjoyable part of my day, an opportunity to clear my mind, experience some endorphins and get my daily vitamin D. My bike is also my primary mode of transport, I need it to get from a to b. My competitive streak keeps me focused with many bike related goals to achieve. Then there is the social aspect that cycling provides, many friends to ride with, places to go, breakfast spots to eat at. I really do have hundreds of reasons to be motivated, to get out of bed in the morning, to ride rain, hail or shine, and to just get on my bike and ride it.


My training will shift from focusing on summer crits, to winter kilometres, hills and tts, and I will remind myself that despite the cold, wet and dreary conditions, I love riding my bike and everything that it provides me. The cold can be relieved, the wet can be prepared for. Now it is time to rug up, put on those merino socks, rub that embro on the legs and get on my bike and ride it!

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!"



Challenge accepted, 3 Peaks 2014

It has almost been a week since I completed 3 Peaks. I think that I have just recovered enough to think about it in depth.

I procrastinated long enough. Hesitant to say the least. Looking forward to it, not so much, but there were only two weeks to go, and I still hadn’t secured an entry… Also, I still hadn’t got any long rides under my belt.  Luckily I found one…an entry that is! I certainly hadn’t found any long rides.  So now I was financially committed,  my initial hesitation still was relevant. I hadn’t done enough training and really had not much desire to. The reality and the countdown was on. Sadly, 3 Peaks isn’t something that you can really cram for like an exam. Nevertheless, I started my taper process with a week to go.

We drove up to Falls Creek on the Friday night and settled into our accommodation with friends who were equally as nervous and excited and, had been doing much longer kilometres than me! On the Saturday we attempted to put our feet up and relax, not stressing too much about the epic ride that was looming when we woke. Secretly I was feeling rather undercooked. I hadn’t ridden longer than 90km in a long time as all my training in the months leading up had been focusing on crits –  short and sharp. Let’s be honest, the exact opposite to what 3 Peaks was all about.

Napoleon clean, inspected and raring to go!

The day arrived after a restless sleep. Purdie and I packed our back pockets and stuffed our faces and lined up with the 1800 other riders. Interesting to hear that of all the entries to 3 Peaks, only 11% of all entries were women. This number is something that we surely can change for next year – lets try to make it at least 25%. Anyway, we hustled our way to the first wave, not wanting to be stuck at the rear of over one thousand nervous wheels descending in the dark. An injury early on would definitely be less than ideal.

Ash and I on the start line

Descending Falls was not as painful as I thought it would be with hundreds of other riders along side us, and we hit the bottom of Falls Creek in good time. Our friend Ash Hall had decided to keep us company for the first bit and we started to ascend the first peak, Tawonga Gap. Last time I was here, Tour of Bright Stage 2, it was painful. Then I was hurting, working at max capacity. I wanted to approach the first peak in a more conservative manner at least to fend off PTSD. Also, Purdie had warned me repeatedly that we weren’t riding at ‘race pace.’ So Ash, Purdie and I ticked up Tawonga at an easy pace, fearful at using our biccies early.

Our strategy was to ride smart, comfortably within our limits and to eat on the hour. So we started our ride plan almost immediately.

urdie and Ash climbing Tawonga

We comfortably got over Peak 1, Tawonga Gap, in 32 minutes. Then began the stunning descent. It was at this point where we lost Ash. He was feeling good and set off to ride under 9 hours (after wasting the first 1.5 hrs with us). The descent was pleasant, the peloton had spread out vastly over the first climb so there was room to move on the road. The sun had risen, and I was feeling good. As we turned the corner towards Harrietville, Purdie and I were joined by our friends Penny and Eleisha. This was a prearranged meeting point, wanting to share the journey with friends. They provided some distraction and paced us the next 25km to Harrietville. After a brief nature break we waved goodbye to the girls and began the 30km climb up Hotham.

Minda and Purdie looking comfortable climbing Hotham

Less than 10km up Hotham we were joined by our friend Minda, another prearranged meeting place. Minda was just climbing Hotham for the day, and it was a much needed distraction as we all know how long and tedious Hotham is. We rode together, the three of us, laughing, chatting and ticking the pedals over at a consistent pace. We got to the top of Hotham in just under 2hrs. Minda’s car fridge provided the brief sustenance we required – peanut butter and jam sandwich for me! Stopping for less than 10 mins we went on our way, 14km to Dinner Plain.

Mine and Purdie’s plan, to not waste time, was working. So far we had stopped a total of about 15 minutes and spent about 4.5 hours in the saddle. We were nearing the half way mark, making good time and more importantly, spirits were high.

Purdie and I about to conquer “The Meg”

We decided to push through and not stop at Dinner Plain, so we began descending with the eye on the prize, being Omeo. It was at this point where I think I failed the most. I started feeling it. I felt that I could not descend as fast as everyone else and my legs were feeling the pinch. This was the furthest I had ridden in a long time. Purdie was doing fine, her weekly training rides had here still in the saddle for at least one more hour.  We ticked along, salt accumulating on our faces in the heat. This stretch was by far the most boring. The roads were open and dead, and we passed hardly anyone along the way. The sun was high in the sky, and it was a scorcher.

We finally reached Omeo and stopped for a wee and water bottle fill. Here we bumped into our friend Sam, who we lost on the start line hours earlier. Sam was on a roll, so kept a decent pace and steam rolled into the distance as we rolled out towards Anglers Rest. We didn’t want to prevent him from reaching his sub 10 hour aim, so happily waved him off.

Somewhere on the “dead” roads between Omeo and Dinner Plain

The roads from Omeo to Anglers Rest were by far my favourite. They were made up of a consistent and comfortable gradient, with picturesque views and a smooth surface. The time in this section went the quickest. Before we new it we were at Anglers Rest, filling our bottles and moving on. The back of Falls was looming and I was not looking forward to it.

I’ve only ever heard tales of WTF corner, nothing encouraging either. So when I saw it, I had flash backs of Baw Baw, waved goodbye to Purdie and began ticking up it at a pace I could maintain. I could not go any faster, or any slower. I just had to pedal. The first 10km of this I kept a solid tempo. Passing riders, pushing their bikes. I had time for a selfie!

My back of Falls selfie. Something to keep me positive whilst maxing my heart rate out!

I was not sure where the climb ended – I was about 10km into the climb, so I pulled up and waited for Purdie catch up. As I waited I saw grown men physically and mentally exhausted, walking their bikes up a relentless “pinch” that perhaps wouldn’t feel as bad had we not all had 200 kms already in the pins.  We made it to the rest stop and decided to push on. Rookie error! We should have stopped for water. We rationalised not stopping and losing rhythm by the knowledge we only had 30 km left. We had come this far, let’s just keep rolling. However,  the toughest 30km I’ve ever done was about to begin.

We were greeted by this view at the top of Falls

Purdie was almost out of water and 10 hrs on the saddle was not doing her any favours. On the other hand I was feeling okay, apart from my little pins feeling like they were about to fall off. This was the longest time I had spent in the saddle EVERand there I was whining that Around the Bay was a long timeI’ve taken that back! We kept ticking along and surprisingly we caught up with Sam, who shared some of his excess H2O with us. Saviour!!! At least at this point we had conquered the hardest part, the back of Falls. So we grovelled our way for the next 20km, laughing at each other in hysteria.”stop looking at me, I’m tired”. 

Beautiful scenery on the top of Falls

We could see the light, we were almost there. We had survived. Just.  We crossed the dam wall with smiles from ear to ear. Looking at my Garmin, watching every kilometre tick over. We had almost made it. The finish was finally in sight. As we approached the Falls Creek Village and the glorious finish line, we were greeted again by Penny, Eleisha and my Total Rush Team mate, Kelly. They cheered us on, and were happy to see us achieve our goal of survival. They were happy to see us? We were deliriously happy to see them, knowing around the corner was the moment we would cross the line, unclip and be greeted by our friends who were also accepting the 3 Peaks Challenge, and others who had come to support us.

The finish line was looming…..we did it, in 10:56! 
Total ride time of approximately 10 hours 30 mins, with only 25 mins in the feed and water zones. 11.5 hours after the start of Three Peaks, we were showered, fed and laying as horizontal as we could.

Sam completed in 10.5 hrs and Ash completed in an amazing 8.5 hrs – and he wasted the first 2 hrs at least riding with us! Remarkable!!!

Purdie and I at the finish! So happy to be off the bikes !!!

Thinking about it now, I’m not sure we can shave much time off our rides. Maybe if we quicken up our pace on the “flats” and shave a bit of time of each climb, maybe. Is that a challenge for next year? So would I do it again? After the event, I would have said NO emphatically. One week later, I sure would! Maybe next time I will train for it properly. Maybe. And MAYBE we can get under 10 hours!!! Challenge accepted.

So we got on our bikes and rode them, up three peaks, in under 11 hours AND we are planning on doing it again.

You can view my Strava file here. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @lowercasev

Minda and I – sporting our matching Specialized Tees!

Purdie was less than impressed with the amount of salt congealed on my face!

I somehow mustered up the courage and the legs to go for a little pedal on the Monday after 3 Peaks. Falls Creek is a beautiful place, so peaceful, and an awesome place to ride.

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!



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.


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.


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!!!




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!).

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 or Peloton Cafe Gallery here:   | You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @lowercasev

It all begins again, 2014


Thank god that’s over. The festive period that is.

I always feel like the Grinch at this time of year, I’m not a huge fan, too much who-ha. It seems never ending, mine elongated by my birthday placed rather inconveniently two weeks after Christmas. I’ve just get over NYE and then it’s all on again.

I had a fun few days over the christmas period, pedalling my way through the festive 500. Lets just say that it was filled with lots of flat, hot roads keeping me occupied and still having to fit in regular training makes it harder (the 500) than usual.



So now it is January – I’ve just come off the hangover that was 2013, it was a big one – with a million new people, places, things, bikes in my life and now it is over, it is time to regroup and start to think about my 2014.

I’m rather looking forward to it.

New Year’s resolutions always seem a bit hollow, so I’m not really making one. Though, I do think that this is a good time of year to reflect on the good, bad and look forward. I was reading somewhere that people are more likely to keep a New Year’s resolution is if the resolution is vague. I guess it is easier to break a specific goal than it is a vague one. So I’m going to make some vague personal goals and see where it leads me. In saying that, my last goal, to quit diet coke was rather specific, and I have achieved that fine. I’m 6 months clean of Coke. And my internal organs are better off for it! Let see…

1. Save more. This will lead in to goal 2. And 3. I have zero savings. I spend all my hard earned cash on food, rent, internet, bikes, teeth, nail polish. I need to start saving. I’ll try to cut my impulse buys and expensive buys – in particular, I’ll have to cut out one of my favourite treats. Tamar Valley Yoghurt. I can get through about 6-10 of these per week and at about $3 a 230g tub, they’re very, very pricey. $18-$30 per week, $936-$1560 per year, yep, I could use that cash elsewhere. I’ll have to limit myself to one tub per week. $150 per year, isn’t so bad!

2. Travel more. Again, something that requires $, but is worth every penny! I’m heading over to France/Italy/Austria in July for a cycling holiday, can’t wait. I’ve never been to Queensland or Western Australia. I’d like to get there this year too…

3. Get a TT bike. This is not a vague goal at all. I just want a Specialized Transition sooooo badly. Funds saved from eliminating expensive treats will only partially assist. Home Brand here I come!

Looking forward, it will be a big year for me on the bike again. I’ll be racing NRS with Total Rush Women’s Team. We kicked the year off the year with a bang. The team raced Mitchelton Wines Bay Crits. I had work commitments, but got to race Stage 4 at Williamstown. I lasted all of 12 minutes, but had the unbelievable opportunity to race with some of the big names in Women’s Cycling.

On SaturdayI tackled the Australian Road Championships Road Race. I did not specifically train for Nationals, I only really decided to race it a month ago. And I exceeded my own expectations – I thought I’d last 3/4 laps… Well I lasted 7!!! Stoaked! One year ago I would have ever even considered racing Nationals!

And next week, on the 19th of January the team and I will be racing with the pro’s once again at the Santos Women’s Tour in Adelaide. I can’t wait!!!

Then it all starts again!

The Victorian and the National Road Series… Lots of racing for me this year!

So many exciting things to come in 2014 bring it on!

Still smiling after my first Tour of Bright

A Grade Women’s Peleton.

As usual, I worked myself into a tizz in the lead up my first Tour of Bright. I don’t know why I was so nervous? I had been training all year for this race. On Thursday night as we drove to Bright, it dawned on me that it was real, ToB 13 was finally here. My goal had shifted a bit since I started training for it almost 12 months ago. My original aim was to race C grade. Now I was racing A grade with Total Rush-Hyster’s Women’s team for the first time. Nervous but excited to be racing with Bridie O’Donnell, Kelly Bartlett, Penny Brown and Josie Simpson for the first time!

As you know Tour of Bright, is raced in three stages, over three days. Stage 1, a 13.7km ITT; Stage 2, 91km road race over Rosewhite and finishing on Towonga Gap; and Stage 3, a 58km race up Mt Hotham. The Women’s A grade start list was who’s who of the women’s NRS field. All the big teams and big names were there, Target Trek, BOSS, Bicycle Superstore, Holden Specialized etc etc. with Miranda Griffiths (Holden Specialized) going for back to back wins It was going to be tough.

Stage 1 – The Time Trial

Tizz aside, I diverted my nervous energy into the ITT. It is generally not my strongest point, but I was there and ready to give it a red hot crack. With TT master Bridie O’Donnell on our team, I was following one of the big hitters of the field. My goal was to do a PB time by averaging 215 watts over the distance. It was an achievable goal. I spent hours sitting on the ergo in the lead up, sweating my weight in salt doing TT efforts. I lined up on the start line prepared as I could be, ready to leave it on the road. So I donned my pink skin suit, got on my bike, and rolled down that start ramp gripping those clip-ons like I have never gripped before. To my surprise, did better than I hoped! My time 20.58 put me in 14th position leading into Stage 2. I can’t believe averaged 233 watts over the 14km! Bridie took away 2nd place, behind Flick Wardlaw in 1st setting our team up nicely.

Stage 2, Rosewhite and Towonga Gap

Top of Towonga

I was relatively calm about Stage 2 – which is quite unusual for me. We had a team meeting the night before, which calmed most of my nerves. The only part of the race I was worried about was the decent of Rosewhite gap, where I potentially would get dropped, though I had a plan of action if that was to happen.

Before I knew it we were racing, the stretch from Bright to Ovens is slightly down hill, so we picked up speed fast. After the first sprint point, there was an early break, with two riders (BOSS and BSS) off the front. The gap got out to 5 minutes at one point, and decision was made to chase the breakaway two riders. We had riders on the front driving the pace, working together to bring it back. The road from Ovens to Rosewhite is very undulating and exposed making it quite tough to be on the front, in the wind. I feeling good, although cautious that this effort was not going to overcook my legs. Before I knew it, the bunch was on  the Rosewhite climb and the QOM was approaching. The pace picked up on the climb and the front runners scrambled for QOM. I was straggling out the back hanging on as we went over the top.

As I had predicted, I was off the back in no time. The speed picked up on the decent and I could not keep up. No need to panic I thought…My team mates had said that after Rosewhite decent the bunch usually slows, so it was just a matter of working hard for a few minutes, knowing that I would get back on. I don’t have the weight or the balls to descend at the speed some of these other women can! Thankfully though, I was not alone on the decent, there was a long string of riders descending almost single file. I just followed the wheel in front and got on with it. So with the few others that were off the back, we chased to get back on. Flash by a few minutes and we were back on and we had made it to the second sprint point, I think the time gap was back to about 3 minutes at this point. A few rolling hills that were hurting the legs later, the pace was kept high as we turned the corner to begin the Towonga Gap climb. For those of you who have not ridden Towonga Gap, it is a grueling 7.6km at 6%, it is tough.


The bunch was frantic as we turned the corner, everyone was fighting for first wheel. I was squashed out towards the back. I could see the strong climbers dart off up the climb like it was flat. I just settled into tempo and began chewing my handlebars trying my hardest to pick off riders along the way. By this stage of the race my head felt like it was going to explode with the heat, the sun was beating down on us and the heat radiating heat from the road was brutal. We passed the two from the breakaway not long into the climb. At approximately the 3km to go mark I caught up with my team mate Bridie. It was good to have her there to keep me going and focused on finishing at anything other than snails pace, because I was fading fast. Before I knew it, I was over the line. 16th. The team rode a great race, working together well to help bring the time gap back.

1st Miranda Griffiths (2:52:22), 2nd Tessa Fabry and 3rd Sam DeRiter. Full results here

Stage 3, Mt Hotham


It was stage 3, and I was feeling pumped because of how well the team rode the day before. Today it was about getting up the mountain, though I had in the back of my mind that I would like to maintain my 15th position on GC.

Mt Hotham, the brutal 30km climb with notable pinches including The Meg and CRB hill. We rolled off and almost immediately there were attacks. This was not going to be the Sunday coffee ride I was longing for! Riders were attacking, the bunch kept responding as to not let them get away. The 10km sprint point came and went. The second sprint point Bridie went early which launched her into the climb. I was not too far behind. I must say that these girls can climb! They again darted off like the road was flat!


There was no way that I could climb at their pace!!! I made it my mission to suck wheels and not let them go. I knew that I had to pull my all out for this one, stay with them and at least get over The Meg with the bunch. I needed to be in the false flat section with the bunch so that I could maintain a good pace. There is not much to say about Hotham, other than I chewed my handlebars and got over The Meg, straggling to keep up with the pace.

I managed to stay with them, and began the false flat section. We were strung out in single file for most of the next 10 or so kms, until the toll booth. The gradient rudely picked up. My legs said no. This is where I got spat out the back. I could not keep up with the pace. From the toll booth, to the end of the race, just gritted my teeth, wished for a few extra gears and made it my goal that I’ll be faster next year! Miranda won of course, followed by Jo Hogan and Felicity Wardlaw in 3rd.

I finished 15th in GC. I certainly did not expect that result. My (super) coach had me peaking at the right time for sure. For the first time, I felt strong all weekend. I’m most proud with my Time Trial result. It was totally unexpected especially for a 5” something with clip-ons! But all round I felt like I climbed better than I have in a long time and in general just got on my bike and rode it!

Finish line in sight!

GC results can be found here. Miranda 1st, Flick 2nd and Sam 3rd

If I was going to sum up my Tour of Bright for 2013 it would be “consistent”. I’m still smiling two days later – I could not be happier!

Thanks to Total Rush for the continued support, my super coach, friends, team mates, room mates, Cycling Victoria, Alpine Cycling Club, and the 40 or so A grade women and everyone that made racing the great weekend it was. I had a fantastic time racing with my new Total Rush team mates. It was awesome to have a podium finish in the TT, overall we raced well together all weekend and I can’t wait for 2014 – bring it on!

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @lowercasev or on Strava, Verita Stewart.

Strava files can be viewed here: Stage 1, Stage 2 and, Stage 3

Still smiling!

Get on your bike and ride it, up some of the toughest climbs in Victoria and smile your way to the top!

The year that was…club champs to club champs

It has been a hectic few weeks, post Tour of Murray. I have barely raced since then… just been concentrating on getting life admin done, riding my bike and riding my bike. Actually, who am I kidding, I’ve just been riding my bike…So I must apologise for the tardiness of this update.


Over the past two weeks I have been reflecting a lot about the year that was…Surprisingly, there was a time before #pinkwasmycolour, before I lived in Melbourne, before Napoleon, before lift selfies, and before I raced bikes.

It was this time last year that I “got on my bike and raced it” for the first time, at the 2012 Hawthorn Club Championships. Thinking about this race makes me cringe a little. Mostly at the fact that I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I mean, I had never raced before. I had not trained, ever. I was sooooo not prepared. Ha. My legs were blown off during that race. I came last, or thereabouts. Though slightly traumatised, I came away from that race determined and set myself two goals.

1. To not have my legs blown off again and;
2. To race C Grade, Tour of Bright

Both goals that at the time, seemed somewhat unachievable.

So, effectively, with the help of my super coach, those two things are what I’ve been working towards.  For those of you that have been following this blog and my cycling will know, it has been quite the year. I’ve had some wins. Some losses. Gone up some grades. Got dropped. Got back on. Got on the front. Got off the front. Climbed mountains. Learned a lot…And… had a heap of fun in the process. Along with a lot of hard work… and hundreds of kilometers, I’ve had some great opportunities come my way too.

I guess it all started with joining Hawthorn Cycling Club and through their Women’s Development Program my love for cycling spiralled, Total Rush have played an important role in that they continually supported me as a development rider and ambassador; and having the opportunity to race the National Road Series with Cycling Victoria Women’s Development Squad NRS team has made me push my limits and learn a lot about racing with the big girls in the process. Some amazing people have come into my life too, as mentors, friends and partners. They have and are contributing so positively to my life. I’m not sure why I feel compelled to tell you all this, but I guess I just want you all know that I appreciate everyone in my life… and that you can achieve your goals that you set.

Two weeks ago I raced the 2013 Hawthorn Club Championships. I did not come last. I came first! I could not believe it. By no means am I an amazing cyclist. I won’t be going to Europe or riding in the Giro Rosa. I’ve got about 100 watts and a lot of experience to gain. …and as the super coach says “patience grasshopper”.

Get on your bike and ride it, and most importantly, have fun whilst doing it.

P.S. I have achieved my gols I set last year…. Though my legs continually are blown off each and every time I race. But, I know now it is what makes you stronger, more determined and a better cyclist. And you know what…I am riding at the Tour of Bright… time in B grade.

2012 Club Champs