Thursday, 23 May 2013


I receive a lot of unwanted mail. Not just from online shopping websites, fly buys and ‘ways to enhance your sex life’, but also from things that I have subscribed to such as Katmandu, MTBA and specifically for this story, Cycling Victoria. It was odd for me to not automatically delete a monthly update email, let alone begin to read it, and eventually scroll to the last item, the bottom of the agenda you could say, to find out about a calcium study that was to take place at the Australian Institute of Sport.

The food hall at the AIS

I believe in fate and thought that maybe this was a sign. I had just started back racing the NRS after five years away, and thought that this ‘camp’ atmosphere might be my chance to re-discover any passion for road that might still linger. So I rang Eric Haakonssen, the physiologist in charge of the project (and what a massive project it was!) and booked myself a spot on camp. One week before scheduled departure I pulled a muscle in my back. Was this fate too?

'Fate' brought Sam and this magnificent Brownie together...

And so it goes that 31 girls arrived at camp on the Monday, rode out in freezing weather to Stromlo, and completed hill repeats before riding home in both rain and darkness. Thank god I missed that! I flew in on the Wednesday and played catch up by getting bloods taken, skin-folds, bone density scans, completing a skills session and following it up with a V02Max Test. It had been five years since I’d been on the ergo and I hadn’t missed it all that much… Hanging out with girls though? I had missed that..

Testing Day at the AIS Calcium Camp

Through the week I fronted for TTT efforts, complained about my back pain, sat in the van and watched the girls sprint up Black Mountain, flew to Cairns and back to launch the announcement of MTB World Cups coming down under and ostracised my mattress to the loungeroom in our apartment because I had fallen victim to the late night Giro D’Italia, early morning Tour of California and ALL NIGHT (on repeat) World Cup victories by MTB’ers Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson!

Example of binging food on pre-test days

So when Monday came I was undone and sick, which made for poor test results but an interesting study all the same. The purpose of the study was to measure the amount of calcium we lose through our sweat while exercising, and the effect this has on our bones as the calcium is drawn from them. We had two testing days whereby we were put on controlled ‘diets’ – I use this word because we were on rations and STARVING – in the 24hrs prior, with one ‘diet’ being significantly higher in calcium intake. This simply meant that we binged when not under control lol The test consisted of 80mins at 60% of V02 Max watts, followed immediately by a 10min Max TT, with no warm-up or down!

Sarah's eating arm...

They took bloods pre-breakfast, pre-test, during the test, after the test, after the ice-bath, pre-lunch, post lunch and pretty much all through the afternoon. It will take a long time for all of the samples to be tested and analyzed but I’m sure everyone will wait in anticipation for the report. What an amazing effort by the team, namely Laura in nutrition and Erik in Physiology and AIS coach Martin Barras for keeping us in line for the week. So today I will fly to Adelaide to start the third race in the NRS series starting tomorrow. The Tour of Adelaide should be a hoot! (It’s my new-old motto…)

Roomies - Sam De Riter, Liz Fitch and Jo Tralaggan

On a closing note, it was at 2am in the morning, while sleeping on my mattress in the lounge room that I realised how strong my passion is for MTB’ing, and how much I wished I was in Germany instead of Canberra (pretty sure that goes without saying!). This camp has convinced me that road is not for me, but also that not all road riders are douchebags. On camp I met the funniest girl ever in Alice Wallet, the coolest in Sarah, the most enthusiastic facial expressions in Brit Lindores, the unbelievably sweet Liz, the inspiring and very cute Jo, and of course the craziest of them all..Sam, of who’s pink hair I feel indirectly responsible for, but I love it! These girls make you happy just being in their company, but a big shout out to all 31 of you who made it my favourite camp ever at the AIS :)