Monday, 27 January 2014

FOCUS OZZIE CROSS CYCLOCROSS

I was drawn to Adelaide in January for the same reason most Australian cycling enthusiasts are- the Santos Tour Down Under. The allure of the Worlds best Professional Male Cyclists racing for the first WorldTour race of the season staged an opportunity for the Women to race as well, on a modified 3-stage tour somewhat in conjunction with the men- the Women's Tour Down Under. An even more convenient clash was the first of the MTB National Round races, a few club criteriums and to top off a six day race week I stumbled across the Focus Ozzy Cross Cyclocross Race.


Got to take this baby for a spin thanks to Focus Bikes
Photo courtesy Jarrod Moroni

I had entertained the thought of cyclocross in 2013, but a back injury (that still lingers) had put an end to that pursuit, so I decided that maybe this was my chance. I decided I would race it on my MTB before an 'out of the blue' call from Cycling Australia's Neil Ross. He asked me my seat height, my stretch and told me that he had a bike for me to borrow on Sunday. It belonged to his wife, and since she last threw her leg over it at the 2007 World Championships he had loaned it out on 5 occasions- 4 times it had won..no pressure! It was a rough roll-out lap. The bike felt very different to my road and MTB, my cornering and braking were horrendous, and I kept forgetting that the bike ran SRAM, so instead of chainging down a gear I was changing up.

The course was pretty straight forward. A well groomed course that took roughly 6.5mins a lap. A fire-trail down to the first dirt corner, zig-zags up and down a grassy incline, over a barricade, grassland to a bridge and subsequent hot-mix bike path, through the 'dark forrest', over the gravel-pit, and a few whoops through to the finish line. I decided that I would run the entire zig-zag section because after trialling I decided it was quicker, take my time through the 'dark forrest' as the bunting and course direction was hard to follow, and then sprint into the gravel pit to get to the other side without dismounting. I had no plan for the final straight other than to lead..simple right? The track was smooth and road orientated but at 180+hr nothing is ever 'easy'.

Enjoying myself much? lol
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

The field was intimidating for me and due to an 'on the day entry' I started back row. It took me a few nervous seconds to get around the slower starters in front, but I opened up the legs on my first opportunity and slotted nicely into fifth. We arrived at the switchbacks and while the others girls tackled it on the bike, I got off and ran- straight past Jackie Schapel, Katherine O'Shea, Jenny MacPherson, and stepped over the barrier passing Sarah Holmes. When I remounted I was miraculously in the lead! I have no doubt that my memory bank kicked in- running and re-mounting felt natural from my XC running and Triathlon days. Is there any sport I haven't tried?

I launched out of the next corner in a sprint, continuing my effort along the bike path as Jenny sat in Sarah's draft. I eased through the dark forrest still mislead by bunting, made it through the gravel patch unscathed and caught my breath through the end of the first lap, leading by just 6 seconds. I was shocked that I was in-front and that my legs were actually feeling good, and after two laps I had settled in nicely. I continued to shoulder check for Sarah who had now ridden away from Jenny, but it seemed the only in-roads she was making were through the dark forrest. I began to wonder if I could hold her at bay for 45mins, then on lap 3 I got the bell...idiot, the race is only 30mins and we finished on the better side of it in 26:22min. It seemed that no sooner had we started and it was all over! Sarah Holmes (Focus) finished second +33sec, from Jenny Macpherson (Giant) in third +48sec.

Elite Podium: Jenny Macpherson, myself and Sarah Holmes
Photo courtesy Steve Holmes

I was excited to have found another discipline that I so greatly enjoyed, and relieved that the bike had lived up to it's expectations. So now I have the bug! For those that are yet to try it, I encourage you to give it a go. If you don't have a cyclocross bike-no fear-you can ride a MTB or road bike in the open category. If you think you don't have the skill you are lying to yourself-we all know how to run around an obstacle or corner that we feel we can't conquer. So find your local Cyclocross Club, help roll out some bunting, and get racing. Thanks to the PACC CX for a superb race, to Neil Ross for forever finding ways to encourage women in sport, and to Graeme from Focus for not only supporting CX but for creating the beautiful beast of a bike that they do!

Results: Via PACC CX

Friday, 24 January 2014

UNLEY CRITERIUM

I won’t lie…it was pretty difficult to motivate myself for yet another day of racing. It was the seventh day straight with many days being double sessions, and the sight of lycra was no longer appealing, not to mention a few saddle sores that were not appreciative of another session. But after the success of the Tour Down Under I had promised race organiser Jenny Macpherson that I would support the Unley Hyde-Park criterium, and even bought along my German Wiggle Honda teammate, Anna Schnitzmeier. The circuit was fast with four flowing corners and a light cobbled section leading into the finish to spice it up. The crowd had turned out to watch thanks to the coinciding Unley street festival but unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the A grade women’s field. It was a disappointing turn out with only one South Australian local taking to the start line of an interstate field, but still the race must go on.

The three escapees of the race - Schintzy, Julia and I

We took an easy approach to the first few laps to warm into things before Jenny launched the first attack. As is usually the way, she was chased in earnest by the small field and I countered in solo fashion. I wasn’t pleased to be solo because my legs were hammered from the previous days of racing but at least I could put my head down and get a great session in. After 8 minutes I was bought back only to have Anna go off the front with Perth based Julia Kalotas on her wheel. Go teamie! Anna was forced to do all of the work and as Jenny and Kate Finnegan began to bring them back Julia started to contribute, but it was too little too late and we were all back together. As if like clockwork I attacked again and after a few solo laps saw myself back in the bunch. One lap later I went again, but it was very short lived and I decided it was time to rest as Anna took the reigns again, this time on her own. I have no doubt the girls were very much over the orange Wiggle Honda colours off the front, but the crowd were loving it. Another chase and Anna was back, so with five laps to go I made a final bid for glory. I buried myself for the first two laps knowing that if I established enough of a gap that adrenaline would carry me across the line for the 3-lap countdown.

Soaking up the rays..
Photo courtesy Tony Reeckman

I had 10 seconds on the chasing girls at bell lap and only looked back when I entered the finish straight to see my teammate Anna coming home solo in second. I lapped up the victory down the final straight, putting on a show for the crowd and as solo wins are rare, stealing the opportunity for an awesome victory salute photo. Right now my legs are so unbelievably wrecked, but I won’t complain yet because I have a few days of chasing the Men’s Tour Down Under around Adelaide! Feel the rush…

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

FAREWELL TO TARGET TREK MTB..


The 2013 season was a successful one. I started the year off representing Target Trek, where I claimed runner up at the Bay Criteriums, and a 5th and 10th at the Australian Road Championships. I then turned my focus to the dirt on behalf of Target Trek MTB, winning the XCO and XCP at the opening National Round, taking home the green and gold stripes for the Elite National XC Title, and also claimed victory in the Wombat 100k and Forrest 6hr.

These results aside, it was also a tough year for me. Firstly my nan passed away after a tough battle with illness, then I DNF’d the Australian XCM Championships as defending champion and sustained a chronic back injury that put me out for the next 5-months. My plans to go overseas to race two MTB World Cups vanished, as did my plans to compete in both the World XCM and XC World Championships.

Selfie... courtesy of me lol

So I found myself on and off work, intermittently training, partially immobile due to this stupid injury and worst of all I was getting fat! But I knew that I wasn’t done just yet. I would come back from it, my body would heal in it’s own time, and I had some unfinished business to take care of…

So with plenty of time on my hands I sat down on my now 64kg arse and laid out a plan:
Part I: I want to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games on the MTB. To be one of these three girls I have to compete in my National Championships on the 8th of March, and partake in two of three MTB World Cups pre May 30th 2014.
Part II: Further to this I wanted to take part in the entire World Cup series, which meant that I would need some form of funding to be based in Europe for the season. This came in the shape of Rochelle Gilmore, owner of the Wiggle Honda Professional Women’s Team who has signed me on her roster with the understanding that my focus will be MTB and is fully supportive of it.
Part III: I wanted Jarrod to be with me, so she signed him as head mechanic too!

Excited to be joining the Wiggle Honda outfit in 2014
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

It was now August, and with these grand laid plans in place I started to build back up. My first race was a teams MTB race that we won, then I pulled out of my next road race, and crashed out on another attempt. I had a few weeks off and came back to win another MTB race, win a road race, then withdraw from my next two due to back pain. It was a vicious cycle. I quit work to focus on my rehab and prepare for the 2014 season. This time around... not a bad road race, then walking and pain in the next MTB race, and then two wins in a row. I was feeling fit again and went on to win a MTB tour, a road criterium and another MTB race. I was back – excuse the pun.

So the New Year rolled around quite quickly and I prepared for my first race in 2014 with the Wiggle Honda Team. I was excited and child-like about my new journey as the year kicked off, but with my first MTB race drawing closer I had a decision weighing heavy on my shoulders. In a complicated twist of events it became apparent to me that I could no longer ride for Target Trek MTB in the new season. It was tough news to break to the team and an emotional departure for me. But I thank both Target and Trek for their amazing support and killer bikes, and the team and staff for all the great memories.


Target Trek clean sweep the teams classification at the National Championships
Photo courtesy Russ Baker

It’s now 24hrs before I depart for the first National MTB Round in Adelaide, with no time to find my reigning National Champion Jersey! – I think it’s at Mum’s house? I will be borrowing a 2013 Scott Scale RC 29er’ off close friend Gary Lewis which I hear is a lovely bike but I’m yet to find that out. I will ride it for the first time tomorrow, donning my Moronis Bike Shop kit and when I return from Adelaide I’ll sort myself out for the 2014 MTB season and be sure to share some exciting news with you soon!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

AUSTRALIAN ROAD RACE CHAMPIONSHIPS

It's always a restless sleep the night before fronting for a race whereby you really care what your final result is, and this was a race I had been thinking about for a while. It's not usually a target race of mine but I figured this year I would do some good base kms in the lead-up and fit in some intensity with the Bay Series so that I could be a part of the race when it mattered. It didn't all pan out the way I wanted. My form wasn't quite as good as I had hoped last week and my back was playing silly buggers with me, but the criterium had given me a small confidence boost and I was ready for a hard road race. There were 63 started over the 101km race on a 10.1km course -3km climb, 3km across, 4km down and do it all over again -10 times in Buninyong!

Signing on pre-race
Photo courtesy Darren Casey

Race day is D-day, and on D-Day you have no say on how your body will feel. In short, it wasn't a great day for me. As always, the first time up the climb is somewhat neutral and I seem to be able to convince myself every year at that point in time that I won't even finish the bike race! One year Sarah Kent and I said that for each lap the other finished we would shout them a cruiser...a gold medal, silver medal and 20 cruisers later was a good night :) Lap two was even worse for me when Lisa Jacobs (VIS Apollo) launched herself off the front on the feed climb and my heart-rate skyrocketed to 187bpm! I was in some early trouble as I scrambled for a wheel and any confidence I had was gone. I was more leaning toward 'I can't wait for this all to be over' sort of feeling now..

Lisa Jacobs on her 60km solo journey - brave!
Photo courtesy jxp photography

Jacobs was cutting some quick laps for a solo ride and her advantage grew to nearly four minutes at one point, taking out seven of the nine QOM sprints on offer. Bridie O'Donnell was the brave one who attempted the bridge on lap 4 but instead found herself floating in the middle. It was Jessie MacLean (Orica-AIS) who animated the chase leading into lap 6, sparking a response from the Bigla team of Jo Hogan and Taryn Heather, flanked by Miranda Griffiths (Vanderkitten) and Katrin Garfoot (QAS). An initial chase turned into a solid tempo as MacLean and O'Donnell joined forces 1 minute up the road, still in pursuit of Jacobs a further 90secs clear.

Griffiths and Hogan set the pace as was the story of the day
Photo courtesy jxp photography

With 4 laps to go the duo were caught and Orica-AIS began their pattern of the day. Shara Gillow made a short-lived attack through the feed, but it was Gracie Elvin who launched her demo-rage after the fastest climb of the day-7:28min. There was no response as we all rested to catch our breath and within no time she had made contact with Jacobs, who would have been glad to have some company after nearly 60km on her own! They passed through 3 to go with just a 30 second advantage that extended through the feed station climb. Leading into QOM it was Griffiths who decided she wanted a piece of the pie and set off in pursuit of the duo. Her efforts were fruitless as she was bought back before the descent.

Looking comfortable here but things soon got nasty!
Photo courtesy jxp photography

The bunch had now dwindled to a selection of 20 and my heart-rate was still through the roof. It wasn't surprising that my heart bought some party tricks today, the pain killers I take to ease my back pain usually do that but it was a trade I was willing to make to ride pain free. But as we neared two laps to go I knew I was in for a different sort of pain. Elvin and Jacobs were still leading the way but the pacing by Heather would see Jacobs engulfed by the shrinking peloton. Elvin was caught by Garfoot and Cromwell as we crested the QOM for the second last time and I was nearly certain this would be the selection for the day as the chase group now fell to just 10; I was the last one to make the split.

Elvin, Cromwell and Garfoot crest the climb with the bunch in turmoil
Photo courtesy jxpphotography

This is where s**t got good. Griffiths, Heather, Hogan and Sam De Riter (Apollo VIS) stepped into gear and bought back the escapees only to be countered by Gillow with Garfoot again in tow. But it was Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) who broke the rubber band and found herself solo with an 11 second lead going into bell lap. As we turned for the final climb I was prepared to go through anything to make it up that bloody hill just ONE more time -except cramps, I wasn't prepared for those lol I couldn't go with the initial acceleration as my left calf and groin cramped up, but I was able to tempo the girls back after the feed and make contact as we made the left turn to the summit...

Fighting back!
Photo courtesy Darren Casey

There were just 9 Elite Women and two U23 riders remaining in the race for the green and gold. Who wanted it the most? As expected, Cromwell attacked on the pinch to the top and the damage for me was done. While fighting more cramps I lost contact and new my day was over. I watched on as Hogan struggled to cover the move and Elvin and Kitchen dagged off the back. The lead 7 were now Spratt, Gillow, Griffiths, Cromwell, Garfoot and U23 riders Emily Roper (QAS) and Jenelle Crooks (Holden). I was amazed to watch on (30 seconds down the road) as the leaders began to fox before the descent, allowing the two strongest sprinters in the field to chase back on in Elvin and Kitchen to force a group of 9 in the sprint for gold. Elvin backed up her victory from last year to prove that she really did want those bands back, followed by Kitchen and Garfoot to round out the podium.

The closest thing to a 'bunch sprint' on the Buninyong course...
Photo courtesy jxp photography

It was 50 seconds later when I crossed the line and I wasn't at all interested in sprinting for 11th place. Not only had I come here with much higher ambitions, but I was simultaneously cramping so sprinting would have been somewhat difficult! As disappointed as I am with my final result on paper, it's the first time in years that I've finished the race and been satisfied that I dug deep to make the split when it mattered. Had it not been for the cramps I honestly believe I would have been there for the sprint finish, and I would have been proud of that on what was a slightly off day for me. Would I have won? Probably not. But one day I will finish lead bunch and find out for certain!

Your Elite Womens podium L-R: Kitchen, Elvin and Garfoot
Photo courtesy jxp photography

Now that the race is over I can relax and enjoy my anniversary with Jarrod. It's been five years since we got together back in 2009 when I won the U23 Australian Road Title. It's been a roller coaster ride but I wouldn't change a single day of it! No time to get all romantic though, after a pub meal and an ice-cream and of course a quick bit of blogging I'm ready for bed. I look forward to an amazing Men's Road Race tomorrow and hope to see you all on the Buninyong hill - I'll be doing the rounds with a petition for the Amy Gillett Foundation #ametermatters campaign so seek me out!

For those interested in lap splits today -total (climb to QOM/descent to finish) avg. HR up the climb:
1.    18:28min     8:17 - 10:11     av171
2.    18:38min     8:17 - 10:21     av173
3.    19:23min     8:47 - 10:36     av175
4.    19:47min     8:53 - 10:54     av175
5.    17:51min     8:29 - 9:22       av179
6.    18:39min     8:05 - 10:34     av181
7.    17:15min     7:28 - 9:47       av185   max193
8.    18:01min     8:22 - 9:39       av180
9.    17:03min     7:51 - 9:12       av181   max 194
10.  18:21min     8.28 - 9:53       av176   +50secs on leaders


Results: Via Peloton Cafe
Photo: Gallery via Peloton Cafe
Interviews: Via Peloton Cafe

Friday, 10 January 2014

AUSTRALIAN CRITERIUM CHAMPIONSHIPS

It was an emotionally and physically tough lead into the Australian National Championships for me this year. For the first time in five years I was now a full time bike rider in my lead up to the championships, but that was somewhat countered by a back injury from last year that I just can't seem to shake. For the first time 'ever' I am now part of a Professional Women's Road Team in Wiggle Honda, but this was countered by a complicated decision to leave my domestic based Target Trek MTB Team just one week out from my first National Series MTB Race. All of these are very much first world problems and it was time to put all of this aside and kick my campaign off with the Australian Criterium Championships, a 33km race held on a 1.1km hot dog circuit with a difference -a hill!

Not quite the right colour but still smiling!
Photo courtesy jxp photography

After the withdrawl of defending champion Kimberley Wells (Specialized) and runner up in 2013 Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon), the race would now be under the control of the most dominant team in Orica-AIS. With a contingent of four their only 'team' challenge would come from the VIS and Hitec-Products riders, but all-in-all I was a little unsure of exactly how the race would play out. I'm sure there were some great team tactics discussed pre-race, but all of that may have gone out the window when two pre-race favourites were taken out on lap two by a crash out of the bottom corner. Chloe Hosking (Hitec-Products) and Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) both suffered minor injuries in the fall but were both unable to re-join the bike race.

I don't have permission to publish this...but what a nice arse!
Photo courtesy Gracie Elvin

This left the race wide open for me. As a one-out rider I knew I had to stay out of trouble and look after myself for a hopeful and potential sprint finish, so I watched the moves from the back of the small bunch while Carlee Taylor (Orica-AIS) kept us all at bay. The main aggressors were team VIS Apollo, and Jessie MacLean (Orica-AIS) but nothing ever looked dangerous and after two short sprints - won by Sarah Roy (Futuroscope) and MacLean - I moved up to Nettie Edmonson's (Orica-AIS) wheel with 8 laps to go. She knew I was there as I followed her around for five laps until we were given the 'three laps to go' board. MacLean was leading the way for her as Taylor monitored the last minute attack from Lauren Kitchen (Hitec-Products). The suspense track-side was starting to build...

Taking care of business..
Photo courtesy of jxp photography

I started to ask myself if I was doing the right thing following Edmonson. Last year I had followed Wells into the final corner and we were a very long way back. She was such a strong sprinter that she was able to overcome the field and take the win but I was left off the podium in fourth. I decided that I wasn't going to make the same mistake again and that I would need to be in-front of Edmonson to beat her. So with two to go I went my own way, and found myself following Jo Hogan (Bigla) as the bell sounded. Hogan is a strong rider and a very reliable lead-out, I knew that she wouldn't play silly down the back-straight and would fight for position around the final bend. I was happy there.

MacLean & Viotto crash centre stage, Edmonson comes down on the right
Photo courtesy jxp photography

I was surprised that no-one made the dash for the inside line on the final corner, in-fact even MacLean left her attempt late around the outside but to no avail. I accelerated out of the corner still on my hoods as I feel more powerful in that position when my back plays up, but couldn't bear the thought of seeing photos of myself in such an unprofessional manner lol So I positioned myself in the drops, selected my gear, and changed it three times throughout the sprint trying to find one that worked...unlucky. Lizzie Williams was the first to jump and it was early- 350m to go into a headwind up-hill sprint. Roy jumped to the right, then I jumped to the left and as the long drag race kicked off I could hear the loud smashing of carbon on metal on tar...unlucky again. I ended up over-geared but even more so outperformed by eventual winner Roy.

The dash to the line! L-R: Kitchen, Me, Roy, Williams and McConville
Photo courtesy jxp photography

As I crossed the line I smiled. I was happy with second, beaten by a better rider on the day, and a rider that I knew everyone would be happy for. For those that don't know, this girl has been on the cusp for a very long time. She is a dedicated athlete in every single aspect of the sport and for some reason she just couldn't seem to crack a win, and it was never through lack of ability. Some may say that she was an unlikely winner, but for those that have raced her she is always at the top of our list of ones to watch. Others may say that she won a 'crash marred race' but I honestly believe the two crashes (yes, there were multiples) in the final straight wouldn't have stripped her of that victory. To say that I am proud of her is an understatement and I hope to stand next to her on the podium may times in the future!

Should have opened my mouth for the spray! L-R: Me, Roy and Kitchen
Photo courtesy jxp photography

Lauren Kitchen (Hitec-Products) rounded out the podium in third. It was disappointing that her team-mate Hosking had crashed out early in the race because I know the two of them were wanting an aggressive bike race and that's not what the crowd were treated to. Instead it was a reserved effort by many as we all prepare for the blue ribbon Road Race on Saturday. Here's to hoping that everyone who laid it down in the criterium recovers in time to put on a great show in the hunt for the green and gold in Bunninyong.

Results: Via Peloton Cafe
Photos: Gallery via Peloton Cafe
Report: Via Wiggle Honda

DAY 4 BAY CRITERIUMS

Yesterday turned out to be a very long day. Although not contributing to the breakaway in Portarlington, the day still took it's toll and the work I did in the last three laps had exhausted me. More specifically than that when I got up this morning my back wasn't in agreeance and I found myself downing some pain killers to ease the ache before the drive to Williamstown. It was a ripe old windy warm up (what does that even mean Peta?) and my back was only getting worse as the race neared.

Holding the sprint jersey into the final stage-eventual winner!
Photo courtesy jxp photography

The tactic was to keep everything together for the first sprint, or at the very least mark Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) to make sure she missed any moves that went, as she was now the only one who could take the sprinters jersey from my hands. From there, we planned to be in the moves but not making the moves, and stick to our winning tactic of leading Giorgia into another sprint finish.

It's safe to say that I didn't lie when I said that the girls would throw everything they had at us for the final stage of the Michelton Wines Bay Criteriums. I made a concerted effort to take the first corner on second wheel, I was NOT going to miss an early break and let the team down. The first attack came from Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt Sydney Uni), immediately countered by Scandolara, and the final blow went to Gracie Elvin (Jayco National Team). I chased all three in the space of a lap and was absolutely pooped at the end of it! I looked down- 4minutes in - damn this was going to be a long day for me.

Orica-AIS drive the break while Linda sits pretty on the back
Photo courtesy jxp photography

I won't spend too much time re-living my accounts of the race because my experiences mainly involved struggling on the back of the bunch. I would jump around girls as they dropped out of the race and managed to get to the front maybe 3 times to do a lap turn of pace. But all-in-all I was somewhat useless today and can only commend the team for an amazing effort both physically and tactically. The European's really rode themselves into the series and I was glad to have Emilia and Lotte representing us at the front.

I'm not one to write about what happened at the front of the race when I wasn't there, but from all accounts it was a real show-stopper! A break of five including Elvin, Loes Gunewick (Orica-AIS), Jessie Maclean (Orica-AIS), Saray Roy (Roxsolt Sydney Uni) and Linda established a 20 second lead that went away in the first 10minutes. Roy and Maclean lost contact nearing the finish and the gap dropped to 10 seconds before being dragged back in the final 2 laps with an inevitable bunch sprint. Emilia had patrolled the bunch all day but it was Lotte who stole the hero title, leading Giorgia in the final laps to have her take her third victory of the series, with Lotte holding on for 8th.

Game on! L-R: Nettie, Giorrgia and Tiff
Photo courtesy jxp photography

With this result we also took the teams classification and my points allowed me to take home the sprint jersey. Giorgia was super excited to be the first ever international to win the Bay Criterium's and says that she will do her best to have it on her race calendar next year! Most of the girls have gone their seperate ways and I will miss my new friends, but watch out world when we are re-united in February for Tour of Qatar, may the shenanigans never end...

The Wigglettes: Me, Emilia, Linda, Lotte and Giorgia
Photo courtesy Barbie

It may have only been four days of racing but I'm pooped. It'll be hard to find the motivation to get through the week's preparations for Road Nationals in Ballarat, and having my back injury rear it's head again certainly doesn't help. It's times like this that I wonder if rest is the best recipe, or if I train through the week as I normally would. Time to turn to coach Damian Grundy with the tough questions! Thanks for tuning in and see you all next week in Ballarat :)

Results: Via Peloton Cafe
Race Video: Via Peloton Cafe
Photo Gallery: Via Bart Hazen and Peloton Cafe

Sunday, 5 January 2014

DAY 3 BAY CRITERIUMS

It was wild weather when we rolled out on our way to Portarlington for the third stage of the Michelton Wines Bay Criteriums, greeted by black skies, light rain and some very strong gusts of wind. It was a world class bunch when the Wiggle Honda and Dhb Dream Team met up with Orica-AIS and the Jayco National Team for a tail-wind roll to the series toughest circuit. The course starts on a slight downhill as it leads into the first sharp left, which forces a quick change of gears to punch up the first part of the climb. We crest at another left bend and power across a flat section before climbing to the top of the hill that takes you to yet another left. A short descent sweeps you into the last corner and a block headwind up the final ascending straight sees you to the finish of the 1.3km lap.

Roles reversed and commentator Scott McGrory is lost for words
Photo courtesy Darren Casey

Our tactic was unchanged from the day prior. We wanted to keep the field together for the first sprint to take the points jersey, follow the moves for the day and be present in every breakaway. But ultimately get Giorgia up again for another win to try and solidify her overall hold on the general classification and also try to maintain our teams classification lead. With so many goals, just 45 minutes of racing and only five girls we certainly had our hopes set high. It would take full commitment from the team to get everything right and make up for our small mistakes in the days prior. Pedal by pedal we are becoming closer as a team.

Giorgia tells some stories while we wait for the weather to clear
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

The bunch was lined out in the first 15 minutes as small attacks from riders such as Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized) tried to force the pace but succeeded only in dragging the bunch out to single-file. As we came around for the whistle for the first intermediate sprint it was Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) who attacked up the climb with Lotte and I in tow. The three of us gapped the peloton as Lotte drove it for half a lap to lead me out to take maximum points. In a repeat from the day before, Scandolara continued with the move and Gracie Elvin (Jayco National Team) made her way across to form a dangerous break of three.

Powerhouse Lotte drops the field before the first sprint!
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

The girls worked the break well and despite their continuous pressure to have me roll through, I made it clear that I no interest in the break and was working for our team leader Gioriga. It was obvious this was frustrating for them, but such is the nature of cycling and the two were now left with three options. They could retreat back to the peloton and attack again, in the hope that a Wiggle Honda rider wasn't in tow OR they could get smart and attack me one after the other until I broke OR they could push the break to the finish and hope to out-sprint me in the final. Meanwhile in the peloton it was Cromwell and Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt Sydney Uni) doing all of the chasing.

Riding in the break with Elvin and Scandolara
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

The soon to be Orica-AIS teammates through the 2014 season began to whisper between themselves and a few small attacks came in succession but nothing that could pry the three of us apart. After 15minutes away we received the whistle for the second sprint. Elvin seemed keen to take the win this time around but possibly went a little early from third wheel and I was able to take the maximum 3 points. Two laps later we received the lap board for 5 to go and it was clear the peloton was now in serious chase. With three to go it was all back together and 'most' of the 18 girls now prepared for a bunch sprint.

My favourite part - the freewheel corners!
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) launched an attack as soon as the catch was made but being at the head of the field I was able to cover her. Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt Sydney Uni) was the next to go but was covered by Lotte. The second last time up the climb saw Miranda Griffiths (Vanderkitten) come to the fore and upon joining her we had a good 20m lead. But the ever strong Jo Hogan chased it back and countered. I got on her wheel and she held her effort down the hill and through to bell lap with the peloton strung out in file. I found myself on the front and eased the pace up the first part of the climb until I saw Linda on my wheel with Giorgia in tow. When I got the call I hit out up the hill, over the crest and looked back again for Linda - she had dropped her chain up the hill, doh!

Giorgia takes stage 3 ahead of Edmonson and Cromwell
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

So instead Girogia was now third wheel ahead of Cromwell, with only Hogan between us, and I pushed on to lead through the final corner. I enjoyed the repreive on free-wheel and agonisingly sprinted out of the corner as hard as I could until Cromwell and then Giorgia came streaming off the wheel. Finally - recovery! Then after a few had passed I remember I still needed to hold on for points in the teams classification, doh again! A few more hard pedals and the day was over. Success - stage win, green points jersey, yellow overall jersey and the teams classification, worth every pedal stroke :) Nettie Edmonson (Orica-AIS) overhauled Cromwell and the pair finished second and third respectively.

Perhaps Giorgia has too much confidence in her team-mates!
Photo courtesy Darren Casey

So today we drive through to Williamstown near the city of Melbourne for the final stage. It's a flat and fast circuit but deceivingly tough. The last few years have finished with a bunch sprint but perhaps today a breakaway will finally prevail. We have a strong hold on all three classifications now (touch wood), so today our main challenge is the push for a third stage win. There will no doubt be some sore legs after yesterday but I know the girls will still throw everything they have at us. I'm sure they all know that we will be ready...

Results: Via Peloton Cafe
Race Video: Via Peloton Cafe
Photo Gallery: Via Bart Hazen and Peloton Cafe

Saturday, 4 January 2014

DAY 2 BAY CRITERIUMS


Wiggle Honda had the yellow GC jersey, green points jersey and teams classification leads going into Day 2 at the Michelton Wines Bay Criteriums yesterday. It was a good feeling to have had such a successful opening day, but it only made the pressure and expectation to succeed again weigh even heavier on our shoulders. After proving we had the fastest sprinter in Giorgia, it was then time to change our tactics to protect our overall position by ensuring that she featured in the final sprint. To ask her to also race for the points was a bit unfair, so the decision was made that we would chase the sprints as a team to ease that pressure.

Triple World Champion and me... my head looks massive here!
Photo courtesy Matt Keenan

The peloton was primarily sedate until 15minutes in, where Linda and Lotte took me to the front in preparation for the first sprint. I was flagged by Specialized along the back straight with Loren Rowney, Tiffany Cromwell and second place Lizzie Williams ready to challenge us. The girls made it so hard that when I came off Lotte's wheel for the 3 points, we had gapped the peloton back to Lizzie in third. The counter came from Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) and Cromwell before any recovery time so I had to dig deep to get on the wheel. The lined out peloton began to split and a selection of 8 rounded the back-straight; Scandolara, Cromwell, Gracie Elvin (Jayco National Team), Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt Sydney Uni), Sophie Williamson (Vanderkitten), Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt Sydney Uni), Jess Allen (VIS Apollo) and I. The strength was in the group for it to be successful but within the lap the only dangerous move of the day had the bunch in tow.

Linda and Lotte prepare me for the first sprint
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

It didn't go unnoticed that these events hurt people and the race eased for a few laps while we all got our breath back - yep...this is when I hit 195hr! It was all together when we got the bell for the second sprint and I made my way to the front again to claim some points. By now Lizzie had withdrawn from the race, but it was Scandolara who upset the arrangement when she launched over the climb in hope of a potential breakaway. I followed in chase and subsequently claimed the 2 points, which lined out the chasing peloton and eventually nullified the move. With three laps to go the pace really came off, that was until Sarah Roy (Roxsolt Sydney Uni) lit it up through two to go. Linda and Lotte hit the front at bell lap down to the waterfront, and then the fun began! 

Stage 2 Podium: Edmonson, Hosking & Bronzini
Photo courtesy jxpphotography

The nature of the course makes the final climb a lottery. It's important to be at the front because the top of the climb marks 300m to go, but being at the front too early into the headwind can prove worse. The ascent is a gradual rise on a wide road and lead-out trains are hard to sustain without being swamped on the climb. Hosking was badly placed leading into the final corner, in her own admittance 'perhaps 15 people back' but when Edmonson, Elvin and Giorgia propped on the frontline without a team-mate between then to lead out, it was Hosking who reaped the benefit. Coming from 15 back saw her attack them early at speed and put everyone else on the backfoot. She cruised to an easy victory over a fast finishing Giorgia and Edmonson. Giorgia still holds yellow and Wiggle Honda the teams classification.

Still leading the Teams Classification after Day 2
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

Despite a loss yesterday, it was a good day for Wiggle Honda because we rode and communicated better as a team. It's not easy to come together the day before racing and as the language barriers fall we learn more about what the upcoming 2014 season will be like - and I'm excited! To celebrate another day of racing, a win for Roxsolt Sydney-Uni and of course the birthday of a very influential and supportive sponsor of women's cycling in Australia - Kelvin Rundle, we all gathered together for a buffet gourmet dinner (+wine and dessert) in what was an awesome night and a reminder that we do this for more than just the race memories. Thanks Kelvin!

Stepping out in style in our new custom Fizik kicks!
Photo courtesy Rochelle Gilmore

Today's course out at Portarlington is a tough one. The majority of the course trends uphill and the recovery is merely a short, fast downhill stint leading into a tricky bottom and final left-hand corner. Cromwell has won solo the last two years and I have no doubt that her and Scandolara will once again be the main aggressors. It's historically a tough course for the sprinters to get around but I have no doubt that Giorgia will be there. The question is, will Hosking and Edmonson be there again to challenge her? Once again racing kicks off at 11.30am with the support races and 1.30pm for the Elite Women.

Photo Gallery: Via Peloton Cafe

Friday, 3 January 2014

DAY 1 BAY CRITERIUMS

It was a quiet and uneventful lead into the New Year for me. I headed down to Geelong with Jarrod so that he could celebrate the end of 2013 in style, and went to bed early to honour my date with 'Princess Diaries 2'...and a magnum...and a bag of burger rings - really living on the edge! I had a restless night for two reasons; I was nervous at the prospect of meeting my new team-mates for the first time and curious as to when I would get the 4am 'drunken pick-up' call which came right on cue. The New Year can only get better from here for Jarrod... lol

After a short meet and greet with the Wigglettes, staff and the 'dhb dream team' I was feeling settled with our massive gathering of 16 people! As the only Australian I will introduce you to these International superstars that I will share the tarmac with this week, every single one of them having earned National and/or World stripes in their lustrious careers (named in order of picture):

The classic Wiggle Honda team shot!
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

Linda Villumsen - New Zealand National Time Trial Champion
Emila Fahlin - Swedish National Road Race Champion
Me - Australian National XC MTB Champion
Charlotte Becker - Germany - World Teams Time Trial Champion
Giorgia Bronzini - Italy - Dual World Road Champion and Track Champion
Rochelle Gilmore - Three time winner and Commonwealth Games Champion - injured
Other staff: Kurt Bogaerts (Director), Jarrod Moroni (Mechanic), Jon McEniry (Masseur), Maria Bewcyk (Physio) and Bart Hazen (Photographer)

You would think that in my 10th edition of the Bay Series that it would all come quite naturally to me now, but as the race grew nearer the nerves certainly spiked for this little MTB'er and the task at hand seemed daunting. For those of you that don't follow women's road cycling on an International scene it may be hard to comprehend the talent and ability of our Giorgia Bronzini. She clocked up 18 UCI wins last year, won 6 of 8 stages at the women's equivalent of the Tour de France, and was named 'sprinter of the year' by Velo Sports. To be in the same room as her is a privilege and to be able to learn from her is a gift in itself. Last night she proved why.

Flying solo...
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

The Ritchie Blvd evening circuit is an 600m hot-dog and our aim was to be aggressive, but it seemed that no other teams wanted a piece of that pie. It was surprising to see the teams racing defensively considering a betting man would say we have the strongest sprinter in the race, and that a breakaway was probably everyone else's best chance at victory. The first attack came from Kate Finnegan (Specialized) which was very short lived as she overcooked the first corner and crashed, bringing down Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt Sydney Uni). I snuck up the inside and launched what turned out to be the only real break of the day. After a few laps solo where I clocked my fastest lap of the day by 4 seconds (50secs-HRavg 191!) the gap was nullified by Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) and Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized) with the field now slightly decimated. 

I struggled to recover in time for the first intermediate sprint at the 15-minute mark and felt overwhelmed when Giorgia herself came back to lead me out! Shock! As expected I couldn't hold her wheel, and she rode away in chase of the leaders to finish second. She was then obliged to take out the second intermediate to make it worthwhile and as a result won the sprinters jersey today. With Lotte and Emilia both feeling the shock of racing in January, it was left to Linda to cover the late moves, while I tried to keep the pace high enough to hurt the sprinters that were a threat; namely Annette Edmonson (Orica-AIS) and Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt Sydney Uni). 

Giorgia takes the first win in 2014 for Wiggle Honda
Photo courtesy jxpphotogrpahy

There was a flurry of attacks after the second intermediate and the bunch was now diminished to 18 riders. Orica-AIS began their lead-out with 5 laps to go and despite a massive effort to reach the front, I went straight back to where I came from and suffered on to finish in 15th. I watched on as the untouchable Giorgia unleashed her power out of the final corner to cruise to victory over Edmonson and Cromwell; who made a very impressive dive-bomb into the final corner. Linda finished 9th which also gave us the lead in the team classification.

So the New Year goes off with a bang but there were no celebrations last night as the job continues today. Defending the yellow won't be easy in such a high calibre field but I look forward to the challenge. It's not my favourite course around the Eastern Gardens in Geelong as the circuit is quite long, windy and wide making it somewhat easy in the bunch. If the race is aggressive however, the pinch up the hill will do some damage and certainly make it worth the watch! Racing kicks off with the Support Men at 11:30am and Elite Women at 1:30pm.