Saturday, 11 January 2014


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