Monday, 27 January 2014


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 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