Its Tuesday evening and i'm sitting on the couch trying to remember where i was this time last week...It may have only been 7 days ago but the events of last week seem like a lifetime ago and now it's 'back to reality'... or at least trying to hold it off for as long as possible.
This time last week I was drove down to Geelong with AIS cyclist Lauren Kitchen to the World Road Cycling Championships for what would be the 'epicest' week i've had for a longgg time. This year, we had 4 Canberran's lining up to compete to become the best in the World, so I couldn't help but show a little bias when it came to cheering for the riders!
On Wednesday was the U/23 men and Elite Women's TT. Representing Australia in the U/23 men were Luke Durbridge (WA) and Rohan Dennis (SA) – both World champions on the track and looking to add the U/23 Time Trial title to their already substantial list of palmers... Luke was the first off for the Aussies posting a blistering time over the first lap and his time over the first 6km would only be rivalled by rider David Millar who ran 2nd in the elite men category. Luke sat there for over 2hrs watching other riders trying to better his time, which was completed in the rain might i add. Rohan was sitting in 2nd place for a while and it looked like Aussies might go 1,2 that was until USA rider Taylor Phinney pipped Luke by 1.90sec to snatch the gold medal away from the Aussie whilst Marcel Kittel from Germany rounded out the podium. 1.90sec over a 31.6km circuit is nothing. It can be made/loss in a corner, which line on the road you took... or in Luke's case, between riding on a wet course in the rain or being able to ride on dry roads as Phinney was. Who knows if Luke would have bettered Phinney if given the same conditions, all i know is that it would have been a hell of a lot closer race ;)
Luke Durbridge opens up the medal tally for the Aussies
Next up was the elite Women's TT. Pulling on the Aussie stripes (or should I say, spending 15min trying to wedge the skinsuit over your shoulders with the help of 3 other people and trying your hardest not to flex and rip the suit with your massive biceps) was Canberran Vicki Whitelaw, Shara Gillow (QLD) and current Oceania Champion Alexis Rhodes (SA). The 22.7km time trial was held over a modified course to that of the U/23 men, however, they were not exempt from climbing the infamous berg in the opening kilometres... Just for the record, I zig-zagged – i mean 'rode' up it the day after the TTs, and wow. These riders deserved a hell of a lot of respect! The designer of the course obviously has no children – i wouldn't wish that upon anyone!! Haha... just kidding, it did make for a very exciting race!!!!!
Shara was the best place Aussie finishing in an incredible 8th place behind winner Emma Pooley. Shara is 22 years old and made her splash on the cycling scene in 2008. Her first race in Europe was the 2009 Giro Donne and a year later she is finishing top 10 in the World.. this is no doubt only an indication of Shara's real potential, so remember the name – no doubt you'll be hearing a lot more of it!!!! Vicki Whitelaw broke the top 20 finishing in 18th place whilst Alexis finished just behind in 19th. Both girls were a little disappointed with the final result, Vicki Whitelaw keeping a positive outlook about it in an interview where she states "(Today) it wasn't a factor of not knowing the course as we have been practicing this course since February," explained Whitelaw, adding, "There were positive sections today where I rode really strongly, but also some parts I really slumped, like at the start and I also thought I wasn't climbing efficiently." Whilst Alexis is hoping to try to redeem herself at the Commonwealth Games time trial next week "I wanted to run top ten and ended up nineteenth which is pretty disappointing, but there are 18 girls who are better than me which is just the way it is I guess."
Shara Gillow on her way to 8th place!! GO SHARA!!
Day 1 of TTs completed and it was time to head back to the house at Torquay with the Canberra crew, not before I stopped at Maccas to use the free wifi... I knew I couldn't last a day without internet. Then it was off to bed for what was another epic day of TTing!
Representing AUS in the elite men's TT were Richie Porte and Canberran Michael Rogers. Mick has competed in a World Championship since 1997 and was hoping to make 2010 a memorable one, repeating what he had done in 2003,2004 and 2005 on home soil. Richie Porte was also looking like a medal contender, having burst on the cycling scene 4 years ago, he is now riding for Saxo Bank in his first season as a professional cyclist. It was Mick's turn to wait in the hot seat after positing the fastest time of the day until the final wave of riders came and saw the likes of David Millar, Tony Martin and none other than Fabian Cancellara slide him off the podium. Richie was sitting in third place after Tony Martin suffered a mechanical and looked to be able to hold on, but it was Martin who came home stronger to beat Richie by a mere 7sec. Both riders said they were disappointed not to have an Aussie finish on the podium (finishing 4th and 5th respectively)in front of a home crowd but I think they should be very proud of their rides regardless, to finish the way they did amongst such class acts really says something!
With the final day of TTing done, it was time to do some training of my own and I took the time to explore some of the coastline around Torquay and Geelong... I forgot how much I love and miss being at the beach, the stoney patches of ground leading to a brown and murky sea in Europe really doesn't compare.
Day 3 of Worlds – the U/23 road race and probably the most memorable day of the event, well for us Canberran's anyway!!! Lining up for the 159km race for Australia was Luke Durbridge (WA), Ben King (WA), Malcolm Rudolf (QLD), Rohan Dennis (SA), Joe Lewis(NSW) and Michael Matthews(ACT). I spent the first part of the race cheering on the boys from the top of the 2nd hill as Ben King was in pursuit of the USA rider Ben King who had launched a threatening break in the opening stages of the race. With just over 4 laps remaining, I raced Carlee Taylor and Lauren Kitchen back to the start finish line to watch the closing stages of the race with the very nervous Canberra contingent and family. The race came together in the final 2 laps as the whole Aussie team lined up on the front to try and bring the break back and get rid of any drift wood leading into the sprint. 1 lap to go and the field was together with a couple of French riders making small attacks to no avail. With half a lap remaining, there was no doubt that it was going to be a bunch sprint and I stood by my bet from the beginning of the race that Bling (Michael Matthews) was going to be taking home the rainbows. Coming into the last bend the Canberra crew were holding their breath, biting their nails with their eyes glued to the big screen. Just over 300m to go it looked like Bling was boxed in but out of nowhere he shot out of the peloton and left everyone for dead behind him. He was going to be taking home the rainbows and was officially deemed the Best in the World, after what really was a very impressive season. When he crossed the line, there was cheering, screaming and tears coming from the Canberra supporters and seeing his family's reaction was probably the most touching part of it all! The Canberra cycling community is very close knit and it is always a big deal when you see a fellow rider do well :) Needless to say, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate that night... The whole Aussie team were on a much deserved high and it was contagious! But what happens out – stays out, sorry ;)
A picture says a thousand words....
Struggling from a severe lack of sleep, I dragged myself over to watch the Women's race on Saturday. Having raced the team members and stayed with them previously, I was eager to see them stick it to the internationals!!! I had the pleasure of racing with the Aussie National team for their last race in Europe – the Tour de L'Ardeche which was taken out by Vicki Whitelaw with Ruth Corset wining a stage and taking home the Queen of the Mountain jersey. Carla Ryan also won the last stage of the Tour and Tiffany Cromwell, Amanda Spratt and Shara Gillow were on fire!!! If their form was anything to go by, I would pick them for a good show. The women were faced with 'only' 8 laps of the guelling course but the pace was on as the field split up in the opening laps. Ruth Corset was the protected rider for the race, with Carla Ryan calling the shots on the road as team leader as radios were not allowed this year! I know these girls, and know that they put 100% into the race and although this isn't reflected in the final results, whoever watched the race on TV should agree. A lot goes on in a bike race, most of which isn't reflected in the final results.. I was riding the morning of the Men's road race when a cyclist rolled up to me and asked my opinion of the Aussie women's performance, stating that he thought it was disappointing that they weren't there at the end and that they should have sat in the peloton and done nothing, to at least make it to the finish. It is hard to explain to a non-racer that sometimes it is a riders job to do so much work for their team that they are expected NOT to finish, but it got me thinking that he is probably not the only one thinking this and with the best place Aussie being Ruth Corset who finished in 26th place, I took the opportunity to ask the Australian National Women's Coach Martin Barras, his opinion on the race.
Martin Barras "I actually apologised to the girls yesterday for the way I got them into this particular race. The one thing I told them before hand and again in relation to the fact that this is such an exceptional opportunity for us is if you endeavour to have an impact in this race and to leave nothing unturned, turn yourself inside out basically then you need to have no fear about the end result or the outcome and sure enough the result or the outcome, lets' not lie about it, it wasn't fantastic for us, it wasn't a great result, but these girls, and i think it was obvious on television turned themselves inside out to provide a god result and certainly to provide a good race. In that respect i couldn't be more pleased. I tend to be very proud of my teams and i was particularly proud of the team yesterday, hopefully we can be proud and winning next time around."
So whilst many of you are saying that the Australian Women's team didn't perform well, sure i'll agree – on paper they didn't get a great result- but let me assure you that remember, this is only 1 race amongst close to 100 that the women race a year (sure is a bloody big one at that!!!!!) but everyone has bad days, and you got to creep. Unfortunately for the Aussie women, it appears that today was their turn ... but their results here certainly doesn't reflect how they have performed this year. I know I couldn't be prouder of them :)
Vicki Whitelaw looking after Ruth Corset
Italian Giorgia Bronzini took out the nail biting finish from Marianne Vos from Holland and Emma Johansson from Sweden.
Which leads me to think about another topic.. on a cycling forum someone made the following comment when the forum asked if they should cover women's cycling
" I've seen it over and over. A woman trains like any A-grade male racer for a season or two and the next thing you know she's a "professional". Most of them soft pedal for 100km until the business end of the race and they needlessly crash all the time. Sorry to say it CT, but leave the womens cycling to other websites."
- Dude. Don't even get me started. Actually you already have, but i'll be saving that for another blog post.
After another restless night it was time for the elite men's road race. The Aussie team of Michael Rogers, Matthew Hayman, Stuart O'Grady, Cadel Evens, Allan Davis, Matthew Goss, Simon Gerrans, Baden Cook and Wesley Sulzberger lined up for a race of 260km starting in Federation Square in Melbourne and finishing up with 11 laps of the Geelong circuit covered by the U/23 men and the elite women the 2 days prior. I have to admit, most of my time during the race was spent doing interviews and running after other media stuff, but by the time I got to settle down and watch the last 3 laps – I was very pleased to see 2 Aussies still sitting in the lead group in Allan Davis and reining champ Cadel Evans. The crowd at the last 100m was close to 10 deep and I was struggling to fight my way through and get a glimpse of the riders coming into the last couple of laps. A great attack my favourite Gilbert looked threatening but was soon brought back and another bunch sprint was on the cards. Coming into the home stretch I could seen Allan Davis tucked in the bunch, under 300m to go I saw him step out the start his sprint only to have the screen blocked by someone's head – the 'perks' of being just over 5ft...I had no idea who had won. It took a minute for the results to come up on the screen and I was proud to see that "Alby" had finished the week off for the Aussies with a bronze medal – awesome stuff!! Thor Hushovd took out the win from Matti Breschel from Denmark. Post race I went to the media centre to listen in on the press conference where each riders were asked various questions from the media. When Alby was asked his opinion on the combined team effort he stated "I'm the only one standing on the podium but was definitely a team effort". I think this pretty much summed up the last 3 days of racing for the Aussies. Road cycling is definitely a team sport and I think the Aussies displayed great teamwork and sportsmanship - well done Cyclones you made us proud :)
Allan Davis on the podium – finishing up a great week for the Aussies!!
So the men's road race marked unfortunately the end of a very epic week. It was one of my best experiences to date and I can't wait to experience something like that again – hopefully from the other side of the fence ;) Now I got to get back to my own training, I'm super keen to get back into it! Nothing like watching the best in the business to get you pumped.
See you out on the road
All photos courtesy of Jarrod Partridge and Cyclingtribe.com