It’s 1030pm and I’m still awake. Normally by now my head has hit the pillow and I’ve passed out for the night… But no, not tonight. After gorging myself on a variety of gels, caffeine and sugary foods accompanied by the constant throbbing of my legs, I have a feeling it is going to be a longggg night. And to top it all off, I am busy trying to rehydrated after forgetting to put on sunscreen in all the excitement resulting in my skin getting a little more than a ‘kiss’ from the sun :S… For those cyclists out there I’m sure you can sympathise with me – this is anticlimax you could say of finishing a Tour.
In 2010 I was watching the Canberra Tour from a lot more comfortable position in the commissaires car as I was still undergoing rehab for various injuries and so was excited to finally be able to race it again in 2011 under the new name of the Loop Canberra Tour. New name and new management meant a new format and for us women, it meant longer distances as well having a 50min crit on the Friday, 114km (it wasn’t 109km-lies) road race Saturday AM and 20km time trial Saturday PM and to finish us all off (literally) an 80km road race on the Sunday with not a meter of flat roads. 4 intermediate sprints and 2 QOMs on the Saturday morning, 2 more sprints and QOMs on the Sunday as well as the very generous time bonuses given on the finish line meant that anyone had a chance to be in the money! I was just out to make sure that ‘anyone’ was the Canberra Cycling Club Team. The Canberra Cycling Club team on which I was racing on behalf of consisted of Jessie Maclean, who is about to represent the Australian National Team in Europe later this month, Gracie Elvin a ‘mountain biker’ who does more than hold her own on the road and who is also competing in Europe this month and junior rider Alice Wallett, who we are still trying to convince that cycling is better than triathlon :)
It was an epic few days to say the least but I’ve done my best to try and briefly recap all of the stages:
Friday Stage 1: 50min Criterium There were attacks, people chased them… more attacks and yet more people chase. Despite it being one of the most aggressive races I’ve been in with some threatening attacks from the Victorian Institute of Sport team (VIS) and a solo effort by team mate Jessie Maclean, from midway into the race it was obvious that it was destined to come down to a sprint finish. I tested out my sprinting legs in the intermediate sprint prime but got a bit excited and started my sprint way to early, getting pipped by Loren Rowney from the Bundaberg Sugar team. I figured that I didn’t have the sprinting form to win a race so I decided that I’d help Jessie Maclean out and shadowed her wheel as we came into the last few laps as she is pretty self-sufficient when it comes to finding a lead out. When the sprint opened up, people were going everywhere on the track. Jessie jumped right and I saw an opening on the left and it was a drag race to the finish with Loren Rowney taking out the win followed by Canberra’s Beck Wiasak and Kendelle Hodges from the VIS. I came in in 4th whilst Gracie Elvin picked up 6th and Jessie 7th. Although we didn’t win, we were in the time bonuses and put ourselves in a comfortable position leading into the road race the next morning. Since Loren Rowney was the overall tour leader and sprint winner, it also meant that I would be wearing the sprint jersey going into tomorrrow’s stage – don’t worry, I had a bit of a laugh too :P
Sprinting for intermediate sprint points, photo courtesy of Greg Long
Saturday Stage 2: 114km RR
For all those Canberra riders, you would be all too familiar with the Uriarra-Condor loop. If this wasn’t bad enough, we had to complete it twice and since I was in contention for the sprinters jersey I also had 4 intermediate sprints to contest…It was going to be rough to say the least! Descending down into Uriarra crossing for the first time, it dawned on me that wearing the sprinter’s jersey (although I have to admit, it did look pretty awesome) was going to be more of a burden than a privilege, it meant that I had to contest the intermediate sprints. Luckily for me I had the best wing woman in the peloton to lead me out for them – Jessie Maclean gave me leadouts that Mark Renshaw himself would be proud of and as a result, I accumulated enough points to hold onto the sprinters jersey for another day. I was happy with how I was feeling on the climbs especially after the sprinting and so decided to try my luck in the QOM points as well, I scored some in the first 2 at the turn around and then again at the top of the 3 sisters where I got into a break of 3 riders until midway back to Stromlo Forrest Park but I soon realised that maybe trying to contest both competitions AND make it to the finish alive was a bit too ambitious and so settled for grovelling up the climbs instead. Going into the last lap it was pretty much a repeat of the previous one – we contested the sprints, the pace was set up the climbs, Jessie Maclean and Kendelle scared us all sh!tless on the descents and by the time we knew it we were climbing the 3 sisters for the last time. I have to admit, I was very surprised to see that we still had such a large bunch, maybe it is just a reflection of the quality of women riders we have coming through at the moment, but all I knew was I didn’t like it…It is common knowledge that I time trial like a brick through water and so I needed as much advantage going into the afternoon’s stage as possible. Having lost their sprinter on the final climb, the VIS were launching attacks in the last few kilometres to try and get a break but to no avail – coming into Stromlo Forrest Park it was going to be another bunch kick. Gracie rolled up to me and said she was feeling good and it was like music to my ears – by that stage I was feeling like poo and so I told her to stick on my wheel on the crit course and I would follow wheels to get her lined up for the sprint.
Coming into the final corner, it was the same sprinting ‘tactics’ as the crit and there was no way that I was going to make the same mistake happen twice, I kicked off the wheel in front later with Gracie still attached and sprinted for home – Grace Sulzberger was just ahead and when I rolled past her a few meters for the line, I realised that in my lead out gone wrong – I’d actually won. I’d freaking won a bike race. And not just any bike race, one in my hometown in front of my friends, family and coach.
the win :) thanks Brian for the photo!!
What went through my head? Well when I put my arm in the air the first thing I thought was ‘bullsh!t. I didn’t just win a bunch kick...’ Then when Grace Sulzberger rolled up and congratulated me I burst out crying – I’m a girl scout I know but winning a race in your hometown is something you dream of doing and it was great for me to finally repay all the people who have stood by me and helped me out by giving them a win. Gracie held on for 3rd and picked up more time bonuses which gave her a good advantage leading into the time trial that afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Greg Long - check out other awesome shots from the tour here
Saturday PM: 20km TT
The only thing I could’ve hoped for was for the time trial to be tomorrow afternoon, so at least I could have been leader of the Tour for longer than 2hrs… and gotten a pretty slick white leader’s jersey too. But alas, just when I was feeling on top of the world after my win there’s nothing like a time trial to knock you down again. Although I was riding on one of the fastest time trial bikes available, a tiny Cervelo P3 at 48cm and equipped with 650c wheels, I knew I was going to have to ride the time trial of my life if I was going to stay in contention in the tour. I enlisted the help of super coach MaryAnn Simpson and my twin sister Bron to follow me in the car and yell abuse/encouragement at me to help me stay focused on the 20km solo journey ahead. I was feeling strong going down to the turn around and was happy to be able to turn around without unclipping/hitting my foot (those of you who don’t ride tiny bikes won’t appreciate this luxury…) and on the way back had my eyes set on reeling in the few riders who were ahead of me. I was about to turn around and hit my coach and sister when I figured that if I rode faster, they would probably stop yelling – so I did. I rolled home and am happy to say rode the time trial of my life. I’m not known for my extensively long attention span and this was the first time trial where I didn’t think of what I was having for dinner, count, or even sing to myself. Although it wasn’t enough to match the big hitters, I was stoked and ended up finishing in 7th. Beck Wiasak smoked everyone for the win followed by Allison Rice and Jo Hogan rounded out the podium in 3rd. Gracie Elvin had an awesome ride and held her own for 4th putting her 3rd in GC leading into the final stage, a great position for us!
The tiny TT machine - and new kit!! photo courtesy of Greg Long
Sunday RR: 80km
Waking up Sunday morning, probably the first thing I said to myself was ‘thank god we don’t have to race 130km like then men’. Today’s stage was ‘only’ 80km but you’d be hard pressed to find more than a meter of flat road anywhere out on course. The GC leading into today meant that the race would surely be aggressive with 1sec margins separating 4 riders and a big 54sec gap to Beck Wiasak who was now tour leader. With the help from my teammates, I had accumulated enough of a lead in the sprinters competition to have secured the jersey however we weren’t going to let anything go to chance and so sent our junior rider Alice Wallett up the road to ensure no one got in some sneaky extra points. Although the pace was on up the significant climbs, the bunch still remained intact for ¾ of the race. Our priority was to keep Gracie up/improve her position on GC and if possible, get myself further up as well but to do this, we had to drop Beck Wiasak and Allison Rice on the climbs. Luckily for us, the other teams had similar ideas and gradually the elastic band was snapping. Going back up Mt Macdonald with less than 20km to home, Grace Sulzberg and Kendelle Hodges attacked over the top of the climb. I was sitting on the otherside of the bunch and all I coul do was watch them ride away. I knew that if they were still away going down into Uriarra, the race was over. It took a while for the bunch to respond but then a paceline was formed going down into Uriarra with our work horse Jessie Maclean driving it on the front. I found her wheel going down into Uriarra before she swung off and didn’t realise how much speed she had launched me down there with…that girl is crazy. I have never descended that fast in my life and at one stage I was convinced I was going to die. But I didn’t. I couldn’t let Jess down after she busted her ass for us and so maintained that speed going into the crossing and drove it up the 1st sister to try and get rid of some driftwood and to hopefully start to close the gap and keep Gracie up there on GC as for the moment, we were sitting in 4th position.
Frustratingly, the bunch soon lost interest in chasing and it wasn’t until about 5km from home that they put in another last ditched effort. I decided it was better to have one of the team finish up on GC as oppose to both of us finishing lower down and so jumped on the front and gave a last ditched effort to bring it back. Once I blew, I knew my race was over. All I could do was the riders who were left roll past and keep my fingers crossed that they would catch Grace Sulzberger and that Gracie could hold her own in the sprint. When I rolled into the park I heard that Grace Sulzberger had held on to win by 30sec and had consequently take over the lead of the tour. Gracie Elvin got 3rd in the bunch kick and unfortunately dropped down to 4th in GC – by only 2 seconds!!!!
Despite the Canberra Cycling Team not finishing on top spot on the podium, I couldn’t have been happier. We haven’t raced together as a team before and I was amazed at how easily we all clicked and how dedicated everyone was to achieve a team result. In addition to Gracie’s 4th on GC, we held onto the sprinters jersey and so still made a nice profit for the weekend.
Although I only finished up 7th on GC, given that this time last year I wasn’t able to ride, I was pretty proud of myself. I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I fly out to Europe on the 22nd of June to start racing with the UK based Viored Team (post on that to come) but I’m happy with how things are going :)
A big thank you to Jason Parkes, Nathan Spillane, Peter Gough and the rest of the Canberra Cycling Club committee as well as SportsMaxx marketing and all of the voulnteers for another very succesful Tour :)and of course my coach MaryAnn Simpson. you rock.
You can read more about the race at VIS stomper Lisa Jacob’s ride happy blog and Bundaberg Sugar Rider Amy Bradley’s blog and full results can be found here Next up is one of my favourite races – the Cootamundra Haycarters Handicap this weekend! It should be a slightly more relaxed atmosphere than Canberra tour and I can’t wait to try and mix it with the big boys :P
Next stop for these bad boys - Europe :)
Until next time stay safe and happy pedalling,