Last Thursday May 2, Andrew and packed our van to the roof (yes, literally) and headed to the NSW Tweed Coast for my first NRS race, Battle on the Border (I’m calling this my first NRS race as I crashed out last year’s Battle on day 1). The tour is the second on the women’s NRS calendar but as a solo rider (not part of an NRS team) I can’t afford to travel to most of the other races.
This was one of the reasons I was keen to do well and show my potential at a national level. My keenness was matched however by feelings of doubt and copious amounts of stress and worry. I knew I had to trust my training and preparation but I was failing miserably.
Andrew and I arrived at the Mantra on Salt Beach Resort around 2 o’clock that afternoon. We quickly found out they had booked us in the most far away suite they had and I swear we had to walk about 5kms* to reach it. Anyway, that’s what you get when you get the 3 for 2 special!
After unpacking we located a supermarket, did some shopping and cooked dinner. I then popped down to Salt Bar around 19:15 for the rider briefing and collection of race packs. I was happy to hear police were enforcing rolling road closures for the entire race, a big improvement to last year’s horrifying first road stage with oncoming traffic hurtling towards us.
As the evening progressed, my nerves increased. The weather was not helping me to relax either, with showers and strong wind gusts throughout the day and evening. I went to bed early after prepping my race bag, food and water bottles, hoping the next day would bring clear skies, strong legs, powerful lungs and a fearless mind (and maybe a few puppy dogs for good measure).
My day started at 5am and lo and behold – the skies were blue! After managing to eat two bites of cereal, we drove down to Murwillumbah for stage 1, a 93km hilly road race. My race was to start at 8am, leaving from the Murwillumbah Showgrounds. After a decent warm up and going to the toilet about 30 times, I lined up with the other NRS women at the start.
The first 5 kilometers or so would be under neutral conditions, however these first kilometers proved to be the scariest and most chaotic as all 55 girls were trying to get to the front at the same time. I tried my best to defend my spot but wasn’t very successful. Luckily we hit the first climb of the day around the 15km mark which certainly helped to thin things out a bit. The pace was on straight away but I managed to stick with the bunch and made up a fair few spots as well. I didn’t realise until we were way past the first KOM and I looked back for the first time, that the field had been split in half! We continued with a steady pace through windy canefields until we hit the second KOM of the day around the 63km mark. Ruth Corset (Pensar) and Miranda Griffiths (Holden) attacked on the first KOM and were still going strong off the front somewhere. A third girl in the break had been dropped and was back in the bunch. The second KOM wasn’t very challenging and I got up and over without problems. A nice super fast descent followed and I was feeling ok. I just needed to hang in there and look after myself, and remain attentive. Everything went according to plan and after a somewhat half hearted sprint on my behalf I crossed the line in 11th place 50 seconds down on eventual winner Miranda and her breakaway companion Ruth. Kat Garfoot won the bunch sprint to take 3rd on the stage.
The field splitting up on the climbs. Photo: Brad Gooda (Facebook).
After a cool down on the trainer Andrew and I head back to Salt to do nothing for the rest of the day. The weather was great and we enjoyed lounging on our deckchairs, admiring the view. I wanted to give my legs as little to do as possible as tomorrow was going to bring a painful 9.3km individual time trial in the morning and a hilly criterium in the afternoon.
Saturday was yet another beautiful day. I checked my TT start times the night before and a 9:47:30 am start time meant I didn’t have to get up too early. The TT would be starting from the Murwillumbah Showgrounds again, same as last year. After arriving at the Showgrounds and about to sign on at registration, I found out my starting time had been brought forward by 20 minutes! Not cool! This meant I wouldn’t be able to do my full warm up and the added stress did not do my already nervous state of mind any favours. Anyway, I dealt with it as best as I could and lined up at 9:26am instead. During warm-up, my legs weren’t feeling great but I was hoping they’d come good in the TT. They didn’t. I struggled through the entire course, and even ran off the road at one point! I did not do my amazing S-Works SHIV TT - “Black Caviar II” - any justice. I placed 26th in the TT and lost quite a bit of time. Note to self: more TT practice!
Hey, at least I looked pro!
I felt really deflated after my poor TT performance and decided to go back to the resort to get some rest before the 3:30pm criterium at Murwillumbah. I had something to eat, moped around a bit, engaged in a lot of negative self-talk and had a brief snooze. I felt even worse after my nana-nap. Then Andrew and I then drove back out to Murwillumbah for the crit.
I was super nervous about the criterium, worried about crashing and getting dropped. My legs still felt terrible and I could barely find the motivation to start warming up again. I decided to not push myself too hard in the warm-up and just spin my legs a bit and see what happens. Lining up at the start my nerves were through the roof. I just wanted it to be over and done with. However, a great results from my friend and fellow Bicycle Riders Morningside rider Simon, who placed 4th in the Masters B race, inspired me to do well.
Feeling good in the criterium. Photo: ESI Photography.
Miraculously my legs felt great during the crit. It was a tough, technical little circuit with a few twists and turns and nice punchy hill followed by a fast descent. There were a few crashes early on, all of which I managed to avoid. The race was under neutral conditions for quite a few times after each crash, and it was a little hard to get into the swing of things. Girls were getting dropped left right and centre. All I wanted to do was hang on and don’t lose any time. Around the 30min mark, there was a big crash right behind me and the race had to be stopped. Unfortunately this also meant we wouldn’t get any results marked and so the stage was basically scrapped. A real shame. Luckily the girls involved in the crash were all ok after being checked and treated by paramedics.
I was buoyed by riding well in the criterium and felt a little more relaxed that evening. I went to bed early to prepare for the final stage, a 77km road race, starting and finishing at the Mantra resort.
The next morning the sky was looking grey and the tarmac looked wet. Ominous looking clouds were drifting in from the ocean and judging by the palms swaying, the wind had picked up as well. This was going to be a cracker! I knew both Pensar and Holden had a good shot at taking overall honours and it was going to be a showdown between those two teams, with the Apollo-VIS, Polygon and Specialized-Securitor teams likely to be in the mix as well. For me as an individual rider, it was going to be a matter of hanging on and to try and finish with the main peloton.
The start of stage 4, leaving the resort under neutral conditions. Photo: Jemma Brown (Facebook)
As soon as the neutral flag was dropped the race was on. Attacks were launched straight away but the field wouldn’t let anyone get away. There was a steep little climb early on and the bunch started to thin out already. I managed to get over the climbs without too much trouble, but wasn’t feeling as strong as I normally do when climbing. I was in the front bunch going over the first KOM but wasn’t expecting another climb so close after the first one. Lulled into a false sense of security, I decided to have something to eat and drink when all of a sudden the road was going up again. I nearly lost touch with the front bunch but fortunately, with a little grit and determination, made it back to the main bunch. There were some more attacks when we hit the flat sections but the bunch remained attentive and shut down any moves before they had a chance to develop into breakaways. Some more attacks were launched on the second KOM, mainly by Ruth and Miranda – both fighting to take out GC honours. Following the KOM was a wicked descent with a few hairpin turns, heaps of fun!
Then it was a super fast run home, reaching speeds over 55kph on the highway, helped along by a nice tailwind. The paved sections and many roundabouts on the road leading back to the resort created lots of gaps as riders prepared themselves for a hectic sprint finish at the resort. Ultimately it was Chloe McConville who outsprinted her competitors and Ruth Corset had done enough to take out the tour. I finished the stage in 14th place, only 10 seconds down on the winner. I placed 17th overall on GC, a good result for my very first NRS tour!
It was a weekend of both physical and mental stress, with plenty of ups and downs. Racing by yourself can be a little demotivating at times but I received many encouraging words from fellow competitors, friends and even complete strangers during and after the races for which I am very grateful (you know who you are).
I have also received a tonne of support from the best sponsor ever, Bicycle Riders Morningside and in particular from Simon Sirotti. Without his knowledge, expertise and patience I would not nearly be as comfortable and efficient on my bikes as I am today. Both my S-Works Amira and SHIV TT ran like absolute clockwork throughout the tour, not missing a beat over the rough and pot-holed country roads.
Simon lining up for the Stage 1 and giving us a bit of blue steel!
I’d also like to say a special thank you to my coach, Kim. She’s been instrumental in getting my fitness and confidence up to a national level.
And last but not least I’d like to thank my husband Andrew, who’s always there for me when I need him and who out-performed a thousand soigneurs during Battle, acting as my psychologist, chef, mechanic and chauffeur.
Till next time,
(*may be a slight overreaction)
The AUSENCO Sizzling Summer criterium series were held over 3 Sundays in March, starting with round 1 (d’uh) on March 7. I raced this series last year and really liked the fast, smooth course at Crestmead so I was keen to race again this year.
However, I was not so keen anymore when I woke up on the Sunday of the first race to hear torrential rain pounding my roof and the rain radar confirmed my suspicions that this rain wouldn’t just be a brief shower either. The race organisers decided to go ahead regardless and so I headed to Crestmead in the van with my bike, trainer and a healthy dose of fear for company. During my warm-up the weather fined up a little but a few laps into the race 15 minutes later saw the heavens open up again and they would remain that way for the duration of the race.
I treated the first few laps as a bit of a recon of the track and to get a feel of how well my new carbon wheels would handle braking in the wet conditions (pretty good as it turns out). This had me riding a little too far back in the bunch and therefore I missed an attack which led to a breakaway in which all 3 major teams (Campos, Pensar and QSM) had a rider, namely Jenelle (Pensar-SPM), Sally (Campos) and Jemma (QSM). This ofcourse meant that the main peloton was happy to sit up for the remainder of the race. I tried to attack a few times but without a teammate it proved too hard to stay away and I was reeled back in before long each time. This resulted in a super slow, dull and ultimately frustrating race for me.
Photo: ESI Sports Photography.
After 40mins of rolling around, the bunch sprinted for minor placings after the break succeeded in staying away for the remainder of the race (and even lapping the main bunch, that’s how slow we were going). Jenelle Crooks (Pensar) ultimately took the win with Sally Cowman (Campos-Avalon) being a close second. Jemma Brown (QSM) rounded out the top 3 with a third place finish.
Despite not getting the result I hoped for I was still happy with the decision to face my fears of racing in the wet instead of pulling out.
The second round was held the next Sunday March 14. Weather conditions were a little better than the previous week but still showers were forecast. I rode to the race with some of my cyclist friends, including my old training buddy Nicole (Pensar-SPM). It took us roughly 1 hour to ride to the race - a great way to warm-up and catch-up! After arriving at Crestmead and having registered, there was still time for a bit of a rest and some food before jumping back on our bike for another mini warm-up.
Photo thanks to Brad Gooda.
Soon after we were called to the start line and the heavens opened up again! I was not overly thrilled at the prospect of another wet race with soppy shoes and zero-visibility. Luckily it was just a brief shower that had no major effect on the race. Both Pensar’s and Campos’ numbers were diminished with Pensar down to 3 riders (Nicole, Samantha and Jenelle) and Campos down to only 2 riders (Jasmine and Lou). QSM was out in full force and they were keen to get their main rider Jemma move up in the overall standings.
Photo thanks to Brad Gooda.
As expected this race was a lot more aggressive and interesting to be a part of. Campos rode an aggressive race which saw one of their riders (Louise) break away solo and take the intermediate sprint points. An impressive effort by Sam (Pensar-SPM) saw Louise brought back. Myself and a few of the other individual riders launched a few attacks but QSM, Pensar and Campos had their minds set on a bunch sprint. Disappointingly for Pensar-SPM, Sam flatted in the last lap and had to abandon the race. QSM then came to the front and organised a lead-out train for Jemma but it was smart riding by Campos that saw Jasmin Hurikino ultimately place first with Jemma Brown second and Brittany Lindores (Crino) 3rd.
Personally I felt I rode a good race right up until the second last corner on the bell lap when I failed to hold my position at the front of the peloton. This had me spend too much energy getting back into position and didn’t leave enough in the tank for the final kick.
After presentations, most of us rode back to Brisbane together for a coffee and a chat. All in all a great day on the bike and some quality kilometers in the bank.
The final round! I was excited about this race. Tactics were sure to be very important as all three major teams had a chance of winning the overall series. After round 2, Jemma Brown was in the leaders jersey, but both Campos and Pensar-SPM were in with a good chance of changing that. The tables were turned with Pensar back in full force and Campos only missing one rider, and it was QSM that was down to only 2 riders.
Photo thanks to Brad Gooda.
As expected Pensar rode a very aggressive race which saw their riders launch attack after attack in a bid to tire out the competition. I decided to go with as many attacks as I could and see what would happen. Unfortunately none of them stuck and it started looking like another bunch sprint. Jenelle (Pensar) tried to break away solo in the second last lap but her effort proved fruitless. Pensar rode a strong final lap with Zoe (Pensar) driving the pace on the front but in the end it was another strong sprint by Jasmine that saw her take the win, closely followed by Jemma (2nd) and Samantha (3rd).
I again missed out on any placings unfortunately, but I do feel like I have improved significantly from last year when I basically just tried to hang on for dear life. I am not sure if I’ll ever have the kick needed to win a bunch sprint but I’ll keep working on getting stronger and smarter.
Thanks a million to Bicycle Riders Morningside for their continued support and Revive Ashgrove for keeping me injury free. Also thanks to the race organisers and sponsors for another successful series.
Full results can be viewed here.
ps. Also thanks to the Pensar-SPM manager David Inglis for supplying puppies!
Photo thanks to Anouska Edwards.
Last Sunday March 17, Team Bicycle Riders Morningside was reunited for what promised to be a hot and tough 70 minute Kermesse style race at the Mt Cotton Driver Training Centre.
Organised by WRCC, the Bryan Byrt Skoda Mt Cotton Kermesse has proven to be a popular event due to the fun but challenging course. Bicycle Riders Morningside had come on board to sponsor the Women’s A race and Simone and I were keen to do our main sponsor proud.
Unfortunately the Women’s A field was on the small side, mainly due to the Mooloolaba Triathlon being held on the same day and the Oceania Road Cycling Championships in Canberra finishing up the day before. Two of riders, Claire Trembath (QSM) and Cassie Dodd (Lifecycle), actually raced the day before in the Oceania’s road race and still made the effort to race again the next day! Nice one girls!
As teamie Simone Grounds and I warmed up on our windtrainers under our Specialized tent, the temperature - as well as my nerves - continued to increase. When it was time to line up for the start my Garmin indicated a temperature of over 40 degrees in the sun. Taking on plenty of fluids was going to be essential.
Hawt! (photo by Simon Sirotti)
The race got started and the first 30 minutes saw a few attacks by Jodie Willett (Pensar-SPM) but attentive racing by Jemma Brown (QSM), Linda White (Balmoral) and Simone (BRM) prevented her for getting away and the bunch was too small to establish a break. Then it was Simone’s turn to attack and she managed to stay away for over a lap, forcing the bunch to chase. A few riders had dropped out of the race by now, a sign of the tough nature of the course and the conditions of the day.
The next lap the prime whistle was sound. I normally do not even consider going for the sprint primes but the bunch seemed momentarily distracted and I attacked on the final climb before the finish and managed to stay away to win the prime! There’s a first for everything.
Simone on the attack. (photos by Veloshotz)
This sprinting business also left me without oxygen for a while and I was unable to maintain my lead over the bunch for very long and we were all back together before long. It seemed the heat was taking its toll on us as we slowed down until the next prime was called. I wanted to save my legs for the finish this time around and it was Jodie who won the second prime.
Simone leads the bunch. (Photos by Veloshotz)
Not long after the second prime, the sound of the bell announcing the last lap promised an end to our suffering. Nobody was keen on launching an attack this late in the game and we all kept stalking and eyeballing each other until the final climb. Then Jodie went, closely followed by Cassie and I. I got on Jodie’s wheel as we hurtled downhill towards the finish. Jodie managed to hang on to take the win closely followed by pocket rocket Jemma in second and myself in third. A good day at the office. Simone rolled over the line in 5th place after having sacrificed herself earlier in the race by launching an attack.
(Photo by ESI Sports Photography)
Podium: fLtR: Jemma Brown (QSM), Jodie Willett (Pensar-SPM), Marianne Westacott aka me (Bicycle Riders Morningside) and Cassie Dodd (Lifecycle). (Photo by Andrew Westacott)
Congratulations to Jodie and Jemma for first and second places and thanks for my fellow competitors for making it an interesting race!
Thanks to the sponsors Bryan Byrt Skoda, Bicycle Riders Morningside, Hammer Nutrition, Wynnum Redlands Cycling Club, Fluid Control Bike Nirvana, PCS Coaching and Wray Organic for making this a great day, with a well organised and professionally run race. I will definitely be back next year.
I finally felt like myself again on Sunday the 24th after 2 weeks of health issues including but not limited to having my wisdom teeth removed and a run in with the ever pleasant norovirus.
I wanted to get some intensity back into my training and what better way to do that then to race round 3 of the Wild West Series at Adare.
There had been no tapering for this race and I even raced a local crit the day before so I wasn’t expecting to feel great.
Andrew and I left the ominous looking clouds of Brisbane early on Sunday morning for the slightly less ominous looking skies of Adare. We were greeted by the Adare homestead owner and all-around awesome guy John Pinnell and he gave me a quick run down of the track. I went out for a practice/scout lap and was happy the track conditions were great thanks to the abundant showers during the week. After reporting back to John and I went out for a second lap before lining up at the start in the Elite A field (men and women combined start).
The start was hard and fast as per usual and I entered the single track at the tail end of the group, trying not to lose too much time. My legs were feeling ok but my heart rate was slow to rise (I always hate this). Technically I felt I was going ok with the occasional trademark unco move. On lap two I passed Kylie who was standing next to her bike with a mechanical. She said she was ok and someone else had stopped to help her so I kept racing (I wouldn’t have been much help anyway, my mechanic skills are even worse than my singletrack skills). I was expecting her to pass me throughout the rest of the race but that never happened and after 5 laps I crossed the finish line first female. My first win in Women’s A, thanks to Kylie’s mechanical.
We got some great prices for our efforts; a big container of Urban Muscle Sport IsoMax for the winner and a bottle of Joe’s Eco Tube Sealant foam Ashgrove Cycles for the runner up. As always John and The Riders Club put on a great and well organised race, a pleasure to be a part of.
John handing us our prices and Kylie pretending her bottle of sealent is a microphone ;)
The March racing calendar is chock-a-block with road races and I’ll be updating my blog after each race.
Until next time!
Due to the recent flood situation throughout Queensland, round 2 of the Wild West Series at Walloon was sadly cancelled. But as luck would have it the first of the BSMC Summer Sprints at Underwood was still going ahead.
So on Sunday February 3rd Andrew and I packed up the van and headed to Underwood. The weather was beautiful and the track promised to be in prime condition after a few days of showers earlier in the week.
After registration I went for a warm-up lap of the course and was happy to see there were no nasty surprises in the form of massive rock drops or “unrideable” rockgardens. There were, however, so many switchbacks I started feeling a little dizzy after a while. Another interesting little feature was a steep pinch hill that was sure to start hurting after a few laps.
After a 100k day including a local crit race (Murarrie) the day before it was safe to say my legs weren’t feeling fresh exactly. Just how un-fresh would become shockingly clear in the first minute of the race. The gun went off and it was on! I almost immediately dropped back to the back of the field, willing my legs to just pedal! I entered the single track as one of the last riders. I tried to find my rhythm and somehow managed to pass a few of my competitors.
The Summer Series “sprint” format is slightly different than a normal XCO race. Instead of racing a set number of laps, you have to race for 50 mins (40mins for B and C grade) and complete the lap you’re on (more like an Enduro).
This basically results in a 50 minute, all out, I want my mommy, smash-fest! Unfortunately I never really found that rhythm and my legs and heart were not in the mood for such shenanigans. After roughly 57 minutes of grunting and grimacing I crossed the finish line in 4th in Elite Women A, behind winner Jodie W, Anna B and Kylie M.
Andrew had another great race placing 6th in B-grade, closely followed by Simon in 7th. Full results can be viewed here.
Round 2 of the Summer Sprints will be on February 17! And like we say in my motherland … “Nieuwe ronde, nieuwe kansen!
Me: Suffering. (photo by: Elle Maleevsky Cooper)
Andrew: On fire! (photo by: Elle Maleevsky Cooper)
Simon putting the hammer down. (photo by: Elle Maleevsky Cooper)
Simone’s first ever MTB race! Killing it! (photo by: Elle Maleevsky Cooper)
The new Revive kit made its debut last week, seen here modeled by yours truly. Due to popular demand, another round of ordering will commence soon. Please like the Revive Facebook page to keep up to date.
The first race of the year, the Wild West Series Round 1, took place on Sunday January 13 at the ever popular homestead of Adare, owned by the one and only mr John Pinnell.
A very hot day was forecast and so racing would start early and John had decided to cut out some of the track’s climbs in an attempt to reduce the amount of riders dying from heatstroke.
Andrew and I arrived at 6:30 and signed up. This would be my first A grade XCO race and I was keen on finding out how I’d go against elite girls like Jodie Willett and Kylie Maduna. Adare is known for its many off camber, sandy corners and tricky features such as the aptly named “Death Cookies”, a challenging rocky climb followed by an equally challenging descent. I was a little disappointed a few of the tougher climbs were omitted, as it would be my (lack of) technical skills that would slow me down, not my fitness.
After a warm up lap of the track it was time to line up at the start along with my 150 fellow competitors. A record turn out. A grade would leave first, followed by B grade a minute later and so forth. I think we all got a bit of a shock when the starting gun went off with the loudest bang I’d ever heard! Turns out organisers had arranged for an actual gun, a Winchester of some sort. A nice touch!
At the start Kylie, Jodie and Anna shot off together and I lost track of them in the sea of riders. I decided to ride my own tempo and just see how things would turn out. The first lap was a little stressful as riders were fighting for positions. I got nervous whenever a few riders would be riding behind me through technical sections but by the second lap everyone seemed to have settled into their rhythm and I was starting to relax. The second and third lap went well (with the exception of Death Cookies) and I was enjoying myself. By lap 4 the heat was starting to take its toll and I started making stupid mistakes like missing corners and riding straight into the bushes! I had to keep telling myself to just focus and relax. At the start of lap 5 all I could think about was my air-conditioned drive home.
To my surprise I ended up 3rd in A women, with Jodie coming 1st and Kylie a very close second. Considering the course, the competition and lack of MTB riding I was stoked with this result.
Andrew raced B grade and did a great job, finishing 7th out of approximately 60 riders.
So that concludes the first XC race of the season. The 2013 SEQ MTB calender is packed with great races and I’m looking forward to the next one at Walloon on February 3rd.
Elite Women Podium: Kylie, Jodie and me.
Team BRM: Andrew and I before the race.
Merry Xmas everyone! And may all your cycling dreams come true in 2013!
A better (bigger) look at my article as it appears in issue 58 of RIDE Cycling Review.