February 23 – 27: Christchurch

After the race in Hokitika it was time for a wee bit of a holiday. Christian’s family live in Christchurch so it was an ideal time to catch up with them and see how Christian’s nephew Niko had grown. We had a couple of easy recovery rides and rode the scenic port hills and summit road. What a fantastic training road!

On Wednesday night we headed to the Velodrome for some club racing. It was the first time I’d raced on a track other than our newly refurbished Wellington Velodrome so it was quite exciting. I raced in B Grade and had 5 races – 800m, 2400m, teams sprint, devils race and 2000m. I managed to narrowly take 3rd place in the 2km. Here's a pic of the Girls team in the teams sprint. I joined forces with the Canterbury girls to race the Under 19 boys.

On Thursday we headed out to the Ruapuna Raceway (Motorcar race track) to partake in the Scotty Browns race series. It was 6 laps of the race way – each lap being 3.44 km. So it was a short but intense Criterium like race with a few sharp hairpins and lots of twists and bends. It was a fun race and I managed to sprint for 3rd place in the Expert field. I took out the fastest women’s time.

February 22, 2004 - NZ National Series: Round 5, Hokitika

Yet again the weather gods turned on the rain for us to make round 5 a very muddy affair. It poured with rain from Friday night through to Sunday morning then cleared to blue skies for the sport and expert racers. It didn’t stay that way though as during our warm-up a short bout of rain returned just to make the course even slower.

It was a disappointing turnout in the Women’s field with a grand total of 4 fighting for the front row. The race was held on the Blue Spur track, several kilometers from the small Hokitika township and was thankfully a mixture of shingle road and dirt singletrack.

Not too far into the course there was a hideous climb, which in the dry was 80% rideable but in the wet it was totally unrideable. It was a very tedious push up the slippery clay hill – once would’ve been OK but five times wore a bit thin. Yet again, some cross training would’ve been useful. The bulk of the descent was also unrideable due to the thick sticky mud but once through the tunnel the fast flowing singletrack was heaps of fun. Then came the slog on the gravel 4WD. The circuit was 7km long and unfortunately it wasn’t reduced from the usual 5 laps, so the race ended up to be a long 2 hours 50 minutes!

During the first lap Sonia and I traded places but once we hit the gravel road I took the lead and had a 30 second gap by the end of the first lap. Though by the 3rd lap Sonia was chasing hard and I could see her at the bottom of the clay hill as I neared the top. I was worried her bike pushing skills may have been stronger than mine but I kept an even tempo for the remainder of the race to beat her by 3 minutes 46 seconds. I was well happy to cross the finish line. My Scott held up to the conditions well with no gear failure – though I’m sure it weighed an extra few kilograms with all that mud!


A very BIG update

I’m back online. Somehow I managed to muck things up when playing around with my gallery page. But Tama came to the rescue. If you haven’t already, check out the gallery page with some photo’s from last year’s European trip.

So I last updated you after the final world cup in Kaprun, Austria. Soon after we sold our beloved “Dot” and headed back down under. Dot did a great job in housing and transporting us around for 2 months and selling her was a breeze - we hardly lost any money on her. It was a fantastic way to get around the European circuit and something we are looking at doing again this year.

While preparing to sell Dot, we managed to spend some quality time with Christian’s relatives in Nurnberg – and sampled yet again, all the bratwurst, pork legs and wiesse beer. We spent 2 full days with good friends Fi and Dave in Sydney and enjoyed a bit of shopping and touristy stuff without even thinking about, let alone unpacking the bikes.

We arrived back in NZ on September 25 - and it was time to earn some dough. Christian was straight back into a contract with his ex-employer Silver Fern Shipping and it was only 2 weeks before I had secured a 3 month contract with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

It was quite depressing returning to New Zealand as the weather had quite a few surprises for us (and is still continuing to surprise us today). As I sit here typing this in the middle of February, the NZ summer, we have torrential rain and gale force winds, and yes, the cold southerly has brought temperatures of around 15 degrees.

Anyway, I digress. Despite the weather, I hardly a break from the bike before it was back into training and the local club racing. First major race was the National Road Champs in Napier On October 25th. Since we’d only just begun our contracts we could hardly request leave to compete in the Time Trial on the Thursday - though to be honest we weren’t too disappointed to give it a miss.

National Road Championships, Napier – October 25, 2003

In a nutshell, we were up for 4 laps of the 26km Appley circuit just out of Napier. We raced the 104km in a time of 3 hours 12 minutes. I finished 5th in a bunch sprint of 10 riders. The first 4 places went to Jo Kiesanowski, PNP club mate Susie Wood, Catherine Sell and Brei Gudsell.

Here's a complete list of results. And overall our PNP club did pretty well to finish 7th in the Club Points Shield. Photo taken by Gary Milbanke.

Here’s how the rest of my 2003 race calendar looked:
October 18 – Twin Peaks. Results
October 25 - Road Nationals. Results.
November 1 – Mt Vic Time Trial. Report and results on cyclingnews and a photo.
November 2 – Martinborough 100km Fun Ride. 2nd.
November 9 – Wairarapa 100km Fun Ride. 1st.
November 15 – Wainui 70km. Handicapped race. Results.
November 22 – 2 Up 40km Time Trial. 1st Mixed team (6th overall). Results. Photo from Gary Milbanke.
December 7 – Tour de Peak MTB Race. 1st.
December 13 – Rice Mountain Classic 75km. 14th in A Grade – 3rd woman 2:48. Results.
Some scenic photo’s taken by Rob Scott.
December 27-29 – 3 day, 5 stage Tour de Femme. 4th. Results.

Wow 2004 already! 2003 flew so fast. I really wonder when life is going to slow down.

All the racing over the last couple of months was built into a training program to step up to a few of the important New Zealand races (Oceania Champs and National Champs) but more importantly to step up again to the European season starting in May. I wasn’t expecting to do well in the first couple of Mountain Bike races but I am stoked on how my form has been so far.

January 4, 2004 – NZ National Series: Round 1, Napier

The series started a week earlier this year, meaning no partying to see 2004 in and also less recovery time from the Tour de Femme. The Hawkes Bay course in Eskdale Park was definitely hard work but tonnes of fun. It had climbing – steep and not so steep, twisty turny single track, and fun, fun, fun descents – with “the drop” being a popular spectactor viewing point. The course would sweep around onto itself so the cheering around the course was fantastic and very encouraging.

After the first lap I was in 2nd place trailing Sadie by 16 seconds, though after the feed-zone on the fast gravel 4WD road I was back on her tail going into the singletrack. I stayed in that position until my decisive move on Magog Rd, the 4WD gravel climb, when I attacked and never looked back. I gained a minute in that 2nd lap and for the next 3 laps gained 15 to 30 seconds per lap. I took the win with over 2 minutes.

January 11, 2004 – NZ National Series: Round 2, Wanganui

The next race of the series was the following weekend on yet another, fun and demanding course. This one was going to be a real killer on the back with the short, sharp climbs and unlike the Napier course, I was concerned that there was no substantial climbing. I also thought it would be a difficult course to race due to the tight winding single track so imagined it would be a hotly contested race. After we completed the first loop that took us back through the event village, Sadie had taken charge and was leading the field and I was close behind. It wasn’t until the mid of that first lap that I managed to find a line past her after one of the short sharp climbs. Again I just buried myself and didn’t look back as I concentrated and maintained focus on the technical trails. As I found my rhythm I managed a glance over my shoulder and saw that I had opened up a gap - by the end of the first lap this was 30 seconds. My aim was to keep gaining each lap which I did – each about 30 seconds. I was stoked with my race.

January 25, 2004 - NZ National Series: Round 3, Rotorua

It was a long frustrating drive to Rotovegas – we seemed to be held up with road works every 30 minutes. Luckily we had Marco to spin a tale or two. We took a wee break in Taupo to visit my new sponsors Pearl Izumi. I’m sooooh excited to have them on board as they produce the most comfy and and such great quality women’s shorts. Check out their recently launched website www.pearlizumi.co.nz which also includes my profile.

Then it was straight to the XC course in the Whakarewarewa forest for a quick couple of laps to spin the legs and familarise myself with the course.

Before we knew it, it was 5:30pm and time to register for the NZ Hillclimb Champs on Mt Ngongotaha. This mass start race was a 360m vertical climb over 4km.

I won in a time of 21 minutes and 2 seconds. 2nd placegetter was Jennifer O'Connor, a kiwi based in the UK who was a minute back. Stunning views from the top!

The hill climb was off minor importance compared to the XC race on Sunday. Not only was it a round of the NZ National series but it was the Oceania Championships with some tough competition from the Aussies. 2 time Junior World Champion Lisa Mathison from Australia took out the Women's Pro race. I was hot on her tail for the first lap and a half then she managed to pull away. I finished with a silver medal, and as first kiwi I took 1st place points in our National series.

Report & Results. Photos from Rob Scott

NZ Championships, Wellington, February 1, 2004

These had to be the most extreme conditions I'd ever raced in..... the experience enhanced somewhat by the 60 raging river crossings which were knee high. Here's how it panned out...

Sonia led from the start and I was 2nd wheel going into the steep single track descent. The track was a good foot of mud but underneath all that there was a solid rock bottom. Sonia overcooked the first corner forcing me off my bike and Sadie flew past us with a heap of confidence. Then both Sadie and Sonia went for a swim in the first river crossing. Luckily they were alright but it highlighted the danger of the river. The 19 or so river crossings each lap were particularly high and firm footing and strong legs were the key to keep one upright. I was back on their tails after running the descent. 98% of the gully was unrideable. I stayed on Sadie's wheel as Sonia pulled away on the climb - running faster than us. It wasn't until after the 4WD that I was able to overtake Sadie and move into 2nd place however Sonia was out of sight. The next part of the lap was more of the same, high rivers and mud, and an extra topping of smelly bog. But back on the 4WD climb I could see Sonia ahead and started reeling her in. 30 seconds down through the first feed zone but within sight.

I rode most of the descent on the 2nd lap, now in the flow with the muddy conditions. The rivers were rising each lap and as we tired it was critical to remain strong in the crossings to prevent being swept downstream. Sonia would be exiting one side of the river as I threw my bike on my shoulder and began the sludge across - a mere 10 seconds gap. Again Sonia pulled away as she ran the climb. Oh for the cross training - specific cycle training had not prepared me for running and pushing my bike uphill.

Our laps were around 27 minutes. Usually we race 5 laps - today it was shortened to 3 due to the appalling conditions. It was a very short race of 1 hour 22 minutes but I really wouldn't have wanted to cross any more rivers! On the 3rd lap Sonia was still in sight and I was hunting her down. She looked behind on the 4WD track to check where I was but she had done it. Sonia won with 37 seconds over me taking out the NZ Championship title. Sadie crashed out on Lap 2 injuring herself pretty badly - she had to be stretchered out but suspected broken leg turned out to be a badly gashed leg.

I'm disappointed with my 2nd place though have to admit the conditions were very challenging. Here's a report in the Dominion Post. And thanks to Dom Post for the Photo.

February 6, 2004 – Wellington Criterium Championships

Well, finally a weekend off the Mountain Bike. And some fine weather in Wellington! What better way to spend our National day than biking 40km out to Silverstream, racing the short, intensive 30 minute plus 2 lap Wellington Criterium Champs and riding back home again.

We rallied up enough women to have a separate race (rather than racing B Grade) so with a field of 8 we began racing slightly late at 9:10am. Here I was thinking we'd take it easy so that the first timers could hang in there and get used to the corners. But alas that didn't happen and Rachel Smith went from the gun. The pace quickly settled down and we lapped it out. I was feeling very comfortable on the front and at one time easily opened up a 10m gap without trying. The pace was pretty tame at around 32-35kmph. My aim for the race was to wait until half way then try to ride solo.

At 15 minutes I attacked near the start finish line and did exactly that. I quickly opened a gap then settled into my own rhythm, pushing a big gear and keeping a high tempo of around 35-39kmph. Then I thought it was all over as I rounded one corner and was heading straight into a recreational cyclist who was on MY side of the road. I was flying and he was travelling very slowly and I think he was stunned like a possum looking into headlights when I flew around the corner with such pace. Not knowing how he was going to react I locked up my rear brake and had a vision of carnage, though despite the skidding I managed to keep it upright and rode across the middle line to avoid him. My heart raced! Phew. Lucky. I think the mountain biking skills came in handy. Once I regained my composure I opened up a 30 second lead and got out of sight around the back side of the course. As the whistle blew with 2 laps to go I dug deeper and the chasing bunch lost momentum. I won with 40 seconds.

Another title – Wellington Criterium Champ.

February 11, 2004 – Wellington Track Championships, Day 1

This year aswell as being a Committee member for our PNP Cycling Club I also sit on the Track Sub-Committee which was formed to bring back track racing to the Wellington Velodrome.

Totally a greenie to Track racing, I've now had 6 evenings racing on the track. I have loved it. It's taking a few go's to gain confidence but I love the speed and the hurt of the "shorter" races. And it's great to have that variation. Thanks heaps to Penny Farthings who gave each of their sponsored riders a track bike for the season.

We held Day One of the Wellington Track Champs on Tuesday Feb 11 and I took out 2 Gold Medals from 2 races - one for the 500m sprint and the other for the 5km race.

Next race?
This coming weekend we head south to Hokitika, then onto Dunedin for the MTB Finals. We might even sneek in a few races on the Christchurch Velodrome during the week.

Now that I'm sorted to blog again I'll be more timely with the race reports and the plans for the European season ahead. Stay tuned.