No racing this weekend. But thought I'd update my site so that I don't get hasseled!
TOUR DE SUISSE (Stage 4 & 5 June 15-16)
Before the World Cup in Austria, Christian and I caught the end of Stage 4 and the beginning of Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse. It was only 20km or so up the road from where we were based in Biel-Bienne in the small village of Batterkinden, along one of my favourite training routes. We trained on the race circuit before the tour came through and had to cope with the sponsors vehicles passing by and the crowds of spectators lining the roads yelling "hop, hop, hop"... but it was quite a buzz especially up the King of the Mountains climb.
The riders did a circuit around Batterkinden. The first time they passed through there was a 4 man break with around a minute lead over the peloton. With a large screen at the start finish line we watched the race unfold and the breakaway brought back. There were so many spectators we couldn't get a good view of the finish line so we watched the sprint on a TV in a shop window about 100m from the finish line. Benefit was we turned around and got a close up of the riders slowing down. Great photo op.
We caught a glimpse of a really fit looking Julian Dean, a kiwi sprinter, although it was the Aussie Robbie McEwan who won the stage. And Jan Ulrich stayed in the yellow jersey. My highlight of the day was when Jan was heading to the anti doping area and I was standing right in his way. He literally brushed shoulders with me as I moved aside!! I must admit he looks different up close - very lean and fit...... and taller, and a nice smile. Christian got a great pic (which we will get on here soon). So Jan has come up in my books but still, Lance Armstrong is my favourite for the Tour de France.
The next morning it rained for the start of the stage but still the festivities in the village went ahead. There were a couple of amazing trial bikers doing a demo - great skills! But we were interested in the freebies. The cheese fondue was the best. We handed back the free cigarrettes. We saw each rider sign on for the stage. We tried to catch Julian to wish him luck but he didn't see us - hopefully we see him at the Tour de France.
....is just brilliant. We've done over 5,000 km and had no issues (except once, running out of diesel!) It's a 1987 Fiat and we're it's 6th owner. It's in immaculate condition and has all the necessities - a bathroom with toilet, shower and hot water, gas cookers, fridge, radio, gas heating, an awning, 3 bike racks, plenty of storage and sleeps 5. It's considerably larger than last years "Dot." And we've been on the continent almost 2 months and being so self sufficient, we haven't had to stay at a campsite yet.
THE WEEK JUST BEEN
It's been one week since the World Cup and it's been a full on week of hard training in preparation for the Giro d'Italia which starts this Friday. Racing a 2 hour mountain bike race and racing a 9 day road tour can hardly be compared. Training is quite different. But this training and racing is the best build up to Athens for me. The tour consists of a 2.8km prologue (to find a leader) and 9 days as follows: 106km, 120km, 133km, 118km, 45km, 102km, 90km, 91km, and 71km. Stage 5 of 45km is a team time trial - that is, each team races against the clock.
Each team can have up to 8 riders. The NZ national team includes the 3 Olympic road riders - Jo Kiesanowski, Melissa Holt and Michelle Hyland, and myself, Susie Wood, Toni Bradshaw, Dale Tye and Jo Buick. I'm not sure whether I'll be updating my journal during the tour but you can follow the team's progress here Also the Giro website which is in Italian.
I'm still getting heaps of emails which I'm loving. I'm sorry for not replying to each and every one of you. It's great to hear that my little two teacher primary school in Wainuioru (outside of Masterton) is following my progress. And I was thrilled to find out that I made the headlines of the Wairarapa Times Age with "Former St Matts Girl heads to Athens."
I am very proud to be associated with the Chinese Community in Wellington. During my varsity years I loved the competitive netball and basketball tournaments and mid week leagues. .... and of course, all the social functions.
A huge thanks to the Wellington Chinese Association for their enormously generous support.
And many thanks to the Wellington Chinese Sports and Cultural Centre for their continued support in helping me get to Athens. More details about the fundraising dinner on Saturday July 18 to come soon.
Finally, in April Jason Moon from Asia Downunder (TV1) filmed a short profile of me and my aspirations for the Olympics. This should be shown on Sunday August 1 at 9am. Check it out.
Not a good day for me. Thunderstorms hit last night with forecasts of floods and landslides in Austria. Great!
Schladming is a popular ski resort and very famous for it's Ski night race with some 25,000 spectators. As such you can imagine what the Mountain Bike Course was like.... steep, very steep. If it wasn't up, then it was down. Heaps of technical switch backs, all newly built so it wasn't quite settled in. It was quite a slow course even in the dry.
So despite the thunderstorms and torrential rain I was positive it was going to be a good race and I had the same race strategy concentrating on my start. Due to the bad weather the organisers tried to avoid calling us to the start boxes too early. 10 minutes to race start we were summoned to the boxes. Then once we got there they announced there would be a delay of at least 20 minutes!! Lucky I had the Scott tent and my trainer close by to keep the legs spinning and keep me dry. During the delay girls were warming up their running legs with some repeats up the hill!
There was no start loop, just straight up a freaking steep hill. Mass start, there was no way we would be riding. The start was worse than I thought. It only seemed a few pedal strokes before we were off the bike and running. After a couple of minutes we were back on.... only to be off again not long after. It was on this 4th remount when I had trouble starting again. I looked down and I had no right pedal! Panic! I looked around on the ground. But by this stage most of the field had passed me by. So I headed back down to find my pedal. Couldn't find it. Then I looked at my foot... there it was. I couldn't even feel that I had been running on my pedal attached to my shoe because there was so much mud. Next I had to get the pedal off my shoe and try to reattach to my bike. Kinda difficult with all that mud.
I got going again, though had lost considerable time. This all in the first 5 minutes of the race! Making the best of a bad situation (finger tightened pedal) I lapped myself out to get some UCI and World Cup points, finishing 48th. Pretty disappointing as I felt like I could have had a good race even after a big training week.
Next up back to Switzerland for a few days then I meet up with the NZ Womens Road team for the Giro d'Italia, a 9 day tour from July 2 to 11.
Since the announcement of the Olympic team I`ve been on cloud nine. Full of elation. Words can`t explain. And I`ve been so motivated to train. It`s a fantastic space to be in. Thanks once again for all your congratulory emails with some very kind words of support. It means a lot to me.
Christian and I had a great week in Lorrach, Germany staying with friends Sebastian and Ute. Sebastian rode in the same Tour of Wellington team as Christian in 2001 so we had loads to chat about as we took in some training rides around the region. Lorrach is on the border of Germany and Switzerland and with a population of around 50,000 is relatively small. A big thanks to Sebastian and Ute for having us to stay, showing us some excellent restaurants and sharing many laughs.
On Thursday my coach Reidy decided it was a good idea to race the Swiss Cup in Grachen on Saturday, so a last minute call was made to Nicholas Siegenthaler, the Scott Team Manager who organised my registratation. Thanks Nicholas! We headed back to Switzerland to the town of Biel-Bienne where we spent a couple of months in 2002 - since we know the training rides there. Then on Friday morning we drove 300km to Grachen, a small ski resort in the Swiss Alps. At 1620m in altitude, the final 15km were all uphill. A rather unnerving drive in the 2m wide camper on the single lane roads. And it`s not too flat around here for training!
Saturday 4pm was race time. A late time to start a race! My only race strategy was to go out hard at the start. As this is make and break in the World Cups, I needed to see how hard I could go. The field was not too shabby with former World Champion and Canadian Alison Sydor, Swiss riders Katrin Leumann, Maroussia Rusca and former Junior World Champsion Sonja Traxel, and Cyprus rider Elina Sophokleous.
For those who are familiar with the Swiss racing, the former Swiss Cups and Swiss Power Cup Series have been combined to form the one SwissPowerCup Series, with some races UCI ranked E1 and some E2. With some good prize money up for grabs this series is popular with all the top European riders. This one in Grachen is E1 so 40 UCI points for the winner.
I lined up behind Alison Sydor, thinking if I could hang onto her wheel I`d be sweet. I had a great start.... 3rd into the first corner after 50m, right on Alison`s wheel. Straight over a steep bridge and a steep ascent to lead us out of the village. Oxygen debt already but holding position. A gradual tarmac climb meant a bunch formed before hitting the forest track and positions started sorting themselves out. I was 3rd behind Katrin Leumann and Alison Sydor, and still right on Alison`s wheel. I was happy in this position and stuck to Alison like glue, even up the technical rocky ascent.
The 8km circuit was very challenging - very hilly with about 300m of elevation gain per lap and very fast steep technical decents - some very rocky, others grassy and dusty. It was mostly uphill for the first half then descending for the remainder of the lap. The handbook had the Elite Women up for a short 4 lap race, but it wasn`t until I was on the start line and minutes before the gun that I found out it had been changed to 5 laps!!!
I stayed with Alison til three quarters through the first lap when I messed up a bog-rock section. Katrin had a 20 second gap on Alison but punctured at the end of the first lap. After the feedzone, Elina Sophokleous passed by, moving me back into 3rd. These were the final positions. I am thrilled. My first SwissPowerCup Podium - 3RD! Race time was 1 hour 54 minutes, 4 minutes and 35 seconds behind Alison Sydor. Wahoo! It was one tough race. All good hard training. And nice to get a little bit of pocket money.
Next race is next Sunday - the World Cup in Schladming, Austria. Pics to follow soon.
Following the Madrid World Cup we flew back to Germany to collect our beloved camper. We were put behind schedule by one day when one of our bags didn't arrive in Nurnberg.
We headed to Belgium on Tuesday and along the way stopped in the township of St Avold in France for a 70km spin of the legs. And then spent the night not too far from Luxembourg. The next morning we arrived in the small, Ardennese village of Houffalize, about 16km north of Bastogne and 80km south of Liege (for those of you avid cyclists who follow the classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege road race).
In Houffalize we found a parking spot which would be home for the next 5 nights and we set up camp and proudly flew the NZ flag. I was still feeling pretty shattered from the Madrid race and the travel so training was just familiarisation of the course. The circuit was already clearly marked, unlike Madrid, so I was pretty certain that I was practicing the entire lap!
Each circuit was 6.6km and had great climbs and awesome decents.... and little rest. 305m of climbing each lap. It had a bit of everything - grassy sections, rocky and dusty sections, forest, cobbles and tarmac (through the village).... and a couple of bridges. The descents were super fast but rough (so rough that during the race I had to check that my forks were not locked out!) Tyre choice was simple. It had to be the Maxxis Larsen TT with slightly lower pressure (UST of course).
The legs were feeling significantly better on Thursday so I could do some more intensity but I still wanted to be fresh for Sunday's race so all my training rides were fairly short. It was all about recovery.
Each evening the temperatures dropped so we were layering up with thermals to get a good sleep but every day after very brisk starts the weather warmed up to 20-24 degrees celcius.
The village started amping up on Friday when the huge pro trucks arrived and the team tents were set up. The little township overflowed with Mountain Bikers. Many of the Euro's arrived on Friday evening in their campers..... so our quiet spot was no more. The citizens race was being held on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday turned out to be a fateful day for Christian. While I was out on the course, Christian went for a training ride through Luxembourg and to Germany but while descending his handle bar snapped! He was very lucky really. He managed to skid out the back managing to avoid huge impact but instead gained a heck of a lot of road rash on his thigh, right arm and fingers. He took his first trip in an ambulance to Luxembourg hospital then spent some time getting back to Houffalize escorted by Luxembourg and Belgium police. Meanwhile I was a little concerned and wondered if he got held up at the borders, or more probably.... got lost. He turned up on foot, without bike, limping and hand wrapped up like a puppet at about 6pm. Phew! Situation explained. This upset our usual pre race routine, however it took my mind off the race. The feed zone was going to be interesting without a right hand!
Race start on Sunday was 11am. Being only 2 minutes from the start-finish line meant a leisurely rise. As I set up my trainer at the Scott tent, I ran into Jenny and John Mote. It was fantastic to see some familiar friendly faces from home and they were full of support before and during the race. Warming up in the village is always weird as folk are always wanting to look up close and take pics. While on the trainer I focussed on my pre race strategy which was to have a far stronger start than in Madrid. The first lap was slightly shorter at 5.3km which started with just over 2km of a road hill climb. I expected it to go nuts. So I had to go nuts.
I was called up 40th to the start line which was based on last weeks placing. Then the start didn't go quite as nuts as I expected and I got myself in a good position in the pack, bunch riding up the hill. Still there were elbows and riders jostling for position. As soon as we hit the dirt there was more chaos but at least there were no crashes. The first descent was a dustball and was reasonably slow because of the bottleneck of riders. And inevitably there was walking up the steep ascent and along the technical singletrack. Very frustrating.
At the end of the first lap I was 39th. A much better first lap position compared to last weekend. Now to start gaining some positions. It was going to be a long race of 6 laps but I didn't think about this or any pacing. At the end of the 2nd lap I'd moved up to 33rd. 3rd lap same at 33rd. 4th lap I'd gained a couple of places to 31st. Also 5th lap 31st. Then in the final lap I managed to pull back a couple more places to finish 29th in 2 hours 22 minutes. Wahoo! Pretty happy at that. No it wasn't the top 25 but it wasn't far off. I was 18 seconds off Aussie Lisa Matthison and a mere 1 minute 29 seconds off 25th place. The untouchable Gunn Rita Dahle from Norway smashed the field and beat 2nd place Alison Dunlap by over 3 minutes! My result was only 7% off 2nd place. I am stoked at this, as the calibre of the 93 starters was high and the course technically demanding and physically tough. I am now sitting in 29th place in the overall World Cup Series.
I have to say some special thanks for the help I have had while abroad.
SCOTT - for the new XTR Componentry and CrossMax Wheels. And for the mechanical support at the races. Adrian had my bike running a dream for Houffalize.
MAXXIS - for letting me base myself with them in Madrid and for the new Flyweight tyres. These are not UST but at 330g I'm amping to try them on a suitable course.
PEARL IZUMI - for the Viper Mountain Bike shoes which "fit like a glove." The carbon sole make the shoe super light and great for power transfer.
Also for product gratefully received in NZ from:
ELITE SUCCESS/PRO-SOMA - MetaPhysics Protein Powder, CellMax and Sports Vitamins have been great for recovery and providing the necessary vitamins while travelling.
TIME - for the new Atac XS pedals which are awesomely light, durable, trustworthy and always easy to get into.
From Houffalize I took over the wheel of the camper (my feet could actually touch the pedals on this one!) We collected Christian's bike from the Luxembourg Ambulance depot and headed back to Germany for a little R&R (and 5 loads of washing) with Christian's relatives. I'm not racing the 3rd World Cup this weekend in Fort William, Scotland due to the travel (and costs). We will make our way to Switzerland for some solid training and to assess the next phase of my program. My next World Cup will be in Austria on June 20.