Wow - what an exciting afternoon down at the Velodrome. I've got a rather sore throat from cheering so hard for Sarah. But what a performance. First she smashed her own World Record in the qualifying round then did the best time in round one guaranteeing her at least the Silver Medal. Tomorrow she competes against Australian Katie Mactier for Gold. Sarah is in awesome form so I can't wait until tomorrow.
It's been a great day in the kiwi camp with the Evers-Swindell sisters taking gold. And now we're watching Beatrice compete in the Discus finals.
Unfortunately we can't get access to the Mountain Bike course until Monday so until then I'm training on the road and getting used to the heat in Athens. Today Kashi and I took an easy spin up Mount Parnitha which is only about 8km from the Village. News from yesterday is that a fire has destroyed part of the Mountain Bike course, which has now been shortened from a 6.1km circuit to 5.3km. Apparently it was arson. You gotta wonder!
It’s been one full on week. I can’t believe it’s only been 7 days since I last raced. In that time I’ve flown to Athens, become familiar with the Olympic Village, attended the official New Zealand welcoming ceremony and marched into the Olympic Stadium.
Since my time in Athens was short, I had 2 complete days off the bike. It was very weird. I flew back to Switzerland on Saturday and we arrived at the race venue in La Chaux de Fonds around 8pm so my pre race practice was kinda sketchy as a lot of the course was in the forest thus a bit hard on the eyes. The course was exactly the same as last year so I knew where I was going and there weren’t any surprises.
While I was trying to get used to the heat in Athens it had been raining consistently in Switzerland and the temperature had dropped to below 20 degrees. It was pretty chilly. Needless to say the course was wet and slippery in places. The lap was longer than the usual taking over 30 minutes and there was a lot of climbing and some great technical descents.
There was a pretty classy lineup of riders with a third of the Olympic field racing. The goal of the race today was to go hard and push myself to my limit on the climbs. I got a great start and stuck to Barbara Blatter’s wheel who went to the front soon after the start, up the tarmac climb. I was sitting 2nd wheel - but that didn’t last long. Going into the singletrack I was about 5th but got too close to a tree. My Rudy Project sunglasses somehow got caught on a branch and were flicked from my face. I quickly scanned for them but since the sunnies were clear I didn’t have much chance in seeing them! Also I was more concerned about losing my position in the race. I religiously use glasses as I wear contact lenses thus the dust, dirt and the wind affects them, but for the next 2 hours I was without glasses for the first time.
I was feeling as fresh as a daisy (after my 2 days off) and kept to my goal of pushing it hard. Gaps started opening up on the climbs. I was 8th at the end of the first lap. There was a bit of position changing but by the third lap I was solidly in 6th place and stayed there to the finish (4 laps). I was very happy with my performance.
For complete results with lap times, click here http://www.swisspowercup.ch/ (then go to resultate, Ranglisten, La Chaux de Fonds, and Frauen).
So over the next few days we’ll be putting in the final yards of hard training before I taper for the Games. I head to Athens on Friday and get to train on the race course from Monday. It’s not so long to go now.
Well I'm here. It's all pretty exciting. I had a little bit of a wait at the airport but finally was united with the NZ Security officer, Marty Grenfell and put on a bus to the village. Accreditation was pretty sweet - Bryan Simmonds had things sorted there. Once inside the village, it was a small bus ride to the NZ appartments where I was housed with the cycling team and back with the roadie girls - Jo, Meshy and Michelle. It was great to see them all again.
The village is a hive of activity - especially at feeding times! The dinning hall is massive and food and beverage counters repeated around the room. Heaps of choice though I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon. There's not too much greenery around the village as it's mostly paved (except outside the kiwi block) but there's a really cool fountain with the olympic rings.
The kiwi's have done a fantastic job with "Middle Earth" - our hangout place, all decorated with NZ posters and icons with the Lord of the Rings and Maori themes. The Athlete services folk are great, making us all feel at home and dealing with any of our issues.
The weather hasn't been too over the top. It's definitely warm - probably 32-35 degrees. The rooms are all air-conditioned but the rooms are fairly cool anyway so there's no need to use it.
As a cycling team, we had an official welcoming and presented with our opening ceremony uniform and a beautiful pounamu (greenstone). We have this awesome souvenir book of bio's of all the athletes. I tell you, it has all been done brilliantly with the motto - "one team, one spirit" really shinning through.
Last night we had the official NZ welcoming at a catering house outside the village. A very inspiring night. Beatrice Faumina was announced as the flag bearer which was a very emotional time. She will be a fantastic flagbearer. The past flag bearers - Ian Fergussion, Mark Todd, Barbara Kendall and Blyth Tait were all present and had a chance to have the gorgeous NZ Maori cloak placed over them. And guest entertainer for the night was Ben Lomas - the NZ idol. He put on a fantastic performance which went down a treat with the athletes!
This morning at breakfast we were delighted to have the company of Ben Fouhey. Then we spotted Jan Ulrich, Andreas Kloden and Eric Zabel (for those non avid cyclists, they are the popular German road cyclists). So, it was quite a morning.
Tonight we have the opening ceremony - I'll try to update you later. Over and out from a very excited kiwi olympic village.
I raced here 2 years ago so was pretty familiar with the course. One big long grind uphill followed by a bit of fast flowing descending and then a flattish stint around the lake. It was a fairly short lap at less than 20 minutes. The Elite Women were up for 5 laps and there was a large field of very respectable names including Barbara Blatter and Nina Gohl. It was an international field including the Swiss, Swedish and Australian National Champs and riders from Canada, Germany and Italy.
Early on Nina and Barbara opened up a gap and held this through to the finish. Kiara Bisaro was in between the lead 2 and my group of 4. It was a close race and all times a rider was in sight. We were racing at the same time as the Non Elite Men, Masters and Juniors so there were heaps of riders on the course and some were pretty sketchy in their overtaking maneuvers.
Nina pulled away from Barbara in the latter laps and took the win putting one and a half minutes into Barbara. Andrea Huser, a Swiss Marathon specialist had a very strong race, coming up through the field (from behind me) on the 3rd lap and finished 3rd. I finished 9th, 10 seconds behind the Swedish National Champ and only 45 seconds off 5th place. So I was a little disappointed that I didn’t manage to peg back some places as I was feeling strong and still had gas in the tank. But overall it was a good training race and it is positive to finish only two and a half minutes behind Barbara. Lisa Matthison didn’t have such a good race and with nothing in her legs she pulled out after the third lap. Nina, Barbara, Kiara and Lisa will also be competing at the Olympics.
For complete results with lap times, click here www.swisspowercup.ch (then go to resultate, Ranglisten, Savognin (GR) and Frauen).
Kashi had a fantastic race. From the start he was in a group of 3 with Sid Taberlay from Australia and Florian Vogel from Switzerland. But by about lap 4 Kashi had broken away and led for the last couple of laps for a very convincing win. Kashi is looking good for the Olympics!
From here we are heading back to Biel/Bienne for a couple of days before I fly down to Athens on Wednesday for the Opening ceremony on Friday. I will return on Saturday and my last race before the Olympics will be the Swiss Power Cup in La Chaux de Fonds on Sunday.
I had an awesome, awesome day playing on my Mountain Bike in the Portes du Soleil region in Switzerland and France. Now I remember why I got hooked on this sport!
It is one spectacular area. In winter I can imagine the majestic snow covered mountains with hordes of skiers and boarders. But in summer, it’s surprisingly quite quiet with only a handful of cars in the carpark and bikers and hikers scattered around the huge number of trails. In the distance there are still snow capped peaks. A bikepark of trails have been developed utilizing the chairlifts for easy access. And what’s more the cost of a day pass for the chairs was only 22 Swiss Francs.
I started on the Mossettes chair in Les Crosets which took me to 2277m and had a couple of runs on Sur Grand Conche - which I think was the course for the most recent Swiss Cup downhill race. Pretty cool. Flowing and fast. Then I did a circuit around Green Lake, Col de Chesey, through the cute village of Les Lindarets (now in France and accessible by road), through Ardent, around Lac de Montriand, and eventually arriving in Morzine (at 928m). A couple of chair rides from Morzine took me back up to 1764m. Along to Col de la Joux Verte and down some fun singletrack to Les Brochaux to take another chair back to the Pointe des Mossettes (in Switzerland). Finally I took another run down Sur Grand Conche back to Les Crosets. In total I must’ve been out there for about 4 hours, but I took a few pics, talked to some folk and looked around the villages. A very enjoyable day!
Christian and I left Thuringen to spend a couple of days with Christian’s relatives in Nurnberg. I came down with a sore throat and a cough so I made the most of my recovery days by eating, sleeping, and reading. We stocked up with groceries then made our way back to Switzerland for the 3 day Mountain Bike O-tour.
I had to take yet another day off to shake the lurgie which meant I didn’t have as much time on my Mountain Bike prior to the tour as I would’ve liked. The tour started with a very small prologue through the cute village of Sarnen. A 3 lap criterium on the tarmac – only 4 minutes long. I didn’t have any slicks so was disadvantaged from the start. Nevertheless it was a short blow out and good to get the heart rate back up there.
Stage 2 was a Cross Country race. 4 laps of a 6.5km circuit plus one start loop. I was unsure of how I would go in this race since I had spent so much time racing on the road lately and due to my cold. Also I was bit apprehensive about how well I had recovered from Thuringen. I started out hard staying with the leaders but soon eased back. By the 3rd lap I was not feeling as good as I would’ve liked and knowing that tomorrow was a long day in the saddle I didn’t push things, finishing 6th - but a few minutes off the pace. The tour placings are based on overall time but a couple of minutes in the cross country would be easily wiped out in the marathon.
Stage 3 was a 78km Marathon including 3,000m of climbing. We started at 8am to try to beat some of the heat but also to give the more recreational riders sufficient time to complete the circuit. Estimated race time was between 4 and 8 hours. We passed through some spectacular scenery, surrounded by green slopes and mountain peaks. The terrain consisted of everything from sealed paths to tree rooted forest trails to cow trodden hills. We had a short hike a bike section and a couple of stairs where we had to carry the bike, but mostly the course was rideable. There were heaps of spectators in small villages deafening us with huge cow bells and with their cheering. The race was very well organised with very clear course markings and with nine neutral feed zones. The feeds consisted of everything from isotonic drink, water, sports-tea, and cola to energy gels, banana’s, and oranges. Barbara Blatter (from Switzerland) and Elsbeth Vink (from the Netherlands) held first and second for most of the race. Elsbeth punctured but soon got herself back into second. Bernadine Boog Rauwerda (also from the Netherlands) started out in 3rd but we changed positions a few times. Aussie Lisa Matthison gained a few minutes to overtake me at around 45km just at the start of the last 1000m climb. On that huge climb I passed Bernadine for the last time and had Lisa in my sights but didn’t have enough to pull her in. I finished 4th in a time of 5 hours and 17 minutes. I was shattered. It was a long day in the sun! But again, it was all fantastic training.
So overall I finished 4th in General Classification. I am pretty happy with that and pretty happy with some prize money. The O-tour was very well organised and friendly and I would highly recommend it. I’d love to do it again.
Now Christian and I are down in the Swiss Alps in Les Crosets, just over the mountain from Morzine and Les Gets in France. We’ve come down here to practice a few down hills and make the most of the chairlifts and purpose built Mountain Bike trails. Next race is another Swiss Power Cup on Saturday in Savognin.
Another road tour down and some solid training gained.
Our team consisted of Jo Kiesanowski, Melissa Holt and Michelle Hyland, Toni Bradshaw, Dale Tye, and myself. There were 21 teams and 118 of the world’s best women road riders starting the tour.
Stage 1: Individual time trial, Zuelenroda,17.2km
I was the 5th rider down the ramp, starting my time trial at 5:35pm. The day had been hot and as per usual at around 5pm the skies opened up and the rain poured down. But it didn’t last too long and the worst part of it was over by 6pm, though unfortunately my whole time trial was done in the worst conditions. For me, it was very windy and wet.
I had Jeff the Ref in the support car behind - full on tooting and yelling at me. Did it mean Go faster? Go harder? Stand up? Sit down? Watch the corner? Watch the bridge? A rider is about to overtake me? I finally worked out, it meant all of the above, but it mostly was encouragement to keep the pace up. Thanks Ref!
Dale was the next kiwi off, followed by Toni, Michelle, Mesh and last off was Jo at around 7:15pm. Our team had no special time trial equipment, just the clip on aero bars. With these we could hardly contest with the full on disc wheels and time trial machines. Mesh recorded the fastest time of the team with 25 minutes and 51 seconds. I was pretty happy with my time of 27 minutes and 10 seconds considering the conditions, though 3:13 slower than the winner Karin Thurig really puts things into perspective.
Stage 2: Zuelenroda – Greiz, 114.8km
All the stages in Thuringen were hilly, tight and had their fair share of cobbled sections. The riding was close but the yelling was less (than in Italy) and surprisingly after Stage 2, I was thinking there were a lot less crashes. Stage 2 was crash free. The pace was high. The winner averaged just under 39kmph for the 115km. We were all together going into the final circuit around Greiz at the 100km mark. Though at 106km there was the 2nd QOM of the day and she was a steep pincher of a climb. A break of 3 got up the road with a 35 second gap to the main bunch of 60 and a futher 1 minute to our bunch of 11.
Stage 3: Greiz – Schleiz, 129.8km
The stage started back over the time trial course so there was some familiar territory. A sprint at 17km meant the pace was high from the start, then Mesh attacked after the sprint and went solo up the road for 15km. It was great to see. We had our support crew of Christian and Jeff out on the course offering lots of kiwi encouragement.
It was a long day in the saddle with another 2 sprints and 3 QOM’s. It was on the 2nd QOM that the race blew apart and splintered into small groups. I was with a bunch of about 20 and felt really good for the last 40km. We finished around 15 minutes down on the leaders. Dale was not feeling the best so decided to pull out of the stage.
Stage 4: Schleiz – Gera, 114.4km
Another fast stage. And talk about cobbles. It was real rough. Up and down all day and at times very strung out. There were some very fast descents. There was one sprint and one QOM. The QOM was at 70km and around 5km long. The bunch split but I managed to stay in the front group and just got time gapped in the final sprint, losing 8 seconds. Overall a hard but successful day.
Stage 5: Gera – Schmollin, 101.9km We awoke to rain and grey skies and it looked like it was set to stay for the day. Michelle was still battling with a sore throat and swollen glands so decided not to start. We prepared ourselves with wet weather gear though fortunately the weather cleared and roads dried for a warm race.
The first sprint was at around 8km so the pace was all on from the gun and after the sprint the attacks were launched. The pace was high for the first climb and the peloton split. But I had positioned myself well (I am learning) and was with the front until some girl chopped me on a cobbled uphill corner putting me into the curb. I kept it upright but the girl behind ran up my back wheel tangling her handlebars in my wheel. I had to dismount while she pulled her bike from mine. Meanwhile what was left of our group had gone. Quickly I was on my bike and chasing UP the cobbles, which hurt bad, then a false flat. I chased hard. I looked behind but there was noone. I continued chasing. The convoy flew part at mac 9. It was impossible to get in behind so I was on my own. Then whammo I blew. It seemed forever before the bunch of 25 came by… but then I couldn’t hold on. That was it – I was outta there. I waited for the broom wagon. Another 4 riders came by but I thought they would be lucky to finish the stage (within the time cut of 20%). So it was a pretty slow trip in the sag wagon following the 4 stragglers – I was glad it wasn’t me. Then at 50km they all pulled out and joined me in the van.
Meanwhile back in the race the attacks were still going and again Meshy got in one. This one stuck and at 30km they opened up a gap which eventually got out to about 3 minutes. All but 2 teams were represented – T-Mobile and Australia. The last 26km was 2 laps of a tough circuit with some pretty nasty short but steep climbs and some very rough cobbles. The girls were hurting. Mesh hung in the break and finished 7th – wahoo! Awesome ride! Zoufia Zabirova from Lets Go Finland broke away to finish 18s ahead of Andrea Bosman of the Netherlands and 54s ahead of Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites Hartol). 3 of the 11 women break crashed in the final kilometer. The main bunch of around 50, including Jo and Toni, came in 3m39s later. It was a tough stage. New leader Zoulfia Zabirova has a 1m9s lead over Mirjam Melchers.
Stage 6: Schmolln – Zuelenroda, 108km
I wasn’t feeling 100% today so was quite happy that I wasn’t racing. The team was now down to 3. But the support camper was up to 5! We watched the girls complete 2 circuits with a 16% climb. The race had split into 3 main groups with some stragglers by the first time up the QOM. Looked like another hard day of racing.
So there ends the Thuringen Rundfahrt. And I know we all got out of it what we wanted, whether it was preparation for the Olympics or for international experience. Now it’s more rest and recovery before getting back to the dirt.