Twas the night before the big Race…

…And all is quiet at camp. Team meeting has been held, Swanny Tess is doing final massages (just a light flush), and Selby is cleaning and doing final checks to the bikes and spares. We’ve sorted out logistics for tomorrow in getting to the race, responsibilities of the support crew and of course, athletes and clarified all the rules for use of mechanics in the feedzone, no sponsors logo’s on the bikes (sorry Pearl Izumi & Maxxis), official water bottles only, etc.

It’s been pretty low key for the last couple of days - thus the few updates for you. On Monday Rosara, Sonia, Mikey, Clinton and I spent some time on the course but due to transport logistics we didn’t arrive at the course until about 3:30pm, not knowing that the course closed to official practice at 4pm, so to our frustration we got kicked off the circuit. Luckily I got to speak to the official organiser and he advised it is a public track and warned that after 4pm there are no marshalls or medics. After the volunteers cleared out we hit the track. It was another good blowout for me with a couple of hard laps, one more practice lap, then that was it – no more time on the course until race day. I was happy. I’d spent enough time on it and now it was time to taper and freshen up for the big race. Here’s a pic of the Canadian car with their top riders Marie Helene Premont and Geoff Kabush.

Yesterday I visited NZ house in Melbourne again to catch up with my family (Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister in law & nieces) and some friends (Justin and Jason). It was exciting to see everyone (at least they seem to be pretty excited anyway) yet also relaxing not spending too much time on the legs. Here’s Danyon Loader with my nieces Taylor and Zara.

While most of us have been staying in Dandenong over the last 3 days Sonia has been staying in the village along with the support crew Tess (physio), John Lee (national coach), Selby (mechanic) and Suzy Pryde (team manager). Tess & Selby came out to stay last night to give us pre race day support and Suzy, John and Michael Flynn (high performance director) will travel out early tomorrow morning.

Race day happenings: Vehicles will leave from the athlete village at 6:45am and collect Rosara and I, bikes and support staff from the Dandenong apartment at 8am, allowing a good 30 minute drive there incase of traffic and accreditation issues. That’ll give us 2 hours at the venue pre race start at 10:30am. Each country has a team tent with fans (cooling equipment, not raucous supporters) where we will warm up on wind trainers, and then we’ll be called to the warm up area at 10am. Prior to this, helmets and bar end plugs need to be checked. In the warm up zone we’ll get back on the wind trainers until we’re called to the line. During the call up we’ll have transponders placed on our bikes – yes, this is a highly unusual time to be doing it but other than that and the helmet check there is no other official check in. Staging is based on UCI World Ranking as at December 31, 2005 so it’s Marie Helene Premont (Canada) called up first, then Kiara Bisaro (Canada), myself (#3), Rosara (#4) then Sonia (#5).

I’m sure the avid readers of ( and report 2)will be aware that Lynne Bessette, one of Canada’s top roadies, was intending to compete in the Mountain Bike race however while out training on the course last week she fell and dislocated her shoulder. It was such bad luck for her as only a couple of weeks prior in the Geelong road tour in Australia she dislocated her other shoulder. I believe Lynne was still intending in racing the time trial and the road race but after an accidental re-dislocation while in the village and off the bike, Lynne is now out of the Games altogether. Likely verdict after the MRI scan is surgery so that she can continue racing this season.

We haven’t had an official start list but this is who I think will line up tomorrow:

Amy Hunt (England)
Claire Baxter (Australia)
Dellys Star (Australia)
Emma Colsen (Australia)
Kiara Bisara (Canada)
Marie Helene Premont (Canada)
Myra Moller (Cook Islands)
Robyn Wong (NZL)
Rosara Joseph (NZL)
Ruth McGavigan (Scotland)
Sonia Foot (NZL)

Kick off 10:30am.

As for the Men I believe there are 35 starters. And kick off time for them is 2pm after the Women’s medal ceremony.

I could chat about the current NZ medal tally but I’m not going to as I’m sure you’ve had more coverage of what’s going on that we have. We have Channel 9 TV here and it is very biased – we don’t see anything other than the Aussies and Australian podiums.

So now I’m going to check on my bike with my new Maxxis Ranchero tyres for race day, cook some dinner, make up my bottles, and put my feet up before an early-ish start tomorrow. Bring on the race!

Thanks for all the support out there and all the comments on these reports. I know there’ll be a huge number of kiwi’s supporting us on the course tomorrow and also from home in front of the TV. Shout loud!

Training and looking after oneself…

Yesterday I had a day off the bike and went into Melbourne in the afternoon to get out of the apartment to save me from cabin fever and to catch up with an a kiwi friend living in Melbourne who I traveled and worked with in London. We visited New Zealand House in the Town Hall near Federation Square, a room for family and friends to meet and hang out with TV screens, event schedules, merchandise and food. It was packed full of kiwis (and a few other nationalities) waiting to head off to the 7’s and the velodrome. I’m not sure if other nationalities provide this sort of facility but it really is great that this has been organised as it’s an easy meeting point and it’s fantastic to socialise with other kiwis - I even got the opportunity to chat with Danyon Loader.

As for today, it was a leisurely 9am start and soon after a hearty porridge breakfast we settled in to watch the Women’s triathlon on the box. It was great to see Sam Warriner, Andrea Hewitt and Debbie Tanner all looking so good out there and in the running for the medals. Big congrats to Sam who took out Silver and what a finish between Andrea and Debbie for the Bonze. Just goes to show the depth that NZ has in triathlon. It was great to finally see some of the kiwi action as last night, again it was all Swimming. There were a few minutes of the Women’s points race where it was disappointing that the last sprint points (5 points) were taken off Jo Kiesanowski which took the Bronze from her. And can you believe they didn’t show Roly winning the Silver! Finally they showed some delayed coverage of the kiwi’s taken gold in the 7’s. Awesome.

Anyway, after the Women’s triathlon Kashi and I headed to the course. It’s a 30 minute ride on the road and it ain’t totally flat. Kash did some hard efforts over a couple of laps while I was there for a couple of hours doing some hill repeats, practicing some bits, then some longer efforts over a couple of laps. There had been some minor changes to the course with a few decent sized logs and rocks added to the uphill and on the flat section, a new jump. Nothing too much to worry about though with a little fatigue on the climb it could be easy to mess up the obstacles.

Back at the apartment it’s all about looking after oneself. That is, getting the protein and carbohydrates in to repair the muscles and refuel the body, the hot/cold showers, stretching and putting the feet up. Oh yes, I also have some “skins” which are compression leggings to aid the recovery.

I was just in time to see the men coming off the bike leg of the triathlon and to catch Hamish Carter, Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell in action. Fantastic result for Bevan who took out Silver after a tough battle with the Aussie.

I’ve had a couple of questions flicked my way so here goes:

"Is rain likely to change the nature of the course much? Do you have different strategies planned for different conditions?"
I don’t think rain will affect the course. We had some rain the other night and it was unnoticeable on the course bar a few puddles. The gravelly silty surface will drain well and there are no mud sections.

"Who do you, Rosara and Kashi see as the people to beat in the race?"
In the Men’s race the people to beat are Geoff Kabush from Canada, Liam Killeem and Oli Beckingsdale both from England. In the Women’s race there’s Marie Helene Premont and Kiara Bisara from Canada.

The Games have begun

I’m very disappointed having to watch the Games on Aussie TV as yep, all we get to see are the Aussies! So it’s been swimming, swimming and more swimming with a snipet of track cycling i.e. the Meares sisters and Ben Kirsten. It’s a shame that I missed our trackies in action especially as Jase Allen was in contention for the Bronze medal in the Individual Pursuit. Though it was fantastic to Moss Burmester win the 200m Butterfly and to win our first Gold medal. Wahoo.

It rained pretty heavily overnight but cleared for the day so I headed to the course around midday. The rain hadn’t affected the track at all with only the odd puddle giving any sign of the change in weather. The course is still being marked out so I stopped to chat to UCI Commissaire Peter (who was at the National round on Coronet Peak) and SRAM/Rock Shox rep Rob Eva who informed me that they’re still making changes, adding a few more corners to slow up the fast downhill section. Also new today were a few more logs. For those that want a detailed description of the course have a read of my journal entry titled “Where is Robyn?” (Part I) posted in February. So, on the circuit I did some intervals which, on the whole felt pretty good. It’s always so different to go hard on a course as opposed to just riding it – it’s the best race simulation and thus the reason why I wanted to be down here earlier than planned.

It’s raining again now but a clear day is forecast for tomorrow, and the long range forecast for race day next Thursday is 29 degrees.

The Opening Ceremony on the box…

The Queen is speaking at the Opening Ceremony at the MGC as I write this. I’m sitting here in our apartment in Dandenong in front of the tellie with Kashi, Rosara and Allan.

In the grand opening, there was everything flying from a tram with wings to a 12 year old boy to Australia’s beloved koala. Then there were traditional scenes with Australian’s Aboriginal culture and the contrasting contemporary scenes mixed with ballerina’s and motocross riders to the Melbourne weather. Finally “the family of nations,” the 71 countries in a variety of national outfits paraded into the stadium. It was fantastic to see a very happy Hamish Carter waving the NZ flag enthusiastically and to see the sea of Black waving arms and jumping around. As with my experience at the Olympics standing next to the Basketballers should be banned as it’s impossible to see anyone else, let alone a midget like myself.

I guess it’s a little disappointing to miss the celebration as it’s definitely a huge part of the Games and to walk into a stadium packed with thousands of people as part of the kiwi team is quite an overwhelming experience. However there is a lot of waiting around and a lot of time spent on the feet – time that can be spent training, resting, and looking after oneself for that one performance on March 23. I don’t think any cyclists were partaking in the Opening.

Last night was wicked. It was an evening that is to me, far more special than the opening ceremony. We had a convoy of buses that transported the kiwi contingent from the village to the Moonee Valley Racing Club where we filed into the row of seats allocated to each of us according to our height for the official team photo. After a few formal photo’s in our blazer and formal wear with hands on knees we were then given the directive for a more “fun” photo waving hands in the air. I’m sure that’s gonna look real silly.

The media and sponsors were invited to our reception and buffet dinner which was mc’ed by Wayne Hay. I was thrilled that Hamish Carter was announced as the flag bearer as he’s a great athlete, recognised by all team members, and a leader in his own very modest way. Special guests of the evening included the well spoken and very inspiring Kiri Te Kanawa and the legendary Dave Dobbyn. Both spoke of how excited they were to be with us and how we have the support of the nation back at home, which really drives home the magnitude of the Games and how we aren’t just performing for ourselves. Dave was just fantastic, filling the room with the classic songs of Welcome home, Whaling, Slice of Heaven, and Loyal. We had a great sing along and the guys finished off by performing him the haka. Sir Murray Halberg, as always had some very inspirational words about not yielding when things get tough and Chef de Mission Dave Currie, always brings us together as a team and again emphasized how we are 4 million strong. The food was brilliant – ham, roast lamb and potatoes, fresh vege, pasta’s, and a huge variety of salads. It was a very special evening.

Though it was a rather long evening by the time we headed back to the village, repacked one of the team cars and headed down to our accommodation in Dandenong, a thirty minute drive south. Bed at 11:30pm – a very long 19 hour day!

So I am happy that Wednesday was a lot more laid back and relaxing. My legs weren’t feeling so great today so Rosara and I took a thirty minute spin on the road to Lystefield Park and did a couple of easy laps on the mountain bike course. The course is exactly the same as when we did our reconnaissance trip back in December, bar a few more brake bumps. The course was being marked out today and the event village is being established.

The apartment in Dandenong (organized by Kashi) is just perfect – 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and full kitchen and laundry facilities. I took a 10 minute walk down to the local supermarket to stock up for a few days and enjoyed a chilli beef stirfry for dinner. Tomorrow, some harder laps on the course. Oh yeah, forecast is for rain.

The Games are about to begin…

Welcome to the beginning of what I hope will be a regular posting during the Commonwealth Games. I can’t promise daily updates but I’ll try my best.

So, what’ve I been up to over the last week? Most of the NZ Cycling team (bar Sarah Ulmer, Kashi Leuchs and Glen Mitchell) united as a team in Launceston, in Northern Tasmania for a Pre Games training camp. We had access to the Velodrome at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport, local mountain bike trails in the forest and enough flat and hilly training roads to cater for the motorpacing and the long endurance rides. The Olde Tudor Motor Inn, a mere 3 minute ride from the TIS accommodated the lot of us, catered our meals and provided cooking and laundry facilities.

Somehow we all agreed that Lawn Bowls would be a fun team building exercise. Some of the trackies (Cath, Ali, Jase & Guddy) went to a huge effort and did brilliantly well with their attire! The bowls were a new experience and we had some very, very enthusiastic club members assisting us and teaching us the rules of the game. It was kinda fun for the first wee while and now I will appreciate what skill bowlers have - but I have to admit, after a while I was just hanging out for the barbie.

For some hard training Susie Wood (roadie), Rosara (mountain biker), Suzy Pryde (manager) and I drove a couple of hours down to Hobart for a weekend of racing in the Harvest Cycle Cycling Carnival. And here are some reports. We raced 4 stages over 2 days – a 20km Individual time trial (which we rode as a team time trial), a 60km hilly road stage, a 85 road stage and a 20 minute plus 3 lap criterium. It was a full on weekend of super tough racing against the A grade men but perfect training a couple of weeks out from the Games. Also it was fantastic to have a break away from Launceston and see a little more of Tasmania. The Richmond area where the racing was situated is a very quaint historic settlement, the second oldest town in Australia and home to Australia’s oldest bridge.

Back from Hobart and it was pretty much pack the bags and head to Melbourne for the New Zealand team photo and reception. Rosara and I will be staying in Dandenong (near the Lysterfield course) with Kashi up to our race on March 23rd so will not be staying in the Games Village. The other mountain bikers and roadies are returning to Launceston to continue their buildup before they fly back to Melbourne on Saturday 18th.

The Village…. Well, what a welcome! It still gives me goose bumps – the power of the haka performed by a huge number of kiwis. And what about the “kiwi backyard” – an unbelieveable effort by Dave Currie and his crew to create something very special and unique for the NZ team. Local backdrops of a NZ backyard, a clothes line with the swanny, buzzy bee and other kiwi icons, many AA signs with kiwi names, all surrounding a beautiful tree (the largest in the village) even with it’s own weka. Apparently the backyard has been the talk of the village with many visiting to observe and take photo’s. I checked out the dinning hall – as with the Olympics it’s a very full on place with so much activity and so much food. It’s hard to know whether to go for the food first or take in the ambience and scan the hall for famous faces. There is every sort of food you could possibly want – it makes choosing very difficult. So today I stuck to familiar foods with muesli and yoghurt for a late breakfast and a sandwich for lunch. Can’t go overboard, especially since today was a rest day from the bike. I’ll be looking forward to the days after my race!

It’s been a long day so far since we were up at 4:30am for a 6:10am flight. Tonight we have a formal welcoming for the Cycling team, then the formal reception and dinner for the entire kiwi contingent. That will be the end of my time at the village until after my race and tonight I’ll be staying in Dandenong, some 50km out of Melbourne city. So I’ll let you know what happens at the dinner tonight. It’ll be exciting to hear who the flag bearer is.

Where is Robyn? Part II

Next up on December 27 was the start of the 3 day Women’s Tour de Femme in Nelson. Just before the tour I got an early Xmas present – a new Scott CR1 SL road bike. It’s beautiful. Not too different from my previous Scott CR1 PRO but it’s always nice to have a new bike with the latest and greatest. This one weighs in at 7.3kg and that includes the SRM cranks. Click here for a pic.

Finally The Tour de Femme is always a heap of fun as it’s a great opportunity to catch up with all the roadie girls but this year it was also great to see a lot more mountain biking chicks out there mixing it up. I took the quicker option and flew to Nelson and was kindly housed and fed by Limoux team mate Dale Tye and her family in Brightwater - big thanks to the Tye’s. I had a brilliant Stage 1, a 70km hilly road stage, taking the first hill climb points and creating a break of 4 with Rosara (fellow mountain biker) and two triathletes Nicky Samuels and Andrea Hewitt. Down in the valley we finally got a time gap and heard that a chasing bunch of 6 were only 30 seconds behind so we decided to sit up and with a 10 strong group we put a good 5 minutes into the rest of the field. On the next climb I also took maximum Queen of the Mountain points then despite the confusion on the placing of the finish line I took the sprint and won the stage. Wahoo. What a start! I was rapt. Here's a report and pic in the Nelson Mail. Unfortunately I always start this tour well but by the completion of the day and Stage 2 I’m usually a bit further down the ranks as time trials are not my forte. Susie Wood had a stormer taking over the yellow jersey after the flat 8km time trial. Stage 3 was the nasty 11km Takaka hill climb. I wasn’t particularly happy with my result on the hill which put me back to 6th place on GC. Nicky Samuels, one of the triathletes took the stage and went into yellow so needless to say we were prepared to mix it up in the afternoon stage to try to get the jersey on the shoulders of a roadie. Stage 4 was 7 laps of an 8km circuit and it went from the gun. The triathletes were planning to commandeer 2nd place by gaining the bonus seconds every 2nd lap, so we attacked and countered and countered but the strong team of triathletes chased us down, only letting anyone outside the top 10 slip away. Finally a break of 3 who were no threat to GC got up the road and stayed away. The final 80km stage turned into an uneventful stage though not from lack of trying. Again we were marked well and chased down with a few riders down on GC able to break away. This was a bit of a concern for my Queen of the Mountains title and even though I’d taken the first climb of the day, the last 2 climbs had double points. Luckily I’d calculated correctly and still took as many points as I could from the final climbs to take the QOM title. Final result 6th overall. Results & reports.

The tour de femme was my last stint of road racing for a bit as I turned my attention to the mountain bike and my goal of the Commonwealth Games in March (but I was still awaiting the announcement of the team due late January). I raced in 5 out of the 6 rounds of the NZ National Series in Dunedin, Coronet Peak, Palmerston North, Napier and Rotorua (combined Oceania Championships) and the one off National Championships in Nelson over the months of January and February. In between that we had a Women’s Endurance camp in Auckland for 3 days at the start of February. Here’s how the schedule looked:

Tour de Femme, Nelson, December 27-29
South Island road trip, January 5-17 (Dunedin Jan 8 & Coronet Peak Jan 15)
NZ Championships, Nelson, January 27-30
Women’s Endurance Camp, Auckland, February 2-4
Palmerston North, February 10-12
Napier, February 24-26
Rotorua, March 1-4
Wellington Road World Cup, March 5
Depart for Commonwealth Games Training Camp in Tasmania, March 6

On January 5th my friend Emma & I stacked the Subaru with 4 bikes, camping gear and a heap of necessary bike stuff to start our 12 day south island adventure. We didn’t end up doing any camping as we had very hospitable friends in Dunedin and Queenstown (thanks Sincs & Gabby and Fi & Don) and we never made our side trip to the mountain biking mecca of Naseby. It was so awesome to catch up with all the mountain bikers at the first race of the series in Dunedin – the atmosphere is always so warm, laid back and super friendly, and remembering back this is one of the many reasons I got hooked on the sport.

Dunedin was a mint course with a great flowing and DRY downhill which was quite the contrast to 2003. I led for the entire race but was pipped in the last 500m by Annika Smail. 2nd place by 9 seconds.

Do you believe it snowed for our race in Coronet Peak? I’ve raced with snow on the ground but not actually while it’s been snowing so this was quite the experience. The course wasn’t terribly exciting with no single track but still it was a hard race. 2nd place again.

I missed the round in Waipara, outside of Christchurch as I needed to get back to Wellington for some work and a month in the south island was just not feasible. So my next race was the National Champs in Nelson. I flew down and stayed with cycling buddies and ex-Wellingtonian’s Susie Wood & Gary Milbanke. While there we had a very relaxing BBQ with some other local cyclists and enjoyed the very balmy Nelson weather – thanks guys! Unfortunately there were some last minute changes to the wicked Nelson course but still it was a fun but tough race. Despite the really fast, flowing, technical and fun downhill there was a heck of a lot of steep climbing which hurt heaps and was not helped at all by the scorching heat. Rosara won with Annika in 2nd and myself in 3rd.

Next up was Palmerston North and just for variety, it rained for a few days prior to the race turning the course to a mud fest. But despite the conditions I knew I just had to get out there and enjoy it so along with my motorbike noises I loved the slippery muddy descents and pulled out a win. Thanks to Nic & Derek for their hospitality and for accommodating us in their self contained flat – it was mint.

Napier should be wiped from this report. It was a bad day for me as the piston on my disc brake was not retracting properly so there was a really foul brake squeal going on but the piston also created drag. I managed to last 2 laps after stopping a few times to try to sort out the problem but then ended up calling it a day and DNFed. Big thanks to Jen & Sig for housing us for the weekend.

Finally Oceania Champs and this race was a big deal since this was the last MTB race before the Commonwealth Games, it was a chance to race on the World Championships course, and there was a quality international field. As I was part of the NZ team and since this was build up for the Com Games I stayed at the IBIS hotel with some of the team. I had a taper for this race so was feeling pretty good though I had a bad start and paid for this during the first lap. I clawed my way back up to 5th and finally got ahead of Dellys Starr from Australia to sit in 4th for the rest of the race. 3 kiwi’s took out the Oceania Championship medals with Rosara in 1st, Annika in 2nd and myself in 3rd. Results.

Straight after the mountain bike race I warmed down on my trainer and then hit the massage table for a rub down. Then it was all go – prize giving, packing the car and hitting the road for the 6 hour drive to Wellington, a few hours sleep then up for the World Cup road race in Wellington.

Working was pretty sporadic over the last couple of months mixed in with the racing. I finished my assignment with the Hutt City Council before Christmas and started a new role with AMR for Vehicle Testing New Zealand in December.

On the family front I spent 5 days during November in Auckland for my niece Taylor’s 3rd birthday. My brother and family were down for the Xmas and New Year period so Xmas was spent at my place in Wellington and it was very special seeing the joy on the girl’s faces as they opened their stockings and presents on Christmas morning. Straight after Xmas I headed to Nelson for the Tour de Femme but returned to Masterton for a very quiet New Year with the family. In between New Year and heading off for the South Island MTB racing I even managed to paint a room in the house – thanks heaps to Liz for helping and encouraging me! DIY is very low on my priority list.

Finally a welcome to my new sponsors - Bausch & Lomb and NZICA.

Welcome to my new sponsor Bausch & Lomb.

I inherited astigmatism (where objects are distorted and images are blurred because some light rays are focused and others are not) and have suffered from nearsightedness since I was 14 years old. Since then I have been wearing a variety of contact lenses because I led an active lifestyle and liked to have my peripheral vision. Also with a small nose with no bridge it was difficult to find suitable glasses.

The development of contact lenses over the years has been phenomenal. I now use Bausch & Lomb’s new PureVision Toric lenses which I can sleep in and can wear continuously for up to 30 days. These soft contact lenses have made a huge difference to my vision, providing greater clarity and definition and thus better reaction time when racing my bike.

PureVision Toric lenses are amazingly comfortable and allow natural levels of oxygen to reach my eyes so now I won’t get reprimanded by my optometrist for over wearing my lenses. And my eyes feel healthy. They are so convenient and flexible in my busy lifestyle especially during those late nights of traveling after races. And since some of the budget accommodation can be far from sterile, sleeping in my lenses is easy.

Welcome to my new sponsor NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA).

I became a Chartered Accountant in 1996 and became a member of the NZICA. To retain my Chartered Accountants (CA) qualification I need to do 20 hours per year of structured learning. The NZICA are kindly supporting me so that I can retain my professional career while also concentrating on my cycling by covering the cost of this professional development.