The long overdue Commonwealth Games story

I guess some of you may be wondering what happened on race day? You probably know that I got 6th and would like some sort of report with my thoughts. So here goes.

We arrived to the course with sooooh much time up our sleeve it wasn’t funny so I was pretty relaxed, just sussing out a possie for the trainer, searching for coffee (and having to settle for instant), chatting to a few of the officials and other competitors, ensuring wheels and bottles were sorted for the correct tech and feed zones (of which there were three) and basically just soaking up the atmosphere before starting my warmup routine. We had two tents assigned to us but since there were only 5 nations competing in the women’s event the kiwi’s took over, spreading ourselves over five tents! So we picked a tent each on the shady side and mechanics Selby and Steve set up our trainers. The tents had electric fans to keep us cool and swannie Tess was nearby with towels to mop up our sweat. The athlete zone was just that – only for athletes, support crew and officials with the appropriate accreditation. There were a huge number of toilets (always a good thing) and a services tent with fruit, bars, water and drinks. It was a pretty good setup.

I launched into my warmup on time, with the essential iPod tunes to get me amped. All went well, I was warm and the legs were feeling good, the nerves were at bay and I was excited to race. Bring it on.

The race was 38km, a total of six laps of the 6.4km Lysterfield course. The morning started off cooler but heated up to a very warm 30 degrees. Race start was 10:30am. We were called to the staging area to get our bikes and helmets checked and transponders attached. This was a very mickey mouse way of doing things and it was the very last thing I wanted to do a mere 20 minutes before the gun - I wanted to be focusing on the race. Staging took some time and we found ourselves standing under the shade of umbrellas (held by our team manager Susy Pryde) waiting, waiting, waiting.

I was ranked 3rd in the race and with number plate three I was called to the line after Marie Helene Premont and Kiara Bisaro both from Canada. There were 11 competitors. It is unfortunate that England have reduced their funding of women endurance cyclists over the past few years and so only road rider Amy Hunt was representing them in the dirt. This was particularly disappointing for English mountain biker Caroline Jackson who competes internationally, who did some of our national series races and is currently living in Australia. The small number of competitors does nothing for the sport.

Back to the race… Waiting on the start line. One foot clipped in. Heart pounding. The one minute call. Some deep breaths. Position myself on my saddle. Thoughts flashing through my head “gotta get a good start.” The 15 second call. Then the gun. We’re off and we’re racing. It went nuts.

A short start loop in front of the huge crowd and I’d already gone anaerobic (i.e. lacking in oxygen!) We hit the single track and I was in 5th place. Race favourite and Silver Olympic medal in Athens Marie Helene Premont was leading the race with fellow Canadian Kiara Bisaro in tow. Australian Dellys Starr had a very strong start and was still up there in the mix. Then the kiwis were in line - Rosara, myself and Sonia. I was suffering the effects of the fast start when part way through the first lap Amy Hunt passed me. I knew I had to stay on her but gradually she started pulling away. The worst thing about a small field is that once gaps open up and riders are out of sight it is mentally more difficult to push myself to my limits. I knew it was early days in the race and I was sure that I could pull her back but that never happened. Amy rode her way into 4th as Dellys faded considerably in the final laps. Meanwhile at the front of the race Marie Helene showed her dominance and held her lead to the end to take Gold, but behind her Rosara overtook Kiara and started hunting for Marie Helene. She ended up one and a half minutes back from the lead to take Silver and Kiara had to settle for Bronze. On my final lap I could see Dellys and I had positive thoughts of catching her. Had the race been one lap longer I would’ve stood a chance but in the end I was 24 seconds behind Dellys and finished in 6th place. I was one minute or less than 1% off fourth place.

I have to admit it wasn’t where I wanted to finish but I gave it my all out there. I had a good buildup and I was feeling good. I wouldn’t have done things differently. The course was not to my liking being flat and non technical but that’s mountain biking – every course is so varied. Despite that it was the Commonwealth Games and I was thrilled to be out there doing my best for myself, my friends and family, and representing my country.

Rosara did wickedly to take Silver. Shes come a long way in the past couple of years. Sonia wasn't so happy with her race especially as this was a course that suited her.

We had our support crew on the finish line handing us water and towels to clean ourselves up. Then we had to file through the hordes of media and give some interviews. Finally when I thought I good to go I was notified that I was selected at random for a drug test. Yay, just what one wants after being dehydrated from a two hour race in 30 degree heat. So I was supplied the drinks and had an attendant follow me around until I was ready to provide a urine sample. Lucky lady, she got to hang out with all my friends and family! I had an hour to be checked in with the official Sports Drug testers then as I continued to be chaperoned I did a warm down on the trainer and sat around drinking, drinking, drinking… until I was able to pee in a beaker. The medalists also had to provide blood.

When all that was over I cleaned myself up, ate the great packed lunch that was provided for us and joined up with the family to watch the Men’s race. Unfortunately I had missed the start.

The highlight of my Commonwealth Games experience was the support from an unbelievably huge number of people. It was so awesome to have my entire family there (including my two smallest fans – my nieces Taylor and Zara) and friends from New Zealand and Australia. Thank you to everyone. It really made it a special day.

Here are the final results of my race:
1 Marie-Helene Premont (Canada) 1.55.04
2 Rosara Joseph (New Zealand) +1.27
3 Kiara Bisaro (Canada) +2.55
4 Amy Hunt (England) +6.29
5 Dellys Starr (Australia) +7.08
6 Robyn Wong (New Zealand) +7.32
7 Emma Colson (Australia) +11.03
8 Sonia Foote (New Zealand) +14.28
9 Myra Moller (Cook Islands) +16.29
10 Ruth McGavigan (Scotland) 18.43
11 Claire Baxter (Australia)

Photo's from Canadian Cyclist

The start of my first winter in six years

I’m sitting here huddled in front of a gas heater as the wind rattles the doors and rain thrashes against the windows and I wonder where to start in updating my webpage. The hideous weather didn’t deter Drug Free Sport NZ who appeared at my door earlier this evening requesting a urine sample. It’s my second drug test in 11 weeks, 3rd in 8 months, with two out of competition and one in competition. Luckily I was in need of going to the toilet so the whole process including the paper work only took about 20 minutes. Too easy. I fully support what Drug Free Sport NZ and WADA (World Anti-doping Agency) are doing to help keep our sport clean.

I gave myself a little down time after the Games to have a mental break. But since it was the end of the club mountain bike season I supported the PNP club champs and raced on Makara Peak on April 23rd. It’s always fun to race in the park and nice to know that some of our entry fee is donated to the Makara Peak Supporters Club. Despite the early morning rain it stayed clear for the race and I took out the Women’s title. More here.

I pulled on the running shoes and hit the trails in order to finish the Crazyman in one piece on May 6th. It’s Wellington’s largest multisport event attracting around 600 competitors and uniquely offers an individual off road duathlon option consisting of a full on 16km hilly run and 35km MTB in the Eastern hills of the Hutt City. I raced this in 2001 when the duathlon was first introduced and surprised myself by winning in a sprint finish. However I did slightly more running back then so this year I was not quite so optimistic in winning. I loved the run as it was a nice change to the cycling. The scenery was absolutely spectacular and the mountains very challenging though the most challenging aspect was getting on the bike after the run. I didn’t enjoy the mountain biking nearly as much as the run – A, because I knew I could ride faster than what I did and B, because I was hurting and for the first time ever I was near cramping. I was the 13th woman in the run (1 hour 49 minutes) and the 2nd woman in the mountain bike leg (2 hours and 20 minutes) and first woman in the duathlon by almost 50 minutes. I was totally stoked to finished 10th overall in the Men’s individual duathlon. A big thanks to John Cussins and Michael Jacques for organizing a great event and if I do more run training before next year I’ll be back for more punishment.

I joined a team of women to race the 12 hour Moonride in Rotorua. Along with Emma, Megan, Vicki and Tracey we took out the women’s title by riding 24 laps, one more than the second and third place getters Dirt Diva’s from Auckland and Team Shealers from Rotorua. It’s such a wicked event – very relaxed and very social and of course, very cold but we had a hell of a lot of fun throughout the weekend. Huge ups to Ross for all his efforts in looking after and organising our team.

Next up was a fun hill climb event – a clash of the codes. Mountain bikers versus runners versus roadies. Who could get to the radar dome atop Hawkins hill first? And all in good spirit to raise funds for Makara Peak mountain bike park. Check out the article and a rather fun photo in the DominionPost here. I didn’t have a spectacular ride up the hill but I still had fun and that’s what it’s all about. Former World Champ mountain runner Melissa Moon was the first runner and bet me by 3 minutes. However the mountain bikers won overall with Tim Wilding taking the fastest time in 24 minutes and 44 seconds and the best roadie time was 3 minutes slower at 27 minutes 45 seconds. Go the dirt riders. More here.

The New Plymouth Cycling Club annually hosts a Queen’s birthday weekend road tour. I last rode this tour in 2002 and there have been significant course changes since then with the most major ones being the removal of the mountain stage and the prologue. Since I didn’t have any race form I was a tad worried about competing in B grade and with the likes of Sarah Ulmer, Catherine Cheatly and some strong men in B grade I was hoping my form would come up pretty fast. I was quite surprised that I wasn’t swinging off the back and despite the pretty fast pace, the crosswinds, and riding in the gutter I finished the first 2 road stages in reasonable shape, even making a half hearted attempt at the sprint in stage 2 and pulling off a 13th. The sun and wind came out to play in the afternoon but the morning started out bitterly cold. By the end of stage 2 I had a sore throat but I was optimistic that it wouldn’t eventuate to anything. It was not to be as the next morning I had a full blown cold – first time in years. To make matters worse the weather was hideous, cold, windy and very wet. That was the end of my tour.

And the weekend just gone was spent in Rotorua with the first race of the N-Duro series, a 33km loop around the Whakarewarewa forest. What wicked, wicked riding. Just loved it. Fast, flowing singletrack and lots of it. What more could one want? I had gear troubles due to a seized pulley wheel (go figure) which meant I got a hell of a lot of strength training in. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and all fun training. I got 2nd to Sonia.

To be continued...