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Monday, September 16, 2013

Website change!

Hey everyone. I hope you are well and are having a great start to Spring/Fall.
Just wanted to let you know I have changed my website page. If you want to carry on following my Cycling journey and see what I am up to the new website is; www.courteneylowe.com. I will be updating that just like I do this (except more often, that's the plan), and it is a little more sleeker ;)

Thanks! Courteney

Monday, May 27, 2013

Long time no talk!

Well hello there. I would like to apologise for my lack of updates since Redlands, I have no excuses as to why I have been so useless just that my brain has been else-where for the past month or so and everything has been go-go-go. Ever since Redlands I have been on the road, completing 7 Criteriums and 2 stage races all over the US. I have had an amazing time, our team has been riding awesome and my form is coming around. Below is a very brief description on what I have been up to;

Charlotte Criterium, Charlotte, NC.
-         -  Ouch. This was a fast, aggressive race. There is a lot of money on the line so people risk everything for the win. Finished with a bunch sprint, 4th and 5th.
-        -   Next day we did another Criterium in charlotte. The team rode the front for a large quantity of the race, until Jade got away with Crowell (Exergy). Jade finished 2nd. We had an awesome race, may not have got the win but we rode like a team supposed to ride, it was awesome.

Joe Martin Stage Race, Fayetteville, AR.
-          - Stage 1 TT =  Ouch.
-          - Stage 2 RR – Aggressive and fast for the first half. There was a long 15ish km climb and I got into about 4 breaks, none stuck, the team rode great but we couldn’t get a breakaway. Finished with a sprint and Joelle got 2nd!
-          - Stage 3 RR – Fantastic race, team rode to perfection. Amber got in a break with one other rider for half the race, caught with 10kms to go and Joelle wins the sprint finish. Awesome team effort.
-          -Stage 4 Crit – More ouch!!! Bunch split to pieces on the first lap, Joelle 3rd in a very long hard sprint. She rode like a superstar!

Gila, Silver City New Mexico (7000 feet above see level.. ouch).
-          - Stage 1 RR- Not much happened at the start, occasional attacking and little breaks. Biggest highlight would be my wheel change and my shoe break after a rider decided to ride her front wheel into me. Bunch together at the base of the 15km pain hill. Was a grovel, I rode it with Brie and we pushed each other up. Happy to get to the top! But unfortunately Brie suffered some pretty bad heat stroke at the end of the stage and was out for the rest of the week =(. Thanks to two of the top climbers in the World, Claudia and Mara for making it so damn painful!
First Day Complete. Pretty shattered after one hard climb . 
      - Stage 2 RR- Denise and I did some early attacks and chasing which helped our legs suffer for the rest. Jade and Lauren rode awesome while Joelle came off on the downhill =(. Janel did ok too, soloing off the front and doing a time trial for about half the race. SHE WON!! Beating some of the World’s best and showing everyone how it’s done.
-          - Stage 3 TT – Janel, after doing a 60 odd km TT the day before, finished 2nd to Alison Powers, by only 10 seconds!!! My aim for this was to finish in the time cut and save my legs for the following days so I could have something left to help the team as much as possible. It went well and I was nice and comfortable =)
Lauren and Joelle killing it in the Crit. 
-         - Stage 4 Crit - The team rode great, Joelle did a fantastic lead-out for Lauren who won! And Joelle hung on for 2nd. Awesome!
Pre-race meeting with Rach. The knowledge that Rachel has with the tactics is amazing and I hold onto every word she tells us. 
On the front earlier on in the Crit. 
During the TT at Gila. 
-          - Stage 5 RR – Last day, legs tired. We protected Janel and Jade as much as we could by chasing every break that went off the front, (Joelle staying away in a small break) and delivering them to the base of the hill well rested and ready to rip legs off. Janel finished 3rd, racing two of the World’s BEST hill climbers up one painful climb!

Tour De Grove, St Louis, Missouri.
-        -   Crit #1 ; starting at 8 :30 pm, in the dark. It was fast from the start. Optum P/B KBS rode awesome making the race exciting. I got off solo, then Annie went off solo, then Amber went off.. etc. Unfortunately Annie had a terrible crash half way through. She hit the barrier and it came over top, breaking her Scapula in the process. She is so tough, and is now home in Canada on her way to recovery. The race was re-started after about 20 minutes. Knowing your team mate and close friend is in a really bad way was not good for me mentally so I wasn’t really in it for the rest of the race. I just wanted to ride off the front, so I did, but got caught and it was a sprint finish. Leah 4th.

       - Crit #2 ; Super aggressive race. The team attacked like crazy, it was hard and fast. Having only 3 riders was hard, the larger teams took advantage of their numbers and made us hurt. Unfortunately nothing stuck and came to a sprint again with Leah in 5th.
Leah and Amber doing sprint training down the Hotel corridor. 

Doing some 'touristy' things. The arch at St Louis. 
-          -  Crit #3 ; Fun day! Again attacking, attacking, attacking. This time something stuck! Leah got in the break with 4 others and they drilled it at the front. All I had to do was chase attacks from the main field to try and keep it together. Leah sprinted to an impressive 2nd place to Theresa Cliff-Ryan. Last lap someone came down in front of me. I had to jump her bike and unfortunately got gaped from what was left of the small bunch. I got back on but had nothing left to contest the sprint, which did not really matter as it was for 5th or 6th place.

Wilmington Grand Prix, Wilmington.
-          - Only a small Optum team in this one, which made it hard. Amber and I rode an aggressive race, we are not sprinters so we wanted a break. I got in an early break which stayed away for quite a few laps. We were caught and the attacks started up again. Unfortunately one of my attacks was countered by a Colavita rider forming a break. The rest of the race Amber and I tried everything we could to bridge the gap. Felt like we had big signs on our backs telling everyone to please chase EVERYTHING we do. It was hard, and we gave it everything but couldn’t catch unfortunately. We made it fun and hard though, dropping about half the field in the first half of the race with our continuous attacks. So it wasn’t all bad. Fearless Femme rode awesome and took the win.
Amber and I at the front in Wilmington. 

Kelly Cup, Baltimore, MD.
-        -  A smaller field on a cool course around a park in Baltimore. Once again, Amber and I attacked like crazy women making it almost one of the hardest races I have done. It was a 22 lap course and we would have attacked at least once every lap. Once again we were covered like crazy. Amber went to lead me out at the end and then she got a gap coming into the final 400 metres, she kept drilling it but got caught on the line, finishing in 2nd place with me in 3rd. Congrats to Amy Cutler for a very impressive sprint finish!!

I am now in Bend, Oregon where I will be based for the rest of the season. I found a house to rent with my team mate Jade Wilcoxson in one of my favourite towns in America. It has incredible views of the mountains, a really cute little town and the most important part REALLY GOOD COFFEE. The best part is is that I have been here for a week now and have not seen ONE Starbucks. It means it’s a good town when there is not a Starbucks on every corner!! On my drive over from Medford It started snowing on me so I had to stop to take some photos. I haven’t been in the snow like this since I was about 5 years old so I was pretty excited about it! I even got to ride in it on my second ride here. Bend is at about 4000 feet altitude so the weather conditions change rapidly. The last week has been cold, but from the start of June the temperature supposed to get pretty high, up to around 30 degrees, that will be a nice change, but the views of the snowy mountains are pretty spectacular.
Driving through the snow on my way to Bend. 
Views I get to enjoy on my rides. 
Top of  Mckenzie Pass, amazing climb! 
I am not sure of my next race yet, so just doing some training on the beautiful Country roads of Bend, and meeting some cool new people.

So far the season has been awesome and I am really looking forward to the next race with the team. It’s been a week and I miss everyone like crazy already!!

Thanks for reading and once again I apologise for my lack of contact. Things are a lot more settled having a base and now I can get things ticked off the list =)


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kelly Benefit Strategies and the American Diabetes Association meet and greet.

This past week Janel, Rachel, Mike Sherer, Ian Moir and myself flew to Baltimore to visit Kelly Benefit Strategies and to learn about the American Diabetes Association.

Kelly Benefit Strategies (KBS) is one of Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies title sponsors, and is one of the top Insurance Consultants in the Country. (http://www.kellybenefitstrategies.com/). KBS also supports the American Diabetes Association which includes the sponsorship of a huge Nation-wide cycling event called the ‘Tour De Cure’.

John Kelly and myself talking before the start of the ride. John is one of the main reasons this team exists and not only does he support ADA he also helps to raise funds and awareness for World Bicycle Relief (http://worldbicyclerelief.org/).

The Tour De Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 44 States Nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 26 million Americans are diagnosed with Diabetes so the mission of the ADA is to ‘prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected’. KBS Sponsors two of the Maryland Tour De Cure events (Cooksville, MD and Easton, MD).

John Kelly, the President and Senior Consultant at KBS and the Diabetes Association organised a fantastic event which the five of us were lucky enough to attend. John took us for a ride around the beautiful Country roads of Baltimore where we met some of the KBS staff and cyclists as well as ADA supporters, including the Executive director of the Maryland Diabetes Association, Kathy Rogers. Everybody was so lovely and the ride went really well thanks to John’s perfect organisation. We were then greeted after the ride to a delicious BBQ dinner, some refreshments and music as well as learning about the Tour De Cure and what the ADA do to help prevent and support Diabetes within America.

Thank you John and Kathy and everybody else who was part of this event, I was so fortunate to have been able to spend the afternoon with such inspiring people.

JK introducing Ian, Janel, Mike and myself. 
The five of us before we headed off for one beautiful ride!
Thank you Umbrella Syndicate for all of the photos taken on the day; http://theumbrellasyndicate.com/

If you want to learn more about Tour De Cure or if you are interested in donating the website is; http://tour.diabetes.org

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Redlands 2013

Redlands Classic is the first NRC (National Racing Calendar) event of the year, and it was a big one! The start list was outstanding with close to 90 riders entered and the field was top, top quality. 
We had a strong team of 8 including; Annie, Joelle, Denise, Brie, Amber, Jade, Janel and myself.  

The first stage was a Time Trial in Big Bear. With an altitude of about 7000 feet this stage really suited the riders who have just come from places like Boulder or from somewhere high up. The entire race felt like my throat was bleeding and everyone was coughing endlessly once we had finished. Imagine riding as hard as you can, through a straw, it is similar to that.. The legs and lungs definitely do not enjoy it. Anyway, the tt was hard, I went out all guns blazing and was completely done by 9kms. Unfortunately the tt was 12kms long so I fell a little short with my pacing.  

Alison Powers had a phenomenal ride finishing close to 30 seconds in front of second place and beating a large quantity of the elite men's field. Our little pocket rocket Brie had a hugely impressive ride finishing in 4th place, Janel in 7th and Denise in 10th with the rest of us close behind. Unfortunately Jade got a very unfair time penalty which put her back 50 seconds, and I came in somewhere in the 20's about 1 and a half minutes back from Alison.  

The next day was a 120km road race (thankfully back down to sea level).The race was fast, hard, and fun. The team rode awesome with Jade going for the QOM, Brie taking out the sprints and the rest of the team chasing the breaks and keeping things hard. On the final lap I got in a small break and stayed with them for a wee while, I was blown, my legs didn't have much, I hung on with gritted teeth until Joelle bridged across, then I hit the wall and came back to the bunch. On the last climb Janel was going backwards, unsure of the reason I tried to stay with her and we worked hard together in the final Km's to keep the time gap as small as possible. We later realised she had a slow leak on the front wheel which slowed her down considerably on the climb. Further up the road Brie sprinted to 3rd place, putting her up to 3rd on GC and Alison pulled out another win with fellow Kiwi rider Joe finishing 2nd. 

Day three was the Redlands Criterium, known to be one of the hardest, most technical crits on the American calendar. Fast it was! Denise got away in the final 15 minutes and stayed up the road for quite a few laps, Jade countered her but it ended up coming to a bunch sprint with Joelle coming a close 2nd, to Alison (again). Unfortunately I had some bad luck on one of the corners in the final laps with my bike coming to a holt. Once I got going again the bunch was up the road, Dang!  

Last stage, the Sunset Loop, known to be the most brutal stage of the tour, and of most races in the US. Basically the main race is in the first 15kms. It starts with a long neutral section where everyone jostles for position, then it goes to a narrow, rough, windy downhill which runs straight into the climb of the day. If you are not at or near the front when you get to the base of the climb, you're toast. 20 riders got away on the climb, including 4 Optum girls. Denise and I were in a small (ish) bunch that was caught in the middle and the rest of the field was behind. In our bunch were some GC threats so there was no need to do any work or try to get up the road in case we got chased by these riders. Some of the teams got to the front to try and catch but the chasing was too inconsistent so it ended up being more of a bunch ride as riders would give up one by one. The front of the field was getting smashed to pieces, Marra Abbott and Claudia Haussler got away (Two of the best climbers in the worlds) while Joelle faught it out in the chasing group and Brie, Jade and Janel very close behind. Mara ended up staying away, just! With Joelle getting the bunch sprint in 2nd. 

Overall it was an awesome race, the team rode extremely well together and we have some great times coming up. It is early season so we are not at our best yet, but it's not going to be long until we get there. Next up is Charlotte Criterium in the weekend after a stop off in Baltimore to catch up with John Kelly and the team from Kelly Benefit Strategies and the diabetes foundation. 

The weather is getting warmer, the tan lines are at their best and the legs are on the up, time to win some bike races =)

Getting ready for the Time Trial at 7000 Feet.
Just starting the Time trial, with the beautiful lake next to me.
                Team Talk before stage three road race.
 Riding the front in my new awesome NZ champ jersey. Thank you so much Champion System for such a fantastic job!! http://www.champ-sys.com/
At some stage during one of the stages at Redlands. Photos thanks to; Danny Munson, Cyclingillustrated.com

Friday, March 29, 2013

San Dimas 2013

Update time! I am back in the US of A and loving it. Once arriving in LA I was picked up by my team mate Amber Gaffney and her partner Jacob and was spoilt rotten! Not only had she come all the way out to LA to pick me up, she had gone via my favourite super market (Trader Joes) and picked me up my favourite American treat for the car trip. Once arriving at her house she made me an incredibly delicious sandwich and then went for her second ride of the day so she could show me where I could ride.. That is what I call one pretty awesome team mate! I then spent the next week training with Amber and getting to know the area.

First race for the season was the San Dimas Stage race which consists of a 4 mile uphill time trial, a 50 mile road race and then finishes off with a 60 minute Criterium around the streets of San Dimas. We had a small team of 5 rider, Leah, Brie, Amber, Lauren and myself as well as Michael, Rachel and Jeremy (Mechanic, Director/organiser/planner/do everything-er and the swanee).

Leah and I stayed with Susie and Dennis, a lovely couple who looked after us incredibly well during the few days of racing. They were both very accomplished sports people so we had some good conversations. The morning of the time trial Leah and I got up leisurely to have breakfast. By the time we left for the race Susie had gone for a run, walked the dog and was about to head out the door for a ride to watch us race. Once returning from her ride she then went for another walk.. an incredibly fit lady!! I felt so lazy after just doing a little time trial then riding home.

The weekend was a great success for the team. There were close to 80 strong starters in the race, so we certainly had our work cut out for us! Brie rode to a very impressive 4th place in the time trial with Lauren, Leah and Amber not far behind. I finished somewhere in the 20’s. I was pretty disappointed with my result as I felt great and had a great lead-up but not to fear I will be there soon, just need to get some racing under my belt to wake the legs up again!

The Road Race was pretty action-packed with a nasty crash happening near the start and the race leader Mara Abbott came down. So for the next lap we neutralised the race until she rejoined us and then the race was on! My job was to go for the Queen of the Mountains, I won the first one, got 2nd in the 2nd and then 3rd in the final time.. Unfortunately that put me in 1st equal with Lex Albrecht and in the UCI rules the winner is determined by whoever is sitting highest on GC, which in this case was Lex… Dammit!! So I didn’t get the polka dot jersey for this one.. Next time =)

Amber and I attempted a couple of lead-outs for Leah and Lauren for the mid-race sprints, and they both did awesome, Leah got the first and then Brie (who also did the leading out) got another one. Kathryn Donavon from NOW got away solo on the 5th lap and rode strongly up the road for about 3 laps, with 1 lap to go Amber and I went to the front and set the pace as no-one else seemed very interested in catching Katy. Once we had about 5kms to go Amber drilled it on the front while I totally blew up! Going up the last climb (so with around 5 kms to go) Brie set the pace, ,and then kept setting it, and just kept going.. then won the sprint!!! She is like a pocket rocket that just keeps going!!! So we finished the stage with a stage victory, the sprint jersey (Brie), a place up in the GC standings (now sitting in 3rd) and a first equal for QOM (Dang). Successful day all round!!

The final day was a Criterium, and boy was it on from the start. We averaged about 42kmh for an hour.. it was hard! And I was hurting! Long story short Brie finished 2nd in the stage thanks to a great lead-out from Amber, Lauren and Leah.

San Dimas was a great first race of the season. I personally am not at where I want to be but know it is the first race of the season and speed will come fast! I have the strength and endurance, now I just need that speed. I am so stoked to be riding with such a great team again this year, we all gel so well and get along.. its going to be a great season =)

Me going for the QOM points at SDSR.

                          One happy team after Bries win in the Road Race. Very well deserved!!
                          Both photos copyright of Danny Munson, Cyclingillustrated.com

Now I am off to San Diego with one of my closest friends Emma Grant. I have not seen her since August last year and cannot wait to spend the week hanging out and riding my bike. Then I am headed to Redlands for a 4 stage race. Fun times ahead, will keep you all posted.

Thanks for reading =)


Friday, March 8, 2013

Critical Cargo Care

I am really excited to announce a new personal sponsor who has so generously decided to help me (along with Craigs Investment Partners) to get through my 2013  racing year.

Russell and Sharon Jackman, along with their son Daniel Jackman run a fascinating business called Critical Cargo Care. Sharon and Russell wanted to help  financially support a young Athlete who had set their heart on the Olympics as a goal,  and thanks to Greg and Richard from Tauranga Cycling Club, I was the one they chose to help support.

I was given the opportunity to visit their business a few days ago and see what happens and how it all works. I have come home absolutely astounded by what I have seen, and how little I take into account what goes on behind the scene at the Port of Tauranga.

After meeting with Russell I got taken into the office and introduced to some of the awesome team at CCC. Some young, down to earth men who were extremely interested in what I do. I was then shown what they do, and my job seemed A LOT easier.

What Critical Cargo Care does is they take care of all the Ports refrigerated cargo. From food products such as meat or fruit, to plants - it’s a lot of containers, and a lot of pressure to get it right! Some of the containers have up to 1 million dollars of product in just the one container!!
The shipper provides CCC with information on what temperature the container must be at. Once the container arrives they are connected and set up to the shippers’ requirements and are then constantly monitored throughout the stay at the Port. Once it is time to go CCC will know when the containers are able to be unplugged before heading onto a ship, train or truck for the next stop.

I was given the opportunity to go in one of the massive forklifts/moving thing on wheels (no idea what it was called, but it was huge! And I had to climb a big ladder to get to the top). Then I went along with one of CCC’s normal days of work where we picked up containers, then dropped them onto the back of a truck, or picked it up from the truck. I could not believe how someone in this tiny box on the side of this MASSIVE crane was able to drop the container right between the lines or into the perfect spot on the truck. It was very impressive and a pretty cool experience!

I am so excited about the new relationship with CCC and cannot thank them enough for their support. I also now have a new found respect for how much it takes to get things like apples or international fruits like mangos onto the supermarket shelf. It doesn’t just appear, it involves a huge process and hard work to get there.

 Above are some photos of my trip, on the top are the crazy cool cranes on wheels that I sat on (yup, I climbed all the way up there, on a ladder!), then on the right is the tiny little glass-type box that the driver and I sat in. In the middle is taking a container off the truck and at the bottom is our awesome work, a loaded truck!

Thanks Russell, Sharon, Daniel and the awesome staff from CCC, you are helping make my 2013 year a successful one and keep me on my road to Rio =)

Home Time.. For a Short Time..

Since training camp I have been hanging out at home, in the beautiful sunshine getting some even more beautiful tan-lines and making the most of this hot weather. I have also been working hard with my chiropractor from England, Ali McMaster. This lady is amazing, I really do not know what I would do without her knowledge and the work she has put into me. Last year while I was suffering from what I call the year long one legged effort, Ali would skype me weekly and she is the reason I was able to keep riding at the level I was with all the other issues going on. Sometimes I would make my room-mate and good friend Emma Grant do manipulations to me, Ali, over Skype, would explain to Emma where and how she could hit me as hard as she could on some part of my legs (she says she didn’t like hitting me, I don’t believe her for a second). I would also use rolls and rolls and rolls of Spider Tech tape (http://www.spidertech.com/) to keep me going forward.
An example of a bit of taping effort after skyping Ali... got to cover all the options..right!?

Anyway, Ali has been around here almost ever second day (while she is on holiday in NZ), making me absolutely perfect and sorting out all my ‘issues’. She is not only the World’s best Chiropractor but she sort of just knows everything. She has an answer for everything and is just.. well.. AMAZING.
When I am not with Ali, and not on my bike, I am enjoying a bit of CrossFit here and there with Mount (and the new Tauranga) CrossFit (http://mountcrossfit.com/). I have been doing this since Surgery as I get really bored in the gym and because as a cyclist I do not get any impact what-so-ever, which is terrible for my bone density. Therefore by doing cross-fit I am not only working the muscles I would in the gym, things like box jumps, skipping and running are also incorporated, helping the impact side of things and also keeping things competitive (which in-turn keeps me happy).

The past few weeks I have also been meeting some really cool up and coming triathletes and cyclists from all over Tauranga.

Last week I was given the opportunity to join in on Lyndy Wickham’s ride with the junior tri kids that she takes out for rides and bike handling skills each week. I could not get over the enthusiasm and talent these juniors had, it is really exciting for the future of the sport. One of the older girls, Amelia, has just been selected for the Nationals in Christchurch because she had an outstanding cycle split time in the selection race. I tried to turn her to the better side (cyclist) on the ride, I think she will become a roady in no-time with that kind of talent. 

Me with some of the awesome up and coming riders, great group of Kids. 

It is so impressive to see the time and work that people like Lyndy put in to motivate young people to get out on their bikes. Iris Thomas is another example of someone who puts their entire life into helping kids as young as Primary School level to get introduced to the sport and use cycling as an alternate form of transport. Iris also teaches the students road rules so that when they get their drivers licenses they will appreciate cyclists and give them some space. Iris has started up a Bright Sparks program which helps to encourage Intermediate students who had learnt cycle safety earlier on to find safe and fun routes to ride to school. I was lucky enough to come in to my old school Tauranga Intermediate and see what it was all about as well as meeting some children who were part of the program. The students had a really impressive understanding of how to check their brakes were working, the tyres were pumped up and the helmet was on properly, we then took some photos with Jamie Troughton (who is also part of the program with Iris) and the two of them took the kids for a ride on the road teaching them road etiquette and showing them how fun it is to ride a bike!

Kurt Pickard and I with some Tauranga Intermediate students on the 'Bright Sparks' program. Picture Credit; Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Journalism.

Now I have just under a week left before I head back to the States to start the racing season. I am pretty excited to get it kicked off and to see all the team again!

I also just want to say a huge Thank You to Richard Bates, Greg Taylor and members of the Tauranga Cycling Club for your incredibly generous support in helping me get overseas this year. I am overwhelmed by the kindness of some people who are so passionate about cycling and the support of a young rider trying to live her dream.

I have been riding with Tauranga Cycling Club since I first started and being able to share my stories and progress with the people who have been there from the start is all worth it! Even if they still like to torture me on Tuesday night Worlds…

Thanks for reading!