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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

America 2011, Fayetteville Stage Race.

On March 15th Kate and I left Auckland at 2.00pm toward Dallas, Texas. We had a 2 hour stop in LA and then hopped on another plane and arrived in Dallas at 2.00 pm on March 15th. The first thing we noticed were the big Dodge trucks, they were everywhere! We got picked up by the team rider/manager Rachel Byus (in a big ute) and drove back to her house in Bartonville.

Our house in Bartonville.

Once we had settled in we went for an hour spin to loosen up the legs a bit. The whole different side of the road thing was a bit of a shock at first, but I seemed to pick it up reasonably fast (now and then I have to remind myself to keep right, especially at the start of each ride).

Trying out the tt bike, good way to stretch your neck!

Me trying to ride and follow a map at the same time.

On the Friday morning we left for a 5 hour drive to our first race, the Fayetteville Stage Race. The team (including me, Kate, Rachel, Lauren and Sarah) drove to Fayetteville in the team bus. First stop was a place called Buc-ees which was a massive shop in the middle of no-where, and it sold pretty much anything imaginable. Including Lollies, Beef Jerky, hats, belts, fruit etc and it was completely packed with people! After that culture shock we carried on towards Fayetteville.

We were renting out a house called Granny’s retreat, which was a pretty old-school house. All of the rooms were named with ‘Granny’s room’ or ‘Emma’s attic’, I didn’t really understand it but it was perfect for what we needed.

Granny's retreat

The Fayetteville stage race consisted of 3 stages, two 80km road races and a 10km time trial. Stage one was the 80km road race. Within the first 2kms Lauren and Rachel attacked off the front, but both got chased down. Then I counter attacked and everybody sat up. So I kept time trialing it off the front by myself, 75kms later I finished, 10 minutes ahead. Would have probably been one of the longest individual time trials I have ever done! My team mates had slowed down the bunch so that I could get away; although they tried to get off the front and come help me no-one would let them go. At the finish Lauren and Rachel did a bit of a team lead out for Kate, who won the bunch sprint (so second in the stage) with Lauren and Rachel about mid-pack.

That afternoon was the time trial. I could not believe the gear that most of the riders had. Even though it was a small race out in the middle of no-where, basically everyone had nice time trial bikes and carbon wheels. I was lucky enough to be lent a Cannondale time trial bike from Rachel, which seemed to fit me perfectly, and was very light! The course for the time trial was a short 11km on rolling roads. I was basically stuffed by the first 500 meters, going out quit a bit too hard. But carried on, pushing it to the end. I finished the time trial in 1st place about 25 seconds in front of 2nd place. Lauren was very close behind in 3rd, with Kate 12th, Rachel 18th and Sarah 19th (Rachel had to do it on her road bike with no TT bars, so would have made it A LOT harder). Me getting taught how to put bikes on the roof, without actually stepping on the roof. Think im going to leave this job to the pros (ie, Rachel).

The next day was another 80km road race, the plan was to get Kate and Lauren off the front so they could finish 2nd and 3rd overall. Rachel attacked, got caught, and then Kate counter attacked at the end of the second lap and stayed away for just under half a lap, having to grind it into the head wind by herself. Then when the bunch was about to catch her (she would have been about 200m in front) Lauren told me to attack and try and get us two (Kate and myself) away, so I did and we ended up finishing about 2 minutes in front of the field. This put Kate up to 2nd place, with Lauren winning the bunch sprint. Overall I won by about 12 minutes, with Kate 2nd place and Lauren 3rd. Was a great weekend of team racing and some fantastic time trial training!

On the way home we stopped at a sandwich shop to get some lunch/dinner. When we stopped Lauren noticed a wheel was missing from the roof of the bus, we went out and checked and to my luck it was my racing front wheel (Reynold). It had flown off the back of the bus while we were driving, so we turned around and drove back but could not see it anywhere. Was a bit of a negative end to the awesome weekend but at the end of the day it is only a wheel.. Could have been a bike!

The team at the end of Sunday's race. From left; Sarah, Lauren, Kate, Rachel and me.

The first trip away was great fun. We learnt a lot about each other and are slowly learning the American language. Here are some word conversions if you are heading over this way any time soon;

Boot = Trunk

Toilet = Bathroom

Lollies = Candy

Foot path = Side Walk

Muesli Bars = Granola Bars

Chilly Bin = Cooler

Biscuits = Cookies

There are no major races until about mid to end of April so just getting in a lot of good training at the moment. Will keep you all posted =)


Monday, March 21, 2011

Craigs Investment Partners

A lot has been going on lately and I have been very slack at updating this blog! About 2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to be picked up by Craigs Investment Partners, who have now become my official, personal sponsor.

I am at a certain level now that if I want to further my cycling career, I must start racing the top and be seen by the top, which I cannot do in New Zealand. So late last year I got in contact with a team based in Dallas, Texas (thanks to my friend and fellow cycling competitor Kate Chilcott). The team is called the FCS elite team (also known as Metro Volkswagon) and will be competing in some of the major races around America including the Joe Martin stage race and Liberty Classic, where all the top, professional teams will be attending. It also had on the list lots of Criterium racing, which is a part of cycling that I need to improve on a lot!

This was a major stepping stone but I was not able to make it on my own. The amazing team at Craigs Investment Partners made this possible for me. Craigs is my official sponsor and I would not be able to go to America without them. I am overwhelmed with their support and cannot wait to build a strong relationship with the team. Craigs Investment Partners is one of New Zealand's largest investment firms with 17 branches throughout NZ. They have a very strong involvement in the community where they support not only myself but also other people/organisations in our area including other sports, arts, business and community sponsorships. For more information on Craigs Investment Partners visit; http://www.craigsip.com/

Also, for a link to the newspaper article about America you can go to;

Wellington Tour of NZ 2011

On Monday the 21st I flew to Wellington for the Tour of NZ/Wellington. This year the entries for this tour were amazing, including HTC, one of the top teams in the world, Diadora-Pasta Zara team, some top Australian teams and the usual Giant pro cycling (Chinese), and Japanese national teams. This year I was lucky to be in the New Zealand National team along with Mel Burke, Kate Chilcott, Cath Cheatley and Linda Villumson.

We got there with two days to spear so we settled into the Copthorne Hotel in Masterton and went for a few cruisy rides with the GMC Christmas tree (Gordon McCauley). On Tuesday we spent most of the day glued to the T.V, completely shocked with the news of the Christchurch earthquake. Unfortunately one of the newly made Christchurch teams, Thule/Orbea, had a short trip where they had to return back home straight after they arrived to deal with the devastating Quake.

As bad as it felt we had to switch our minds to racing and continue with the tour ahead. Day one was a 98km road stage from Martinborough to Masterton which included a very steep 1.5 km climb about 20km from the finish. My job was to chase down attacks and try to keep as far up as I could. The race seemed pretty chilled in the first part of the race, no major breaks. Then on the first climb a bunch of about 15 of us got away over the hill, no-one in the bunch seemed to want to do anything so the main bunch caught us pretty fast. On the climb Linda and Cath got in a break away with about 7 others, Mel and I went over the top shortly after along with 3 or 4 others. We did not do any work as we didn’t want to catch Linda and Cath’s bunch, so we cruised along, eventually the main bunch caught us and we rolled into the finish, sitting somewhere in the bunch. Cath got 2nd in the sprint finish with Linda 7th, finishing 35seconds in front of the main bunch.

Tactics Talk.

Getting ready for stage one.

In quit a bit of pain going over the last (big) climb.

The next day was a 114km road stage from Masterton to Palmerston North (via Pahiatua track). Today I had a similar job, to chase down as many breaks as possible. Right from the start there was attack after attack, I followed most of them and about 10km into the race I was pretty stuffed. After a bit of recovery in the bunch another break went. I was a bit late to react so had to jump across to the group of about 6. We stayed away for a few k’s and then got caught. With about 20km to go there was a pretty hard 3km hill to go up, with a stretch of loose gravel 2km before the hill. We got neutralised across the gravel and the minute the flag went down Mel sat on the front and time trialled it while the rest of the bunch held on for dear life. Then we went straight into the hill. I went up relatively comfortably, about 100 metres behind Lindas group, with Cath in a bunch of 3 further in front. On the way down the hill I had a few ‘wimp’ issues thanks to Ina Toutenburg (from HTC team) as she sped around the corners at top speed. I momentarily lost her group but caught back on soon after (thanks to the group behind). Cath finished 2nd to Judith Arnt again with me in the bunch behind, in I think 11th.

Wrtting down the distances for some important parts of the race. With Dad observing.

Christmas tree (Gordon McCayley) giving us the team tactics before the start of stage 2.

Mel driving it at the front, just before the last hill.

Stage 3 was an 85km rolling to flat lap race. Again my job was to chase breaks and position well. It was a real on and off race and I got in a few little breaks. Other then that it was not very exciting; I felt pretty crap. At the end two people in front rode into each other but luckily stayed on their bikes, I finished somewhere in the bunch and Cath got 3rd.
That afternoon was the crit around the streets of Palmerston North. Linda, Ina (Toutenburg) and a couple of others broke away so all we had to do was sit in the bunch and chase down breaks. It wasn’t too fast at all, I finished somewhere in the top 10 (I think).

Stage 5 was the last road race, going the opposite direction as stage 2. I felt really comfortable on the hill, then going down not so compfortable, had to chase for abit, then when I caught we went over a very dodgy gravel section. The person in front dropped the wheel by quit a lot, so we had to chase for quit a bit. When getting back on I noticed the bunch had split up substantially so we did some even more chasing, by the time I was back on the bunch I was stuffed! Next thing we know there were 5 people up ahead in a breakaway which were big GC contenders. So Mel, Linda, Kate and I headed straight to the front and lapped it through for the next 15-20. When we caught the group I did an attack bringing along a few others, unfortunately a couple were reasonably high on GC so I did not do anything (after about 5 km). When the bunch caught, Kate attacked ( team tactics =) ) and a group followed her. Now all we had to do was sit in the bunch, hoping HTC would sit on the front and chase them. With 10km to go Linda, Mel and I went to the front and repeated our chase (passing HTC’s train on the way), at this stage Kate’s small group was still ahead and then there would have been about 20 of us left in the main bunch. With about 3km to go I completely blew up, legs started to cramp and I could hardly pedal. After dropping off the back of the bunch I got a second wind and used the cars to get back onto the bunch. We were a bit guttered we couldn’t catch the front group but we got bloody close! At the finish I was just in the bunch.

That was basically the tour finished. Cath finished in second place with Judith Arnt 1st and Ruth Corsett 3rd. The last day was a criterium, which was not part of the tour; instead it was just a separate race. It started off fast, with Kate doing a spectacular crash half way through the first lap bending her front wheel in half. The rest of the race I went hard, it didn’t finish how I wanted but lasted about half of the race. It ended up being only 4 riders left, Cath, Judith, Amanda Miller and a Jayco rider, with Amanda wining and Cath finishing second.

Another great experience with some awesome people!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rev 120

The week after Bev’s tour I was back on the start line, this time in Hamilton for the Rev 120. Unfortunately there were not enough elite women entered for a separate race so we had to start with the elite men. It started off fast, with the guys playing there tactical games while us girls sat in the bunch getting a nice wee ride. Then about 30km into the race we hit French Pass, a nice 3(ish) km climb. Going over the hill us girls stayed relatively close together, with Emma Crum about 100m in front, then Mel and I neck and neck with Emily and Kate about 100m behind. Emma managed to get onto a little bunch of guys over top of the hill so Mel and I spent the next 20ish km working our buts off trying to chase them (just the two of us) but the bunch had too many legs to get away. Kate, Emily and Acky(?) caught us at about half way, so the rest of us worked hard together until the end. I managed to win the bunch sprint by about a millimetre, with Emily 2nd, Kate 3rd and Mel 4th (the guys weren’t allowed to get in our way at the finish so they just cruised in). Overall I was 2nd place in the women’s as Emma had a great ride finishing ahead with a bunch of guys. To see photos of the very tight finish you can go to http://www.supersportimages.com/ click on the rev 120 and type in Lowe under surname.

Am heading off to Wellington in a couple of days for the Tour of NZ, can’t wait! Will keep you posted on the happenings over there.