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Monday, October 22, 2012

Back on Track

Today is exactly 6 weeks after surgery, and I am feeling FANTASTIC!

It has been a very long month, I have felt lazy, bored, grumpy and have driven my family crazy. But that has (almost) come to an end; me and my bike have FINALLY been reunited.

The past month I have been working with Mark Hollands, he has been incredible and has given me little exercises to build my strength back up and get back out on the road. Every day I have felt stronger and more excited. Now 6 weeks on I feel like I am back to normal, the scars are healing and the leg is feeling good. It has been a slow process, and as irritating as it has been to be forced to sit down and recover I have understood the importance of letting the body heal. The surgery couldn’t have come at a better time, I was urged to have a month off even if surgery wasn’t on the cards and I know if I was able to ride, that would not have happened. So this forced rest was perfect! The amount of recovery time for this was short too, compared to something like breaking a bone. So positives all round!

I have been riding every second day for the past 2 weeks; it started off with 15 minutes on the rollers and is now up to 90 minutes on the road. I am feeling great, and cannot wait to start racing Dad again! (He has been doing a lot of secret training during my time off, so I have a bit of catching up to do).

Ever since the surgery I have been getting emails from people all over the world with this same issue, asking for advice and reassurance.  The surgeons say it is an extremely rare case, but around the cycling circle it seems very common. 

Will stay in touch =)


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Well over-due update !

I have been home from America for almost 2 weeks now after spending the past 7 months with some awesome people and have had a ball. Racing the top races throughout America with the top team, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies. The amount I have learnt and experienced, the friends I have made and the people I have met has been incredible.

I am now home and getting fixed. The past year I have been having major issues with my left leg. It started off with the occasional leg pain and power loss when doing some efforts, and then it seemed to get worse to the point of having to pull out of races because I had absolutely no power coming from my left leg. Pulling out of races is not something I enjoy doing, especially when you have team mates to look after. After seeing a handful of chiropractors, physios and neurologists I finally got tested for iliac endofribosis. I was told about this at the start of the year, but typical me disagreed and tried to find any other possible cause. By the end of the season I was at the point where I needed to know what it was, and fast, because I couldn’t handle not being able to ride to my potential. So I changed my flights and came home via Christchurch to get a Doppler, ultrasound and MRI from Prof Justin Roake, a well-know surgeon who has fixed this issue with a couple other cyclists from NZ. The results came out that my ABPI had dropped 0.6 on my left leg with no significant abnormality on the right side. This basically means when I do hard efforts my left external iliac artery narrows and I do not get enough blood flow to the leg, which causes the pain and power loss.. pretty annoying when my job is to ride my bike as fast as I can!

Anyway, fast forward 11 days and I am counting down from 30 in St Georges hospital in Chrsitchurch, next minute… asleep! I had decided to get a vein patch repair of the left external iliac artery. Which is where they take the vein from my ankle on my left leg and put it in the artery on my hip.. easy right!? It was a big call to make. I basically had two choices, one was to not get the surgery, carry on living life but I wouldn’t be able to race my bike.. YEA RIGHT. Next option was to get the surgery, live with the risks but be able to race my bike and reach my goals. So I took that one.

So here I am, lying in the hospital the day after the surgery, feeling back to life and rearing to go. The surgery was a success (phew) and was over in a couple of hours. It is all a bit of a blur thanks to the much needed drugs. I had a couple of goes of getting up this morning but only made the sitting up bit before quickly lying back down. But as the day has gone on I’ve got my colour back and mum has been taking me for walks around the ward. I am now only on panadol and can get up pretty much by myself. Tomorrow will be even better!

Just received some goodies from a good friend and team-mate Emma Grant (from England).. made my day!

It is now rest and recover time, which is perfect timing as it is now my off-season so I should be having a month off anyhow. After 4-5 weeks I can get back on my bike and start getting ready for next season. I have never been this motivated to get going again. This whole thing has been a pain in the arse, but at the end of the day it only makes me stronger.

Thanks so much for everyones support. Cath, Josh, Mike and Hayden, thanks for re-assuring me about the whole thing and teaching me everything I need to know about what lies ahead, Andy for your incredible patience throughout the year, Haley for the accommodation and running around after me and my team Optum P/B KBS for being so supportive. Last but not least my family for understanding my reasons for going ahead and supporting me the whole way. Thanks again and will keep you updated on the recovery process!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nature Valley Grand Prix

Nature Valley Grand Prix is a 6 stage race in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is also where many of our sponsers are based including Optum, HED and Lazer. Throughout the week we all got to meet many of the people behind the team and try out some awesome new Magneto Lazer glasses! Optum and HED threw some pretty sweet party’s too.

Stage 1 was a 12km, no aero equipment, time trial. It was hard! Everyone totally killed it with 4 Optum riders in the top 10 and Carmen taking the top of the podium to beat one of the world’s fastest time trialists Amber Neban! That put Carmen in the yellow jersey. The strangest thing was that there was also a Queen of the mountains in the time trial (which I found out afterwards). They timed from the bottom of one of the hills in the to the top and Jade got the fastest time!! That put Jade in the mountains jersey. Great start to the race!

                                       Warming up before the time trial.

Stage 2 was the St Paul downtime criterium. With 100 odd riders and a course that is fast with lots of corners, I learnt that it is CRUCIAL to start at or close to the front. So when you start near the back and cannot get your foot in, your race is almost over before it even starts. For the remainder of the race I tried to work my way to the front, and failed miserably. I also had one leg that decided not to turn on so overall the race was a total disaster for me. However further up in the pack my team mates were drilling it. In the end Leah finished 2nd and Carmen 3rd thanks to a lead out from Janel and Jade. Another great day!

Stage 3 was the Cannon Falls road race. Finally! A Road Race! The crazy part is that it is a 120km race starting at 5 pm, who does that? We woke up to rain, and then it just kept raining and raining and raining. We headed out to the race, an hours drive. By the time we got there it had started thundering and lightening and was absolutely persisting down. After a lot of managers meetings, standing around and plans on changing the race it got cancelled, for the second year in a row. We then got back in the car and drove home. Another day of intense carbo-loading and defending the yellow jersey complete.

This basically sums up stage 3 of NVGP (photo thanks to Jasmin Hurikino)

Stage 4 was the uptown Minneapolis criterium. Today, I lined up at the front, half an hour before the start. I debated even bringing the trainer onto the start line and just warming up there but thought it wasn’t worth the looks. The race started off fast and I actually got to see the front of the race for the first few laps. Next minute there is a crash and I am braking while sliding sideways. Thankfully I stayed on my bike but because half the field came down they neutralised the race and we re-started. The team controlled most of the race sitting on the front, and then with a few to go there was crash after crash after crash. I think I counted 3 all on one lap, but apparently there were more at the back. Unfortunately our sprinter Leah Kirchmann came down getting pretty scratched up and hurting her shoulder. That changed the strategy for the finish as we no longer had the sprinter, but Carmen once again changed her tt legs to her sprinters and finished 3rd! This increased her lead over Neban thanks to the time bonuses she not only got at the finish but also got throughout the race.

Finally, stage 5 was a road race that we actually were able to start. However I was a little ambivalent as we stood at the start line in the POURING rain. After getting through the first few circuits and getting out on the course the rain had eased and attacks were going. Anna, Annie and I sat on the front controlling the speed and chasing down attacks. For the next 110ish kms we sat on the front keeping the tempo and leaving the occasional rider up the road for awhile to use their energy just to be picked up again before the finish. Coming into the finishing circuits the three of us who had led pretty much the entire race hit the wall and waved good bye to our team mates as they sprinted towards the finish. Carmen sprinted her way to 5th, keeping the yellow jersey for another day and Jade kept the Queen of the mountains jersey. Success!

                                Beautiful weather conditions to start the day. 

The final day was the inaugural Stillwater criterium which included a very steep hill. Today was a big day, we needed to keep the yellow jersey and queen of the mountains. We went in with a really great plan to control the race (thanks to the master of all plans, Rachel). The team delivered amazingly and Carmen won the jersey, Jade secured the QOM jersey and the team won overall. Not only did the women’s Optum team kick arse but the men’s team also won the yellow jersey and team classification. So basically Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies owned Nature Valley Grand Prix. It must have been the support from all of our sponsers that came out to watch each and every race.

A massive thanks goes to Rachel, Adrian, Jeremy, Karen and Daniel for running around after all of us and making life super easy. Also, I would like to mention Leah just found out that she had actually broken her collarbone in the Minneapolis criterium. She then went on to riding the entire 130km race the next day and finishing in the front bunch.. all with a broken collarbone!! Amazing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Air force Cycle Classic 2012

Next up was Air force Classic which involved 2 criteriums just outside of Washington DC.

Doing the touristy thing, infront of the white house and then infront of some other iconic American building (not a clue what the second one was). 

Unfortunately they did not go so well for me personally, I road to the first race and was totally stuffed. Started, and then blew very early on. I was much too cooked going into this race with extra hard training the previous week and was not completely recovered from Exergy. Rachel decided Nature Valley, the race that was 2 days later, is much more important to be going well at so instead I sat on the sidelines and watched my team kick some butt instead. Hard to do, but still cool to watch. 

The first race the team rode awesomely. Emma got in a break of three including one Tibco and pure energy rider. She totally killed it and with about 5 laps to go attacked and got off the front by herself. The rest of the Optum girls did a great job of slowing the bunch down and chasing attacks. Not only did Emma win the race she also got very close to lapping the main field.. What a tank! Leah brought the bunch home in 3rd place, so a solid day for the team!

                                         Emma on her way to the win at Air Force classic. 

                                                       Emma and Leah on the podium. 

The next day was hot, so hot! Around about 40 degrees. The race was fast and Emma got in a break for quite a lot of the race. The girls rode really well and Leah finished 3rd again in the bunch sprint (with a solid lead out from Lex). With two third places she finished the omnium in 1st overall. She is now the Air force undefeated champ 2 years running.

The team with some of the race organizers and people who do the hard work to make the race run.  

Next up is the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minneapolis. This is a big race as it is Optum head quarters and there is a big starting list. It’s going to be a good race, can just feel it. 

Exergy Tour 2012

Exergy tour was by far the most amazing race I have ever participated in, ever.

From the moment I stepped off the plane I was looked after like a celebrity, the organisers bent over backwards to support us and make sure we have an amazing time. The night before the prologue was an official presentation with all the teams and organisers, an amazing buffet and even an Exergy ice sculpture! There were flags for almost every country represented, including Italy, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, US, Ireland, Columbia, Belgium…  The start list was BIG.

The prologue was first up, starting in the evening. We rode to the start on our road bikes to find our amazing Orbea tt bikes sitting there waiting our arrival all fancied up with our HED disks and tri-spokes and Lazer tt helmets. Couldn’t get much better than that! Adrian and John were rushing around making sure the bikes were all tuned, Karen and Jeremy were keeping us well fuelled and Rachel was getting the bikes checked, sorting our start times, and making sure we were all good.. So all I had to do was hop on my kinetic trainer, warm up, then bike fast. Easy, right!? It was only 3.1 kms, and I was 3rd off. The course was completely covered in people, it was awesome! 4 of the Optum riders finished in the top 20 (out of over 100 riders) which was pretty dam impressive. I had a bit of a disaster with my leg deciding to seize half way through, but I am getting used to that. Unfortunately America’s top cyclist and Olympic champion time-trialist, Kristen Armstrong came down on one of the 180 degree turns. In doing this she broke her collar-bone and was out for the rest of the tour. She is strong though, and will no doubt be back and rearing to go for the Olympics.

                                                                    Stage 1

The next day was a 123km road race in Nampa, ID. It was wet, really wet, which just makes the racing better. Most people turn off in the rain, but Optum definitely does not, it just makes it more exciting! Nothing much happened at the start of the race, there were a few attacks but other than that people were just cruising along trying to stay on their bikes. When we got to the first climb I felt great, although a little curious as to why my bike all of sudden had a lot of suspension. I looked down to notice my tyre was slowly deflating. Not what I wanted to find. After the climb I stopped to get a new wheel. Unfortunately this took a lot longer then I was hoping, by the time I got back on the bunch was no longer in sight. I put my head down and about 10kms later I had rejoined the back of the main bunch, pretty much blown. At this time there was a small group up the road which included Leah so I could recover for a little, then it was full gas to the finish line. It ended with a big bunch sprint where unfortunately the world champ Georgia Bronzini came down with a few others. Leah came super close finishing in 4th place with Theresa Cliff-Ryan from Exergy in first. Optum riders did a great job coming into the finish, but unfortunately it was not our day.

                                                                      Stage 2

Stage 2 was a 16.6km out and back time trial, again in the pouring rain. The start was super dodgy with tight, narrow corners and a very slippery road surface. A handful of riders came off before the race had even started, in the starting gates. Luckily all Optum riders stayed on top of their bikes! It was a hard head down, butt up race and we all did our best. Specialised Lululemon crowded the podium finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Awesome photo taken by veloimages of Denise and Joelle crossing paths in the time trial. 

                                                                        Stage 3

Stage 3, finally what we do best.. road racing! The race started off fast and my job involved a lot of chasing. From go I followed every attack I could. After what felt like 100km’s I was at blowing point, looked down.. 15kms!! Only 15kms into the race. I will not repeat what went through my head at this point but it was not pretty. Thankfully Janel and a few others went off the front in a small brake so the attacking slowed down a little and I could have a breather. We then hit a 15km climb, all of a sudden I felt good (I think the BlueRidge parkway riding came in handy for this one). I rode in the bunch as people dropped one after the other. The bunch split in half and I was about to join the front halfit until I sore a team mate that should be in it miss the gap. I dropped back and helped pull her back on, then blew.. then felt good again and got back on (this happened a lot this race). We started a descent, then went up again, followed some more attacks, made a couple of attacks then we started the long descent to the finish. It started raining, which made some pretty exciting conditions. I played it safe but stayed in-tact with the front bunch. With 5kms to go Optum blasted off the front one after another, I tried at 5kms, got caught (dam). Then with 1km to go Optum took control, Jade led out Janel who led out Carmen who did a bloody AWESOME lead out to Leah. Leah went head to head with Ina Teutenburg, one of the world’s best sprinters, and got 2nd by what looked like an inch. So close! But so well deserved for Leah and the girls. To finish 2nd in this classy field was pretty dam impressive. To show how hard the race was there were 4 DNF’s and 21 people who missed the time cut. I finished somewhere in the front bunch, glad to see the end!

                        On one of the long climbs with snow surrounding us. Crazy views too. 

                                                                  So so so Close. 

                                                                          Stage 4

The 4th and final stage was on a super hard, rolling course. Optum still had all 8 riders starting (which may I add, is pretty cool considering most teams had halfed). The start was awesome, we had army planes fly over top and the crowds were HUGE! Unfortunately the race did not last very long, however, for Janel and myself. 100 metres after go there were people on the ground, Janel swerved left to miss it I swerved right but it was too late, we were both down. I was fine, scratched up and bike pretty screwed up (my poor HED wheel had snapped in half). I jumped onto a spare bike that Adrian had got to me and set off again. But it was too late, the bunch was gone, long gone. The race was over. Janel was not in a good place, she had landed on her hip and had to go to hospital. Luckily she is on the mend now and is able to race almost at 100% again.

Back to the race, it blew to pieces on the first climb. Carmen missed the break so the optum girls got to the front to bring it back, then Joelle did a totally awesome 100% pull to bring it back together. She was totally blown afterwards but had got the team back with the leaders so did an amazing job. The rest of the race looked brutal. 14 riders were off the front by a rather large margin including Carmen. At the end Evelyn and Claudia (Lululemon and GreenEdge) rode off the front and Carmen was close behind getting 2nd in the bunch kick (4th overall).

That last night the Exergy organisers put on a Rodeo for all of the riders. First time watching anything like this, was definitely an experience! We also got given some super cool Exergy tour belt buckles to end the night, so country!

One of the many gifts we got from race organisers. A delicious chocolate shoe! How cool is that!!

All up it was a super awesome tour. So much fun, we were so well looked after. The race organisers were incredible and Rachel, Adrian, Jeremy, Karen and John made life so easy for all of us riders. Couldn’t ask for a better team! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wilmington Grand Prix and Kelly Cup.

Emma, Anna and I headed off to Baltimore to compete in the NCC Criterium; Wilmington Grand Prix and the Kelly Cup. The field for Wilmington was pretty strong with 50 odd riders and with the likes of Van Gilder and Erica Aller, it was going to be a hard race.

We were fortunate enough to be able to stay at one of our main sponsor’s guest houses. John Kelly, the owner of ‘Kelly Benefit Strategies’ was an incredible host. On the Friday night they invited us to watch a game of Lacrosse where their son was playing in a very high-end match. I had never seen this game played before, but I now have a new favourite team sport! Kind of like a mix between hockey/netball and rugby, super aggressive, and fast.

The next day was the Wilmington Grand Prix. The course was great, had ups and downs and long stretches. Unfortunately the hill was not quite long enough to do any damage; it was more like a power climb which meant everyone could get over it. After 20 minutes or so the pace had been very off and on. Emma and I started launching attacks to try and get in a break, we got some good gaps, but we were heavily marked by all the riders (it’s hard to play under-cover when you wear bright orange cycling kits with bright yellow shoes…apparently). After a few attempts and chases two riders countered one of Emma and my attacks, and got a good gap on the field. Everybody seemed to want to wave them goodbye.. We were not so keen. So with 7 to go we did some solid attacks, we didn’t get away (thanks to our permanent shadows) but we did bring the break back from the changes in pace. Another rider went off the front, the pack sat up. After some more hard attempts at bridging across , the finish line was there and we had burnt most of our matches, bugger. We both ended up in the top 10 but it was not a good result for us. That’s ok though, onwards and upwards to the next one!

The next day was the Bike Jam/Kelly Cup which was sponsored by Kelly Benefit Strategies, one of our main sponsors. We were looked after hugely having passes to the VIP tent which had an amazing buffet (which you could smell every lap) and some great company. This time our plan was to go hard from the start, tire everyone out and then go a little harder. So from go Anna put in a solid attack, stayed away for a lap, got caught, I went, stayed away for half a lap, got caught, Emma went, stayed away , got caught (you probably get the picture). This continued for quite a few laps until Emma got off the front with Debbie Milne. I got a 2 or so minute break to catch my breath until the winner from the previous day, Lindsay Bayer launched off the front. I got straight on and we eventually bridged across to Emma and Debbie. The next 4 or so laps Emma and I tried attacking the 2 riders, countering them and trying to make them tired. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a gap and coming up to the finish our eyes were very much set on the wrong person and left the sprint too late. We got 2nd and 3rd which was god to get both of us on the podium but pretty disappointed we couldn’t win it for the sponsors.

                                                   Arm needed a rest, bad timing. 

I am now sitting on the plane on the way to Boise, Idaho for the Exergy tour via Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. I am so excited to be going to this race; it is going to be an amazing week racing against who’s who in cycling. I will keep you updated!

Thanks for reading =)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Five days of some intense pain.

Tour of the Gila has been a race I have always heard about, its supposedly one of the hardest stage races in America. This isn’t just because of the ridiculously long hills or the high level of competition but because it is at altitude, which makes everything you do that much harder.

We had a strong team with our GC riders Janel, Carmen and Jade. As well as Anna, Emma, Lex and myself. The other good teams there included Exergy, Tibco, NOW, Rouse, Primal and a few others.

 The first stage was 118km finishing at the top of a hard 11km climb. From the gun there was attack after attack. Emma, Anna, Lex and I tried to cover every attack. The hard thing about racing in altitude is that when you go all out to catch a break or do an attack your legs tend to give up a lot faster. Mentally you can keep pushing but physically you are done so we had to be careful not to kill ourselves too earlier on. The plan was for Jade to go for the sprint points, and that she did. On the first sprint Jade went for it and straight after a gap formed which included Jade, Armstrong, Alison Powers and a couple of others. We didn’t have to do anything other than covering attacks as Jade was in the break and she is super strong so we knew she would do well on the climb. Tibco went to the front and drove the pace as they didn’t have anyone up the road. Once the gap got to 2 minutes Anna and I went up to keep it constant and not let the gap get any bigger as we had Carmen and Janel in the bunch who couldn’t afford to lose too much time on Powers and Armstrong. Once reaching the base of the climb a group of us got a wee gap on the field, then next minute girls are flying in the air.. Emma came off and I did a bit of cross country. My bike crashed but I managed to stay standing up. Emma luckily had a comfortable landing on top of another rider. We then set-off again but unfortunately the bunch had left us for dead and I did a massive effort to get back on, got close, then blew. The rest of the hill was a struggle but I did not want to kill myself too much as there were 4 more days of pain coming up and we had riders  to protect. Emma, Anna and I pretty much rode the climb together with Emma powering off on the last km. Once crossing the line we found out Carmen had come in at 2nd, Jade in 3rd and Janel in 5th. It was a bloody awesome effort for the team. Armstrong won about 2 minutes ahead.

                     Hurting, at some stage during the tour, this face became pretty normal for me.

The next day was a 125km stage with a few hills and a technical down hill. On the first climb an attack went and I got on the wheel, the hill was hard. When I looked behind I found that a bunch of 20 of us had gotten away (out of about 67 riders) which included Jade, Carmen, Janel and myself. The next 20kms of descending split the break up quite a bit but once we regrouped I did a big attack. Everybody sat up so I just kept pedalling. I was off the front for about 5kms until a NOW rider, Robin Farena (USA National Road Champ) bridged up to me. She sat on the front and I called up the team car to get some advice on what I should be doing (and to get a feed). Robin was sitting just behind Jade on GC (general classification) so I was to help out a little bit but when the gap got to just over a minute I had to sit on as we didn’t want to get any time on Jade. We stayed away for about 40-50kms  and when the bunch was about 200 metres behind Jade jumped across. I went to the front and tried to help her out as much as I could, then after  hard turn on the front I sore a bit of red, then a wall appeared. The bunch eventually caught and I held on for dare life (after dropping and then getting some energy out of know-where). On the final King of the mountain a group of 5 got up the road including Janel and Carmen. So again all Jade and I had to do was chase the breaks, which we did, and it hurt! With 2kms to go, straight after a series of attacks from NOW, Jade launched off the front and no-one could catch her. She finished about 6 seconds infront of our bunch in 6th place. Further up Janel had broken away from the group of 5 with Armstrong, sprinting to 2nd and Carmen finished 3rd. I finished about 14th. The rest of the field came in about 18minutes later, Emma, Anna and Lex didn’t have to do a thing in the bunch as we were up the road, and other teams were in similar positions so that helped with the big time gap.

After stage 2, quick de-brief.

In a short-lived break away with Jade. 

Day 3 consisted of a 26km timetrial that had a 7km slow climb at the start, then a few rollers, then you turn around and come back. Our Orbea tt bikes were awesome! It was the 3rd time I had ridden my one but the 1st time I had ever done an actual effort on it. They look good, feel great, and are super fast. I went all out on the tt, but my legs were pretty smashed. It wasn’t a good result for me but with that under my belt I will only get faster. Carmen had an awesome one finishing 3rd, only 6 seconds behind Alison Powers who is one of the countries strongest time trialists. Kristen Armstrong did what she does best, totally blitzing the 26kms in a new record of 37 minutes. Jade and Janel also had great ones, both finishing in the top 15.

                                                               Theres that face again. 

Warming down on some amazing Kurt Kinetic trainers.

The second to last day was an hour criterium around the streets of Silver City. It was hard, so hard. We averaged 43kms an hour and did 430metres of climbing within the race. Everyone seemed like they were in the mood to attack so that’s exactly what happened, one would attack, one would chase, another would attack.. this continued for an hour. I hit the wall about 5 times in this race, sore red 3 times, and threw up in my mouth twice. Riders were getting dropped two laps into it! I chased a few attacks that didn’t have any Optum riders in it, got in a break for about 10 seconds, and basically just bit my handlebars for the rest. Anna did a great job earlier on in the race chasing all the breaks, and so did Emma and Lex. Carmen, Jade and Janel controlled everything, chasing what they needed to and not chasing when they didn’t need to. On the last lap Janel gave an awesome lead out, to Jade. Jade then did a fantastic lead out to Carmen, then Carmen finished it off with a 2nd in the sprint. She is on fire!! Lauren Rowney won the sprint (member of the Specialised Lululemon team but was guest riding for Rouse) with Christina Gockey-Smith (NOW) in 3rd.

Pre-race tactics talk. 

The final day (thankfully) was basically the 2nd road race but backwards. It was 125kms and finished on another long climb. I got in a small break at the start of the race up a climb but it got swallowed up pretty fast. Then Anna got in a break of 6. 3 got caught but Anna stayed away with another 2 who eventually got caught on the climb. We started the climb off hard, Kristen Armstrong powered ahead with Jade, Janel and Carmen close behind. I started off good, stayed with the breakaway then my leg decided it didn’t really want to pedal anymore which was a little inconvenient. So instead I rode up at a slower pace, in a small group. Emma and I crossed the line together to find Carmen was 3rd, Janel 4th and Jade 6th.

Just before one of the climbs, alongside one of cycling's best, Kristen Armstrong. 

Overall Carmen finished 2nd and she won the points jersey, Jade finished 4th and Janel 5th.

I am pretty glad that one is over, but at the same time cannot wait to come at it so much stronger next year (potentially with a little more altitude training). Now time to head back to Asheville, rest up and start some more racing. I love this job!

Thanks for reading =)


Joe Martin Stage Race 2012

Once arriving in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we unloaded our bikes close to the start of the uphill tt and then rode 40 miles to the host housing. We all got super nice hosts this year, in amazing houses and all within 50 metres of each other. The neighbourhood was over-run with black orange and yellow.

After a couple days of relaxing and soaking up the Arkansas sun we headed to the first stage, the 4km uphill time trial. It was hot, hard, and not so much fun. Our team did well to get a 4th and a 5th and the rest of us reasonably high up there. Although we were firing on all cylinders to do some dominating the next day!

Stage two was a 98km road race. We started off aggressively with numerous attacks going off at the start. Once we got to the ‘big hill’ (about 20km’s of pain) I did an attack a quarter of the way up. I got away with a rider sitting 2nd on GC so all I had to do was sit and hopefully wait for my team mates to join. Going over the climb I looked back to see Jade and Carmen had bridged up to us. With 15kms to go I drilled it on the front to make sure we got a good gap. Then with 7ish km to go Carmen attacked hard with the 2nd place rider on the chase, unfortunately she could not drop her but she still did take the win!! Then Jade and I came in about 30 seconds later. I gave Jade the 3rd spot as there is a sprinters points classification in the race and she was sitting in 3rd so to get 3rd on the stage meant she would move up to 2nd (Carmen is leading it). So I got 4th. I have the young rider’s jersey now and I am sitting 4th overall. The now very small bunch came in 1 minute 30 back, our team also won the bunch sprint so we got 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th and were rocking all three jerseys. Definitely a successful day for us.

Adrian had changed our bar tape to match our jerseys. Jades is green for points jersey, Carmen's is pink for leaders and mine is white for young riders. 

The next day was about 110kms on a rolling to flat course (that we did twice). Because we held the leaders jersey, the young riders jersey and the points jersey we were in defence mode. We wanted to win the stage, and we didn’t want anyone getting away so we chased everything. Anna and Annie (teamies) pretty much set the tempo at the front of the pack for the entire race while we separately chased down the attackers.  The finish was fast, a long descent with some hard attacks done by Tibco. We bridged each attack but the end was a bit of a cluster. Jade sprinted to 3rd while Carmen came in one place back in 4th.

The final day was the criterium. Today we went into it not only to win the stage but to also hold onto all jerseys. It was a hard crit with a steep uphill finish. After a few unsuccessful attacks Carmen and Jade got away with Emma on their wheel. They got in a break of about 5 or 6 riders so all Anna, Lex, Annie and I had to do was chase attacks and try to slow the bunch down as much as possible as this was the perfect position for us. We did exactly that , and with 1 lap to go I look behind and see the lead vehicle coming up with a single orange and black rider in tow. It was Jade!! She had broken away and was coming into win the stage. My job of riding as slow as possible was a success! In doing this I lost the young riders jersey but that didn’t matter one bit as it went to my team mate Emma, I also went from 4th to 7th overall but again, wasn’t an issue as it ended up that Jade took over the leaders jersey from Carmen, who was now 2nd overall. So all up Jade won, Carmen got 2nd, Jade got the points jersey, Emma got the young riders jersey, we won the stage and won first team overall. Pretty successful few days I must say.

We then headed straight back to Little Rock for a night and flew to Albuquerque the next day for the Tour of the Gila. The start list for this race is pretty dam impressive including the world’s strongest rider Kristen Armstrong and some very impressive teams. Gila is raced in Silver City New Mexico, in the desert, in the heat, at altitude, and up some hard climbs. It’s going to hurt! And I can’t wait.

                     All the teams host families from Fayeteville. Awesome group of people!

Will keep you updated (that’s if I have any energy left to type afterwards).

Courteney =)

(More photos to come).

Sunny King Criterium and Foothills road race.

The Sunny King Criterium is a race through the streets of Anniston, Alabama. We had a 6 person team, a lot of the more experienced riders in the team are in Europe at the moment so we had a more young team taking on and using every bit of information given from our manager Rachel. The criterium started good, 3 of our riders got in a break of 5 which included Laura Van Gilder (a sprinting hero from America) and Erica Aller, another well known sprinter. Emma, Annie and Jade tried to attack and wear out the two sprinters, while the other three of us sat in the front of the chasing bunch getting straight onto any attacks that went and trying to slow it down. Jade managed to pull off a 2nd place in the sprint, which was pretty dam impressive. We made mistakes, but that’s what happens, we learn and come back even stronger. So we went into the race the next day with full guns blazing. 

The Foothills Classic Road Race was the day after the NCC Sunny King criterium. About 20kms into the 90 km race I attacked on a steep climb. My team mate Anna closely followed and we both team time trialled it for the next 70kms. We held about a 20 seconds lead for quite awhile and then it eventually increased to about 4 minutes with 10kms to go. Anna and I crossed the line at the same time (so I was 1st equal). Back in the bunch my team mates had chased down all the attacks and tried to slow the race down, but with 10kms to go my team mate Jade did a hard attack at the bottom of the climb, the riders chased and Lex countered and got away. She then came across the line by herself in 3rd place so we got a clean sweep of the podium! Good way of making up for the night before.

We then packed our bikes up and set off to Little Rock, Arkansas where we stayed with friends of Rachel’s and visited the Orbea USA headquarters as well as an awesome little bike shop called Spokes. (Spokes is the local Orbea dealer and makes some pretty delicious coffee, even for NZ standards). The Orbea factory was also amazing. It is where the top Orbea bikes in America are built, photographed, and sent off to customers. We were also lucky to be hooked up with some Orbea caps, tops and some pretty dam cool orca compression socks. What a day!

The next day we set-off to Fayetteville, Arkansas to race the four day Joe Martin Stage Race. I did this race last year and loved it. Should be another cool few days, can’t wait.
I forgot to mention the amazing accomodation we had in Alabama, Kelle and Clyde were some amazing hosts (and Kelle was a chiropractor, double bonus). Definetely coming back to this place!

Will keep you posted,
Courteney =)

Charlotte Criterium 2012

A couple of weeks after returning to Asheville we set off to Charlotte, NC for the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium. There was a team of 6 of us, the less experienced ‘new comers’ with no sprinters. So was going to be a good race to practice some solid team work!

The race is known for its huge prize purse and amazing atmosphere. It was a pretty technical course with 8 sharp turns and a lot of cash primes so the pressure was on from the start, then stayed on for the rest of the race. 

The team rode great. Unfortunately Lex had been hit with a cold a week before the race and she was coughing up phlegm most of the way. She managed to hold on and finish with the bunch so was an awesome effort. My left leg was in a lot of pain for the first 3 quarters of the race, had trouble even pedalling at times so the race seemed to go on forever. I think I had straped it too tight so half way through I ripped off the tape and through it at my manager, I was not in a good mood. With one lap to go the plan was to do something if the bunch was together. So I angrily got to the front and did a 100% win or blow attack. Unfortunately it went the blow side but I did get a good gap for just under half a lap and some of the lead out girls had to sacrifice that to chase me down. I then did the blow part and waved the bunch goodbye as I attempted to pedal to the finish line. Jade powered to the finish in 4th place against the top sprinters in the country.

Emma and Annie rode a super strong race and Anna did some awesome attacks at the start. So all in all a great team effort. We may not have got on the podium but we learnt heaps which is all super beneficial for the next race. 
                                                 After the race, having a quick de-brief. 

The 6 of us are now heading back to Asheville for the week for some training and then off to Alabama for the Sunny King Criterium and Foothills Road Race. Looking forward to it!

Will stay in touch =)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A non spandex-related update!

The good thing about being in America on your birthday is that you get to celebrate it for more than one day. Of course you have to celebrate it on New Zealand time, which is the day before America, than you celebrate it on American time. So that is indeed what I did. This year is the ‘big’ 21. I don’t like it, I still don’t believe I am this old. I remember looking at 21 what felt like yesterday thinking that it is so long away until I reach the ‘adult’ days. Now I have made it, it does not feel any different and my maturity level still seems the same as it was five years ago. But I guess what I think and what is true are really two different things.

So this year I celebrated my NZ birthday racing the streets of Redlands. It was the most painful birthday I have ever had. People didn’t seem to make it any easier for me just because it was my birthday… rude. That night the team went out for a Thai dinner, Rachel and Adrian had secretly brought in an amazing, delicious, flourless (for the gluten free dweebs in the team) chocolate browny cake. Yum. That was a pretty cool surprise to end a really good day. I then got dropped off to my good friends Kate (Chilcott) and Emily (Collins) house, where all the Vanderkitten team were staying as the next day we were in for some big birthday celebrations.

The next morning (my American birthday), Kate, Emily, Jazzy (Hurikino) and I set-off to Disney Land! I had always dreamt of going to Disney land, but did not think it would actually happen. So to spend my 21st there is going to be a pretty awesome memory. We met Lauren Rowney and Rebecca Warner (cyclists) there and spent the next 12.5 hours walking (and walking, and walking), going on incredible rides and experiencing something pretty cool. I loved it! Needless to say I was totally shattered when we left at 11:30pm that night. Below are some photos of the day;

That night I stayed with a good friend, Monica Martinez, who I had met in New Zealand when she was on an exchange from America. She kindly woke up a 5:30 the next morning and dropped me at the LA airport to fly back to Asheville. Once returning back to Asheville I had mail and presents on my bed as well as a happy birthday sign on the door from Emma. Yep, that’s right, Birthday number 3. Rachel cooked up a delicious Mexican dinner and then Emma had made two DELICIOUS cakes. A polenta berry cake and chocolate toffee brownie made into the shape of 21. Let’s just say I am glad I had done some hard racing because there was no way I was going to leave them to waste. They were incredible!

So now I am a bit gutted my birthday(s) are over, only 349 days until my next one =)

Charlotte criterium is the next race up on Saturday, A big crit because of the rather large purse available, so will be some big names there I am sure. Will keep you posted.

Thanks for reading,