I've upgraded my blog to a fancy new website! To follow my cycling journey, check out my new website and read my new blog

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 =)