Australia, March 6, 2006
Reflections on how and why I might have won the first race of the season.
The international road season has begun! Following the Los Angeles Track World Cup and the realisation that my fractured vertebra (which kept me off the bike and off my feet until early January) had left me lacking fitness and speed, I decided that it was time to refocus my goals and set up my preparations for the road race at the Commonwealth Games.
The Australian team for the Commonwealth Games was announced on February 3. My inclusion meant that it was now a lot easier to make decisions about my training and preparation. With deep thought I chose to leave my home base in Sydney and begin a 17-day training block in Victoria to prepare for the first race of the season - Geelong Tour - on the 21st. This decision meant that I would miss the Australian National Track Championships, but hopefully allow me to be in better condition for the Commonwealth Games.
My decision to move to Victoria has no doubt proved to be the right decision. Perhaps it was a selfish one in some ways, but the important people in my life understand my reasoning. Sometimes a change of environment is a good thing. There always seems to be too many responsibilities and things to do when you're "at home". To me recovery is regarded as equally important as the sessions that I do on the bike. I need my recovery, but not just physically; if I'm kept busy and don't get my scheduled down time then my head begins to play games with my body.
My training camp saw me initially set up near Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. Instantly, I felt as if I could get some serious work done and now focus all my energy into every session and the aspects of recovery which I required. I was only going to be here for eight days and wanted to make the most of it. My training during this period included a club race with the Geelong cycling club on back to back Saturdays. On both occasions I finished second in A grade men. Other training during the week included repeat hill sessions for both power and strength on hills called 'Wild Dog' and Skenes Ck Rd. Skenes Ck Rd is a hill which the men ride over in the Sun Herald Tour. Other sessions included MTB rides and motor-pacing at 70km/hr out to Moriac and back via Cape Otway Rd. The terrain, weather and my training partner Phil Anderson made the perfect environment for a successful start.
Moving on. It was time to step the intensity up another notch. I moved out to Ballarat for eight days of torture training with rowing machines. I refer to Simon Gillett (Dual World Champ) and Gary Gullock (Olympic Silver Medalist) as rowing machines; these two men have both made it to the top in the sport of rowing. They are still extremely fit and work like machines on the bike. They train with a bunch in Ballarat but they rarely leave the front. Other riders attempt to pull up alongside them but only last a few minutes/metres! I'm not kidding! I was trying to tuck in behind them one day on the flat fearing that I would get dropped and then not find my way home when I realised my heart rate was pounding at 195bpm...I really pushed myself and held my HR at that level for another 20 minutes. Relief only came when we started the downhill roll back into town. I finished the torturous week off with a sprint day and some rollers before heading into Geelong for the first international road race for 2006.
Day one: Not much to report about the TT - I don't like time trials and I really suck at them! I didn't hurt myself in the 8km TT, and yes I was embarrassed with finishing 91st.
The crit: I started at the back of the pack. What a mistake! I didn't really give it much thought. It was not until the gun went and I saw the front riders take the first corner more than 100m ahead of me! What a journey to get to the front. It took me all of the 30 laps barring the last two centimetres to get there.
The Portarlington criterium is a short tough course, and the race was best described as fast and furious. Not for me though. I stayed very relaxed towards the back just passing each rider as they dropped off one by one. It was not until a few laps to go when I got the "itch" for the win. I started to move up and realised I had some power in my legs. Improving my position on the hill seemed effortless and all of a sudden I was third wheel with half a lap to go. It was just one of those races where everything happens perfectly without all the aggro. I took the last corner in third and kicked with 100m to go. I threw for the line and took my first win for 2006. It was a great feeling to have beaten superstars like Teutenberg and Wood.
Day two: Well, after you 'get up', you have to 'come down' at some point. Unfortunately I came down hard with 200m to go in an 80km road stage at Barwon Heads. The race suited me and this stage was the one that I really wanted to win. The race was fast but I'd describe it as rather easy. I hadn't worked hard throughout and was looking forward to the sprint.
The last 5km were scary. Just crazy-hectic! With a kilometre to go I was on the wheel I wanted - Ina Teutenberg's (who I regard as the fastest in the world). From there I don't know what happened! I was off and on the road three times in the last kilometre. 200m out from the line there was a big fall in the middle of the bunch, a bike flicked out, knocked me, and sent me flying!
End result? Lots of skin off, a very swollen and bruised knee and $4,000 damage to my bike and wheels. I went to the hospital for precautionary x-rays, got the all clear and started icing my knee. I woke up the next morning very stiff. Decided that it was against my best interests to continue on with the tour and I set about recovering for the World Cup.
World Cup: Not the best day for me. I didn't feel good at all; I'm not sure why but my legs felt heavy. I was floating along with ease most of the day but getting out of the saddle to improve my position was a task more difficult than usual. I didn't have that punch that I normally have and wonder if the crash knocked my body around more than I first thought. I wonder if my unusual (due to crash) preparation the final two days was the reason for the dead legs - who knows...anyway, I put myself in the right position with a kilometre to go, on Ina's wheel. But after the last corner (500m to go) I pulled off her wheel and could not get back in out of the wind. Then I started to struggle all the way to the line for a disappointing fifth.
Winning the first international road stage (second stage of the Geelong Women's Tour) of the season was satisfying for so many reasons. I have had so much support from so many people over the past few months and the win indicates that these people have made a significant difference.
There are so many people to thank, but I will start with my family first.
My brother Warren does not know this and I'm sure he won't read this, but that win was for him. Warren was first diagnosed with testicular cancer on Thursday the 23rd. His testicle was removed the following morning and he has now commenced treatment. We still don't know how far the disease has spread. Thanks to my Mum and David. They have both been right behind me in my quest for Comm Games gold. It was great to have my Mum there, along with my grandfather, to witness the win.
My sponsors have all been extremely supportive of my ambitions and goals. In particular Shez from Oakley, Bob and John from High 5, the Nike cycling team in the UK and Italy and Pro-Soma in NZ. I'm so grateful for their continued belief in me during the ups and downs over the past couple of years!
Wazza (McDonald), my coach, friend, mentor and my inspiration. He is the one who writes monitors and alters my day-to-day training. I have to thank him for his continued commitment and dedication to me during the toughest of times. His structured training has certainly developed me into a more complete athlete. The combination of Wazza's programming, Phil's experience and Simon's motor/strength has given me the best training base possible leading into the '06 season. I'm so grateful for the support I have received from these guys - Thanks.
PINARELLO: Have you seen my new bike? What a special surprise! I first rode a new blue Paris back in October and absolutely loved the full carbon ride. The week before Geelong I received news from De Grandi Cycles (Australian Pinarello distributor) that a new Paris had arrived for me! I had no idea that it was a special silver and pink frame until the Monday before the start of the tour. The frame and set up was exactly the same as the blue Paris so racing on it was no problem. The only difference was it felt new and very fast! Shane De Grandi and his workers had the bike riding like a dream.
Endeavour Cycles: My sponsors in South Sydney. They sell Pinarellos amongst other top name brands including Trek, Opera etc. They have looked after me superbly this summer. They have always been willing to look over my bike on the spot and have had it working in tip top condition for all my interstate trips, training camps and races!
Lennon: Swanie/massage therapist for SAFI during the 2005 season in Europe. Anyone who has worked with him would say he is up there with the absolute best when it comes to rubbing legs. Lennon joined SAFI once again for the Geelong racing and most certainly contributed to my result on day one. My legs were feeling fantastic after a little TLC the day before!
I'll let you know how "Windy" Wellington and the Trust House Women's tour and World Cup go in my next diary.