Geelong, Australia, February 27, 2006
Apparently I wasn't listening very well at our T-Mobile training camp. I knew that T-Mobile had paired up with Unicef for 2006, but I didn't know that for each team win, both the men and women's team, T-Mobile will donate €3,000 euro to the Unicef organization. So in this past week alone, T-Mobile will be donating €9,000 euro to Unicef...one win [now two - ed.] for the men at Tour of California, and TWO wins for the women's team here in Australia. It's been a good week!
My travel to Australia didn't start off so swell though. I had to wait forever in Melbourne for my bags to come out on the belt. It took so long for them to come out, I swore they had been lost over the ocean mid-flight. When my bags finally did roll out, one was half open. I checked it immediately to find that some schmuck had stolen all of my Oakley sunglasses (4 pairs and 12 lenses) and my digital camera, which had been a Christmas gift from my husband. Shit. THEN I was held up in customs for 3 hours while they searched every single item I had brought over. I was already overtired from the 16 hour flight, distraught about my stolen possessions, and confused as to why they didn't believe me when I told them I didn't have any fruit in my bag. I really didn't want to, but I couldn't help but start crying. Nothing was making sense. I think the nice Aussie man took pity on me and they finally let me go.
After that experience though, there was only one way but up. The T-Mobile roster here consists of Ina Yoko Teutenberg, Judith Arndt, Lyne Bessette, Amy Moore, Magali LeFloch, and myself, along with our staff of Andrzej Bek, Bernard Kocis, and Jeremiah Ranagar.
Our first four days were spent with one of the world's greatest couples in a house like I could only hope to own one day. Our hosts were Jeremy and Carolyn and their home was perched on a cliff just above the Great Ocean Road. The views of the ocean and surrounding beaches were amazing. It was the perfect place to recover from jet lag and ride our legs back into form. One of the coolest things was all the koala bears living in the trees right around their house. I had never seen a koala before in any of my previous trips to Australia, except in a zoo. So to see them in the wild and be able to get so close to them that we could almost touch them was so cool. I would have taken a picture if I had a camera.
The Geelong Tour was a 3 day, 4-stage event; time trial, criterium, circuit race, and a road race. I felt I had had pretty decent training leading up to our first race. Actually, it was really good. My husband Chris and I spent most of the winter in Arizona, away from the Colorado wind that makes me want to shoot myself. And the two weekends before I left for Australia, I raced with the men's 3's in some local races to get the systems firing. But man, did I feel like I got my ass kicked in the criterium! I suffered like I have not suffered in a very long time. Granted, the Commonwealth Games are coming up in Melbourne in 3 weeks so the Aussies and the Kiwis are flying. But so was everyone else too. Except me, I felt. The little comfort I took in the midst of my pain was seeing that my teammates Amy and Magali were suffering as much as me. But I probably shouldn't take comfort in that!
We started with a field of 140 women...a huge field. When I checked the results after the crit, I saw I was the last one in the front group...and I was 42nd. So seeing that 98 women had gotten dropped behind me made me feel at least a little better. With a lot of help from Lyne and Judith, Ina sprinted to second for the day. I was really happy for her and for the team, but I had nothing to do with her success. It definitely gave me the motivation to at least have a presence in the races the following days.
The circuit race was windy and flat, and the thing I will remember most about that race is all the crashes. I think I wore my entire brake pads off in the final 7km finishing straight. There were crashes going on everywhere. One of the German national team girls rode up next to me as we were dodging bikes and women and yelled, "This is f'ing scary!" I had to agree. Somehow our entire team came out of that race unscathed and Ina sprinted to third, following Tina Pic and Oenone Wood.
The next day's race was 113km and is fairly flat except for this one horrendous climb right in the middle of nowhere. There's always girls that succumb to walking up it. The road is really narrow and if you get stuck behind someone that drops their chain or just isn't moving, you have nowhere to go and have to put your foot down. My goal is to not get stuck walking! Apparently though, I came to learn later that Magali did in fact walk. And she swore she was going faster than many of the girls that were riding!
The climb definitely split up the peloton but after some chasing, a fair sized group was back together. About 15km from the finish, we heard a tangle of bikes and all of a sudden, Lyne was on the ground screaming. I felt sick to my stomach. Amy and I dropped back to see if there was anything we could do, but Ina rode up next to us and told us to keep going. I swear, it's the worst feeling in the world leaving your fallen teammate behind. It feels so callous, so unfeeling. I hadn't realized Judith had gone down as well in the same fall until she came riding up to us with a bloody knee. Luckily she wasn't hurt too badly. Ina made up for our bad luck though by powering over the other sprinters and winning the stage, our first win of the season.
When we got back to the van, Lyne was already there and although she was badly bruised and shaken up, luckily nothing was broken. Ina's win was a great way to end the Geelong Tour and head in to the World Cup. And with two days in between, hopefully Lyne could rest up and be back in the race with the team. I was telling the girls afterwards that I saw my first kangaroo during the race, but that it was a dead one on the side of the road. Judith told me that didn't count.
Our French teammate, Magali, is rather funny. She thinks very highly of her country's music. The rest of us really don't. She brought a cd with some of her favourite French music and is always asking if she can play it in the car. And we keep telling her "Tomorrow, Magali, tomorrow." Then the next day she asks again, saying it is tomorrow today. "No Magali, tomorrow is tomorrow." Hopefully we can put off listening to the painful French music as long as possible!
The weather here in Geelong has been very odd too. I planned on it being really warm and had packed mostly tank tops and one sweatshirt. I've worn the sweatshirt every day. I didn't know it could get so cold here. Of course, it's all relative. It's not "cold" like it is in Germany right now, but it's cold for Australia. Then, the day after the Geelong Tour, it got overwhelmingly hot. Even the Germans I'm rooming with turned the air conditioner on, and they NEVER usually like air conditioning. But then, the next day, it got cold again.
I'm puzzled by this country's "to-go" policy too. The other night, we were eating out and Ina ordered a large pasta dish. She said if she couldn't eat it all, she'd just take it home with her. But the waitress told her no, that wasn't allowed due to health regulations. But I had ordered pizza and she said if I had leftover pizza, I could in fact take it home with me. What?? Then another night at a different restaurant, we ordered a take-away dish for Lyne, who was back in the trailer park resting. But the waitress told us that they didn't even do take-away due to health regulations. I'd love to see the rationalization behind those rules.
The World Cup was held in downtown Geelong on a 15km circuit. I think it was the largest field ever for this race with 140 starters. Typically this race has come down to a sprint finish and there were so many world-class sprinters in this field. It really was going to be an interesting race. As we signed on, I heard the announcer say that Anna Wilson was going to be commentating. I was so excited to see her again. Anna had raced with Ina, Judith, Lyne, and me on the Saturn team a few years ago. She lives full time in Melbourne now so this is always our only chance to see her.
The first four laps of the race were fairly calm with girls waiting to fire it up the second half. At the end of the third lap, I heard Lyne come on the radio and say that she was feeling really dizzy and was going to stop. It was a big loss to the team, but her health and safety had to come first. Amy, Magali, and I covered as much as we could, trying to leave the best for last...Judith and Ina. Oenone Wood made a solo attempt up the climb the final lap and got a great gap. The next two girls to crest the climb were Ina and Kate Bates. Unreal.
The rest of the race was told to me later as Magali and I came in with the second group. Judith was the motor to close the gap to Oenone and it took everything she had left. Then all I heard when I finally crossed the finish line was that Ina Teutenberg was the champion....music to my ears! I couldn't even get in to congratulate her as she was surrounded by the press and media. When she finally made it back to our van, she looked so good in the rainbow jersey. Being that it's the first World Cup, she'll wear the jersey into the next World Cup next weekend in New Zealand.
Today all of us are packing our bikes, readying for our evening flight to Wellington, New Zealand. Unfortunately, Lyne is not coming with us. She has a really bad concussion and the doctor recommended that she stay in Australia, rest, and try to recover for the Commonwealth Games in a few weeks. So it's just five of us girls going on to the next tour, along with our staff. And the rainbow jersey.
See you next week!