- Cycling News
October 10, 2005, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:21 BST
A few weeks of summer in Germany sounded appealing. Particularly after the dry heat of Colorado...
A few weeks of summer in Germany sounded appealing. Particularly after the dry heat of Colorado where I had literally been dreaming of the ocean back home in Australia. However, ironically it rained almost every day I was there, so swimming was the last thing on my mind. Luckily I don't mind riding in the rain, as long as I can keep moving and stay warm then it is fine. Although since I haven't experienced a winter for a few years, there were a few occasions when I think it was still defined as pretty cold and so I was coaxed into stopping for some coffee and cake. Up until now I have never wanted to mix my training with a social stop, but it can have its place, if only to eat and let you stretch out after a few hours on the bike. We often rode through small villages and it was fun to stop occasionally and actually have a chance to see the smaller details.
Actually the riding in Freiburg was really great; you could easily get in a few hours of almost completely flat roads, yet there was also some really nice climbing available, both on the road and the dirt. It was more relaxed too; crisp green landscapes and no need to constantly watch your handlebars for traffic or opening car doors. Most of the locals use bikes for transport, so it was a pretty bike friendly area. Not having a car there, I made like the locals and rode my bike to get groceries. I learnt enough German to at least ask for cuts of cheese, ham and different things from the bakery. For an athlete food is enough reason to learn any language quickly.
One of the most exciting things to happen whilst I was in Europe was meeting my new coach, Dr. Lothar Heinrich. He has a huge amount of experience and is also the team doctor for the T-Mobile Team. He is a very cool guy, super intelligent and really calm. He knows the SRM system well and since I use the SRM in both training and racing, then he can use the data to help guide me to become more effective. We will start work after the world's when I'm home in Sydney.
His wife Tina Heinrich is really lovely (super fit too!) and she was very fun to train with whilst I was there. I also rode with SRM team mate Marc Hug and team manager, Marc Hanisch.
The Tour of Germany
From Freiburg I traveled up to Jülich with Uli (Schoberer) to visit everyone at the SRM head office. When I arrived I was invited to pre-ride the final stage of the Tour of Germany with a group from T-Mobile, so they lent me a bike and gear for the ride since I only had shoes for the ergo with me. It was actually my first time seeing a road race in Europe and I was really impressed. Wow, there were so many cycling fans and families out and full of support, including pro road race photographer Jürgen Burkhardt. It was hard to believe so much facial hair could be possible - he has definitely put in some time for his World Moustache Champion title.
After watching the Tour we headed back to the SRM office and the next day we went out to the track while some track riders tested various equipment setups. I had never been on a velodrome before, so I jumped at the chance when Uli offered to take me on the back of his motorbike for a few fast laps. The track was really nice, and on a motorbike it was really fun.
Then it was time to head to Bern, Switzerland with some of my SRM team for a Swisspower cup race. I had heard about these races but never had a chance to race one before. I liked getting back to the shorter course format, with multiple laps, less open fire road and more technical singletrack. Definitely more raw and much more fun, which is what mountain biking is about.
Directly after the SwissPower we drove straight to Livigno, Italy. We didn't have much time since it was a fairly long drive through the mountains and we had to make it to the border before the 10pm deadline.
World Championships - Livigno, Italy
Since the World Cup finals were held here last year, I already had a good idea of what the XC course was like. I recalled a lot of climbing, yet when I rode a lap to check out the course I was surprised to see there was even more climbing. One of the faster grassy downhill sections of the course had been turned into a steep uphill instead.
However this was swiftly put out of my mind, because it was on this same lap that I saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. A small shepherd boy of around seven, curled up asleep with a young cow, which had its head snuggled back up on the boy. It looked like an illustration and certainly not something I think I will ever see again. The other cows were just standing around grazing calmly. While I stopped there, his brother who would have only been about nine, emerged from the trees, and leaning over the sleeping cow, whispered in his brother's ear. As they giggled, the older one swatted the cow with his rolled up comic book and as they moved on so did I, but it was such an incredibly special moment to see.
A few days later, after keeping to the road to conserve energy and re-acclimatise, I took the gondola to the top of the mountain with some Swiss riders to do a fun downhill. From the top we got about 40 minutes of fast downhill, and towards the end met a friendly Italian farmer as we passed on a small road behind where he was working.
It was fun to be back with the Australian MTB team, everyone gets on well, so it was a good environment to be in. We all support each other where we can, so it was nice to also get to the 4X for an hour to cheer on some DH friends and the other Aussies.
Before too long it was Sunday and I don't know how to articulate the women's XC race, only to say that it was really tough. I think everyone cramped up somewhere, somehow. It wasn't particularly technical, just a course demanding a lot of power. The laps were really long and some climbing sections of the course became so steep that it was purely a matter of managing the lack of oxygen whilst simultaneously moving forwards. I finished as first Australian in the Womens, with Emma Colson not far behind. After the race, it was the usual washing and packing the bike thoroughly for Aussie customs. Because as tired as you are after the race, after the series of flights back to Australia there is no way that you want to be asked to unpack and clean it with a toothbrush by hand, which I have been told happens.
Anyway, so now I'm home in Sydney and it's summer again - just perfect for being outside.
Have fun on your bike,
- Cycling News
August 30, 2005, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:21 BST
After three months at my home away from home in Colorado, it has come time to move on to my second...
After three months at my home away from home in Colorado, it has come time to move on to my second base for the season in Freiburg in the south of Germany near the border of Switzerland.
My first week was spent in LA, but since then I have spent plenty of time acclimatising to altitude, as most of the races this year have been above 8000 feet. The highest point in Australia is only a bit over 6000 feet, so racing at altitude is a bit of a shock to the system for someone coming from Sydney.
Staying with everyone from SRM has been fantastic; Uli has made it feel like a home away from home, which makes such a difference. Uli is such a great guy and not surprisingly he has many good friends always stopping by to say hi or stay for dinner. Being part of a home sure beats four months of building up bikes in hotel rooms. We even had a pet for a while - well, we had a cute little deer that came and spent a few hours in the backyard.
Aside from all the great people, the riding in Colorado is incredible. Some of the rides take you along the sweetest singletrack through beautiful scenery. It's also nice to not always be looking out for snakes like riding back in Australia. One thing I have learnt though is that if you are out on a long ride that goes into the afternoon, then you can expect to get caught in some afternoon showers. They seem to be quite common; an arid hot morning then a blast of rain, with some hail if you're lucky.
There were a lot of great times in the Springs, but one of the more special moments was when Leslie and everyone from SRM threw a surprise party for my birthday. When you're on the road it's very sweet when people make you feel so welcome. Then the next day I woke up to find a surprise waiting...overnight they had 'Pimped My Ride'. So when I went downstairs, my first glimpse was of my super light DT Swiss wheels weighed down with lots of brightly coloured spokey dokeys, not to mention the sparkly streamers, bell and everything else. The streamers were a bit much, but that day I kept the wheels as they were when I went out training. It was also nice that everyone came around for a farewell dinner on my last night in Colorado. It was such a special send off and I'll miss everyone and all the fun trails.
Then it was back on the road for my flights to Europe. I knew something was strange when I checked in at the airport in Colorado Springs. The check in guy told me he could only print one of my three tickets, but considering he initially didn't believe that you could travel with a bike box, I put it down to him being new on the job.
Four hours later when I arrived in Chicago things started to become much clearer. When I went back up to the check in, the first thing I saw were hundreds of sandwiches, drinks and biscuits on trolleys, then I saw all of the people. It turns out British Airways had just gone on strike and 70,000 people around the world were currently stuck. So in transit, with necessary patience and no luggage, I waited along with everyone else. I soon realised it could be days before it was resolved so I decided to be extremely flexible and take any available flight with any other airline to anywhere in Europe. The queues were ridiculously long so I was given literally 30 seconds to decide if I wanted to take a flight headed to Kuwait. It was refueling in Geneva, Switzerland so I could hop off there if I wanted.
It was all extremely rushed; it was getting late in the night and this was the last flight out of Chicago. It was either this or chance my luck in Chicago with no luggage. I have to be honest and say I was a bit nervous when I saw police standing onboard next to the airline staff who were welcoming passengers - however it was actually a very smooth flight. When I finally arrived in Geneva it was still busy with queues of people trying to reroute their flights on other airlines, so I opted for a rental car and started the long drive. I ended up with a pretty fast car and it might have been fun had I not been so tired, but I did eventually arrive safely in Germany. Watching the news later I realised it was definitely a good idea that I had taken that flight when I did, because it would have been a lot of time spent bike-less in a hotel.
So I am now getting settled into Freiburg. I'm about to head out on my bike and I can't wait. It's incredibly green and the riding looks like it will be fantastic, but again with the rain...all of this rain is making the drought back in Australia seem a distant memory. My SRM team is based here and so I think our team manager Marc Hanisch has many rides planned.
Until next time, have fun on your bike,
- Cycling News
August 09, 2005, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:21 BST
The year seems to be flying by...it's midway through my international race schedule and I've now...
The year seems to be flying by...it's midway through my international race schedule and I've now been in the US for about three months. I started out this season with the Deer Valley NORBA and then followed that up with the North American World Cup rounds.
Deer Valley - Utah
The NORBA in Deer Valley was a stage race with the first stage being an individual TT. I've raced individual TTs before, but it's not generally part of a normal weekend of mtb racing. This particular course, however, had an extra element of fun. It was a climb up the concrete Olympic bobsled course and as you can imagine, it was extremely steep, probably one of the steepest things that I have ever ridden up. While it was a lot of fun, I couldn't help but think the whole way up that this was all the wrong way around, we should have been racing down! Now that would have been fun!
The cross country course was also great fun, but a little different as well. It was a course that seemed more like the racing back in the early days of mtb racing, from what I have heard. Just two laps of a super long loop. You basically spent the first half going up and the second half descending. Too bad if you struggled on the climb, because it was a traffic jam on the way down. A harsh reminder of how important climbing strength is!
Sunday was the short track, my favourite. I always look forward to the short track because it has such a great atmosphere; however, this one was little faster than I would have liked. I finished the weekend just squeezing into the top 20 in the final classification.
Mont Sainte Anne - Quebec
From Utah I flew into Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, for the World Cup. I probably look forward to this event more than any other each year. I love everything about coming to this event and I was even looking forwards to the humidity after being in the dry altitude climate. Mont Sainte Anne is an event that has everything; sweet single track, technical climbs and fun descents. It is just one of those courses that you can keep your flow around. But I think I preferred the course more last year, when the last section was a downhill rather than an uphill.
It was also nice to be down at sea level again. The week that I spent in Canada is the only week that I have not been at altitude since coming to the US. But it's also the atmosphere; it's just a really well run event and I think most people look forward to it as much as I do, so everyone is in a great mood and friendly. All of the venues are easily accessible, so I was glad to be able to cheer on some friends racing in the 4X and the downhill.
From there it was 'home' for a week, a team shoot and some training rides. Like many teams, we decided not to travel to Brazil for the World Cup. The Angel Fire venue is only three hours drive from Colorado Springs, so we went to check out the course on that weekend in preparation for the following week. The idea sounded easy - a quick trip down to ride the course. But when it was time to start heading out of town, we got held up for over an hour in the traffic while the locals took out their bikes, boats, trailers, basically anything moving (or not) out to join their local street parade to celebrate Independence Day. So we had to just sit back and appreciate the energy and sometimes incredibly unique creativity being put into the parade in front of us.
Angel Fire - New Mexico
This was always going to be a tough race. I mean, there is never going to be an easy World Cup, but this one started at 8500ft altitude and seemed to climb forever. I definitely felt the effects of the altitude at the start of the race. I did my proper warm up, but I must have pushed too hard on the first climb, because I started throwing up in the race which was certainly not part of the race plan! I think the girls that passed me were a bit alarmed as well. I guess you don't expect to see someone stopped and throwing up mid-race. I did manage to catch back up to most of those that passed me over the next lap, but racing is not really about picking up lost time. It's more about not losing time in the first place, then making a break when you can. Particularly at altitude, where pacing yourself is critical. So my initial over-exertion kind of ruled out a great performance, but nonetheless, my last lap was actually my fastest, which at a race at that height, doesn't usually happen for anyone. Being stronger at the end of a race like this was a positive that I took away from this event. I'm still getting closer to where I want to be, I just need to keep focusing on incremental improvements.
But racing at World Cup level truly is amazing. Riders like Gunn-Rita, Marie Helene and Sabine (who got the top podium spots) are so strong. To be able to put in a podium performance week in week out in World Cups is so impressive. As for me, well I didn't necessarily get the finishing place I wanted, but Angel Fire was one of the more rewarding races I have ever raced. I may have crashed three times, lost a lot of skin and thrown up, but sometimes it's one of those things where the harder it is, the more rewarding it is in the end.
I have learned a lot from these races and made some major changes to my training lately. I have also been doing a lot of reading again; I really love Joel Friel's book 'The Mountain Bikers Training Bible'. It's a book that I read when I first decided to start racing XC, but I must admit that I hadn't referred back to it much since. Re-reading this book now that I know much more about training and racing, I'm getting even more out of it the second time around.
SRM in the USA
My SRM Power Team is actually a European-based team, and I leave next week to spend the last part of this season with them in Germany. But I haven't been here in Colorado on my own. Michi Weiss and Marc Hug have also spent time based here racing Deer Valley, Mont Sainte Anne and Angel Fire. Michi and Marc have both now gone back to Europe, and I must admit that things are a lot quieter! The SRM team has really worked out to be the ideal choice for me. From Uli and everyone that works with SRM, through to all of my team mates. I really do have to thank everyone for being so supportive and making this such a fun trip. It's the people around you that really do help make being on the road a great fun adventure.
So my time here in Colorado Springs is coming to an end and next week I move to my second base for the season in Freiburg. I have had so much fun here. Actually, I'll be sure to write another diary in the next week or so and include some photos.
But until then, have fun on your bike.
- Cycling News
May 30, 2005, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:20 BST
As I write this I am back on US soil and although it will be mid September before I see my family,...
As I write this I am back on US soil and although it will be mid September before I see my family, Grant and Pushka again, I must admit that this trip was the most relaxing in a long time as one of my major accomplishments for the off-season was to organise a US Athlete Visa. For anyone who has ever attempted to do this, it is generally not a quick process. I have to send a huge thank you to Blick, Pat and Cuan at Oakley for their help, which really made a huge difference.
I am spending the first week here in the US at Laguna Beach, catching up with everyone again at Oakley and Intense. From here I head to Colorado, which will be my base for this season. I am looking forward to this, because prior to this I have never had a base and just stayed on the road the whole time. I will also have a road bike over here for some fun road rides. I know it has been a while since my last update, so I will try to keep this one to a few of the more cycling-related updates.
SRM Power Team for 2005
There is no bigger issue to start with than my team plans for 2005. It's been a long time getting to this point, but I am very happy to say that I've signed to be part of the SRM Power Team, becoming the first female member in the team's four-year existence. As part of the SRM Power Team I will maintain my bike sponsor from 2004 and continue to ride Intense bikes.
I started using the SRM power metre on my bikes at the start of the off-season as a training tool and a way to help my coach James at CTS keep track of my progress. It wasn't long before I had decided that they weren't coming off when race season came around. When you start collecting data from your training and you have a great coach who knows how to interpret the data then they can be very useful. Having the SRM on my bikes has absolutely changed the way that I look at training and racing, so while it took a while to get my plans for this year sorted, I couldn't be happier with how they eventuated.
Australian National Championships
The Australian National Champs were a little later this year, which meant that the dates conflicted with the start of the NORBA series in the US. I had wanted the NORBA series to be a major focus for me this year, so it is disappointing to have missed the first two rounds, but it was so good to race Nats. This was my first race of the season and it was great to be racing again. Without going into all of the details, I placed second, which I was very happy with.
I am now heading to Colorado Springs for final pre-season preparation at altitude before the NORBA series resumes in Park City, Utah. Colorado Springs is the perfect place for me to base myself. Not only is there such an amazing number of cyclists around, but also great riding. Also, both CTS and the SRM North American offices are based there. It will be great to see everyone again and build on the training and preparation I have been doing in Australia.
Have fun on your bike,
- Niki Gudex
Niki Gudex is proudly sponsored by: Downhill and cross-country racer, graphic designer and model, Australian mountain biker Niki Gudex is nothing if not versatile. Riding for the SRM Power Team, Niki will be the first ever female rider in the team. She'll continue to focus on the NORBA series while making time to race back in Australia. Follow all the adventures in her exclusive diary on Cyclingnews. Niki Gudex's website: www.nikigudex.com Australia UK USA