Tales from the peloton, September 15, 2004
Australian Road Cycling Championships, Sunshine Coast, Australia, September 3-12, 2004
A trackie at heart, first year Under 17 rider from St George Cycling Club in Sydney's south, Deena Faulkner, thought she'd give the Australian Clubs' Road Championships a go to prepare herself for the upcoming track season. It was a trial by fire for young Deena, but as they say, there's a first time for everything...
Having spent a few wet days in Mooloolaba on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, where the weather is supposed to be 'great one day and perfect the next', I finally ventured out on the Thursday before the event. Mum and Dad (my major sponsors) took me out early to the road circuit near Maleny and the criterium circuit in Currimundi to check out the courses. On the first major hill of the road circuit, I was amazed to see a few riders catch and pass me so easily - we trackies definitely don't appreciate hills! One of the riders pointed out that I no longer had my father trailing behind me. I was so out of breath that all I could do was smile and nod.
Thursday night at about 5:00pm, we turned up at the Caloundra RSL club (an event sponsor) for registration. After I had signed on, I stopped to catch up with all the other riders from New South Wales and my friends from other parts of Australia.
Day 1 - September 3: Time trials
Friday morning was the first day of competition. We arrived at the individual time trial course that started from Beerwah. This is just down the road from the Australia Zoo that belongs Steve (the Crocodile Hunter) Irwin. Crikey!
Dad doesn't like to be late so we arrived at 9:30am. When I went to the tent to sign on for the day, I found out that I didn't start until 11:00am! On my way back to the car, I stopped and chatted to the other New South Wales girls, as there was plenty of time to get ready.
For some reason, I was seeded as one of the last to start. None of us could work this out, as I am not known for my time trialing. I presented my bike to the roll-out commissaires and after some initial trouble, passed ready for the start. Even though I had a good warm-up on the rollers, I had nerves building up bad!
I left the start line and was on my way. Sitting on about 56kph, I started to wear myself out. The first part of the course was slightly downhill. By the time I made it to 2 or 3 kms out, I was well and truly ready for the finish. There was a tailwind all the way to the turnaround point (at 5kms) and naturally a headwind all the way back.
At about 6 or 7 kms, Courtney LeLay (Queensland) who started behind me, caught and passed me. I let her build up enough distance and used her as something to chase to the finish. The finish line couldn't have come sooner! I finished the course in 18:21:68, which was good enough to find me 28th out of 30. Not too bad since time trials are my weakest discipline.
Day 2 - September 4: Road races
Saturday came and again I wasn't starting until about 10:30. Today, the event was the road race and consisted of 3 laps of a 10km course. (The one with the hill!) I had a good warm-up and been given advice by a few people about staying at the front of the bunch. We were called to the line about 10 minutes before we were scheduled to start as the officials decided whether to start us before the Under 17 Men finished. We ended up waiting for them, which left all of us cooling down for over 15 minutes.
We finally got on our way and I sat around the middle to the back of the pack for the time that I stayed with the bunch - probably the biggest mistake I made over the four days. Around 6km into the race, I started to drop off the back and I just never made up the extra time to get back in touch with the main bunch. There was another group of 5 or 6 riders and I chased them until we hit the next set of hills; by then I decided to just keep up a reasonably good pace and save myself for the next day's criterium. I caught the girl in front of me by the end of the first lap and I managed to drop her and move ahead about 1km into the second lap.
After that, I rode the race by myself. I just paced myself and finally finished eight minutes after the leaders. This left me 28th out of 31 starters. I can't say that I was exactly happy with where I finished, but was happy that I completed the course.
Day 3 - September 5: Criteriums
Sunday morning rolled around and I was up at 7:00am and eating a huge plate of pasta for breakfast, followed by a Tim Tam (a big carbo-loaded breakky!). We drove down to the criterium circuit, Dad only got me there an hour before time today! This was to be my day! As you can imagine, the nerves were building up, and fast! I signed on and then jumped on the rollers for 20 minutes. All too soon, it was time to go to the marshalling area.
Sitting and waiting for the start is definitely the worst part of every race! I was so nervous because I really wanted to do well in the crit but nerves were taking over. We finally got underway and as soon as we got the whistle signaling the start, the pace picked up. The race was on! We had 30 minutes plus 3 laps of such a small, tight circuit.
"This will be easy... " I thought right up until the first corner. Every girl there wanted to win and every one of us showed it, pushing the pace right from the start. We meant business!
After about five minutes, we'd completed about seven laps of the 927 metre course. The pace dropped through the sweeping corners and picked up out of the tight ones. I started to drop off the back around the 10-minute mark. I was in a group of 10 riders all determined not to be left behind. We caught back on to the main bunch after chasing for two laps. After that, I stayed in the middle, closer to the back, but sometimes up the front. Going around the corners was the best. When I say that, I was in the middle, I mean riders all around me, at least two on either side. There were elbows and knees and handlebars everywhere!
There have never really been enough of us in Under 17 Women to make a big field. The only time this year has been in the Wagga Wagga and Canberra junior tours. Other than those two tours, we have all had to wait for the Nationals to race with big groups. It was awesome!
With about five minutes to go, I was sitting close to the front, still staying out of trouble. The whole race had stayed fast. They weren't mucking around.
The end sprint was fast and furious. There were girls everywhere, the faster riders spread wide across the track. I ended up placing 13th but only a few metres away from the winner, Tess Downing from Victoria.
I was very happy with my result. Not bad for a first year Under 17 and hardly any training over the winter. I was especially happy to stay with the bunch right to the end.
Day 4 - September 6: Pair TTs
Monday morning was the Club Pairs Time Trial. I was up at seven again and eating pasta and a Tim Tam, then on the rollers for 20 minutes. We arrived at the same time trial course used for the ITT about 50 minutes before the start. After a hurried warm-up and roll out, my St George CC team mate Sylvia Potente and I were on the start line; we were the second pair off in our age group.
We started off well and quickly got into a rhythm. We went out in a headwind and had a tailwind on the way back. I'm not much of an endurance rider, so I was well and truly stuffed keeping up with Sylvia by the turnaround point. Although we worked well together, we weren't the best on the day, finishing ninth out of 10 teams. I believe the winning team trained quite hard compared to us just having fun, hoping not to come last! There is always next year when we'll kick butt!
Overall, it was a great weekend of racing and if anything, it has made me more determined to win next year, and I plan to! In the meantime, roll on track season!