Spinning wheel

May 8, 2008

"What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, gotta go round" – Blood, Sweat and Tears

I first learned this song in High School. I was a drummer in our high school marching band and we learned how to construct a beautiful spinning wheel formation while playing this song. We'd perform The Spinning Wheel during the half time show of every high school football game. Now, this song seems to appear out of the blue while I'm on my bike. I usually find myself singing it when I climb because I know that "what goes up, must come down." I love to descend, so I get happy when I sing this. Now, for different reasons, I find myself singing this song.

My life has been "The Spinning Wheel" while racing here in Europe. I came into the season on a high note. I had some amazing form, but I didn't realise it until my first race with Team Menikini. I had worked hard during the off-season and I would have to prove myself to this new team, but I needed some racing to test myself. After arriving in Italy, getting the new bike, meeting the sponsor and running around for a week, I finally had the chance to test my off-season prep work and I was happy.

What goes up...

My first race with Team Menikini was in Varazze, Italy on March 8, 2008. It was pouring rain, single digits in Celsius land and the riders had no information about the course. We started the race, did two parade laps and I immediately went to the front on the second lap because there were already crashes. Once we exited the parade laps, I noticed a climb. I, thinking the race wasn't super hilly, went charging to the front and drove it up the climb that veered through a tiny town. I thought the climb would end once we exited the town, but that was only the beginning. What I thought would be a few kilometres, turned out to be 15 kilometres. In fact, the entire race either climbed or descended. There were no flats!

Once I realised this climb wasn't going to end, I continue to go hard so it would be a lead-out up the climb. Once I started to falter, my team-mate, Fabiana Luperini attacked and only one other person could stay with her. The only people left when I pulled off were my team-mates -- our Aussie rider, Natalie Bates, and our Russian rider Oxana Kozonchuk. Of the top five people, four of us were Menikini! Yeah!

My team-mates took over and dragged me up the remainder of the climb. Then, I led our little Menikini group down the descent. We lost one team-mate going downhill, and I tried hard to keep us together, but the tight wet Italian roads were scary for some. My team-mate and I finished the road race in third and fourth, respectively. We quickly showered and got ready for the second race in the rain. Now, we had to do that 15-kilometre climb all over again. This time it would be as a time-trial. Here's a good test!

Luperini won the event and I was second a minute behind her at 29'10". Third place finished 30 seconds behind me, so my team-mate Luperini won the overall event and I was third. When I had a chance to download my SRM files, I couldn't believe my numbers. I was so very happy.

That night, we drove 3.5 hours north to Cornaredo, Italy, near Milano, checked into our hotel, had dinner and visited with sponsors until the wee hours. Then, we woke up the next day for another race. This time the race was flat, but again it was in the rain. Menikini sponsored this event, our director organised it and it was important to win it. We knew we had the speedy sprinters and the plan was to get one of us in a break with Miho – one speedy sprinter – and if that didn't work we'd set it up for Rochelle in a field sprint. The race was aggressive and single file. Midway through the race, I saw an opportunity and I attacked. A break formed of eight riders. At first, I was solo. Then, others rode up to me. I was hoping Miho would follow these girls, but she'd done so much work in the first part of the race her legs were done. Now, we didn't like the odds. The team had me sit on the break and towards the end try some attacks, but nothing worked. I finished a disappointing fifth and we left the race a little frustrated.

What goes up must come down...

Het Volk was the next team event I would do. It was in Belgium and was held March 16. It was typical Belgium racing: rain, cobbles, cattle roads and cold. I was starting to get sick prior to this race. During the race, I was present for all the important parts, but then when I thought nothing was happening, I got schooled. I was checked out mentally and was towards the back of the peloton. The field started to go single file and everyone was getting gapped. I couldn't believe it. I kept bunny hopping groups, but didn't get to the right spot at the right time, so I was out of commission. The race was up the road, and I wasn't there. Arghh...

After the race, we hopped in the van and drove 12 hours straight home. I got back at 7AM and I was cracked. I got really sick after that and had to have a down week with the bike. My next race would be the Italian World Cup March 24. I still wasn't 100 percent.

The team asked me to cover everything from 30 to 60 kilometres. I knew Miho was antsy for success, so I wanted to constantly be present in the front to calm her down for the key moves. Well, present at the front doesn't necessarily mean ride the front. I guess I should have translated this before the race started. I ended up riding tempo on the front a bit, covering stuff over the second QOM (classified climb - ed.) and marking most of the moves on the second big lap of the race.

By the time I hit the inner circuit for little lap number three, I was flabbergasted to see a huge climb in front of me and I was tired. Our team doesn't preview courses and I thought I had witnessed what the second climb would be during the big outer laps. But to my chagrin, I had no clue what I was facing. I had expended too much energy and was detached from the peloton by the end of the race. Miho was our best finisher. She was just off the podium, and I was again disappointed.

The spinning wheel I hope you go around!

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