Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I think its good to start racing early, even if you arent likely to win

Firstly, I have some bad news for you, you are probably not going to win the Tour de France. I only found this out recently and I was pretty shocked I must say, I thought I was a dead cert for getting the yellow jersey on one of the mountain top finishes next year.

Seriously though, is there any point entering races when you aren't going to win?

I think so, and here is why.

Sage advice would tell us to train and train and not enter any races until we are really ready to do so, because we might suck, and it might make us feel bad.

I have another theory that worked for me and may work for you, please remember that I am not an expert and don't know what I am talking about half the time, - so take this advice with a grain of common sense.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here is my two cents on why I think its good to have a go at a race early. Note that - this doesnt apply if you aren't safe in a bunch. If you aren't safe (ie you get scared and wobbly when someone pairs up close next to you or you cant hold a wheel within a wheel length, then you really probably arent ready and should practice that, in training, A LOT).

Even if you are riding slowly on the Sudnay or Friday training rides, you should always practice being a good, steady, communicative bunch.

Once you are pretty comfortable in a bunch, I have found for me that there are SO many new skills involved with getting to and through your first race, that its worth starting to practice them early.

I have made a list of some of these new skills below, and as you'll see, there is quite a bit to get your head around. Hence your goal for your first race should just be to experience all of these things. Maybe your second race goal will be to finish the course if you DNF'd the first  time.

Maybe your third race goal will be to stay with the bunch for two minutes longer than you did last time, or when you feel you are about to drop off - just try and do two more turns through the pacecline. Maybe you'll practice gatekeeping before giving up.

Setting realistic goals is SUPER important to staying positive and seeing your own progress. You cant expect to win at your first race (although the turn out for womens grades is generally pretty low so you can often bank on a top ten finish for smaller races), but all of the skills below are worth mastering and celebrating as you master them.

But my point is we rarely get the chance to practice all of these skills in training, so - to get good at racing, at some point you'll have to start racing.

New Race Skills
- getting over the first race hurdle
- having a well serviced bike and remembering to lube it/check tyre pressure the night before
- choosing kit to wear in a race
- being nervous, and dealing with it
- turning up
- registering
- remembering your licence
- pining your number on correctly (believe it or not there is a wrong way) 
- having nutrition
- warming up
- getting to the start line
- starting in a race start 
- going lactic
- trying to hold the bunch for 3 minutes
- dealing with people you don't know in the bunch*
- getting dropped
- having a good old cry if it all goes horribly wrong, and still finding something to learn from it
- finishing the race
- eating the right food immediately post race so you dont bonk, and so your body can refuel (not doing this hurts you a lot more than you realise)
- stretching and recovering properly
- having a beer
- making a list of all the new things that happened and how you went with them
- turning up to your next race, even if you didn't win this one.

These are all new skills and they are worth practicing early.

The more you get comfortable with them, the better you'll do as your fitness increases, particularly because being less nervous leads to better performance.

Imagine if you've mastered all of the above, over say a period of months, and during that time your fitness also increases. What this means is that within six months of training, that includes races, you'll suddenly find yourself not only fit enough to be competitive in your grade, but you'll have a world of confidence and feel like a bit of an old hand, instead of totally petrified.

Plus, having a few bad races makes you really appreciate the good ones, and more able to take it in your stride when things go wrong.

So enter a race soon, get dropped, get past the 'it's my first ever race' hurdle. There is really only one way to practice racing, and thats to race.

On one of the above I have some extra thoughts.

Dealing with people you don't know in the bunch*

We are super lucky in that within Valkyrie, we have a great bunch of sensible girls, all practicing good bunch skills and riding together.

Occasionally we also ride with the Vmaxx boys or other Vikings who are all super supportive and really really nice to us and look after us.

This is not racing.

Sooner or later, you are going to find yourself in a bunch where any number of these kinds of things (and more) might happen - and the first step to dealing with them is being prepared:

Things that will happen at some point
- lots of really loud shouting
- totally disorganised bunches
- one person telling everyone what to do and it's not what you planned before the race or think should happen
- people riding unsafely / half wheeling
- people surging, dropping too many off the bunch on hills so that the bunch goes from 8 people to 2 people in a matter of kms (and loses the value of a bigger bunch draft)
- people not pulling their turns
- people gatekeeping who don't communicate to the riders rolling through
- people yelling at you
- people telling you to do things you haven't done before/ arent cmfortable with (eg echelons, pacelines)
- people in the bunch who don't know where they are going and are likely to go the wrong way (like me)
- people bump into each other (shoulders touch, wheels touch)
- someone falls off their bike

Ways to be prepared:
- practice communicating in your training bunches, make sure you use your 'outdoor voice'
- get used to feeling like you have the authority to speak up if a bunch isnt working well and you think it could do better (note, there is no Scout Badge for this, you just start doing it one day, so practice it in training). Or if you'd prefer - I hereby give you all the authority to tell a bunch what to do.
- use your skills practice to learn about riding safely, practice more hands on shoulders, shoulders touching etc
- always remember the don't look back rule. If you hear someone crash behind you in the bunch, keep pedalling forward, wait till its safe before stopping. Don't slam the brakes on and look back - thats a classic way to get yourself to fall off too.
- stand up for yourself, if someone is telling you to do something thats uncomfortable for you, Say So!

You have every right to speak up in the bunch.

What you'll get out of practicing standing up for yourself in this way, under pressure, when your blood is pumping, is a kind of resilience that translates through to the rest of your life.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Club Road Champs - race report

Lots of Valkyries made it out to the Club Road Champs in glorious sunshine today. It was such a welcome change from what felt like such a long and cold Winter.

The VCC race-bus had a leisurely warm-up ride (of about 20km) out from Stromlo Forest Park to Uriarra Homestead for the start of the race. I was excited about the start of the race, but also a bit nervous so it was great to have the V-max guys there to chat to and take my mind off the race.

More friendly faces when we arrived at Uriarra Homestead. I had a quick chat with Jason Mahoney from Argonaut Cycle Coaching (who wrote the very comprehensive training program that I'm following with the V-max squad) at the start of the race about tactics. I'll be completely honest - I'm new to tactics, so it was great getting some quality advice from someone who is starting to know my strengths and weaknesses quite well. It also helped put the race in context and gave me something to focus on and made me feel a little more in control of my race than I would have otherwise felt.

The pace at the start was reasonable and it felt more like a bunch ride than a race, that is until we hit the first hill. It soon became evident who was feeling strong and which riders I was going to need to watch out for. The bunch stayed pretty well together up the first climb and then the descent down the other side. But it was this descent that ended up separating the group on the return journey. As we were getting towards the top of the climb I realised that I was in a group with 4 guys and that there was a bit of a gap back to 6th. We mobilised when we hit the top of the hill and started pacelining down the other side and all the way along the road back towards Uriarra Crossing to try and maintain / increase our gap.

We turned around just before the descent down into Uriarra Crossing and that's when we realised how windy it actually was out there. One rider and I somehow managed to go clear at this point without trying. He tried to convince me to keep working with him, but I realised we still had over half the race to go and I told him that I thought we should sit up and wait for the rest of our group of 5 (which is what we did). It was tough going back up the false flat into that headwind, and it was clear that quite a few in our group were suffering. We dropped one rider just after we completed one full lap and then were down to a group of 4.

One rider attacked on the hill heading towards Condor Creek, but we decided not to chase him as we knew he'd been suffering into the headwind previously and was unlikely to be able to stay away solo. Sure enough, we reeled him in on the return journey to Uriarra Crossing and it was clear he was in the pain cave. Our group of 4 stayed together for a shortwhile during this section, but then one rider (who was clearly the strongest of our group) attacked and I decided to go with him. I was slow in responding to the attack though as I was 3rd wheel when it happened, so I had to work pretty hard to catch back on again. But then I was on and we were off (or at least, he was off with me on his wheel).

We hit the last turnaround and then back into the headwind. I was definitely feeling that wind this time around, as my legs were pretty fatigued and had been threatening to cramp for quite a few kms by this point. But the advantage of a turnaround is that you get to see how far back the chase group is, and we realised that we'd probably won the race at this point. But we didn't slack off - we kept going and had a bit of fun trying to chase down the end of the grade in front of us.

I was most relieved to see the finish line ahead, when the guy I was with told me we should finish the race off properly, even though we were in different grades. So we kind of went for a sprint. Well, he went for a sprint, and I attempted to sprint but my calves cramped like they never had before and I rolled over the line in serious pain. At least the race was over though so I could stop and have a proper stretch and then a race debrief with Jason and the rest of the V-max guys (who had also had a good race by the sound of it).

It was great watching the end of the race. 3rd and 4th came in about a minute or so after us and it was a really close sprint finish. The rest of the ladies came in a little while later and they all looked like they'd enjoyed themselves and raced well.

We all enjoyed a general catch up and soft drink while we were waiting for the results / presentations. As it was Club Road Champs there were medals on offer, except unfortunately the VCC medals were locked in an evacuation zone in Mitchell after the toxic fire on Friday so we all settled for a hearty handshake instead. And then we hopped back on our bikes and headed back to Stromlo Forest Park, eagerly chatting with each other about how our races had unfolded, how we felt and most importantly what we were going to eat for dinner.

It was a great day all round!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The importance of correct bike fits

I'm kind of excited, and I've just ridden up Mt Stromlo 3 times which in itself is a first, and for me to be excited after that, it must be pretty big.

I have been riding bikes as part of Triathlon and now Valkyrie for about 3 years now. And in spite of it being my stronger leg in Triathlon, I never really went nuts about the training, because it hurt. And I'm not talking I've just sprinted and now my everything is burning and I want to vomit hurt (that's good hurt). I'm talking pain, in my left leg, knee and lower back (and that's bad hurt).

I have a 16 year history of a bad back and hips which I now manage though exercise and regular treatment by an Osteopath. In 2006 when I left the Navy I could not stand up straight until about an hour and a long hot shower after I got out of bed, some days getting out of bed itself was excruciating and I would have an episode (which generally left me unable to walk for 1-2 days) about every two months. It has been a long road, but I am now relatively pain free, completely drug free and have only had one episode in a 16 month period where I couldn't walk for a week (and yes Rach, I did it running intervals). What this journey has taught me is to listen, and observe my own body's reaction to exercise/everything because when you can't move, can't manage simple tasks like bending down and raising one foot to put on your undies without mind blowing agony, you really start to appreciate the magnificent feeling that we take for granted - movement without thought.

I had my bikes set up for me at various times in the past and to be honest, from when I started, it was more comfortable each time. But I was really only getting around with 1.5 legs, because whenever I tried to push either on the flat and always when climbing uphill, it felt like my left thigh, about 2 inches above my knee was just knotted, pulling and burning in agony. And when I was not warmed up - forget it! I couldn't do much beyond spin. Other issues I had were that I was constantly trying to screw my left foot straight and what I had recently noticed, was that on the up-stroke of my left foot, my left knee would kick out to the side, and consequently I was not pushing down on the pedal stroke, I was pushing down and back in. I was effectively using a stabilising muscle, as the main muscle, and my quad was not being engaged effectively. Hence the burning, as the mini muscle was getting smashed! I also know that my left leg is slightly longer than my right leg and my pelvis is twisted around to the left too.

I'm not a physio (Leonie - feel free to edit if I'm getting a bit carried away) but in my experience pain, especially uneven pain, like I was experiencing when cycling, is probably a good sign that something is not right. There are lots of possibilities, not stretching enough, fatigue, muscle soreness, pelvic instability, lack of core strength, incorrect shoe set up, incorrect seat height, having your handlebars too far up, or away or too close, having back problems, uneven leg length, the list goes on and not being an professional in this area I can only speak from my own trial, error, experience and observation.

But I wanted to share this with everyone, because on Sunday night after considering my pain (a 21km TT will do that for you - 42 minutes of unadulterated 'oh crap that hurts' consideration), observing my funky knee action and consulting with my Osteo, I had the position of the cleats on my shoes moved and my bike seat moved up and back by Steven Callahan. (Measurements etc were taken before and after to ensure that I was within all the normal limits of bike fits).

The result? 3 CR's up Mt Stromlo, NO lower back pain, NO screwing my feet about in my shoes to get the right knee/ankle alignment, NO pushing back in my seat, NO lower back pain and NO KNEE/THIGH PAIN at all!! It was amazing. It was enjoyable, almost, but most of all it was comfortable. The only pain I was in was what I would consider to be 'normal' pain for what I was trying to do.

I just thought I'd share my story of the experience I have had with not having my bike set up right. How it has probably stopped my cycling development for the past few years and how, ultimately it would have caused me some injury in the overworked muscle and lower back (which was compensating).

And about how important it is to consider all of the options (if you don't know the options, ask around) if you are experiencing discomfort on the bike. The hundred dollars or so you spend on getting your position on the bike professionally adjusted, could save you a whole lot more in the future.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stage Two, Tour of Two Rivers

Waking up for the time trial I was not feeling positive, I hadn't slept well and was worried about how I'd pull up after the previous days race. I'd taken my TT bars with me and put them on but thought they would be considered illegal and taken off at the start, but I took the chance.

Riding into rego despite having had breakfast I felt flat and was getting worried about my ability to start and finish the race. With rego done it was a 5km ride to the start. Nice way to try and warm up as the wind from Saturday was back, it wasn't meant to be as strong but with no drafting today it would make parts of the course pretty tough.

Once making it to the start I did a bit of a warm up down the first section of the course, getting down into my bars to ensure they were in a comforatable position. I soon realised this section would be straight into the wind, I felt like I was barely moving. I just wanted to start and get it over. Still feeling flat I thought a gel just before starting might help get me through, which felt wrong since it was only 21km but I needed all the help I could get.

Finally we were away, in reverse order, so I was 4th to head off. As I watched the first person take off I panicked; a standing start, I'd never done one before and was not comfortable with the idea of someone holding onto my bike, I could just see myself falling sideways. The person who went off ahed of me didn't use the standing start, small relief; it wasn't compulsory! The one positive I had standing on that start line was I was in my comfort zone, I knew how to TT, but normally after a swim and before a run. So my plan was to go all out, there was no need to conserve energy for a run, there would be no wasted energy on a swim, I only had to focus on the next 21km's. I wanted to finish feeling like I had nothing left, I wanted to leave everything on the course.

Finally I was away; click, my left foot slipped in with ease no need to look down, a couple hundred metres out of the saddle and I was up to speed, then it was down into my bars (they didn't check them). The wind was picking up and I was feeling the efforts of the previous day in my legs already. I could see the junior from the day before just ahead; my first target, I needed to pass her and keep gaining time if I wanted to place in C grade. I caught and passed her. Ange was second to head off and I could see her in the distance and worked to close down the gap, not thinking I would actually catch her. I did manage to catch her and hoped she heard my words of encouragement as I passed.

My goal was to hold off Rach. I knew if I could I might have a chance of placing in womens C. I didn't realise that the Sun Rice lady that was in C the day before had gone up to B. So I just put my head down and kept pushing on. Soon I found myself spinning to no where, I could hear rach in my head "gear up" so I did and soon it was smooth with more speed, double bonus! It was faster than I thought I could manage, my legs were really hurting and I still had a lap to go.

Going through the start/finish and back into the worst of the wind I doubted I would survive the second lap. I thought I knew what it was like to ride in pain; I do; bone pain, but that burn in my legs was not something I'd pushed to before. But I couldn't give up I just found some anger to spurr me on.

The final lap became a bit of a blurr, it was like there wasn't any fuel left, but I'd made sure I'd eaten so I put it down to the efforts of the day before and pushing harder than I ever had in this race. Finally the finish line was in sight and I managed to keep the bike upright and cross it. I slowly rolled to a stop and got the bike off the road, feeling far from well.

I managed to roll back to the start / finish, to sit and watch the experts go round; Mens A, they make staing starts look so easy. Rach finished soon after me, really soon, so I only just mamanged the goal of holding her off, soon after she came in so did Ange. We decided to wait for the presentations as we were pretty sure that at least Rach had placed in B grade. Soon we were told that I had won women's C or at least that was what I thought he said. When he actually said I'd won out of the women, with rach getting second, 1st in B grade, Ange picking up 2nd in C grade. I couldn't believe it, my legs were burning the whole race and I felt pretty crap and didn't think I'd do that well. I was stoked to have done so well and was only possible because of the support and encouragement from my teammates. Without Rach and Ange I wouldn't have even gone to Griffith.

Some things I learnt this weekend:
* the best form of training can sometimes be racing
* don't train until you think you are fit enough to race, go out and do it, you just might surpirse yourself
* I ride better when I'm p***ed off
* I'm part of a really supportive and encouraging group
* despite my long 'taper period' I didn't loose all my fitness and endurance while my bone healed

A huge thanks to Rach and Ange, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't have gone away and had such a great weekend and learnt as much as I did.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stage one, Tour of Two Rivers

Todays race was a win for Epic Valkyrie tactics! 

Arriving at the race we realised as soon as we got out of the car that today would be all about the wind. The gale today made the Stockingbingal handicap seem like a pleasant breeze. We sussed out the competition and there were four or five women in C Grade and me and one other woman in B. All the women were grouped to set off in the men's D bunch.

On the line I had a good position and knew that the pace would be intense off the line as I had a fair suspicion that the bunch would split early.

I was right and out of the gate into a cross wind the pace was hard but manageable but the wind made the bunch horrible.

No one wanted to pull turns and when they did the bunch was sketchy and really strung out. In an echo of the famous D Train I pulled quite a few epic turns which meant that I was prob working a bit harder than I should (although I could hear Brad in my head saying "remember Rach, what would Boz do?"). With that in mind I started trying to avoid turns which is a skill all it's own and I was pretty proud that I actually got a bit aggressive in a men's bunch and stole some wheels successfully which I was pretty proud to pull off in a race situation.
I  stuck on D  a fair while till shortly before the KOM my HR went above where it was at Coota and i blew up, and dropped off. Just like at Coota i thought NOOOO and gave it some efforts to get back on which i did and i would have hung on but the wind was INSANE!! and although I yelled at the three on the back, they wouldn't hold their wheels so I couldn't get a good draft and dropped off. Once i dropped off i had really bad chest pains even when my HR slowed to 138bpm and sat there for ages and  it was SO painful so i slowed right down and took it as evidence of  the last few weeks of exhaustion. 

Once i knew i wouldnt get back on I cruised till a big bloke came by and I sat really computably in his echelon It was pretty funny as he tried repeatedly to surge and drop me but in such a massive draft I hung on easy. Some marshals came past and I slowed down for a chat about the rules of scratch where they suggested I could turn early if I wanted as long as I removed my number but I kinda felt like finishing. The big guy got away while I was chatting but we were nearly at the turn and all of a sudden someone was behind me.

I looked back and there was this tiny 15year old from womens C who had obviously been working her guts out to chase me down! I was so impressed I slowed down so she could sit in. We turned and pretty soon caught the big guy for a nice draft as I taught the junior where to sit in the echelon. 

Meanwhile KateM approached the turn with a commuter in fluoro.

We rode along as a trio for a while when i started to do the math. O wasnt sure if the points for top ten were split by womens grades (in which case id be 2nd by default) or whether all the women would be lumped together. I realised this meant i was likely towing this junior in  (who was amazingly strong) and risking a place.

It occurred to me that now might be a time to try a Lisa-cadel O'Grady breakaway.

I've never tried to breakaway from anything but I figured the tricks were : sudden, fast, and go hard enough  and fast enough that the surprise of it psyches them out and they dont chase.

I looked ahead and wondered when you are supposed to attack and figured a good time would include the end of a climb and followed by a downhill. Sadly the course was dead flat and I knew the real issue was that once I went I'd be in the wind alone.

Nevertheless I wanted to have a go so I quietly clicked up the gears and then BANG! straight into the Simon Dwyer sprint drills and to my amazement I opened up a fairly big gap, and then held it for quite a while. Pleased that it had worked I eased up again and soon KateM (in her first ever road race) had caught on with the yellow commuter.

It was obvious fairly quickly that she was experiencing the kind of race bullying that so many women put up with before they learn (as Valkyries) to tell d***heads to F*** off.

Worried she had been having a rough time I offered to drop off with her but she was DETERMINED to teach him a lesson. 

Stoked that she was refusing to let him demoralize her I wondered what tactics we could use.

The commuter was pushing everyone into a shitty and sketchy echelon where he kept getting cranky at everyone and getting on front.

Realising that he would take turns thinking we didn't know what we were doing I thought we could play it smart, let him do the work and sit in to beat him in a sprint.

Unsure if Kate understood my plan, I sat in on her wheel and refused to pull turns despite his calling me out.
I also figured they'd be pushing to get the other girl ahead of us on the line so the plan was to hang in, avoid work and keep the pace constant so that the others were working and would be in the wrong position for the sprint.

It worked like a charm. Kate pulled epic determined turns meaning I could conserve and try to work out how far away we were. 

Suddenly about 800m out the junior had a respectable attack but not fast enough to be a surprise and gave me the tip that we were nearly there. 

With the energy I'd saved thanks to Kates hard work I got straight in the drops and gunned the sprint drills we have practiced in training.

The big guy who had mostly sat in tried to challenge but couldn't hold it and thanks to Ange B who had dropped a chain and had to turn early and was standing on the lone so that I knew where it was, I got over the line first of the last bunch. 

There wasn't any prize money in it as the other B grader and one C grader who might find herself bumped up pretty soon had held on to D grade, but it was an EPIC tactical win in my book, and has finally helped KateM realise that she, is a bike racer.


Go Valkyrie, Go Siren.

Oh and the commute? Dropped like a stone. After the race I congratulated the junior who said it was her first race, to which I suggested she talk to the national talent ID Program. Once again, the country clubs were stoked to see us there.

Field Test

This morning Linda and I completed the Field Test as suggested by Simon - a 6km ITT from SFP towards Uriarra and a Mt Stromlo rep. Maja was unable to join us but had predicted the weather to be cold and windy - and she wasn't wrong. The sky was deceptively blue and the sun had some warmth in it, but there was a very strong icy head and cross wind that added an extra challenge to this ride.

We were joined in our pursuits by the wonderful VMax boys Brad, Andrew, Paddy and Eric, who after completing their 2 1/2 hour ride in the very early frosty hours of this morning, kindly agreed to lend some support and encouragement.

We started with the ITT, Brad helping us with the standing start which was something I hadn't tried before. I hadn't ridden the course prior to today so it was good to have Andrew beside me to talk me through some of the hills - the first one in particular was nasty riding into the wind.

Next we tackled Stromlo. I had a goal to beat my previous time of 21:37 mins (very slow I know) which I had set on 23rd July. With the wind against me I wasn't sure how well I could do - even though I knew I was fitter and stronger on the hills since last time, thanks to some sprint training and rides out to Shingleback Hill.

Anyway, despite the crappy weather I managed to shave 2 minutes off my time - getting to the top in 19:29 mins. As well as this, I spent more time in a lower heart rate zone. My maximum heart rate (177) and average heart rate (165) were the same for each effort. Don't exactly know what this means, but anyway I didn't feel like I reached my maximum heart rate during the efforts as it was more fatigue in my legs that was the limiting factor. Maybe you can give me some tips Simon on what I need to focus on in training to improve this??

Although it was hard, I was glad to have gone out and done this today to set myself a baseline time for the ITT and to see a great improvement in my time on Stromlo. It has motivated me to keep getting out there and giving it a go. Thanks so much to Linda for braving the weather with me and Brad, Andrew, Paddy and Eric for spending over another 2 hours out at Stromlo with us. Your support was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Announcing the formation of the first Valkyrie race team, The Sirens

We are very excited to have formed the first race team from the Valkyrie Vikings Development Squad with the support from Siren Bar and Restaurant in Gungahlin.

Ladies, it's time to get our hot new kit ordered, please post your orders below so I can collate them (I will later delete the posts, this is just a useful way to pull them together).

See you on the start line soon!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tour of Two Rivers


Sign up here ( a comment below to advise if you are keen for this tour)

2011 Tour of Two Rivers:

Stage 1

Saturday 10 Sep 2011 - Bertoldo Spring Classic (Griffith CC)

Stage 2
Sunday 11 Sep 2011 - Clasica Chrono Riverina Individual Time Trial (Griffith CC)

Stage 3
Saturday 25 Sep 2011- Riverina Clasica Road Race (Tolland CC)

Stage 4
Saturday 22 Oct 2011 - Grand Prix Cootamundra (Coota CC)

Stage 5
Sunday 30 Oct 2011 - Giro Delle Bellbridge (Albury/Wodonga CC)


- Griffith CC will hold an ITT on the morning of Sunday 11th September, the day after the Bertoldo Classic race. This will now be stage 2 of the TTR. Griffith CC have negotiated special rates for riders at the Bagtown Inn, Griffith. Entries are now open for Stages 1 & 2

-For the first time, a promotion/relegation system, up to stage 3 will be in place. If a rider is promoted /relegated, that rider will take his/her points with him/her, however the points will be limited to the highest number of points the highest rider in the new grade has. Obviously relegated riders would not have this limitation. The Tour handicapper Barry O’Hagan will determine promotion/relegation.

-The Albury/Wodonga CC have got a new finish (map) for their race. It appears to be at the top of a hill ( 6.5 percent gradient) after 2.5km. Sounds like another race Philippe Gilbert will win.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Siren Variation!

This morning a pretty large bunch of Sirens, Valkyries and Vikings set off for the regular Sunday training ride known as the PROD (Permitted Ride of Delight) and what a delight it was!

We thought that given the epic results of late including Dees 4th place and 1st female at Coota, Lisa's 2nd place at GCC, and my first top ten finish, not to mention the Vikings taking out the Interclub trophy over Goulburn, Bankstown and CCC - we'd better make it a celebration, and what better place than the Siren's new sponsor, Siren Bar and Restaurant in Goulburn.

There were two groups according to speed, with Eleanora, Linda and Leonie rolling together in a nice evenly matched group, and Lisa, AngeB and I riding Valko-Maxx styles with Bosworth, Braddles, Mr T, Sir Callahan, Draft Porter, Club Captain Drew, Mr Larkin, and muffin-enthusiast Oliver for company.

Everyone had read the forecast and packed at least one layer too many so there was an ongoing strip tease on the way out.

Once we got to the Tulip Farm the sprints started and there were some splits on the hills, with a regroup at the top of washing machine.

The bunch picked up a nice fast pace down to Lake G, and Leonie pushed her group to the top of Shingle before turning. 

The Valko-Maxx bunch, on the way back from Lake G made a left at Shingle hll rd, and continued on to Tallagandra Lane.

About 3/4 of the way along Tallagandra, whilst climbing a hill, not working particularly hard (HR was about 165 which is E1 for me) I started to feel a bit fuzzy and think it would be a good idea to sit down by he side of the road and have a nap. Recognising the early warning sign of a bonk coming on, i whipped out a vanilla power gel (mmmmm nom nom nom) and was shortly ok to keep going.

We turned onto Mulligans Flat for about 500m of dirt which wasn't too concerning, and by the time we got into Gungahlin, everyone was talking about food and coffee. 

Arriving at Siren Bar, we lined our bikes up like a parade along the side of the bar and pulled some tables together for a fantastic breakfast (big thanks to Siren for squeezing us in on a busy Father's Day Sunday)  and breakfast and coffee soon rolled into beer o'clock!!

The food was great and  the staff really looked after us even though they were pretty slammed.

Everyone was a bit achy getting back on again, but soon we were rolling into town, and back towards the city, rounding out with 101km for me by the time I got home, and something like 60km for Leonie's group. I am SUPER impressed that it was Leonie pushing the bunch to get up Shingle Hill and get those extra efforts in, and then make it to Siren Bar un-mentored. Well done girls, its awesome that you pushed yourselves, but also - a really big step forward in terms of your development as riders that you ran your own ride and followed a route yourselves. You are officially all independent roadie racers now and your progress over the last few months is kinda mind-bogglingly impressive. 

It was beautiful weather, fantastic company, a great bunch and pace and one of those rides that reminds you why you love riding your bike so much.

Thanks guys, after a pretty bat-crazy week - that was exactly what I needed.

Looking forward to repeating the Siren variation again soon! Can't wait till we have our new Siren kit to wear to Siren!!!

The impact of negative comments

Unfortunately the joys of doing well in a race, or even riding well and getting stronger in general, are often marred by insensitive / negative comments from other riders. I don't think this is unique to female cyclists, although in my opinion I've received a higher proportion of negative comments from females v males.

I received a negative comment this morning about my race yesterday. Up until that point, I'd been feeling fantastic about it. I thought I'd had a great race yesterday and thought I'd done what was required of me: going with a few riders from another club when they broke away; working with my team as much as possible until riders from the other club blew the race apart; etc. There had been no discussion of race tactics beforehand, so I had understood the race was a "do what is required based on how the race unfolds" type of a race. But to cut a long story short, I was basically told this morning that I'd done it wrong. One statement brought me crashing down: post-race high turned into post-race come-down very dramatically. I won't go into what the statement was, as I don't think it's really relevant, but I'll tell you how it's made me feel: I don't want to ride my bike anymore. Yes, slightly (melo)dramatic as I love riding my bike but that's the powerful effect one negative comment can have. I'll get over it, and will keep riding my bike, but it made me realise that there are probably others out there that feel similar, and maybe it would be worth putting it out there how I was feeling and how I'm intending to deal with it.

I know I'm not the only person who takes negative comments way too seriously. I don't usually offend particularly easily, but do tend to get offended about comments about my actions. It's probably a typically female reaction though, guys would generally just ignore the comment / use it to fuel them for a cycling-related smack-down at a later date. So I've tried to think about the comment for what it is worth, consider whether or not it was valid and move on. But still, it's left a sour taste in my mouth just when I was getting back into the swing of riding / racing again.

It's also made me think about how I talk to other cyclists. Sometimes things need to be said, but there's a way of saying them (ie, think about how you would want to hear comments like that and then try and repeat them in the same manner). And I always celebrate others successes whatever they may be, as if you celebrate them, you can actually be part of those successes and piggy-back off them yourself.

And to steal a line from Lisa Jacobs: ride happy as life is too short to ride mad.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

GCC Interclub Handicap - Race Report

Well, I had a top day at Breadalbane today at the GCC Interclub Handicap. A swarm of Vikings, (and more importantly Valkyries!) headed over for the event, with some of us driving over in convoy to Collector and then enjoying a 17km warm-up ride to Breadalbane on undulating country roads, with minimal traffic and majoral farm-life (cows and sheep galore!). I knew it was going to be a fun race at registration as the GCC reps on the rego desk were lovely and there were lollies.

There were 5 mins between each of the bunches, and I was in the 3rd bunch away. We rolled out and very soon had a well-working pace line formed. Everyone seemed very strong in our group, and there were quite a few big blokes that were pushing the pace up pretty early. I was feeling good though so kept pulling turns, and our Vikings / honorary Vikings crew were working really well together looking out for each other and giving advice re tactics, including when to respond to attacks, etc (big thanks to our lovely coach Simon D in this regard!). We hit a fairly flat / downhill section (which I must admit I didn't notice was downhill until the return journey!) and at that point I pretty much stopped pulling turns at the front and enjoyed getting a draft from a few of the bigger riders in the group.

Everyone had been talking about a hill at or near the turnaround, so I was most relieved when we hit a bit of a hill and I could see the bunch in front as I thought it was a good sign we were nearly halfway through the race. Sure enough, we started climbing and one of the GCC riders (# 17) went off the front, making it clear he was a pretty good climber. I tried to go with him but didn't really have the legs, so sat up and waited for everyone else at which point the Lee-train (we had two awesome Lees in our group!) came through and dominated and brought us all back together again.

We all enjoyed a brief moment of respite at the turnaround before we seriously started to think about catching the group in front. The turnaround was also good as we could see how much we had on the group behind, which didn't seem to be much at all! We decided to get a wriggle on to see if we could stay away and then our Vikings-train hit the gas and we were off. We then hit a fairly solid hill, which turned out to be the hill that everyone was talking about. I had seriously not noticed that we had descended down the hill on the way to the turnaround so was really surprised when I found I had to suddenly put in the hard yards and go uphill. I was still feeling pretty strong, so tried to sit on the front of our group and pace-make, and give the group in front plenty of warning when we were coming past so they could make the jump onto the back of our group. GCC rider #17 attacked at about this point, which was probably particularly good tactics on his part, but particularly poor on mine. I was shattered and didn't have the legs to go with him. But the gradient eased off a fraction, and a paceline started up again. I very much enjoyed the respite provided by Dave and Rach at this point (thanks guys!), but the gradient soon picked up again and I got back down into chase-mode. I had pretty much reconciled myself that I wasn't going to be able to catch GCC-rider #17 and basically sat up to go back to our group, at which point another GCC rider caught up to me (GCC-rider #18) and I jumped on his wheel for a free-ride up the rest of the hill. It hurt a lot staying on his wheel, but he was a big guy and I thought that if he managed to catch up to #17 then there would be no stopping the pair of them on the downhill, so I dug deep and hung in (only just, believe me!). We caught #17 near the top of the hill and I enjoyed a brief recovery section before I realised that #18 had started riding backwards (or so it seemed) and I was going to have to stop free-loading and start doing some work.

So #17 and I started pulling turns and somehow dropped #18. We were certain that we'd be caught by the group on the downhill as the two of us probably weighed not much more than a combined 100kgs. But we kept going, and going, and going. Each time I rolled off I'd look around and comment that I still couldn't see the chasers. The only problem was that I wasn't sure how far the race was, and I hadn't reset my Garmin after my warm-up, so I had no idea how much longer we had to go to the finish. I felt my legs starting to cramp on one of the final undulating sections, but somehow managed to stave it off to get over the line.

Coming towards the finish I was on the front, and knew it was going to be a sprint finish and the odds were stacked against me getting up. I started accelerating, trying to drop #17 as I knew he was tired and hurting, but he managed to dig deep enough to get around me and cross the line about half a wheel length in front of me. We chatted briefly at the end (when we had our breath back) and he was a lovely guy and I was really pleased for him that he'd raced so well as it turned out it was his first race back after a serious illness.

It was great watching everyone else coming through the finish line. Some excellent sprint finishes from some of our Vikings guys, but I think the day actually belonged to the ladies, with three of our ladies finishing in the top 10 overall (nice work Lee and Rach!). Goes to show that a race like a handicap can really be anyones if people work together properly and organise their groups. As for me, I was just lucky that it was hilly enough for me to get a gap and that I had such a great crew to work with for the first 2/3 of the race (and a big shout out to rider #18 for towing me back to the lead rider so that I could be part of the breakaway in the first place!). So thanks team!

We enjoyed some more Goulburn hospitality in the form of a BBQ after the ride, and then the Collector convoy jumped back on their bikes and tried to run the sunset gauntlet to get back to our cars before sundown. More beautiful country scenery, more fantastic company (albeit slightly more relaxed than during the race) and more great time spent riding our bikes.

Top day all round. :-)