Category Archives: Race Report

Local Racing: Tour of Bright 2016 Race Report

The Bright Brewery Tour of Bright (ToB) is considered one of the largest amateur/graded stage races in Australia. Featuring  a time trial and 2 (hilly) road stages, many Australians below national level target the ToB each year. This year I had the opportunity to race in Elite Men’s C grade.

Before the race I really had no idea what to expect from ToB. The decision to race was quite a late one, I didn’t leave myself very much time to prepare for the alpine climbs in the Bright region. I’m a lighter rider and generally perform reasonably well in hillier races, but the climbs featured in ToB are considerably longer than the climbs I’ve raced on. Still, I thought it would be a valuable experience to have, and a chance to represent my club at one of Australia’s largest graded road races.

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The view from Tawonga Gap

Stage 1 was a short, but hot 13.5km time trial. The course was reasonably flat so it suited a TT specialist, or at least someone with a high 15-20 minute power. I set a goal of finishing the time trial in 21 minutes, but I was a little off my mark finishing with a time of 21:41. I started a little too hard and didn’t finish as strongly as I would have liked. The C grade winner’s time was a fast 18:39, set by Laurence BASELL of Hawthorn cycling club.

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Me taking the first turn. You can view my Strava file here.

The second stage was a hilly, 91km road stage, featuring 2 categorised climbs, Rosewhite Gap (Cat 2) and Tawonga Gap (Cat 1). The bunch was fairly well behaved for the first 30km. I was able to sit in nicely without doing too much work, but at 30km the bunch began to accelerate, chasing down an earlier attack. I wanted to contest the KOM points at Rosewhite, but I was near the back so I spent most of the climb moving up. When I found myself towards the front a small group had gone clear and so I decided to bridge across to them, which in hindsight was quite a foolish move because I went quite far into the red and wasn’t able to recover. I was promptly dropped and rode the last ~40km solo. I lost a fair chunk of time, and finished just over 30 minutes behind the stage winner, Liam Garriga of Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club. I somehow managed to fray my rear derailleur cable somewhere on the ride, luckily it didn’t snap until the ride home. I was able to obtain a new cable cheaply at a local bike shop.

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Climbing Tawonga Gap. You can view my Strava file here

The final stage was essentially an ascent of Mt Hotham (1533m elevation difference). I made a decision to try and contest the sprint points, because the points from stage 2 were split, and so a good performance on stage 3 could mean a top 5 in the sprint classification. However, the day started with mechanical issues because my rear derailleur wasn’t indexed properly from the night before. Luckily, I was able to select either the 15t or 17t without experiencing ghost shifts. I tried my best to contest the sprints with these ratios but I didn’t have the final kick to contest either sprint point. I think a few others had the same idea as me, so the sprints were hotly contested. With the sprints over I decided to stop and fix my indexing for the Hothan ascent. I finished 24:33 down on stage winner Liam Garriga, who also took out the GC honours. I think all the photographers had packed up by the time I made it to the top, so there aren’t any ugly photos of me. You can view my Strava file here.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my ToB racing experience. Kudos to those who raced and rode the fondo stages, and many thanks to the volunteers and sponsors who made this event possible. For more information about the event click here.

Race Report: PACC TwiLITE Summer CX series

After posting about a few road races, USG racing and I thought the cyclocross racing should be getting some coverage. A few days ago, Stacey Riedel raced in round 3 of the PACC TwiLITE CX series. Cross racing is big in Adelaide, and I imagine it’s just as big in Europe, though holding cross in summer leads to very different conditions. Here’s Stacey’s report.

Round 3 of the PACC TwiLITE Summer CX series was held at Park 23, better known as Zombie Park. It was hot and dusty and would be challenging as the first race back after a 2 month break in Cyclocross.

Disorganised and rushing, I arrive at the race 10 minutes before I’m meant to be starting. I collect my numbers and pin them on, then head to the start line. I haven’t ridden the course yet so am not sure what I’ve got in store (I don’t recommend you do this). Mum meets me at the start line and hands me my water bottle for some last minute hydration. It’s hot. 39 degrees in fact.

The A grade women’s field consists of 8 women all ready to race. We receive 30 seconds to go and wait for the count down. GO! No countdown, but we are off. I’m on the outside and try to get a quick start so I can get to the front but I’m pushed to the side and have to back off. The first corner is tight and I take it on the inside and gain a few positions. I’m in about 3rd position and happy with where I’m sitting. The girls are all together and relatively unaggressive at this point in time. Anna Puckridge is leading the field and I’m in 5th position. I get out the saddle and move up. I want to be in front to be able to see the corners and what’s ahead.

We go over undulating grass and take a sharp left onto some looser gravel and dirt towards a sharp steep hill which we need to go up, U-turn, down, U-turn and back up. I’ve done this before, I know I can ride it. I change into my smallest gear and push back in my saddle to get up the hill, I get to the top, turn, and attempt to ride down. I can hear spectators telling the other girls ‘Run! Run! Run!’. What? Run? The course is a bit different to when I’ve previously done it and where the turn around points are situated means I can’t ride it. A bit of chaos as all the girls are dismounting their bikes – some not quite as graceful as others. I jump off my bike as quick as I can and start running. A few girls have passed me and I need to get up with the leaders.

I get out the saddle and sprint after them, and take the next right hand corner quickly to gain some time. I reach Jenny McPherson, arguably the best rider we have in this series, and sit behind her in second wheel. I just stick to her wheel and try not to lose any ground. She’s strong, and powers away from me on the grass section and paved section. I prefer the technical dirt parts.

I chase and try to keep the gap the same, taking corners as fast as possible without crashing and getting out the saddle as I exit them. I know now to run the steep part. I lose a bit of time, missing my pedal when trying to clip in. We’ve done 2 laps and I was sitting in second for both of them.

I glance back and see Gemma Kernich not far behind me and rapidly gaining. Jenny is getting further ahead and Gemma has now caught me and I can feel her sitting behind me. I move to the side hoping she will come past me and she does. I get on her wheel and sit there until we reach the grassy section. Like Jenny, Gemma is far stronger than me on these parts and pulls ahead. 3 laps down and I continue riding as hard as I can, trying to corner well and not lose any time. It’s so hot. I’m sweating and my throat is full of dust. This makes breathing even harder than it already would be.

The gap stays about the same and I try to bring it back but I’m already riding as hard as I can. We receive the bell lap for 1 to go and just as before I try to hang on to my position. I can hear the commentary and Jenny has finished in 1st place. Not long after Gemma finishes and I sprint to the line to get the best time I can, coming in 3rd. I finish and my lungs and chest are burning from breathing in dust for 20 minutes.

I asked her after the race what she made of it;

It was another great course, thanks to PACC, and the girls made it a tough race. Looking forward to the final two rounds of the CXTwiLITE Summer Series!

Thanks for reading, can you imagine racing in these hot and dusty conditions?

 

 

Race Blog: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

A few days ago (31st of January) the inaugural elite women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was contested. The 116km race was hard fought, with strong winds testing the legs of the elite women. A quality field of 67 started the race, with Rachel Neylan attacking a reduced peloton in the final 8km to take a solo win. After the race, I caught up with Stacey Riedel, a member of team USG to have a chat about the race.

Stacey Riedel (left) with her team mates post race. photo credit: USG Racing Team

Stacey Riedel (right) with her team mates post race. photo credit: USG Racing Team

She tells me a story of hanging on for dear life. This is how the race unfolded for her:

With a top quality field, aggressive teams, high winds, and a tough course, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was bound to be a tough one – and that it was! We rolled out in what was to be a ‘neutral’ section, but involved some jostling for positions to avoid dodgy corners and traffic islands. I made sure I was near the front so I could stay out of trouble and be in a good position for any inevitable attacks.

After about 10kms I moved to the very front of the bunch, and just like that, there was an attack launched from the ORICA girls. The gutter action begun, other riders started chopping wheels for the best positions to stay out of the strong winds. I rode as hard as I could to stay in a good position. The girls were still driving it on the front and everyone was on edge and scrambling for positions. The field was strung out in one big line. My legs and lungs were burning. I was riding as hard as I could just to hold the wheel. 16kms into the race, bang! I heard the awful sound of brakes screeching, bikes piling up and bodies hitting the ground. There was a massive crash just behind me. A lot of girls went down. I hope none of my team mates were involved.

The crash stirred things up and riders were scattered everywhere. A few girls in front of me started dropping the wheel. I need to move up, but the wind is too strong, I can’t bridge the gap. I keep riding, in my drops, big gear, almost chewing my headstem just to try and keep contact with the bunch. I catch 2 other girls and we start working together. As the first few cars of the convoy pass I sprint to get behind them but they accelerate too quickly and I’m by myself again. I can still see the bunch ahead, but I can’t bridge the gap.

My team car finally comes past and slows down just enough for me to get on the back. One of my teammates is there as well. A moment of relief. I’m on the rivet, chasing hard to get back to the bunch. We are straying too far behind and a commissaire tells our DS he needs to move up to the convoy. He accelerates, I get out the saddle in an effort to stay with the car. The other girls who were behind the car are long gone.

I press on. I’m in a big gear and have a good rhythm, even though I’m suffering. Suddenly, the car eases off. We’ve caught up to the convoy! I jump to the next car, and the next, and the next. After all that hard chasing, I finally reach the bunch again. It’s the 2nd bunch, the strong winds and high pace split the field, but I’m back in the race. Our group works well together, everyone is rolling through taking turns. We are diagonal across the road, forming one big echelon. I try to stay out of the wind as much as possible, but keep taking turns to help try and catch the front group. No one likes someone who sits on. The wind is so strong, I’m being blown sideways and having to tense my body and grip my handlebars to stay upright. We are riding along the coast now and the wind is blowing off the shore. ‘Just keep rolling through, stay protected, do your bit’ I’m telling myself. We keep riding. Everyone is struggling.

We turn right and the BMC mens team are standing on the corner cheering us on. A little bit of extra motivation. There is a bit of confusion after the corner. Some girls are saying to roll to the left, some are saying to the right. It takes a while, but we get back into rhythm and are chasing again. We’re still 5 minutes down. It goes on  for a while, echelon, rolling turns, strong winds, suffering.

The start of the QOM. I am really hurting, my breathing is getting bad. I need to calm down. I’m at the back of the group, trying to hold the wheel. It gets steeper, and I get dropped.   I keep my own pace, trying to get into a rhythm and control my breathing. It flattens out. I change into a bigger gear and push harder in the flat section and get myself onto the back of the bunch again. Then it kicks up. 500m to go, and I’m climbing as well as I can, but I get dropped again. I get to the top and my team car comes up beside me and we exchange bidons – empty for full. I work my way back onto the bunch, they have slowed at the top, sorting themselves out with water.

Now the course starts to get lumpy. A small decent, I wish it went longer. We go up again. Each rise, I force myself to hang on. I’m hurting bad, we’re 75km in. Normally a race would be finished about now. Up and down up and down. I miss out a few turns. I can’t afford to keep doing work on the front or I’ll be dropped for good.

There’s another big climb. I’m hanging on the back but half way up I can’t hang on anymore. I drop back a long way. Convoy cars pass me, and I see my team car. Our manager and DS encourage me. ‘Keep going Stace. Get back on’ I sit in behind the car and work my way to the top of the hill. I get back to the bunch, but theres another hill. I’m dropped again. Cars pass. I jump onto the cars and try and use the convoy. I take some deep breaths and go for it again. I jump from car to car and chase my way back to the bunch. I can’t keep doing this. I have to stay with the bunch.

I can’t. I’m pushing myself so much. There are some steep hills now and I’m done. I’m exhausted. I battle just to get over them. Cars keep passing me and eventually I’m at the back of the convoy. My team car stays with me as I’m the first one in my team.  Now it’s just getting through. Not far to go now. Their encouragement really helps me. I’m going a lot faster than I would be without their support. I’m glad; the faster I go, the quicker I finish the race!  The last 4kms and I just hold a tempo to get to the finish line. The atmosphere is incredible. Such big crowds and so much support from them, something you don’t normally get in women’s racing. I cross the line, and that becomes the longest race I have ever done – 116kms of suffering.

Stacey ended up finishing 15 minutes behind the winner. After hearing her ordeal I asked her what she thought about this style of racing, to which she replied

I love it

So there we have it. Hope you enjoyed the read. I’m looking to cover more and more of the local women’s racing, in a similar fashion. If you have any critiques or general comments let me know below.

 

The Women’s Tour Down Under

I’m sure many of you are aware of and perhaps following the men’s Santos Tour Down Under, but did you know there was a Santos women’s TDU running alongside? The Santos women’s Tour Down Under consisted of 4 stages, making for 4 hard days of racing. I caught up with Naima Madlen Dieser, a mountain bike rider from German team Kenda-DMC, riding the Santos Women’s Tour with local team United Solutions Group (USG). She was nice enough to have a quick chat with me, and provide a race report for each stage. The race reports were first published by the peloton cafe, and are provided here with permission from Naima and Sam Young. For the original articles please see the Peloton Cafe: Stage 1Stage 2, Stage 3Stage 4

Naima Madlen Diesner in the People's Choice Classic - Photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

Naima Madlen Diesner in the People’s Choice Classic – photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

Stage one was a 60km stage from Woodside to Murray Bridge, an undulating course with a few tough climbs. Valentina Scandolara from ORICA-AIS won the stage with a solo effort Here’s what Naima had to say about the stage:

A nice race to start with, so I was told. The first kilometres are flat to slightly undulating. I move up and back down in the group, catching some of my team mates jerseys further up in the front. I better join them. There is a tight bend early on and the bunch loosens up, allowing me to reposition myself before we head down a hill. There is some harsh breaking going on in the descent. Once my back wheel seems to slide away for a second, but it’s alright.

The first climb is hard and I can see my teammates struggling, starting to fall behind. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to stay with the group. Eventually the course flattens up, but the group has been split and I can’t see any matching jerseys around. At kilometre 25 I find myself on the back wheel of Georgia Bronzini (two-time world champion). I was so thirsty, but I didn’t want to take my hands off the handlebars or lose any places!

Not long after, the surface of the road gets rougher and the ride is getting pretty bumpy. My eyes jump to both my wheels. No puncture. Just the road. The second climb must be near. I’m moving up, but it won’t help me. I’m missing the front group by a few metres. And the next bit is flat, no descent to come back easily!

I’m dropped from the group, and I’m waiting for two girls to catch up and we start chasing. I’m not coping too well, the ladies ride strong against the wind. We catch three more girls and we can see the peloton. Everyone’s working hard to get any closer, but I’m working hard to hang in and just not get dropped.

Coming into the final kilometres we are crossing the Murray River, and it’s only one more climb to the finish. We catch some more riders, while our little group falls apart. I decide to go, no one follows. More riders appear in front of me, but I can’t reach them. The finish line shows up and I’m happy to have made it, three minutes and eighteen seconds down on the winner.

Stage two was the People’s Choice Classic, a criterium circuit around the streets of Adelaide. Many people came to watch this stage and it was a fast, exciting race won by ORICA-AIS rider Melissa Hoskings.

A strung out field, can you spot Naima? - Photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

A strung out field, can you spot Naima? – photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

I am really anxious about this one, I know that the big teams would try to set a high pace and maybe try and split up the groups like they did yesterday. It’s going to be really important to stay up near the front and be there at the right time today. It’s a big field with lots of riders, on a narrow course, and I know it’s going to be hard.

We line up on the road, following the chief commissaries’ car to get on the course for a neutralised lap. It’s going to be a fast race: a winding part at the beginning, leading into a straight passage to pick up some speed until the headwind tries to slow you down. Around the next corner the pace is on and you’ve got to go hard and then it’s one more corner back onto the finishing straight.

The streets are packed with people on either side of the course and they make so much noise. I hear someone call my name, but I’m focussing on the wheel in front of me. It gets faster, the race is on. 14 laps. There’s nowhere to recover, even on the flatter and faster bits I need to work hard, keep the wheel and try to move further up. I can spot two teammates not far ahead of me – Good work girls, I’m on my way to you!

Its the long corner at the end of the lap where I manage to move up. Seven more laps to go. Or seven done? Right now I’m too busy to think about it. A rider on my left is not keeping her line, almost causing a crash. I have to slow down while passing her, and make sure I stay in front of her for the rest of the race.

It’s four more laps to go and I really want to finish this. My legs burn, so do my lungs. I hold on to my position, try to move up and catch up to my team mates. Three more laps to go. Two more. The speed goes up again, riders overtake me. Just one more lap and I try to focus on keeping the wheel in front of me while staying alert for some possibly silly finish sprint actions. I haven’t seen my teamie Michelle, I just wish she is on my wheel so I can help her doing a nice little final sprint. There are riders blocking my way, I can’t get past them. But it doesn’t matter too much, so I’m not pushing for it. I’m reaching the finish line in the bunch. I’m out of breath and my legs hurt, but I’m all happy.

Stage 3 was taken out by Wiggle Honda rider Giorgia Bronzi, from a select group of 11 riders. It was a tough hilly stage through the Adelaide hills, Naima recounts:

I line up in front row with my team mate Hannah, making sure to position well right from the start. We roll out of Tanunda quickly picking up speed. I feel good moving within the bunch during the first undulating kilometres. I move up to the front. Right now we are not going particularly fast. This is when I decide to accelerate and I really end up in the front – on my own. That wasn’t part of the plan!

A motorbike is somewhere on the right. I manage to stay here for a little while, then I’m back in the bunch. One of the reasons I’m in the race is to try new things and have some fun, and maybe that’s what you’d call it! It’s going slightly uphill for the next couple of kilometres. It gets faster just before Williamstown. I am unable to keep the wheel and fall behind.

I’m in a group of three and we are chasing on the descent, catching up with three more girls. The course flattens out, taking turns is getting harder. I’m struggling. At least I have two of my teammates with me on board. One falls behind. I’m still fighting to stay in the group. At some point the car convoy is passing us.

No good. It’s frustrating that we’re so far back, but we keep on chasing. I want to be a part of the race again! Girls catch back up to us, our group gets a little bigger. It even seems like we are about to get back onto the cars. We manage to pass them and the gap to the peloton gets smaller and smaller. We’re shouting to each other “come on, come on!” Some last efforts and we are back, back in the game.

Happy for now. I try to move up in the bunch, but there is hardly any time to recover and we are about to climb again. I look at my watch: the KOM climb up Checker Hill is about to start. The speed picks up, I try to hold onto the wheels in front of me. Not being very successful. The road gets steeper and steeper. In Germany when you’re pedalling slowly they say you’re like a windmill. One of those wooden ones from the middle ages. A few cars overtake me. There are people cheering, friends calling my name. The end must be near, but it is still so very steep.

Finally, it eases up. A short steep descent follows. It’s flat again and I am back in a group of about seven ladies, including my team mate Stacey. A spectator is calling “it’s just descending from now on”. I am pretty sure he is wrong. However, the descent is great fun, but picked with numerous little climbs in between. Our group collects a few more riders.

At some point I recognise the street. It’s not that much further. The kilometres pass quickly. I can feel everyone is getting a little tense. Last turn. I can see the finish and we are getting faster. Just a few more metres. I manage to move up to the front, leading our group into the finish. Good work girls!

The fourth and final stage of the Santos women’s TDU consisted of a 70 minute criterium at Victoria Park race course, just outside the Adelaide CBD. ORICA-AIS were looking for a hard race, splitting the field early. They were rewarded for their efforts with their sprinter, Melissa Hoskings taking the win. Naima was one of the many riders who didn’t make the split, she recalls:

Before the start it’s hot and humid. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was rain coming soon. The wind is nasty. Our team tent needs to be secured or it gets blown away. My teamies and I roll onto the course, getting used to the wind and its direction. Feels like there’s headwinds everywhere. The fencing keeps falling onto the course several times. Some spectators volunteer to stabilise it, and make sure it doesn’t fall over during the race.

The start line fills up even earlier than the day before. Good positions are highly rated. To keep up the traditions, I’m there fifteen minutes before the start, standing next to Hannah in the first row. The race is set for 60 minutes plus 3 laps. The grand stand is packed with people, cheering and taking pictures. We are about to start.

I have to focus on the start. I’m standing on the very left and if I don’t get moving I will get caught by parts of the narrowing fence. Countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Go!

No entanglement with the fence. The speed is high from the very first second and the headwind shows no mercy. I try to hide in the upper part of the bunch, but it’s not getting any easier. It must be the third lap when everyone starts to line up in single file. No hiding. Speed still up. It’s only a few minutes into the race but I’m already starting to struggle.

I fall behind. I try to catch one of the passing wheels, I manage but then I’m losing it again. I hang on for a few more laps. Riding in single file makes the riders spread out on half the course, and I’m pretty sure I’m about to reach the end of it.

There is a gap behind me. And then I can’t prevent the gap in front of me and get dropped. I keep on going. After a while there are riders on my wheel. They must have been here for a while and I get a little angry for being all alone working on the front. Finally they take turns too but it doesn’t make a difference. We will not catch up to the group. The race is over.

A hard and fast race - photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

A hard and fast race – photo courtesy Mila Knezovic

(center left) the Australian national champion (Peta Mullens) flanked by a High5 team mate

(center left) the Australian national champion (Peta Mullens) flanked by a High5 team mate

Overall, the Tour was taken out by Valentina Scandolara, after her impressive ride on stage one. The green sprinter’s jersey was won by Annette Edmondson, and the climber’s red and white polka-dot jersey was won taken out by Loren Rowney.

(Left) Overall winner Valentina Scandolara and (Right) KOM winner Loren Rowney - photo credit Mila Knezovic

(Left) Overall winner Valentina Scandolara and (Right) KOM winner Loren Rowney – photo credit Mila Knezovic

(Center Left) Annette Edmondson, winner of the sprinter's jersey - photo credit Mila Knezovic

(Center Left) Annette Edmondson, winner of the sprinter’s jersey – photo credit Mila Knezovic

Thanks for reading!