The Tracey Gaudry Diary 1999
The Local East Coast Australian Time is
Tour de Haute Carrone, France, April 23-25Stage 1: Toulouse - Colomiers, 88 kms, April 23:
Yet, again the order of the day was wind, rain and cold temperatures. Mythermal gloves already worn out, I contemplated frost bitten fingers yetagain, and quickly decided that to go begging for a pair was a wiseroption. Luckily Karen Kurreck was nearby and gave me her 'reserve' pair - Iwouldn't have minded them for my 'good' pair! She said I owed her a leadoutfor the favour. Read on!
A 10km 'depart-fictif' (neutral zone) was the prelude to the start. Nothingworse than riding a neutral in the rain. There were already crashes here asthe whole way was down narrow roads with multitudes of roundabouts andmedian strips. Not ideal for 100 or so riders.
As the 'depart-reel' commenced we slid down the road - literally. The wholeright hand side of the road was covered in oil for nearly 10km, lookinglike a major leak had occured earlier. With so much rain in the pastfortnight, there should have been none of the usual patches of oil.Immediately a small break went down the road. Juanita and I went to thefront to chase and were bringing them back slowly. There were riders fromabout fived teams in it. I dropped back a few places, stupidly, and lo andbehold we entered yet another narrow stretch of road (still along the oilysection) where it narrowed due to a long median strip.
I literally watched the girls topple off in front of me. I stopped in timebut got hit from behind and went down. The body was fine, but the bike wasdamaged - handlebars askew, brakes rubbing and rear stay dinted! No time tofix anything up. I jumped back on and let the front brakes off whilechasing back to the bunch. Lizzie was up the road getting on another bike,so I waited for her. She stopped again to tend to another mechanical so Ikept going. I was chasing with Rasa Polikeviciute (or something like that)and we were gaining. I looked behind to see a bunch of 20 or so coming upso we waited for them - Jeannie was amongst them. She, Rasa and I workedtogether and got our bunch back up very quickly, good.
I was rapt to see that the early break had been brought back, much to thework of Juanita and Laurence. It was now about 25km into the race. Justenough time to think about the first KOM for the day. It was a good one. Ihad an attack early, and then settled. Another attack went and about adozen of us drilled it up the hill and we were away, just like that! Thebreak was strong with two Canadians, two Edil Savino, two Russia, me,Germany, England, France and I can't remember the others. The next KOM wasanother grinder and we dumped Espeseth (CAN), Kurreck (Edil Savino) and oneother. No worries about a lead-out for Karen now! The remaining girlscontinued to work. Another KOM! We dumped one Russian and the French girlblasted over the top, riding away like we were standing still - but wedriving as hard as we could! The remaining 30km consisted of strong winds,rain and undulating hills. There were only four of us left: Clara Hughes(CAN), me, Samoklanova (RUS), Sara Symington (GBR) and Judith Arntz (GER).I had a very strong group around me. Despite our consistent team-trialingwe couldn't put a dent in the gap that the French girl had put into us -wonder what she had for breakfast! My cornflakes just didn't do it for me.
At 15km to go, I downed a Coke for a bit of a boost. I am still lacking instrength and power, and the energy supply wanes very quickly. But I washere! The sprint was going to be tough. Clara went first, at 2km to go. Iquickly jumped to her wheel with the others in tow. A few slippery,off-cambre roundabouts later and we were in the home straight with a slightdrag. I went from 250m and wound it up well but dropped it down into the53/13, too big to turn quickly enough. Sara got over me in the last 20m.
Well, that sets up GC pretty well for the first day. The French girl (sorryI don't know her name) was 2 minutes ahead!!!!! The next small group ofriders (the ones we dropped) were about 4 minutes behind us and the bunchwas 3 minutes behind them. Juanita and Laurence worked well to keep thecounter attacks at bay. Another teammate Aline crashed and chased for agesto get back to the bunch (with help from the team car) and won the'Combatante' award (most aggressive/determined award) for her efforts. Iwill have a hard time for the next 3 stages being the only Ebly rider ingood GC position at the moment.
I am running 3rd in the Points, KOM and Sprint jerseys.
Tonight, the legs are already feeling that familiar tingly, fatigued feeling- very reminiscent of those early season races!
Pre-race notice: The French girl in the lead is Loewenguth. Don'tknow much more about her than that she rode for Ebly last year in HewlettPackard, but didn't do anything much.
The 'significant' team list for this tour: Ebly, Lithuania, Russia,Germany, France, Edil Savino, Mazza, Canada, Great Britain, Holland, SouthAfrica, ... plus 10 or so European trade teams.
Stage 2: Roquettes - Tournefeuille, 65 kms, April 24:
The weather forecast for today was fine this morning followed by a wetafternoon. We'll see. This stage was to be the 'baby' of all stages,shortest and flattest. We strove to get through it with minimal damage tothe legs because the afternoon stage was to be tough all the way with ahilltop finish.
Well, it may have been flat, but oh boy, was it windy! To make it worse,the wind was coming from the right so we were hugging the left gutter(remember that this is the wrong side of the road in Europe). All oncomingtraffic was being pulled over to allow us through which meant that thevehicles were also in the left gutter ahead of us. With a single file trainof riders 200m long the only place to be was in the first 4 or 5 wheels,else you couldn't see anything ahead and had no idea of when to swervearound vehicles. To make it worse, this was a busy road.
A few attacks went early on, but were brought back. At 30km a super breakwent down the road with riders from 7 teams, including Clara Hughes (CAN),me and Liz Tadich (MAZZA). Everyone was working hard, but soon realisedthat Clara and I had the most to gain, being the highest on GC. The tourleader, 2nd and 4th place were all back in the bunch, their teams chasinglike mad. We got hauled in and resigned ourselves to a bunch kick.
Jeannie was nowhere to be seen. In her own words, 'at my age, this amountof danger is not worth it for me'. I could understand where she was comingfrom. The road conditions where treacherous, with roundabouts, rain and thelike. Aline (who won the combatante prize the day before) did not start dueto a knee inflammation from the crash. Juanita was finding her legs, butlike Laurence, was not keen to mix it up the front. For 12 of the last 15kmI sat 3rd wheel in the steam train. This was a good possie, even though itwas still hard going, the wind was that strong. With 2km to go the Dutch,German, and Edil Savino trains wound it up. I was fine until the lastcorner and got lost in the bunch as I got swamped (hmmm, that yuckyfamiliar predicament). I finished in the bunch. Ho hum. Greta Zocca (EdilSavino) won the stage. Judith Arndt (same GC time as me) placed highlywhich meant that she moved into 3rd and relegated me to 4th overall. Darn!
Stage 3: Montesquieu - St. Bertrand, 73 kms, April 24:
Had a biggish lunch, a short rest, and then drove about 70km (yes, that'sright) to the start of the afternoon stage. In the half hour before we setoff I changed clothes 3 times, the weather was so fickle! In the end it wasfine and sunny, YIPPEEEEEE!
This stage turned out to be harder than the profile let on. It consisted of3 KOM's and 1 road sprint, but the terrain was gnarly all the way. A fewattacks went but nothing was staying away for long. Jacinta Coleman(Lizzie's teammate) won the 'Combatante' award with a 10km solo effort. Shewon a wallet and a watch for her efforts. I was feeling shocking, with astomach ache from too much sugar and my legs were cramping. Laurence wasvery helpful in telling me when the difficult or dangerous sections of roadwere coming up. I stayed at the front, near Clara Hughes as she was settingtempo with the Canadian team at the front. I figured they wouldn't wantanything to get away. Sara Symington (GBR) was my second shadow. EdilSavino was in cahoots with the French girl's team. Ebly's team of three wasoutnumbered.
With 3km to go I could see the way to the finish - the picturesque castleon top of the mountain! Oh, why can't we be tourists for just one day? Thiswas it. I had to finish in front of Clara, Judith and Sara. The attack went- Karen Kurreck and Sue Palmer, who had both been 'baby-sat' by their teamsfor the whole ride. I couldn't quite get tthem. Judith came flying pastwith a Russian. I struggle on. The mountain got steeper. I dug in. Judithwas hurting and looked around seeing me coming. Ha! I attacked her with500m to go, which is actually a long way when you're racing up a 10% climb.I rounded the final corner and flung the bike at the line just missing theRussian to take 4th place. Kurreck and Palmer had gone up the wrong side ofthe barrier but were awarded placings due to the fault of the lead car. Ithought I had taken time out of Judith, but they didn't award any. Poo! Itook time out of Sara Symington and Clara though, which was good. Juanitafinished brilliantly to take 9th, showing increasing strength in everystage. I was glad because we'll certainly have our work cut out for ustomorrow. Fingers crossed for the podium tomorrow!
Stage 4: Portet - Portet, 118km, April 25:
We arose to the morning sun streaming in our window this morning, placingus in good spirits for the final day. All was well until we left the hotelat 11am for the start at midday. They figured that, with a 10km neutral wedidn't need to get there early for a warmup. Fair enough. Except that thestart was only 10km away and we got lost, arriving with only a few minutesto get ready and sign on! It is always these times when something goeswrong, like your bike, or you have forgotten your race food, etc. Still weall lined up before the 10km street parade departed. I have been gettinginto the habit of eating half of my race food at, or before the start as Ihave often found myself going flat in the middle of the race. This approachhas been working although you feel a little full for the first 20km or so.Today, I had eaten everything before I finished the neutral, and had to goback to the car for more! Enough dribble for now.
The first half of the race was by far the hardest, with 4 KOM sprints and 3road sprints (all uphill as well). I was running 4th in the KOMclassification before this stage, and there was money up for grabs for thetop 3 places, so I went for a few of the KOMs with the help of Juanita whoset superb tempo up the first half of the climbs with Sue Palmer (CAN). Ihad secured 3rd in the KOM classification. Meanwhile poor Lizzie was havinga bad tour and dropped off the bunch. A combination of a lot of hard racingearly in the season, a few heavy mishaps and shocking training weathersince she has been here in Europe. Things will get better for her, she'spretty determined.
Again many riders attacked, Juanita, Laurence and Jacinta Coleman (Mazza)among them, but there was never a solid enough breakaway group formed tomaintain a break. After the last KOM at 72km I settled in for the flat rideinto town. Juanita had done a superb job in the hilly terrain helping tokeep me near the front. She was riding like a trooper. Laurence is not sostrong but helped enormously with info. about the roads and terrain, andgetting me bidons, etc. I had 'chatted' with Sara Symington (GBR) about thefinish. We planned to launch an attack with about 1km to go, so she couldhave the stage and hopefully I would get enough points to move ahead ofJudith Arndt who was on the same GC time as me. It was going to be tough,Edil Savino, Germany and France were keeping a very close eye on me andSara. The last 15km was the typical obstacle course that the sadisticFrench tour directors seem to love! I was heading down the middle of theroad behind one girl and looked up to see a median strip looming ahead. Iyelled out and swerved to the left while the bunch went right. The girl infront of me went straight ahead and over the top of her handlebars (we say'A over T'). Ouch!
At 4km to go, Catherine Marsal launched a huge attack with a French girl intow. At 3km to go, I tried to bridge across but of course the rest of EdilSavino and the Germans mowed me down. Pretty silly. I should have waiteduntil 1km to go as planned. The last 1km consisted of a roundabout, left.right, roundabout, right, left. Extremely technical. When I got caught, thebunch (about 40 strong) swamped me. I managed to slot in the middle tofinish decently in the final kick, placing 12th overall for the stage.Marsal held off the bunch to finish 3 seconds ahead of us - a damn fineeffort. I must say that my bike does handle well around corners. The bottombracket is a little higher than I have had before, which is not good forthe fact that you are sitting up higher in the wind, but it means I canthrow the bike into corners and pedal out of them quicker without scrapingthe pedal on the downstroke.
Well that's the tour over. We're all pretty happy, given that this is thefirst UCI ranked tour that Juanita and I have raced in Europe this year, aswell as being the first for Ebly. We achieved three Top 10 stage placings:3rd, 4th, 9th; third in the KOM classification and 3rd overall for theTour. Juanita's form is coming along very nicely. She always says that shekicks in on the 3rd day or thereafter. Tour de l'Aude look out!
I don't have the stage, or overall results yet as we bailed out for the 6hour drive home. We stayed for the podium presentation of overall placingsthough, where I was presented with a microwave oven for achieving 3rdoverall on the General Classification. Not a bad pickup. We haven't got onein our studio apartment.
Now, a long drive home and a couple of days of R&R after which we willhopefully get to tackle some of the mountain passes surrounding ourpicturesque township. Sounds very massachistic, but when you have theextremely mountainous Tour de l'Aude coming up, and have done no serioustraining in two weeks (lucky we have been racing), the mountain terrainalmost looks inviting. Au Revoir!
Fleche Gasconne (French National Series), Pavie, April 18Stage 1: 91 kms:
It's raining, it's pouring. The old man is snoring ... bit like a brokenrecord. Luckily the hotel we stayed at the night before did all of ourwashing so we had clean race gear and thermals. Jeannie had done well,pre-ordering our meals so we could eat, shower, dump our washing and getstraight to bed - that's what I call service!
This morning about 70 riders fronted up, including Lithuania, Russia andthe French National Team, as well as all riders from the day before. Again,the roads were to be narrow and rough (only 1.5 metres wide in manyplaces). With an early descent, the only place to be was in the frontbecause the roads were too narrow to move up through the bunch. All of Eblyexcept me was at the back. And you can guess what happened next. A coupleof French riders attacked with a Canadian. The French riders were onlyaverage so I kept tempo on the front keeping them at a handy distance so anEbly rider could jump across. Canada and Lithuania were not letting me goanywhere, employing very negative race tactics. As this was a Frenchselection race, the host-country women were also all over me (I had myAustralia jersey and Ebly knicks on that day). Juanita came to the frontand started driving, but no-one else was coming to the fore for the chase.This is often what National level racing is all about. Longo had not reallyissued any pre-race directives, and when the other riders started tocontribute, it was in vain of bringing back the break. Juanita and Iresolved to use this as a training ride.
At the end, the Canadian finished solo. The two French girls were only aminute ahead. We could have brought them back before the finish, and Iwould have chased to help get a result for one of the French-origin Eblyriders, but they were not interested. Instead, I pondered how my knottedquads and glutes would handle the time trial this afternoon.
Stage 2: 7km Individual Time Trial
This is more like it. Except I felt like crap. The cold weather certainlytakes its toll on your muscles, especially when faced with long car trips,no recovery rides and no massage. I ate mashed spuds and cream caramel forlunch, not quite what I would prescribe for a short, mountainous timetrial. I am definitely learning to adapt to the 'make do with what you havegot' scenario.
We put our bikes together. Darn, I had left the 49-54 chain rings on fromthe pancake flat Nationals ITT! This afternoon was to be 2.5km uphill withsteep pinches, 2km downhill on a rough, narrow, winding goat trail - greatfor a TT bike with a disc! - and 2.5km of false flat. I tested out thecircuit with a 23 cog on the back. Too big. So, we made do with a 12-259-speed cluster and 49-54 chain rings. Definitely not orthodox gearing fora TT! I was very impressed though with a very good disc which fitted a9-speed Dura-Ace cluster. Longo certainly has some stuff.
I set off in the middle of the draw with two minute gaps between riders.This seemed excessive for a 7km ITT, but if someone crashed on the narrowtrails, it would cause complete havoc if they weren't cleaned up off theroad before another rider came through. There was also no room for passing.
I took it really easy up the steep mountainside, nearly crawling in places.My legs haven't yet got the 'punch' back in them. This was a good move. Iflew down the other side, loving the 'rally-driver' descent, and was ableto wind it up quickly on the straight false flat. There's something quite'out-there' about hooting along in a 54-12. I clocked in for the fastesttime to date, but knew there were a few hitters to come - Clignet, Hughes,Russians, Lithuanians.
Well, Clara also had a blast, winning by 12 seconds. She is coming intosome great form. I was extremely happy with my ride to finish 2nd. And formy efforts - sweet nothing! No obligation to pay out for French NationalSeries races.
1. Clara Hughes (Can) 10.54 2. Tracey Gaudry (Aus) Ebly 11.06 3. Maryline Salvetat (Fra) 11.19 4. Marion Clignet (Fra) Dream Team 11.22 .. 7. Jeannie Longo (Fra) Ebly 11.3610. Juanita Feldhahn (Aus) Ebly 11.42
Grand Prix Granits de la Balme, Castres, April 17This race was over 78km (5x15.5km circuits).
We arose early for a 500km drive to the south of France for a weekend ofracing where the weather was supposed to be fine. However the previousevening's news told us that a sou-wester was bringing storms from the sea.We drove off anyway, leaving a sunny Chambery behind.
Arriving at midday for a 2pm start we huddled, depressed, in the race carnot enjoying the thought of racing in extreme conditions so soon after thescarring blizzard in Belgium. Still, we hopped on our bikes for this raceon the French National Calendar. The circuit was hilly with very narrow,muddy, rough roads - perfect for a rainy, windy day! The peloton consistedmainly of French-based riders belonging to domestic teams, plus Ebly andCanada. Marion Clignet was making her early season debut.
We were active along with Canada right from the start. In conditions likethis it is safer in small bunches. Clara Hughes (Canada) was away on thefirst lap going solo after dropping a French girl. As we were chasing, shefell off, plop, on a relatively easy corner. Good ribbing value for therest of the race! Laurence then tried to bridge across to another Canadianwho had attacked earlier, but couldn't make it. As I tried to help herrecover to no avail, the bunch was continually surging and attacking. I gotback into the action and Jeannie motioned that she would drive it up to themountain sprint . I had no legs to attack over the top, and watched in vainas Clara attacked again. In desperation I broke away for the chase, needingto get to her before she reached her team-mate 200m down the road. Conditions favoured Clara - downhill, block headwind - and she knew it. Shereached her team-mate before the bottom of the descent and away they went.
Solo, I chased, and chased, and chased,.... for the next 55km in fact. Eachlap, the gap went from 20 seconds (as I gained on them going uphill) to 40seconds (as they pulled away in the headwind on the downhill sections).Extremely frustrating when you can see their following vehicle the wholeway. On a positive note, I got some great wet weather descending practiseand just a little time trialing in as well! At the end, they were 50seconds in front of me. I was 3.5 minutes in front of Longo who had put 1.5minutes into the bunch on the last lap. So, my first podium finish inEurope for the season.
After the race, my immediate feedback from Patrice (Longo's husband) andJeannie was what I did wrong, with a little recognition about what aneffort it was to ride solo for 55km. An interesting approach, but I took iton board. At least they see me trying. I won about $30AUD for my efforts.That doesn't go far among 6 riders!
La Fleche Wallone, Belgium, World Cup 4, 93 kms, April 14,As I peeked out from my blankets in the primitive school-house dormitory Itried to fool myself that the warmth in the air was not the heater, butcoming from a clear sunny day outside - isn't imagination a wonderfulthing! Promisingly it wasn't raining, but simply bleak. The day before wehad arrived to 4 degree weather, at 3pm!
Today was the inaugural 1999 international competition for team Ebly(except Longo), consisting of:
Jeannie Longo - need I say more?
There is quite some experience among most of the girls, so we'll see howthings get on.
All morning the skies held off, and it wasn't quite freezing. Still at thelast minute I dashed to the team car to add a pair of woollen gloves andlycra bootees to my double layer thermal attire (not quite looking like theMichelan man, but nearly).
Promptly at 12 noon, 150+ keyed up women shot from the start line to embarkupon the most taxing 90-something km race many would have come across todate. Within 15 minutes, it had started to drizzle. There was a great dealof downhill at the start, so I kept near the front. Most riders were erringon the side of caution. I slipped my sunnies into my back pocket - theywould be no longer needed. Two minutes later, I heard a 'crunch'. Hmmm, mysunnies made sure they would certainly not be needed any longer. Lessonnumber 1: the Ebly jersey pockets are loose!
It started pelting down with hail, sharply stinging my face. With squintedeyes, we flew down a 12% descent towards some railway lines. I heard'attentione!' being yelled from a few riders in front. Thinking that thiswas the usual customary warning from the bunch, I eased the brakes onslowly. Shit - they had crashed on the train tracks! Somehow I manouvredthe obstacle course of riders and bikes strewn across the road and stayedupright. World Champ Diana Ziliute, Polikevicute and Zabirova were downalong with many others including poor Lizzie who had been collected frombehind - her run of bad luck continuing. Most got back up, I think.Everyone was pretty cautious after that. I must say that my bike handlesvery well, and my tires (Continental 'something') have a lot of 'stick'!
Well, here it comes - SNOW!!!!!! And lots of it. Crikey, we were only 30kminto the race. Gradually the bunch dwindled. I could now only see an Eblyrider every so often. Aline was still there, keeping out of trouble,Juanita was hating the ride, the others were tiring and dropped off.Juanita pulled the pin at 60km with no motivation or need to punish herbody any longer. I still had visions of a top 10-20 finish to gain valuableWorld Cup and UCI points. The legs were there, but the hands and feet werecompletely numb and the mind was not far behind!
I teetered from the front to the middle to the rear of bunch and back againseveral times, my concentration impaired, unable to communicated with Alinewho seemed oblivious of her suffering team member. The security and moralsupport of the National and ACTAS teams was no longer. Still, it was onlyour first race. Pity it was such an important one. By 70km I was having towatch my fingers on the brake levers when going downhill to make sure theywere engagin the brakes - I couldn't even gauge the pressure! I couldn'tget food from my pockets and was completely hunger-flat. The extraskinfolds and kilo of weight I put on after New Zealand was no insulation.For once I envied the extra 'winter coat' worn by some of the 'seasonallyadjusted' riders! Clara Hughes chuckled at me in sympathy.
As a last resort, I dropped to the back of the bunch and signaled for ourteam car. A neutral car motioned me back behind the Commissaire's vehicleas the whole convoy was caught behind a bunch further behind us. I managedto get a muesli bar (yeah, great energy value!) and scoffed it down as theneutral car sped off, leaving me dagged 200m behind the bunch with noconvoy to use to bridge back up - shit, what sort of treatment is this? Idangled there until the Ebly car came across to me and gave me a squeezy.They were also 'moved on' by the Commissaire, and again I was leftdangling. I gradually caught small bunches as they dropped off front group,now numbering around 30.
At 15km to go I was slightly delirious, and 'mind over matter' was onlyjust working in keeping my legs turning and my arms steering. We still hadthe 2km 19% climb to the finish to abseil! It was all I could do to zigzagup the wall, just coordinating my arms, legs and torso enough to stop fromtoppling off. The day before it had felt like a breeze cruising up on mybrand new super-light 'DUITAMA' bike. I finished just on 3 minutes down,from Hanka Kupfernagel. Pukinskaite, Pieters and Luperini were the nextplace getters. Hanka (unfortunately for Anna) has donned the World Cupleaders jersey (hopefully not for long). Aline had an great ride to finishin the Top 20.
It took several minutes for the team car to arrive, while l slumpedjibbering in a gutter. Certainly a far cry from the glam image that much ofthe public have of our sport. The comforting warmth of the car turned intopure agony for the next 15 minutes as my chilblained fingers seared withthe pain from the rapid increase in temperature. We were all a completemess.
As I tried to logicize the race, I thought that in reality, odds wereagainst us. Normally, I'd take a harder line on myself. Only 4 days inEurope ( after 34 hours travel), a different bike, new team, new culture,unfamiliar environment , car travel the whole day before and the mostadverse conditions that a person could never expect to experience. If youwant character building, come to La Fleche Wallonne!
Onwards and upwards, I say.
ps. The maximum temperature for the day was 2 degrees, not counting thewind/snow chill factor. Over 4 inches of snow fell over the next 12 hours.
pps. For those that wondered (or guessed), our bikes named 'DUITAMA' areJeannie Longo's own handmade edition named after the '95 WorldChampionships in Duitama, Columbia which she won. The Road Race and ITTwere at 8000 feet altitude and the Road Race consisted of 5 laps of acircuit with a 5km wall of 15-20% gradient each lap! An apt name for aclimbing bike, wouldn't you think?
ppps. I don't ever want to hear a Canberran complaining about how I get tomiss the cold winter frosts back in the ACT ever again!
pppps. The next day, we were made to feel human again, at the official Eblyreception. The irony of it all is that I have just found out that oursponsor Ebly is a French gourmet 'wheat'-foods company - and I have agluten intolerance! Ha!
March 1999 - Australian National Road ChampionshipsNational Individual Time Trial - 27 kms (flat course)
We awoke to a cloudy, breezy, humid, coolish morning - reasonably goodconditions for the Gold Coast at a typically rainy time of year. Being thefirst event of the Nationals is always interesting to speculate about yourown preparation and form and that of your rivals. For me, the past ten days(since the overload of two international tours and two World Cup events intwo weeks) had been spent trying to rest and recover without coming to acomplete stand-still! In the early races, some of the Aussie girls(including myself) had SRM computers (very sophisticated training andracing devices, which record speed, cadence, distance, time, heart-rate,and the BIG one, power) fitted on their bikes. The daily races wereanalysed by gurus Dave Martin and Brian McLean at the AIS. My analysisrepeatedly reported record high levels of power output, and increasinglengths of time at considerable power. Hence the word 'trashed' very aptlydescribed me following this racing block. Still, the day before theNationals ITT, I was able to muster my first decent hit-out (albeit a shortone) to see if the legs would answer to the call.
In the pre-race media, I was tipped as a favourite alongside Kathy Watt.Fair enough, though I had never ruled out a number of other competitorsgiven that the dead-flat course would cater well to most riders. Therewasn't even a bump to aid the 'hill-climber types'!
27kms that felt like 57!
I started off quite smoothly, settling into a reasonably high thresholdpower level at high-ish cadence (about 105-110rpm). Throughout the 27km Iwas to hold a good steady pace, with consistent power and cadence, but knewI wasn't firing. My bike had recently been 'butchered', shortening thetime-trial bar reach by 4cm to conform with new UCI regulations. Not beingas aero-dynamic as before, I didn't let this bother me, having had a coupleof days to get used to the new position.
Being 3rd last off the ramp, I received a couple of time checks on all theriders in front of me, but nothing on Jodie Brewer or Kathy Watt. Within10km, I was already getting the 'thumbs down' on one rider - I wasn't toldwho that was but guessed correctly that it would be Kristy. Nobody hadconsidered her a contender, but I named her as one of the threats in thepre-race AAP report. On the flat she can generate high power and maintaingreat momentum, especially in windy conditions. The wind was basicallycross-head wind on the way out, cross-tail wind on the way back. I simplydidn't have enough top-end speed left to wind it up on the way back.
Kristy won by about 30 seconds from Kathy. I was 3rd, 20 seconds behindKathy, with Juanita Feldhahn a further 30 seconds down. Jodie Brewer (ACT)had a great ride to finish in 5th place overall, confirming that her Bronzemedal in 1998 wasn't a fluke.
So, while the cycling world is amazed, I see it as a great result forKristy to prove that she can produce the goods when it counts, andhopefully cement her selection into the new National Development CyclingTeam. Understandably, I would have loved to cap off a fantastic start tothe season with a win, but there's no shame in saying that I gave my all towin the Tour de Snowy and achieve further success in the World Cup races. Inow look forward to the Road Race on Saturday and Criterium on Sundayfollowed by a brief rest before heading off to France to mix it up on theWorld Circuit again.
National Road Race - Gold Coast, 108km (12km x 9 laps)
Hooray, the sky is clear! Well, all I could see when we rose for apre-start at 5am were bright stars in the dark sky. Not a very respectablehour to rise on the day of the big showdown. Still, that is what it wasalways going to be and I had plans to make it an exciting one! In actualfact, I still felt pretty sluggish, being the order of the day sincereturning from New Zealand. This wasn't going to perturb me as our team hadlaid some pretty work-able plans the night before. With fewer riders at theNationals than would normally be found in a big international race, it wasimportant to be fully aware of the capabilities of other state teams andindividuals. Playing the numbers game would be difficult when we only had 3riders, Jodie Brewer, Alison Wright and myself.
I must say before continuing that the course was superb! It would make anabsolutely gutwrenching circuit for a World Cup event. Not to mention thescenery - and I did take time to look around, before the race began!
Let the mind games begin!
The first lap was completed at reasonable pace, with nothing drastichappening. This suited me, as I hadn't 'ridden' my legs in well during anextended warmup. In the second lap, Jodie attacked over a rise (basicallywe rode uphill or downhill, except for the finishing straight across thedam wall) and quickly established a small gap. Philippa Hendron (NSW) andBronwyn Biggs (QLD) went across to her. We stalled firmly on the front andby the end of the 3rd lap, the trio had a gap of 1min30seconds. Therewasn't a lot of chasing going on, which enabled us to pace the race to ourliking. Alison and I took turn cover attacks. During the 4th lap, we sawthat Jodie and Philippa were coming back to the bunch. The QLD'er was stillout there. Jodie came back to the bunch and immediately sought furtherinstruction, which was great. Jodie's work had already been done well.
For the next two laps, several small attacks went from various ridersincluding Lyn Nixon, Sara Carrigan and Kathy Watt. The bunch was down toabout 20 or so riders, with Thursday's time trial champion Kristy having a'bad day at the office'. Poor Juanita's bad luck continued as she suffereda mechanical. Our team gave her my spare bike but that didn't help in theend.
During the 5th lap, I drifted to the back of the bunch to assess the stateof my rivals. Kathy dropped back too. A moment later, we both attackedsimultaneously, creating a decent break very quickly. I wasn't seriousabout this one, wanting to attack later on when the terrain was harder. Wewere brought back within a couple of km.
At the end of the 5th lap, I launched another huge attack from the base ofthe dam wall, nearly blowing up in the process, but achieving the desiredeffect of disintegrating the bunch and breaking away - only Kathy came withme. We quickly reeled in Bronwyn Biggs. She dropped off, unable to surge aswe went past. We hung at about 20-30 seconds from the bunch so I drove itagain for a while until I was satisfied with the gap. Alison was doing agreat job of covering counter-attacks.
The final 3 laps were spent playing cat-and-mouse. This is the mostmentally stressful side of racing. The pace fluctuated as we toyed witheach other, while making sure the chase bunch was kept at bay. Kathy was inconstant contact with her manager Carey Hall, having a two-way radio. A few'strong words' happened to pass between us also. I attacked several timesin the final laps to get a feel for Kathy's condition and to figure out thebest strategy for winning the race.
The moment of reckoning had arrived. I could feel the weight of it all onmy shoulders, knowing the importance of this prestigious race. We werenearly at a crawl going up the dam wall for the last time, neither of uswanting to lead it out. Kathy was in the front over the top andsoft-pedalled. I sat back and switched into a good sprinting gear. Thefinish line loomed ahead, becoming larger by the second. 600m, 500m, 400m,300m, 200m... and Kathy still hadn't made a move. At less than 200m, Ijumped and accelerated rapidly to gain 3 lengths - I had it in thebag!!!!!! I was absolutely ecstatic, and many others were extremelyrelieved, including my ACT coach Wazza and my beloved husband Tony who hadfollowed the whole race.
A couple of minutes later, I turned back to the finish line to watch theoutcome of the sprint for 3rd from the chase bunch, which was down to 9riders. Alison played her cards perfectly bursting late from the pack tocross the line ahead of them all to snare the bronze medal. A great day forthe ACT team indeed.
Not much more to say, except that I floated over the hilly ride home! Oh,and some small consideration as to how I would front up for the NationalCriterium race tomorrow morning, with a hangover!
National Criterium Championship - Nerang (30 mins + 3 laps)
Well, well - a slight headache coupled with a major dose of dehydration andsleeplessness, but that wasn't going to perturb me. Jodie, Alison and Irode out to the venue, a course designed like a mini road race circuit. Itwas quite hilly, so I was pleased - the specialist criterium riders werenot! In actual fact, some riders had not even competed in the Road Raceyesterday to save themselves for this race, albeit the 'consolation' prizeto the premier event, the Road Race.
30 Minutes + 3 laps, hardly long enough to raise a sweat!
Our plan was to make the race fast and hard, to make it tough for thesprinters. The race was really too short for my liking. We were all active,with Jodie attacking early, then me after about 20 minutes. My attack wentclear and I took only Kim Shirley (QLD) with me. I surged again and sheblew up, whoops, big mistake. The QLD'ers then chased me down after a fewlaps. There were only 5 laps (of a 1.4km circuit) to go. I noted that Kathywasn't doing anything much, neither was Kristy. Symeko Jochinke(track-endurance background) had used a lot of energy early. With a fewlaps to go, attacks were going everywhere, but were being brought backquickly.
With our 3rd rider out of the hunt (Jodie had done her job early in therace), I had to revise our plan and prepared to attack on the last risebefore a down-hill finish. I sat back from the front of the bunch to take aflyer. At the same time, Kathy attacked fiercely and took Juanita with her!I watched the others chasing her and getting nowhere as QLD were blocking.With 500m to go, we had to do something. I couldn't find Alison, so I flewaround the outside of the chasing group to try to bridge across. K and Jwere already on the downhill run. I threw my bike down the hill in the53-12 and got to the back of Juanita. I had no gears left! Naturally, the53-11 cog was on Alison's bike, our designate sprinter. At 50m, I surgedagain, in a complete spin. Flinging my bike past Juanita's I ended up halfa wheel behind Kathy, crossing the line for a close second. Hmmmphhh! Youcan't win them all, no matter how much you want to. Kathy made the move Ishould have made, and I reacted about half a second too late, given thefinish was soooo fast. Another 20m or a bigger gear would have had it, butthat's racing.
Juanita finished 3rd to salvage a medal after a very unlucky month. Cheeryas usual, she congratulated me (even though I flicked her on the line -yes, I wished that it was someone else I was passing) and we joked aboutour upcoming voyage to the big smoke (err, Grenoble, France that is).Alison finished in the main bunch, about 10th having rode a very activerace. Jodie was just behind.
Alison and Jodie have both really come a long way in a very short time andplayed a huge role in the most successful ACT Nationals campaign ever, andwith only 3 riders. Wow, a Gold, a Silver and 2 Bronze medals. Imagine theresults if we had had Kim Palmer and Mary Grigson with us!
Without any further ado, my bike's on it's way home and I'm on holidays!