Sunday, February 26, 2006


So I might have crossed the line in 76th place (of 144 starters), just over 8 minutes back, but I finished! I had 3 goals going into the race:
1) Stay with the front group for 4 laps (half of the race for a total of 60km), and
2) If I did get dropped to ride in within the 5% time cut as to get a finish and to ride it in with a group.
I succeeded on both accounts! The first 4 laps of the race were relatively tame and the field stayed in tact. The course had one hill in it similar to the hill in the tour de Delta, but a little bit longer and a bit steeper (for those of you in the bike game), and another gradual hill used for the feed zone. All in all, it was apparent that a sprinter could win on the course (as Ina Teutenburg showed quite aptly), but with the right tactics, the hill is hard enough that it would be possible to drop the pure sprinters. So yeah, the first 4 times up the hill were more relaxed - not to say that it was easy - but I chugged overtop of the hill in the middle of the bunch. Watching Ina was a little like a clinic on sag-climbing (where you start the hill at the front and let yourself lose ground over the climb as it allows you to take the hill easier) and it was interesting to see that one of the other T-Mobile girls was always a little farther behind - presumably to be there to bring it back if there was a split that Ina didn't make. On the 5th lap, the heavy hitters in the race decided it was time to turn up the heat. The field was strung out through the feed zone. Of course this was the lap that I was convinced that I needed a feed - and in doing so, I hit the bottom of the climb farther back that I had on the previous attempts. Consequently, as I crested the hill, I was in a group that had been somewhat detached from the front 50 or so riders. This made the jaunt over the cresh and onto the next bit of false flats absolutely lovely and not at all unbearable...luckily, we caught up in not to long. But I did say that it was on, and the next lap over the hill I was gapped again, and this time it had nothing to do with my positioning! Having said that, when I got to the top, I saw I was in good company and felt pretty horrible trying to hold the wheel in front of me. I looked up and understood why that was when I saw that it was Tina Mayolo-Pic trying to bring us back. This time we weren't as lucky as the front group kept pushing and it took us most of the rest of the lap to catch back on (probably 6 or 7 km). We had made contact through the start/finish and I realized that I had made a fairly decisive split - as I was moving through with the top half of the field...unfortunately, the little legs died out not long after and I found myself all alone on the race course. Strong winds and the fact that I had already done 90km made it a bit of a slow go, but luckily I was caught by another group not long after. I road it in with this group (perhaps known as the groupetto as the girls were rather adament that we take the hill chilled out - which I was fine with). I kept rotating through the front of the group though, as I was determined to get a real finish! In the closing kms the speed picked up in the group and I know it's lame, but I figured that I might as well stay at the front, seeings as I had been up in the top 15-20 of the group since I joined it (I wasn't to find out just how many girls were actually in my group until I looked at the results!) A few girls actually sprinted to the line, I tried just to rev it up so not too many girls passed me, but at the same time, I knew that it was in bad form to actually sprint (this may sound a little silly to those who don't bike race, but really, we're not in the race anymore!) So I'm quite stoked with the result - first of many World Cup finishes I'm sure, but this is a step that I needed to take. I'm off to New Zealand this afternoon and hopefully there will be more learning and exciting racing to come!

Geelong Tour – the racing has begun!

Well here we are again – and so soon – racing time’s a here! I’ve been chilling with Chris and our flatmate (here in the caravan park that is) Trudy since Monday and well to be quite honest, the walls are starting to look a little boring! Trudy has also been riding on my composite team (Team Cheerwine/Bicisport) and we are right next door to two of our other teammates Kerry and Kelly – who are a total blast! The team is rounded out with Helen Kelly and Suzanne Ljungskog (two time world champion and a complete sweet heart). Really teamwork is a non-issue as the ability levels are the full range and the top teams (T-Mobile, Nurnberger, Nobili, Univega, Team NZ, and so on) are so in charge that we’re left to be – quite eloquently pack fodder…and that is the role that I have been taking quite seriously all week! ;)
The starting stage was an 8km TT along the banks of Portarlington. I road out there with the girls and got ready for my first Eddy Mercx style TT– meaning no aero equipment. My ride was there – nothing special, but I wasn’t 5 minutes behind the leader either – so first stage – check – on to the next. Without too much ado (we must have had at least 3 hours rest – and that was only because we were early in the start order) came stage 2 – a criterium around Portarlington. The course was 1km in length and was built on the side of a hill. At the time, I thought that it was somewhat massive, but after having ridden it again today, it wasn’t that bad – I might just have to blame it on the super fast girls! The major challenge came from the fact that the hill started after coming out of a greater than 90 degree turn, and with 140 girls on course, it’s kind of like a standing start going up a hill. I started the stage about 2/3rds of the way back and spent the first 8-10 laps trying to move up. Now, first the good news: I managed to make it into the group of girls who ultimately finished the crit; and the bad: in getting up to that group, I killed myself to get up there and ended up dropping off the back. It was okay though as I was joined by at least 40 of my closest friends and really the important part – there were plenty of girls who were dropped before me (note: the organizers have had their hands full getting the regular results set and so those of us from about 80 back aren’t actually placed properly…) So it was a solid start to the week and I was looking forward to the following day’s flat stage with a sprint finish!!!
But alas, my fun was somewhat spoiled during the stage 3 Barwon Heads Circuit race – and rather early on. With our second day in a row of overcast skies, we started off with the full tour roster as it was not possible to be time cut in either the TT or the crit on the previous day. The field was a little jumpy and I was eager to get up closer to the front, but was trying to move up the middle of the pack. As I was doing this, the police motorbikes were trying to make it to the front of the group. The first cop made it known what he was trying to do by honking his horn and sneaking up on the right of the pack. However, our second friend the police officer wasn’t quite as lucky – he started to follow the first chopper when all of a sudden a parked car jumped in his way…and you say – well Jen, was he not “parked” and I say “yes, yes he was” – but the police guy was taken a little by surprised and consequently tried to squeeze a little farther in on the road. As you may have figured out – this is where things went wrong – the motorcycle went down and ended up hitting a girl – consequently causing a crash. So here I was, only 5km into an 80km race and sitting on my bum beside a cornfield (well, it might not have been a cornfield as I’m in Australia – but it has the same effect!) In a bit of a daze-like-panic, I jumped to my feet and tried to get my bike running again – alas, it was being cranky and the chain’s crankypants attitude required about 10s of consoling prior to me jumping back on the machine. And so began the time trial back up to the group (mind you, I did have a television camera on me at the time, so maybe I’ll get some air time – that could be cool!) Unfortunately, despite a worthy fight with the caravan, I would be denied my prey. I was lucky enough about a lap later to find a buddy (a victim of a puncture) who ended up towing me around the course (I did my best, but she was definitely stronger than me). We worked well and kept at it, but ended up losing over 18:00 to the pack (which for 75km ain’t too bad I might add – seeing as there were 120 of them and only 2 of us), but it was more than the allotted 10% of the time and so we were not allowed to start the final stage. I was definitely disappointed with this news, but my teammates were really supportive, which was great, and I was able to take the time to sit back and recover in time for Sunday’s World Cup race – which is what I’m doing right now. Chris has been a phenomenal soigneur and our other support staff have been great as well. Can’t wait to give the course a go on Sunday – I’m aiming for a finish!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Yes, indeedie – right here in Australia! You don’t have to go all the way down to the Antarctic to see the little cuties – plus here in Oz you get to see “little penguins” (how original eh? Yet another display of Aussie language dumbing things down to the lowest possible denominator: bird flu (not avian flu), Poppy day (when you wear poppies…we in the land of the Canuck call it Remembrance Day) but the good news is they are indeed little – standing at only about 20cm in full height.
So here’s the drill – you drive down to Phillip Island which is located about 1.5 hours south of Melbourne, purchase a $17 dollar ticket from the tourist center and gather down on a concrete amphitheatre and wait until the sunsets. Just after the sun goes down, the penguins congregate about 400m off shore where they form “rafts” of penguins and come into shore together. Once on the shore (soliciting many ooohs and aaaaahs from the onlookers), they gather together in groups anywhere from about 5 to as many as 20 to make the dash across the sandy part of the beach (probably about 30m in length). Watching them waddle across the sand (the ones with the big bellies getting left behind!) is adorable, but it must be rather energy draining for the little things. They do indeed walk like penguins (which is convenient as a whole type of walking has been named after them!) and every so often, they decided part of the way to the shelter of the bush that they are in danger. When this occurs the little things scamper back to the water’s edge at about five times the speed they had originally been moving and wait (presumably to recover) until the coast is clear. Much in the same way, once they have made it to the safety of the bush, you can see clusters of penguins recovering before the longer, but safer journey to their burrows (yes, they live in little holes under the ground – weird eh?). A steady stream of penguins roll up on the beach for most of an hour and while I am unsure of exactly how many we saw come out – apparently the evening prior 511 penguins hit the beach. The “Penguin Parade” was definitely worth our expenditure – plus the area down on Phillip Island is absolutely gorgeous – which is good as it provided some photographic targets, as we weren’t allowed to take pics of the penguins (the flashes scare them!)
So I figure that’s our last tourist stop here in Oz – which is kinda scary, but I’m starting to get ready for the World Cup as we head out to Geelong in a week – and start racing in 8 days!!! That having been said, once at the tourist destination, I remembered what drove me nuts about seeing those types of attractions. First off, it’s the Chinese New Year – so needless to say, it was rather busy…and like all good mobs – the people at the attraction felt that the rules were beyond them. They weren’t tricky rules, but sometimes “be quiet and sit down” although it seems to work on kindergarten kids, is a little lost on adults…I tell ya! :P Definitely a must see though – gotta love the penguins!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The 129th Austral: Australia’s Oldest Wheel Race

Tonight saw us heading back to the track for some old time wheel race fun. After the weeklong escapade in Tasmania, it felt rather old hat really, well except for the fact that we were frolicking in the Vodafone Arena which will be used for non other than the Commonwealth Games track competition in about a month’s time. As a side note, if I had $5 for every time someone asked me if I was here for the Comm Games…Anyways, the event had a large media draw – but as can be expected, the women’s races were merely an afterthought (I will refrain from complaining bitterly at the sexist nature of this sport – and in a country that easily boasts the world’s best women cyclists…but I said I would refrain). The real draw was the men’s sprints – the film-guy from Channel 10 actually told me that he was there to see if Shane Kelly and Mark “Frenchie” French were going to knock each other off their bicycles – have a bingle, if you will. Alas, no such luck – although the Japanese riders did have a good go at taking as much of the field out as possible – a special props go out to the guy who took out two guys a lap and a half after the end of the race – super class!
So I’m sure you’re wondering how my races went – without a doubt…well the good news is that I have indeed improved since leaving Tassie 5 weeks ago. I feel better, am going faster – bad news: I still didn’t manage to get any kind of result out of the deal. The evening started with a good warm-up, in which I was pleasantly surprised to feel my legs were ticking over well despite a good deal of hill work at the beginning of the week. Yes, all that warm up for 18 laps of a 250m track. I’ll grant you, they were a tough dozen and a half – but only 18 all the same.
First up on the night’s agenda was the 12 lap scratch. Based on how I had felt on the track Thursday night and my experience in Tassie, I decided to play it cool during the scratch. To my pleasant surprise, I felt stellar throughout the race. Unfortunately (there does always seem to be a BUT in my stories doesn’t there?) I got a little boxed in a gapped with about half a lap to go. In all reality, it was my fault – I really should have moved up with 2 to go as I was feeling good – but as I said to Liz, the beauty of bike racing is that there is always a “I could have done that better.” So the last lap had me trying to close a 10m gap on the front 5 girls – I managed to shrink it considerably, but was left to cross the line in 6th place. I was actually quite pleased with the race.
About an hour passed before our wheel race during which I went up and visited Chris (the somewhat power-drunk folk at the velodrome wouldn’t let him onto the infield). I was place on the 40m mark with the girl in front of me a mere 5m ahead; I closed the gap pretty quick and we were well on our way. The girl in front of me pulled up just as we were closing the gap on all the front markers and I kept going to pull us even with just over 2 laps to go. Just as we made contact, one of the front girls attacked and managed to stay clear for the win. I got stuck high for the last 500m and consequently was not able to finish as strongly as I would have liked, but to my pleasant surprise, only 1 of the girls from my group finished ahead – and it was Liz (she started on the 10m), so I was happy for her.
We’ve made it home and it’s another one of those late nights. I’m too hyper to head to bed quite yet, but the miserable choice in television programming suggests to me that I should probably hit the hay and read a little more of the Memoirs of a Geisha. Oh yeah and for good measure, I’m going to plug as their writer was kind enough to make me feel special and interview me…maybe there will be something cool!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

World Records Falling from the Skies

Well we might not have been able to make it out for the Commonwealth Games, but we managed to make it out to the Commonwealth Games Swimming Trials the other night. Yours for only $38 a head, we were privileged to the wonders of Australian swimming – translation: the fastest national competition in the world. That is, we got to witness it from high up in the bleachers – row W to be exact – as for like all Aussie sports they come out in swarms to bring in the records - and this week was no different. During the week of racing at least 3 world records have fallen here in Melbourne including Leisel Jones’ 200m breaststroke which at 2:20.5 (I believe – and for the record, that’s faster than I ever managed to swim a 200m freestyle…not by much mind you…) she took over a second off her previous world’s best. It was phenomenal to watch as in doing so, Ms. Jones also blew away the rest of the field by over 7 seconds (and yes, one can only presume that the second place person will qualify for the Games and most likely do very well!) and so we’re thinking she most likely wasn’t even tapered – there’s a scary thought for you! So yeah, lots of stars in the pool – we saw the “Thorpedo” give ‘er a go in the 100m freestyle semis (he won the finals the next evening) and Libby Lenton attempt to reset her world record in the 100m freestyle, which she set the previous evening in the semis at 53.42. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite hit the mark – only 53.5 – but it was enough for the win and rather impressive all the same.
That night I went home and dreamt of swimming – it was kinda freaky actually…don’t think my love for the pool will ever die. I just can’t get over how young some of the kids making the finals seem – when you’re in a sport like cycling you forget how young some of the swimmers can be (Leisel Jones attended the Sydney Olympics at the age of 14). A few of the girls in the finals were born in 1992 – that is 11 years younger than me! Which frightening enough makes them 13 or 14 – so yeah, I’m feeling a little better now, that is rather young… But the evening was well worth it (although I would have loved not to have paid – a women walked up to us in the foyer of the pool asking if tonight’s tickets had been free as she had 2 extra she was looking to give away…grrrr!) I can only imagine just how exciting the actual Games are going to be!
Back to cycling…you knew you couldn’t avoid it! I’m off to race in the Vodafone Arena tomorrow night in the Austral Race – which is, for you trivia buffs, the longest running wheel race in Australia. The Vodafone Arena will be the home to the Commonwealth Games in just about 6 weeks – I’m actually pretty stoked to race. And while I’m thinking about it – our roommate Liz will be competing in the sprints and 500m TT – you can check out an article on her here,2106,3557372a6469,00.html – she’s my new STAR! As you can see – the city is starting to anticipate the excitement – plus we’ve hit the final week countdown until the Winter Olympics!!! Oh yeah, and I bought a new saddle today – it was somewhat of a necessity as my last one had completely disintegrated with the top layer peeling off at the tip with much of the foam coming off with it – but the new one is super pretty – it's Specialized and white and grey and pink - what more could I ask?! Alright, I’m going to sign off now as if I get into anymore of the details of my life it’s going to get rather mundane – but I’ll definitely let you know just HOW COOL the Austral is. Toodles (my tribute to Chris…)