Sunday, February 26, 2006

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!

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