Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Season beginnings

So, it's been some time since my last blog back in February and a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months but can now happily say I'm starting to find my feet again in the European pelo.

On arrival in Europe late February it was straight into Belgium to get stuck into the first spring classic of the season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Jetlag what?! Much to my surprise the weather was a solid ten degrees warmer than the previous year's edition so there was no need to worry about potential frozen eyeballs or snow fall (yes, frozen eyeballs are a real thing)!

I managed to jostle my way through the race after 3 early spills in the crazy nervous peloton. Lucky for me I came out unscathed but very annoyed I had moved back to level 0 in mastering the cobbles after being away for many months without them. Only in Belg can cobble technique truly be nailed!

The next series of Spring events proved to be a fairly rocky start with a mixture of bad luck (as expected in Spring) and just slowly weening my way back into Euro mode. After spending a few months racing in NZ, my mind and racing style had clicked back into small peloton, friendly rider racing. In Europe and especially during Spring  this is not going to work out for anyone! Field sizes of 200, narrow roads, cobbles, bad weather and some serious nervous energy always makes for some exciting but crazy bike racing. You certainly need some luck to perform well but having that extra bit of skill, determination, aggression and grit in you will go a long way.


Ronde Van Drenthe World Cup. Soldiering up the VAMberg (man made trash climb)! Wiggle Honda
My biggest disappointment came at Omloop Het Hageland where I was gifted with numero 1! This was the race I won in 2013 and brings back some great memories. I was happy to kick start the race with good legs and a strong team of girls but ended up being caught in a race crucial crash right before the deciding climb of the day along with my team mates. Huge bummer as even after a heck of a chase from Giant Shimano and Wiggle Honda it never came back. After a couple of races like this, I had definitely started to question myself and my positioning. After the first two races I had been a lot more weary this time and in this case the crash had been near the front so guess sometimes you just can't win with these things! 

Frustrating but part of the game. I have to blame myself however when I look at riders like Vos, Bronzini and Johansson who are almost never in the wrong spot at the wrong time and very seldom get caught up in or stuck behind crashes. This is something I'm definitely working on and hope to become better with through experience.





Hageland. Surprisingly warm! Wiggle Honda


A highlight a little later was being part of the team at the GP Dottigne, another one day UCI race where Giorgia Bronzini took the first UCI win for the team of 2014. It was a long time coming so we were thrilled to finally do it. It was a good battle and everyone worked well together to make it happen then Gio nailed it with a classy kick to the finish.

Late March we also slipped a team camp in to have our launch and properly kick things off! Was nice to see all the girls and officially get set for the year. We stayed in Italy, not far from Treviso in a pretty cool castle. Lovely spot but not so nice riding up to it ;) We had a great week all up.

Between training I spent some time out in the mountains doing a shoot for dhb. This year, I've happily taken on the role to be a dhb ambassador alongside Aussie Peta Mullens. After a day out with these troops there's definitely going to be some fun along the way! dhb make some neat cycling apparel to suit all levels and it's all very well priced. Check it out on Wiggle at www.wiggle.com/dhb/


FAVE dhb crew Selfie by Steve









Following the season beginnings I've recently taken some time to settle into my new place in Girona, Spain. It's been nice getting to know the area and the roads as well as getting in a decent training block to revamp for the next block of racing. So far, I'm really enjoying having a base here. The weather is a big plus, there's plenty of people around and it's very convenient for traveling to and from races. It's also just nice to have a 'home away from home'. Coming from NZ, it's a long way and a big period to be gone from home so having a place here definitely makes things easier. My lovely flat mate Lucy Martin has been a great wee guide around the place so slowly finding my way around town! 


Coast ride with Lucy, Loren and Dave



Home decor...

Already barbie weather in Girona. Credit to skillful barbecuer, miss Emilia Fahlin


After some hard work over a two week block I was ready to get back into it kicking things off with some Dutch and Belgian races before the Tour of Luxembourg (this past weekend). I was happy with my performance at Dwars door de Westhoek last week. After a good month of not feeling my best racing, I was just glad to be back feeling strong on 2 wheels and managed to get stuck in and have some fun out there. 

The week prior I spent an afternoon at KOMSPORT in Germany where they created some SOLESTAR innersoles for me. I've always had knee issues since beginning cycling and over the past year it's just gotten worse. My knees tend to turn inwards a lot, to the point where they will be banging away against my top tube, especially when putting the hammer down! Not ideal and for sure I had to be losing some power and perhaps could have created some long term issues from continuing to ride like this.

Anyway, coach Greg Henderson set me up with an appointment with Solestar and after spending the arvo with them I was very stoked with the outcome. It's only been a few weeks since but I instantly felt a lot better on  my bike and have since been riding with straight legs! Miracle... ;) Big up's to these guys.

www.solestar.com


Dwars door De Westhoek, Belgium. Wiggle Honda


Following Westhoek it was onto Lux for the 3 day Elsy Jacobs Tour. I had only ridden my TT bike once since January so wasn't expecting a lot come the day 1 prologue. I am a fan of the short, sharp lung sapping event though so kept positive I could maybe whip out a good performance. After reconning the 2.6km course with the girls 7 or 8 times I was set to go. It was a fast wee course and not too technical. I popped it in the big dog and went for it. With heavy wind I was a bit of a whimp on the corners and probably lost time there but my biggest mistake was flying into the last corner before the final uphill stretch very over geared. I was so 'in the zone' I forgot to change gears and so had to settle for a big gear grind to the line. Aside from that, I gave it my all. I finished in 14th behind some hitters so was happy with the result but in a very short effort like that you can't help but be critical of your performance as every little mistake really makes a difference! Marianne Vos is definitely back as she blitzed the field to take the win. 
I would have loved to be in her follow car coming around some of the corners...


Elsy Jacobs Prologue Edmond Friess


Day 2 and 3 were very similar in terrain. Plenty of lumps and bumps and pretty aggressive racing. I did what I could on day 2 but often struggle with recovering from a prologue. I get that hoopy cough, heavy lungs and legs. I'm sure most riders get it but I'm still trying to find a way to deal with it and overcome its effects on performance the following day. Giorgia still got up for a 3rd place taking second in the kick behind Shelley Olds after Rabobank hitter Anna Van Der Breggen made a late race solo escape to take the win. Rabobank are certainly dominating at the moment in the women's peloton so the next months should be interesting to see If we and other teams can challenge that. 

Day 3 was much better for me, I felt strong and managed to get pretty stuck in at the front end of the race. Gio had had a good finish the day prior so we were hoping for the stage win and a bunch kick. This meant being on the defense and covering the moves. Being in the breakaways but not driving them. I had good legs so was happy to be in the mix. Come the final km's sh*t hit the fan and things got very chaotic. No teams were able to get organised with a lead out as it was just carnage. We were the same and although we were all there we couldn't get organised amongst the craziness. I guess this is something we should have considered earlier on! Coming up the right side I could see Giorgia tucked in up on the left. She managed to stay well positioned until the final technical turn to the finish where a lead rider slid out causing some big changes in position. Unfortunate for Gio who had to settle for 4th but fair play to Vos, Johannson and Julie Leth for taking the podium spots in such a crazy finale.

I've now returned to Girona for a week of recouping and training before my next adventure...China bound! 2 weeks hopping from random islands around Shanghai. Hopefully no time in the Chongming hospital this year and yes we are packing plenty of protein bars... :O

Meanwhile, some of my team mates are kicking things off at the Womens Tour of Britain tomorrow in the UK. It's the first time this event will take place and has had some major hype surrounding it. Very exciting for women's cycling. Cheers to all who have made it happen and best of luck to the Wiggle Honda ladies.

Thanks again to support from back home that keeps me going with this fun but challenging cycling lifestyle! Means a lot. 

Special thanks to Maurice Verkerk, New World Remuera, The Athlete Project and team sponsors. 

I have recently joined the Athlete Project agency. They currently already represent some great kiwi athletes so it's exciting for me to jump on board alongside them. 

www.athleteproject.co.nz


Adéu (goodbye in Catalan) :)













Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Quick Update!

Just a quick update on what's going down in NZ and pre season antics!

My last and most recent racing episode took place in Christchurch, NZ for our elite road cycling champs. Prior to this I had good prep coming straight off NZ's Tour de Vineyards in the lovely Nelson. One of my favourite kiwi races, top courses, good organisation and relaxed nature. I was pleased to take the win in the opening time trial and closing hill circuit stage finishing up 4th in the general class. Up's to Reta Trotman for taking the overall tour win and a big thanks to the Lush family for having us stay and treating us like Queens!




Post tour treats with Jo and chef's Samara and Emma


Onto Nationals...with both myself and Wiggle Honda team mate, Linda Villumsen carrying good form into the event we were confident between the pair of us we could pull off a result.

After allowing an early move to break free of the peloton and a bit of mucking about in the opening laps of the 120km event (7 laps including the harsh 1.5km bugger of a climb, Dyers pass) eventually the small but select peloton of NZ women began to whittle down until there were 6 left chasing the 3 moving NZ track representatives ahead.

After some serious commitment from the 6 chasers, including myself and Linda it was looking good to snatch back all 3 riders. Coming into the closing 3km we had almost reached the last solo rider, Rushlee Buchanan. With Linda and I both feeling pretty solid in the small group we decided to use our numbers. With this, Linda went for it with 2.5km to go. The ideal situation here would have been for Linda to solo away for the win and our other option would be that the 5 girls left behind were forced to react and chase her, allowing me a free ride up to take the win in a sprint.

Unfortunately we mucked (f*) up ! As Linda attacked, Rushlee was able to jump on her wheel with Reta Trotman shortly following hanging in 'no mans land' between the two small groups.

Here I was a little helpless unable to do much with my team mate up the road sitting in the unresponsive group. Ultimately it came down to tired legs and no one being able to go with Linda.

Had we have waited until Rushlee had been caught things may have been different but very fair play and well done to her on a gutsy ride and still managing to outsprint one of the worlds best. Congrats Rushlee and also to Linda on her still solid 2nd place.

I finished 4th to win the kick feeling pretty good, obviously gutted with the result. We really wanted the jersey for the team but as a pair we didn't make the right choices and use our strengths at best when push came to shove!


Apart from the final result I was pleased to have the strength to be there with the selection. In the past this course has gotten to me a bit with sickness and under preparation so to be there in the mix was definitely a bonus and a positive for the season to come!

Post race fun cheering on the kiwi lads TDF style! Safari girls...


I've made a few changes the past months and am happy with how things are going so far. For the past few years I have been really lucky to be under the wing of USA legend and phenomenal sprinter Tina Pic. Tina has been a special kind of mentor and coach and I can soundly say she's helped me progress a lot over these years as I've gone through a lot of changes and grown a lot as a bike rider. Tina has a very easy going but supportive attitude which I loved and having been through it all her self in the female peloton she was really easy to relate to, talk to and learn from. A big thanks to Tina for her constant support over these years.

Over the past months, I have been through a few changes. Kiwi cycling hitter Greg Henderson in December introduced me to his new coaching biz. An exciting opportunity I didn't like to not give a go so I took a plunge and decided to see how things work out for 6 weeks. Greg has some pretty impressive palmares to his name and is one of NZ's best on the professional scene, currently riding for Lotto Belisol. He now has some solid kiwi/Aussie up and comers under his wing.

I've been putting in some hard yards but learning plenty along the way and enjoying a fresh change for 2014.

https://twitter.com/coachhendy

Since Nationals I've been putting most of my focus into training and preparing for the 2014 season. Not just the racing and form side but the admin like visas, licences, flights and accommodation too. Takes more time than you'd expect! Happy to say I've recently confirmed a flat in Spain with Aussie Loren Rowney at Specialized Lululemon and Brit Lucy Martin at Faren Kuota cycling team. Although I will miss Belg I'm looking forward to a fresh change and have only heard good things about Spain. Terrain, weather and food are pluses! I will still spend a lot of the early season in Belg as I hope to be present for many of the Spring classic and one day events.

Unfortunately the past 3 days I've been been bed ridden with a dismal virus floating about NZ. Watch out she's not much fun! After 2 days out to it, I'm finally coming back to life today. It's been a very long time since I've lost my appetite so glad to be finally getting a bit back...anyway, it's given me the chance to get things updated.

I've just changed my facebook profile that had largely got out of hand with too many old albums, likes and unknown friendships hogging the newsfeed! So I've made that into a 'cycling info/updates' page linked to this and my twitter, and created a new profile just for close friends and family. Thanks for continuing to follow and support via this page!


https://www.facebook.com/browse/admined_pages/?id=743377918


Next on tap is the Oceania road championships in Toowoomba Aus, followed by a quick departure to Europe late Feb. Bring on the action!

On other news, the past few months I've been very lucky to be cruising about in a smart Honda CRV. Huge thanks to Honda NZ https://twitter.com/hondanz for supporting me over NZ summer. The CRV has done some pretty epic trips from Auckland to Nelson, Christchurch, Welly and home!




Other good news -  I've recently become lucky to have some support from New World Remuera for 2014. Your support and assistance is much appreciated!

New World Remuera has been a favourite local friendly supermarket since I was a wee dot so the support means a lot.





And to NZ bike magazine and Steve Haddock for setting me up with an interview and cover of their latest issue - pretty cool to have some interest in NZ. Cheers!



Lastly on the news front...Wiggle Honda kicked off their first UCI event in Qatar a few days ago and have two stages to go. Lotte Becker was 3rd from a select breakaway in pounding winds yesterday. Go girl! Follow the teams progress and 2014 season updates here:


https://twitter.com/WiggleHonda





Thursday, 5 December 2013

2013 Round Up

I've been home now for over a month and been thinking it's time to give this season a wrap and move forward to thinking about 2014!

All up, it's been a pretty special year. I've spent my first full season in Europe racing for first year professional team Wiggle Honda and couldn't have asked for a better set up and group of girls as team mates.

I'm not sure exactly how many race days I've had (should probably count) but it's been a fair few! Beginning my season in NZ/Aus and continuing on to race a full season in Europe was pretty full on but wouldn't do it if the love for the sport and the chaotic life that comes with it wasn't there...

Being Wiggle Honda's first year as a team, it's been a huge success. The team have had many a time on the top step and I've been grateful to be part of each experience. Every race I learn something new from more experienced team mates so can definitely say I've come a long way in one year.

On a personal note, a major highlight for me was taking the team's first UCI win at Belgian Omloop het Hageland back in March. An  unexpected early season victory and my biggest win to date. Definitely was a proud moment winning here with my Wiggle Honda team mates. 


Another highlight would be continuing to progress throughout the year in the individual time trial and prologue department. Since beginning the sport, all through my junior days I have never really been much chop at a time trialing unless it was uphill (as a wee one)! Now that I look back on it, I was doing plenty wrong... like warm up, specific training and mental prep. After learning a few tips this year from my British track star team mates, I am happy to have stepped up with my TT performances and deliver a few good results throughout the season. Finishing 7th in the Giro di Toscana prologue back in September was a good moment!

Other season favourites was being part of all team wins but especially big ones like Giorgia Bronzini's Giro Rosa stage win on top of many more and Linda Villumsen's multiple victories also. It's great to have  these girls along with other team leaders mentoring us less experienced riders in the team. Their strengths are very different on the bike...Linda is a GC and TT specialist whereas Giorgia is one of the best if not the best sprinter in the peloton. Even though physical abilities are different, they can be pretty similar in their teaching and sharing of experience. Plus both very down to earth, friendly girls which is a bonus!



A final personal highlight was my most recent victory at the New Zealand National Criterium Championships raced in my hometown, Auckland. 
I went into the race a little unsure of my abilities after coming off an end of season break and also after my less than best end to the European season back in September following a virus and a bang to the head!

Nonetheless, I had been back on the bike preparing for around 3 weeks and the legs had eventually come around. I was 2nd in the event last year and in all honesty If I had finished anything less than 1st I would have been pretty disappointed...a good sign I really wanted the win!

The race was held down at Takapuna, lined along a main strip of bars and restaurants, so plenty of crowds and supporters are always out giving a yell...it's great to see the interest in cycling in NZ growing. It's still a few steps behind Europe in terms of cycling culture and passion but getting there. (Note all Auckland/NZ motorists...give us a break)!

I was thrilled to have a great support crew of family and friends, can't get much better than having these people cheer you on on local turf. Thanks all!




I went into the race prepared to have to work for it in knowing I had no team mates out there to support me. I knew the biggest competition would be Sophie Williamson who has been riding like a hitter on the track recently. I would have loved to have been in a move up the road to escape the peloton and not have to risk it in a sprint but after trying my chances multiple times I realised after a while I was too marked by the field to escape. In saying that, I continued to follow attacks in the hope that one might stick. In the final few laps it was clear a bunch kick would be happening. I hadn't moved from the first 3-4 spots throughout the race and would now do my best to maintain that spot to be in a good possie for the final sprint. Things suddenly took a turn however when Jenna Mackgill of LivGiant took a final lap flier with a big attack at 1 to go. It took the peloton a while to react and after a moments pause I realised I needed to go for it otherwise I'd very well be racing for 2nd again...

Jenna managed to get a fairly decent gap but after violently chasing and attacking myself down the back straight of the course in a desperate plea to reach her before the line I managed to make some pretty good ground. Following my burst, Sophie Williamson came over the top of me kicking hard. I just managed to hold her wheel and stay there before coming around last minute as we overtook Jenna and then took the win. Phew. Big last lap but adrenalin filled and hopefully an exciting one for the crowds! 

I was stoked and still am to have finally won an elite National title.



For now I'm home training and working part time at Avantiplus in Newmarket (thanks to Richie RMC and team for having me along and teaching me a bit about bikes for a few months ;) )

Aside from that this summer has a bit in store. Mainly just training up, getting the body nice and strong and prepared for 2014 as well as working on weaknesses and plenty of organising for the season to come.

I've just this weekend raced the NSW GP series proudly wearing my new Dhb NZ champs Wiggle Honda kit and am very happy with how things panned out for the team. We had an unbeatable 2 days clean sweeping the podium on day one and 1-2 day two plus the overall series. Can't get better than that so all up a pretty successful weekend for the Wigglettes!. Special congrats to German team mate Lotte Becker who showed her savy racing skills taking the overall win. A true champ and brave one at that after crashing pretty rough day two and still bouncing back to win the series. #trooper Cheers Phil Bates for putting on another top event.


Sprint for 3rd as Lauren Kitchen solos for the win ahead of Lotte Becker

Peta Mullens wins breakaway kick after massive lead out by Lotte Becker who takes overall win!


Next on tap is the Launceston Criterium in Tasmania this weekend which should be a bit of fun. A long way to go for 1 crit so pressure is on to perform!

Think that's about a wrap...

Special THANKS to big sponsors from New Zealand; OPI New Zealand and Nimue Skin Technology (Global Beauty). Without your support and assistance It would have been very difficult for this year to really happen, so very big thanks! 


OPI is a proud sponsor of the New Zealand womens OPI road race held last weekend (29th November) in conjunction with the Taupo cycle challenge. This event is incredibly well run and the support OPI gives to the race is great. Female cycling in NZ is still a massive growth sport so it is really pleasing to see OPI invest into the sport and support what we are doing. In saying that, I am very proud to be an OPI ambassador and was disappointed to have to miss the event due to a race calendar clash with the NSWGP in Australia, an important event for Wiggle. Congratulations to Reta Trotman for taking the OPI road race win!






And of course big THANKS to...

- Wiggle Honda and all team sponsors for your ongoing support this season. It has been a very special year and the perfect start to racing for a professional team. Very excited for what 2014 brings with you all!

- Rochelle Gilmore for giving me this opportunity to be part of the team. 
Creating this team, owning and managing it has been a massive accomplishment and has already been a huge success. I'm sure a big future is to come!

- Maurice Verkerk - your support is very much appreciated and has gone a very long way this year :)

- Rocktape NZ. Big fan of Rocktape and the Rocktape NZ family. A great bunch of athletes!




- My team mates all of which have made this season a damn good time. You girls are the best and already excited for another top year with you. 



- My coach, Tina Pic. Constantly supportive and enthusiastic!



- Bike NZ, especially Steve Connell for having me stay this year at the NZ base in Oudenaarde. I had a great time here; great spot & top crew. Cheers for putting up with me lads!

- Paul Leitch for continuing to help me over NZ summer

- James Canny for being a GC always

- Halo Headband USA - thankyou for the great selection of Halo's this year. They're getting a lot of use :)


And lastly to my very supportive family (Danny + Lou) mates and supporters who make life on the road that bit easier. There are too many to name but every message and cheer along the way means heaps. 





Bit early but Merry Christmas!