For a mountain biker who lives off adrenaline from fast dirt trails with berms and jumps, I would have never pictured myself racing on the road and enjoying it at the same time! I was very nervous coming into the week of the National Championships especially knowing that experience was not on my side: aside from the St Kilda Super crit, my last road race was back in 2014.
First up on the race schedule was the criterium. The christening of my new Vie13 skin suit for 30 laps of a 1.1km hotdog circuit. The course included a slight incline to the viewers eyes but from my point of view it was a mountain that seemingly grew bigger and bigger every lap. I don’t think I have ever seen my heart rate so high! With the design of the course, I had to give it my all up the climb to try and hold on and the descent was “recovery” or a good chance to try and improve my bunch position and on some laps a chance to get back on to the bunch. At the time, Chris, our team manager was shouting out to get on to my team mate, Em’s (Viotto's) wheel, which was the original plan, however this was a lot easier said than done! And I do recall wanting to shout back a word or two except a) I don’t think a shout would come out at over 190 heart rate and b) there were innocent ears around. In the end, I finished up in 24th position overall and 4th in U23 with an average heart rate of 188bpm!
The next three days were a great opportunity to really get to know my team mates. What can get more interesting than living in a house of OCD female athletes? The answer is nothing! I learnt about different sized fingernail beds, piranha’s eating humans, milking cows, not to get into a car with Chloe after eating at a bakery as she loves driving around round-abouts several times in a row and that I may need glasses after convincing myself I looked better in one size of skin suit than the other until finding out that they were both the same size. Never the less it was a great few days and special kudos to Chris for living in a house of girls and not losing his sh#t!
It didn’t take long to get fired up for Sunday’s road race after it kicked off with the race starters firing their replica riffles causing a domino effect to fire an expletive word straight out of my mouth. The pace was nice and controlled at first until unfortunately I was taken down on the start of the second lap. I assumed this was race over until Em told me to get my chain on and get moving. Thankfully my old mountain bike team mate from neutral support was already getting my chain on and before I knew it, we were off again. I am so grateful for Em: she did her best ever 5min max power out and pulled me up the road to regain contact with the bunch by the top of the climb. From then onwards it was quite like cat and mouse: the bunch splitting and getting slightly dropped only to work together and join back up on the descent. I wasn’t sure if there were any U23’s up the road however the bunch slowly shrunk and by the last lap it looked like it was going to be a bunch sprint fighting for top 20 positions. I was aware there was one other U23 in the bunch and I was very thankful when fellow mountain biker, Peta Mullens said she would lead me out in the sprint. As the sprint started to wind up, I started to get quite worried as my legs started to threaten some major cramps. Trying to regain some breath after the finish line, the call was put out if there were any U23’s in the bunch and I was completely shocked to hear that I had finished up in 2nd in the U23 category (with a 21st overall). On Monday night, I was even more surprised to find out that the top 3 U23 riders all finished in the same sprint finish!
As I posted on Facebook: "team work wins races! (Or in this case podiums..)". Racing on the mountain bike I have been so oblivious to the fact that road racing is actually an amazing team sport and I am so honoured to be racing with the CBR Women’s Cycling team this year. I would like to add a huge thank you to my team mates and managers/feed zone experts for their support on and off the bike this week. A massive thank you also to our team sponsors, without their support it would not be possible!
Thank you to CBR/ACT government, Two Before Ten Coffee Roasters, Bike Culture Canberra, Pursuit Technology, Vie13 Kustom Apparel, Illeso Studio and Physio Sport O'Connor