Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas :)

Wishing all my friends and family in every corner of the world a very Merry Christmas. We had a lovely day celebrating with close family in our house....a day full of food and laughter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Awards and weddings

A busy weekend saw us travelling down to Melbourne for a fly-by 25hr trip encompassing the Cycling Australia Awards dinner and a very brief catch-up with Lucy...way too brief :) The night was a lot of fun...Matt White and I hosted the night and after some early nerves I got the hang of it...with only a few minor blunders!

The next day we headed down to Tassie for the wedding of the year, Mark Padgent and Louise Yaxley...we flew into Launceston, hired a car and with 5 of us packed in tightly...Kate, Richie, Liv, Gunnar and I...we made the drive to Coles Bay. We drove the scenic route which was a little scary at times when it began to pour with rain, the road was narrow and windy with the 25 km/hr speed sign...but it was gorgeous. We arrived at our destination just north of Coles Bay...all shocked by the realisation that we had no mobile coverage for the weekend...ended up being lovely :) We trooped into the 'town centre' - a pub and bakery and small supermarket...ordered burgers and chips and sat on the picnic table on the bay and looked out over the water. It is hard to describe how spectacular this place is...I think for me having the national park and bush alongside the coast is the best thing. The air was so still and feel like you could be anywhere in the world, and you are oblivious to anything that could be going on in the world.

The next morning we awoke...headed to the bakery for a coffee and then set off into the national park for a walk through the bush. The first destination was Wineglass Bay lookout then down to the bay itself...the photos don't do it justice, it was spectacular. Four of us continued the 'loop' to Hazards Beach we had found on the map and managed to do the 11km loop in just over 3 can tell that we are a competitive bunch, at every point we wanted to see how much quicker we were than the suggested time, which was 5hrs for this walk. The only thing to really put us in our place is the fact that the groom - Mark had run this loop the same morning!

The wedding was on the beach, a fantastic setting and the ceremony was beautiful. The reception was at Freycinet Lodge, again such a beautiful spot and there was much eating, drinking and dancing into the night.

The next morning we went to Cape Tourville lookout and walked down to a place called Sleepy Bay. It was a gorgeous day, vibrant blue sky which makes the colours of the landscape even more dramatic. We jumped in the car to make our journey back, very sad to be leaving such paradise but grateful for such a fantastic weekend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sizzling Sydney in the spring

There has been such a long time since my last blog, and although I think I should do it I haven't managed to find the time! Hard to believe but there always seems to be something to do. I'm not sure how the rest of the world manages to fit a full time job into their lives :)

There has been lots on....a trip to Port Macquarie for the weekend which was lovely (but very rainy), a surfing lesson, working for British Cycling at the Sydney World Cup, trying to catch up with people but not managing to do that too well.

This morning I headed out to Penrith to do a school visit and promote the Sanitarium Weet-Bix kids tryathlon...I was a little nervous (a bit of a worry to be nervous about a group of 7 year olds!)...I got there and they had no idea of who I was or why I was there. Feeling pretty stupid, I jumped back in the car and headed back to the slightly cooler temperatures of the east! I woke at 6am to go riding this morning and it was already 31 degrees....very sticky indeed. It was one of those rare days in your life that you are grateful that there are clouds and no sunshine!

Plenty on the agenda in the next few Melbourne for the Cycling Australia Awards night on Friday night and then to Tassie for Lou Yaxley and lil Mark Padgent's wedding. They are getting married in Freycinet National Park which I've heard is magnificent...can't wait to spend a few days down there. More school visits in the next week...fingers crossed I get a better reception at the next one. This evening my Aunty Cheryl is teaching me how to make her famous Christmas plum pudding....she has already made the calico sheets and now we get to do the fun bit...

Hopefully I will write again soon and can post some photos of a lovely Sydney summer.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Home sweet home

Long time no blog but much has happened, from team presentation in Berlin to back ‘home’ in Sydney…My last week in Germany was great, the weather was trying to impress me after the yucky spring weather and it was good to have so much blue sky and sunshine. I did some running, a little study and a lot of procrastinating and had a chance for many a long sleep in…very nice. We traveled up to Berlin for the team presentation, 10 days ago now…it is a new German team called ‘Getranke Hoffman’…unfortunately I don’t have any photos to share just yet so I can’t show you the team colours. I am the only non-German which is interesting and challenging in the language department but it is exactly what I need to kick me in the bum and really start to learn a language. So I am trying, I figure even 5 mins a night is better than nothing, but I have a terrible memory and so it is a slow process, but worthwhile J

I have been home just under a week, I arrived late on Wednesday night to be greeted by Kate and Richie and a lovely big bunch of flowers. The flight was long…you always forget just how far we are away from everything…and I completely messed it up, staying awake the first flight and then crashing out on the second. This has led to a week of the worst jet-lag I have ever had. I had 1.5hrs sleep the first night, and since then I am better but still awake early. It is amazing how productive I can be between 4 and 9 am! I have been cleaning the house, walking the dogs, doing washing…in fact I am so efficient that I put Kate’s wallet and car keys in the recycling bin…whoops ;)

The first night home the family came around to celebrate Nana Heather’s 81st birthday, it was so good to see everyone, hear Pop’s stories that I haven’t heard for at least 7 months and have a good laugh. Poor Richie is still puzzled by Pop’s riddles….we haven’t managed to solve them in 25 yrs so I think he has no chance. Richie was blessed with a cheerful rendition of ‘Patty McGintie’s goat’ – hard to explain unless you’re part of the Bates family ;)

On Friday night Kate and Richie took me out for a ‘surprise’, something they had planned and of which I had no idea. It turned out to be Cirque du Soleil which was a fantastic surprise. I have seen one before in Rotterdam, the Drallion show and this one was Varekai…it blows me away, I think you can never see it too many times. It makes me feel a bit of a joke that I call myself an athlete after seeing the strength, control, flexibility and skill that the ‘performers’ display. Very inspiring!

I had a great weekend catching up with friends, going down to Manly beach and going to watch Kate and Rich race. I am now back on the bike and it is not as scary as I would have thought after 5 weeks off….the running has done me some favours. Time to cook dinner in time for Robbie to get on the rollers. A lot coming up…hopefully I have time to blog it J

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The changing of the seasons

Autumn has arrived here...the leaves have gradually turned from green, to yellow and now a deep red. It is a pretty time, and with the weather still relatively mild...its nice to be here. I haven't had a real autumn in years, my life consisting of the spring-summer combination back to back.

It has been a relatively quite time, which I can't complain about at all. I have some study I need to get done and it is good to try and get it done before I head home to the craziness of Sydney...with so many different things to do and people to see. I have been running every second day or so to get my exercise fix...I haven't run in years and I am really enjoying it. It is cool here in the mornings (8 degrees or so) but the sun has been out most days, and it is a great way to start the day.

My team presentation is next Saturday in Berlin and then I will be heading back to Holland to fly out of Amsterdam to Sydney. I will be back in Sydney in less than two weeks....its been a long time...7 months away but I can't wait :)

Sending out birthday wishes to 'uncle' Graham and Gunnar - Happy Birthday to you both for today :)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Party time!

On Saturday four of us piled into Senffi's car to drive 6 hrs and meet some of our team-mates for some drinks and dancing in Amsterdam. It was the longest way I've ever driven for a night out on the town but was worth it.

We made it into Amsterdam (despite the highway being shut and us having no map)...met the girls and had a good night pulling our dance moves. For those who don't know me so well I am possibly one of the worst dancers there is....there is not a single bit of rhythm in my body, however I managed to shake my booty until well after 3am. I was quite impressed by my staying power (I am normally hopeless)! The club we were in at great music and a podium in the centre of the dance floor just big enough for our that is where we spent most of the night.

At 5am we arrived 'home' in Hazerswoude, slept for a few hours and then began the drive back. It was quite a way to spend a weekend but that is what the off season is for :)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bog from Croatia!

I am back in Amsterdam after a fabulous holiday last week with Jude. We got to see a lot but also had plenty of time relaxing in the sun, swimming in the Adriatic, eating great local food and drinking good local wine and beer....what more could you want in a holiday!?! It feels as though Salzburg was about 2 months ago so it was definitely a very relaxing week.

I really enjoyed our time on the island of Korcula...we stayed in local accomodation ie. someone's house in the middle of the old town, and our two days felt like a week. We swam off the rocks, sunbaked on the pebbly shores, drank cocktails in the stone 'turret' by the sea, ate lots of good food, and bought some beautiful local jewellery :) On one of the days we had lunch in the village of Pupnat which is 15km from the town of Korcula, pretty much in the deadcentre of island. The group was catching the bus out there but I decided it would be good to explore the place more thoroughly and so hired a mountain bike and set off up the hill (10%!) out of town to ride into the interior. The surroundings change rapidly as you ascend and move is quite dry and looks almost desolate with few trees, mainly coastal shrub. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and I had a sweat up by the time I reached our destination but it was well worth it. We had a beautiful lunch of local antipasto, pasta and dessert with plenty of local white and red wine to wash it all town. Most of the group jumped back on the bus for the drive home; 3 brave souls started the walk home (Jude included) and I cruised next to them on the bike for awhile before taking of down the fast descent home. I took a different route home, down the side of the 'mountain' for 5km to the coast and then a leisurely cruise back along the road that hugged the coastline...I even had a tailwind...lovely!
From Korcula we headed up to Split for a couple of days....similarly we had time to explore the local sites with plenty of down time for sun and swimming. Split is home to Diocletian (a Roman emperor)'s palace and it is amazing. It is quite run down but they are doing extensive restoration and it is incredible because within the palace walls is the whole of the old town....restaurants, cafes, heaps of shops and then lots of people living in apartments in the old buildings of the palace. One of the days we caught the ferry out to the island of Brac...hired chairs to save us from the pebbly shores and there we remained for hours, swimming in the beautiful clear waters of the Adriatic....mmmm....
After Split we had an interesting day getting to Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) which is where we were flying out from. We hired a car, drove on the smaller coastal roads to Zadar which is beautiful the whole way and then onto the fairly new super-highway for the last 200km to Zagreb. The new road is amazing and very different to what my visions were. Jude and I are both pretty hopeless with directions but we found our way to the hotel, explored on Sunday night and then flew yesterday.
I'm now back in Amsterdam, we went to Aalsmeer flower markets today which Jude wanted to see and then she flies tomorrow. I need to get back into the groove now, do some uni work and get myself organised for next year. At this stage I don't think I will be home for a few weeks yet but I will write when I know more....

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Yesterday Jude and I travelled by train to Bratislava. After recieving a bit of a culture shock at the train station, the city was really beautiful and Jude and I had a great time. The place is exceptionally cheap so the shopping was great and there are lots of really good bars and restaurants in the lovely streets between the old buildings. We were pleasantly surprised to have dinner and 4 beers for less than 20 euros combined! Our hotel was, lets just say, interestin! I can imagine that it was very flash in the 1960's or so....but the carpet on the walls isn't quite 'in' in the 2000's!
We awoke this morning, walked to the castle which gave a great view across the city and the Danube and then settled down for a quick coffee before we had to leave the hotel. We flew in the middle of the day to Dubrovnik which proved very easy.
We arrived in Dubrovnik to be greeted by rain filled clouds...but considering our great spell of weather we couldn't be too picky. The bus trip from the airport into the old part of the town was quite reminds me a little of the Amalfi coast.
We checked into our accomodation (found after traversing several narrow alleyways)....we are staying in the house of a local which is very nice. We went for a walk around the city walls....bloody fantastic...I think it is one of these places where it is impossible to take a bad photo! We explored the old town very quickly...enjoyed some very good gelati....then went back for a 5min lie down before we joined the rest of our 'group' for a walk. We climbed up the hill behind town (there used to be a cable car but it was destroyed in the 'war' in 1991/2) was a bit of a journey but we were rewarded with gorgeous views back over the whole coast. The sun set while we were up there and the lights lit up the whole area....really amazing! With big hungers fuelled by our 3 hr journey we went into the old city for pizza and beer...very satisfying.
Tomorrow morning we are hopping on a ferry to should take 5 hrs and then we are staying with locals again. This place is fascinating...its just a shame I can't add any photos at this point...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Another season over

I am at the Hauptbanhof (main train station) in Salzburg, about to get on a train to take mumsie and I to Bratislava and from there we are flying to Croatia tomorrow.

I have been in Salzburg for just under a is a beautiful city and we have been graced with gorgeous weather which is supposed to change tomorrow. The Aussies had a whole hotel to ourselves in Eugendorf, 10km north of the city. We had a couple of days to peruse the course for the World Championships and then settle in and get some good recovery. After being very tired, a little sick and scared that all my form was gone...I started to feel better during the week. My biggest worry was that I didn´t quite have the power left to have a hard race for all 130km....but I had a good training day on Wednesday and so all I could do left was to cross my fingers and pray!

I was feeling positive going into the race, and Oenone was confident that she had the legs for a good result. The Aussie team, for all our strengths and weaknesses is a very loyal and cohesive unit and everyone was prepared to give 100% to try to get Oenone in that pretty rainbow jersey. We awoke to lovely blue skies, had a quite morning and settled in to watch the fast action packed race of the U23 boys. It gave us all some ideas of how the race might pan out for us....but at the end of the day it was quite a different scenario. Race reports can be read on Cyclingnews....Oenone finished 6th...she just didn´t quite have the legs in the sprint after a solid race. I think it was fantastic that she was in that final group of 15...a lot of good bike riders were missing and she did everything tactically right. I had a pretty tough day...I did a lot of work (perhaps some of it unnecessary) in the early stages of the race which I paid for later. I was dropped on the 5th lap of 6th. There was then the I continue to race, my mum is here to watch, it is a world championships...all of these things...but I knew through race radio that Oenone was in a front group of 15 and had a good chance to win...I didn´t want to miss seeing how the last part of the race unfolded. I stopped at the pits on the last lap and sat with my team-mates Helen, sis Kate and Olivia to watch the last nail-biting kilometres....this did involve us all on our feet yelling at the television! I think we had a great team the end of the day we didn`t finish on the podium but we did all that we could and I think that that makes us winners :)

We are all looking forward to a much needed and deserved holiday and then to building for next year. I think the Aussie team can all take a step up and be something to fear in the next few years....I look forward to that.

The train is about to leave...I hope to be able to write and send some photos from Croatia.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

A rollercoaster ride

It has been awhile since I have posted a blog…I have been on the road for a couple of weeks with no internet access…so I’m not sure where to start…

Last week we had a four day tour that had two stages in Holland, one in Germany and one in Belgium. I was feeling like I finally had some good form and after a strong time trial and good climbing legs the next day I had some confidence that I had managed to get ‘good legs’ at the right time of the year. Unfortunately I have yet to perfect my stage finish and my lil sister beat me into 3rd position on GC with a great win on the last stage….better her than anyone else I think! We were pretty lucky all week with mostly good weather, a really nice race hotel and no long drives. I had one little crash on the 3rd day but it paled into insignificance when we found out that Miriam Melchers had broken her pelvis and jaw both in several places with a crash on a descent earlier in the day. I send my thoughts and best wishes to her for a speedy recovery…

From Holland we drove across to Germany for a World Cup the following day….it was the last World Cup on the program for the year, and although one of the easiest World Cups of the year in terms of terrain, there is double points on offer so this is a big one for many teams, especially if they have a sprinter with good legs on the day. It was a pretty uneventful day for me, but I stayed upright and helped where I could and that was all I was hoping for. I just don’t have the head to mix it with 120 charging girls in the last 3km….definitely not brave enough for that.

We continued on our tour of Europe, with a long 11 hr drive south to Italy to begin the 6 day Giro della Toscana. This is the last tour before the World Championships and a lot of girls use it to put the finishing touches on their preparation and make sure there is enough speed in the legs. As usual with Italy everything is a little bit crazy and chaotic…sometimes a little deep breathing is necessary. After a pretty hectic block of racing and traveling I wasn’t sure how I would go in the tour…I never had any intention of finishing, thinking that this would push me over the edge….and I was quite right. After the 1st road stage I knew that things weren’t as I would have liked them to be….I felt quite weak and lactatey, arms, legs, head….just like I could sleep for 3 days. I have a tendency to panic when such things occur but I tried to keep my calm and push on as I felt I did need another day or so of racing for the speed in my legs. 100km into the 130km stage yesterday, at the top of the 1st 10km climb for the day I decided to ‘pull the pin’….it had been raining heavily the whole stage, I blended in with the road I was so black from all the spray from the diesel covered roads, and I felt completely empty. I had dragged my sorry assie up the first climb at 150bpm feeling that it was 190bpm…a sure sign for me to get off my bike :) I changed, had an Italian style hot chocolate (just like pudding) and got some tea for the rest of my poor rain soaked team mates. This morning I took my team-mate Theresa’s car and headed north of the familiarity of Novellara. I am staying here with Barbie and Massimo until Tuesday and then Liv and I will drive up to Salzburg which is only 4 hours from here. It is great to be here in a comfortable place that I know well….tonight I am going with Barbie and her friends to my favourite restaurant for a balsalmic covered steak…Lots of rest over the next few days and I am hoping I get back the power I had in there last week…fingers crossed :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

A light breeze in Rotterdam..

I have just come to the end of my last proper week in Holland....and a joyous one it was.....rain, wind, grey sky...and did I mention rain! All this grey sky gets me down but at least I know I have a summer to come home to. I feel a little sorry for all the locals...this is probably as good as it is going to get for a good 9 months or so...yucky! I am craving some good Aussie sunshine and some golden sand to lay myself on :) Only 9 days of racing to go.....

Yesterday we had the penultimate World Cup of the season in Rotterdam. After a week of rain and wind I thought I would be prepared for anything the weather had to throw at us...but alas no...we awoke to gale force winds and driving rain. Luckily by the time the race started at 1pm the rain had slowed to a drizzle but the wind was going to be a major factor. After 20km or so we turned into the cross wind, I was desparate enough to be 3rd wheel at this point and the bunch split to pieces. Initially there were 16 of us....the Bates family was well represented with little and big Bates there and I had 2 other team mates. Being a bit of a lightweight I tend to suffer big time in the cross winds and on one occasion I just couldn't hold the wheel in front, but luckily I dragged my assie back on. Lucky because at this point we were approximately half-way through the 130km would have been a very sad day all on my lonesome. Anyway....9 other girls joined us and our group of 25 grovelled through the wind to the finish. Unfortunately I just couldn't hold on when the pace picked up with 10km to go...but my team-mate Kirsten was 3rd and I was happy to be up the front all day and get a bloody good training day in.

Now I am at "home" for my last day for a month...I need to pack for 2 tours, a world cup race, the world championships and a holiday in Croatia with my mum....see if I can get all of that into one bag! The last thing to do is to download some podcasts onto the I-pod...Merrick and Rosso have been getting a lot of airtime and keeping me in touch with some good Aussie humour. You get to this time of the season and having being surrounded by non-native English speakers I find that my vocabulary as become quite atrocious...Katie pointed out to me the other day that within a 10 min period I had said to her "you know the thingy, with the bit that goes like this...(insert hand gesture here)" least 5 times. I need my SMH crossword....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Glad to be 'home'

I have just returned from France...its great to be back after a week of crapy accomodation, bad food and no internet access. The racing was good...tough and a bit of a shock to the system initially. It is now a count-down to the World Championships in a months time and so everyone is getting into form.

Yesterday we had a World Cup race in Plouay in France, they have increased the length of the circuit from previous years, 12 to 20km with an extra we battled with 180 starters and 1800m of climbing for the day. Unfortunately I didn't have the best legs of my life...actually I felt much worse than I had felt through the entire 5 day tour we had just something still needs tweaking. We drove back the 1100km straight through the night to arrive here in Holland at I am feeling a little worse for wear and looking forward to a quite day.

Wishing Dad a very Happy Birthday....hope you have a great day old boy :) Also...a big Happy Birthday to Liv for today as is birthday season :)

Shopping in Den Haag

The day before we went to France, Josie and I went for a mini day trip to Den Haag. I thought I could buy Katie an outfit for the post worlds party. Do you think she'd like it??

Whilst browsing in a big department store, we found this little cabinet of goodies...only in Holland :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

They call this summer??

I had many intentions to post a proper blog last week but all that came out were some photos from sushi making....but that pretty much summed up the week! The weather was crapy in Germany (just for something different)...and so in between getting in some long days on the bike and doing some study nothing too 'blog-worthy' occured.
I raced on Sunday in Bochum in the west of Germany. We had a short 73km race that began at 8:30 am....the only good thing about this is that by the time I had properly woken up there was only a lap to go! After that I headed back to Holland, only 1.5hrs away and made use of the blue sky by going out on the bike for another few hours.
Yesterday I picked Josie (fellow Aussie) up from the airport and so our little apartment is full again, as our Polish mechanic also arrived today. On Friday we are driving down to France...I'm not sure how far away it is, I don't want to know anymore...but we're leaving at 8am so I am guessing at least 8hrs. We begin a 5 day tour on Saturday, have 2 days of recovery and then a World Cup in Plouay in France the following Saturday. France is notorious for its extremely crap accomodation and food....and this tour is no different. We stay the whole time in a school with about 20 people in a my guess is that there will be no wireless, hence no blog's from Natty.
My very good friend Sasha is coming to grace me with her presence on my return from France which is something to look forward to. She has never been to Amsterdam so as a local (who has only been into Amsterdam herself a few times)....I must show her the sights. In the last few days I have been spending copious time on the internet, helping to plan Mum and my trip to Croatia. We are heading there after the Worlds in Salzburg at the end of September...first we head to Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) and then fly to Drubrovnik, head up the coast to Split, then drive to Zagreb to fly back to Amsterdam. I'm not sure if holiday planning is a good excuse to not get my uni work done....but one must prioritise.
It is getting to that end part of the season....I can't believe it is nearly there...and everyone is sorting out what to do next year. Anyone who has read my little sister's blog will know that I am moving to 'bluer' pastures next year and joining her at Nurnberg for 2007. It is a good move for me and I am looking forward to it. It will be sad to leave Holland and the many friends I have made in this be swapping stroop-waffles for bratwurst (not a good swap!); bad coffee for bad coffee (ha ha!); rainy, cold weather for rainy, cold weather....hey its not much of a move after all :)
Better get back to that uni work...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wild weather

I have enjoyed a week of relaxation in Holland...the weather was terrible all week which was a good excuse to stay inside, hang out with the little sister, do some uni work and get plenty of sleep. Last Monday we went down to Gent to see Gary Sutton, his wife Deb and the Australian Junior World Track Team. Kate lived there in 2003 and so she know's the city and surrounds well...its nice to be in a familiar place. We went into the city, had lunch at her favourite Asian and then coffee at her old haunt. It was great to catch up with Gary and Deb and to see all the Juniors only a few days out from their worlds.

The rest of the week was relatively uneventful. I took Kate to the airport on Thursday for her to fly to the US and join Richie for a couple of weeks....she was very excited to be going :) I did some longer rides towards the end of the week, spending the whole time trying to avoid the wet roads and black clouds but it felt good to get the body going again.

Yesterday we raced in the south of Holland, near Maastricht...the Holland Hills Classic which is probably the only race on the Dutch calendar that involves climbing more than a highway bridge. The course looked to be challenging and our team mission was to try and break the race apart from the start. As it was my job to make the speed on the first climbs I was a tad nervous but our plan worked well....Theresa (our team mountain goat) launched herself and only a few could go with her. There was some disorganised chasing from the peleton and so the gap grew to the front riders. Theresa attacked again and again and was able to go clear by herself. The poor bugger had fallen on the descent earlier in the race so with bloodied elbows and knees she crossed the line solo for a great victory.

I joined Theresa for the trip back to Germany and am here for the week before my next race, a one day race in the west of Germany. I hope that the summer returns for us in the next few weeks, I am not willing to believe that it has come and gone already.

(I have been trying to post plenty of pictures with every blog but unfortunately it isn't always working for me so I apologise for the lack of visual stimulation :) )

Monday, July 31, 2006

Up to visit the Vikings

I have returned from a weekend up in Sweden and Denmark....lots of travelling, some good racing and a little bit of seeing the sights. It is definitely an area I would like to spend more time in.

On Thursday we flew up to Goteburg on Sweden's west coast for a World Cup the next day in Vargarda. The weather was as hot as everywhere else in Europe and without bikes we had some time to kill drinking coffee and exploring the little town we were staying in. The next day we didn't start racing until 4:30pm so we went for a pedal in the morning and drank more coffee. The race was harder than most expected I think...the course was deceptively tough. It was effectively an 11km criterium circuit with a hill in the middle. The extremely strong coffee that I had before the start put me in good stead for the opening stages of the race and I was a little bit of a maniac. I paid for it later in the race, with sore legs and a very upset stomach...that was the end of the day for me. The team had a good day with lil Gela finishing 6th and Kirsten winning the bunch sprint home for 10th.

The next day we were up early for the long trip over to Denmark. We drove, caught a big big ferry for 3 hours and then drove a whole lot more. Denmark is beautiful as well, lots of rolling hills, green fields and lovely coastline. We headed out for a pedal to get the stiff legs moving and then camped in our room with English tv on (its a bit of a treat over here).

Yesterday we had the first ever Teams Time Trial World Cup for women. We didn't start until 2pm so again a leisurely morning was on the agenda. I don't tend to get nervous for racing any more...but I found that I had butterflies in my tummy and that quesy feeling. I idea of letting down your team is much worse than letting down yourself! We thought before-hand that Buitenpoort and Univega would be very tough to get close to but that if we had a good day we could podium so that was our aim. The strength of our team was that we were all pretty closely matched so we should be able to hold onto all 6 riders. We headed to the start, did the usual warm-up and then got moving. We got into a good rhythm early, held onto it and tackled the 43km course in 53 mins 29 secs. All 6 of us were there at the end and we had set the fastest time...very exciting! In the end Univega beat Buitenpoort by 2 secs, and we were 3rd, 1 sec in front of Nurnberg (always good to beat the little sister ;))

Kate has come back to Holland with us and this morning we are heading down to Gent in Belgium to see Gary Sutton...something we are both really looking forward to.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aussies beach-bound

Returning to Holland we were greeted with temperatures just as high as in Germany...a couple of days rest were on the agenda which is always a good thing. On Monday we went for a little pedal with team-mate Suzanne, stopping at our favourite lunch spot in Leiden on the water. Very nice ;) In the evening I went to pick up my house mate Miesi from where she was staying 1 hr from here with her boyfriend Benny....we were treated to dinner which was great. Benny, the Kiwi is a fantastic cook and it was great to get some home cooked food after some weeks on the road.

With the temperatures set to rise through the week we planned a trip to the beach which is only 25km away. After the usual phone calls to Aus in the morning we headed was great, not too busy and although there were no waves it was still great to swim in the ocean. It is definitely something I miss about home, the lack of coastline!

We headed into Leiden for some lunch....these towns are vibrant and buzzing in the summertime, everyone sitting out for lunch and drinks. I love sitting back and doing some people watching with an iced coffee. Today I am back on the bike for just a short ride and then tomorrow I head north to Sweden for a World Cup race on Friday. Saturday we get a ferry ride across to Denmark and then a Teams Time Trial World Cup on Sunday. This is the first time they have had such a thing for women and we are all a little excited.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Survival in the heat wave

Theresa fighting up the climb

Thuringen is over for another year and on reflection it is a great tour, one that I really enjoy. This year the weather was crazy, so very hot and racing in the middle of the day added an extra element to the already hard stages. The last day saw only 47 people finish and to be honest I am amazed there were that many.

Already the days have merged into each other and I am struggling to remember exactly what happened on each stage...luckily there is cyclingnews for that. From my front I will say that I feel like I have some form again, some underlying strength to rely on which is a good feeling. I had a decent time trial on day 5 which was good for me, and although I struggled a lot in the afternoon stage I was still able to go with some moves and make some contribution to the team. Through the week we must have drunk hundreds of bidons....the 6 riders went through 70 bidons on the first day...a big thank you to the girls who were constantly going back for water..its not always an easy task as Kirsten realised when she had 8 bidons on board (in her pockets, down the front and back of her jersey) and we hit a steep, cobbled climb...ouch!

Theresa was our GC rider for the tour, and being the defending champion was probably feeling a bit of pressure although she didn't show it...she was cool, calm and collected all week. It came down to the last day to have a real dig and she tried her best...and only 4 girls from the peleton could go with her. Gees I wish I had some more mountain goat genes!

We headed back last night to Holland with our Polish mechanic who speaks only Polish and German (makes for some very interesting conversation!). I have Josie Loane a fellow Aussie in tow who will stay in Holland for a few weeks, do some racing here and join AA for a tour in France in the middle of August....its always good to have some Aussie company and through around a bit of for some recovery :)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Little Gela the pocket rocket!

On Tuesday we began racing the Thuringen Rundfahrt….after the emotion of the morning it seemed a little strange to pull on the knicks but that is what we are here for…this is part of us all getting on with our lives as best as we can. It was a glorious sunny day and we had a 3.8km prologue course around Zeulenroda to contend with. It all went rather smoothly, and Kate and I broke our curse of always finishing within 10 secs of each other for every time trial…she finished 11 secs in front of me! The dry, hot air destroyed everyone’s throats and nearly the whole peleton was coughing continually at dinner….quite a shock to the system!

Clear blue skies and 36 degrees greeted us again on Wednesday for our first road stage….131km….with a profile that resembled the serrated blade of a saw I was a little nervous! Luckily the pace wasn’t on from the word go but the terrain and the heat definitely took its toll. A climb with 20km to go saw the group split, I was just behind the front but managed to scrap back on and head to the front to set some speed for our little German sprinter Gela who was climbing with ease and said she had the legs to do the job. A climb I wasn’t expecting several km’s later was nearly the end of me but I managed to scramble back on. The bunch was wittled down to 35 or so at this point so things were looking good…Senffi and I knew trying to ‘out-train’ the Univega train was a near impossibility so we did our best to keep Gela out of the wind. One of Angela’s great strengths is her ability to steal wheels and jump on other trains…and this she did with great style to get the win…Fantastic! The team is really happy….lets just hope the rest of the week goes so smoothly 

Remembering Amy

On Tuesday 18th July we gathered in Zeulenroda to remember Amy…it was a glorious sunny day…a stark contrast to the rain that was falling one year before. It was a beautiful memorial…some laughter, many tears, lots of pink flowers…I think Am’s would have found it fitting :)

A year has passed since we last got to see Amy’s beautiful smile, hear her joyous laugh and see the sparkle in her eyes. The loss of such a wonderful person has had a different but profound effect on all of us. It has made us question the meaning of life itself, the paths our lives have taken and for me, made me re-evaluate the relationships I have with those around me. More than ever I realize the importance of telling those you love that you do so and making every day count.

Amy was someone who always gave you her honest opinion when you asked, even if it was contrary to popular belief. There have been many times this last year when I have missed her viewpoint and take on things. In the weeks after the accident, a few times I picked up my phone to message Amy and tell her about a peculiarity that I knew she’d find amusing or to ask her what I should do about this and that…now I ask her anyway because I’m sure she is around and listening. I think that sometimes she’d be shaking her head at me or laughing out loud. To me she is everywhere, available at any time to listen to my ramblings on life and the world.

In January this year, we were in Adelaide for Nationals and we had been at a bbq at Mary and Denis’s (Amy’a parents) house…and that evening Liv and I were sitting on the beach talking, the sun was starting to set and the stars were coming out…that magical time of dusk…we were talking about Amy and all of a sudden a magnificent shooting star came flying across the sky in front of us…we both looked at each other and smiled…

I find Amy now in shooting stars, in a rainbow, in the sunsets and sunrises and the shadow that is cast as the sun drops behind the hills and sets them alight with a golden glow…she inhabits those magic places where you become aware for just a few seconds of how beautiful the world around us is. She has left us here but we can find her everywhere and remember as being so young, vibrant and full of life, with a cheeky grin and that beautiful sparkle in her eyes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In recovery mode

Theresa is keen on fruit ;)
I am have now had 5 days of recovery after the Giro and I feel terrible! It is funny how your body works like that. After doing very little for 3 days yesterday I ventured out on the bike for 2 hrs and I felt like I had never ridden a bike before...I was definitely worse than day 10 of the Giro! Today it has been raining this morning but I will head out this afternoon for 3-4 hrs to try to stir my body into action.

It has been nice to recover in the lovely European summer...where it is still light until 10:30pm. That is definitely one of my favourite parts of head out in the evening when everyone is out and about and the sun is still shining at 9pm. I haven't done too much in the last days...I have spent a lot of time in the park sunbaking and reading my textbook for my next semester (that makes me a really big nerd!) and trying to catch up with people at home when the time difference allows for it.

These Germans love having a bbq so there is always bbq's and wine drinking going on and when all else fails to amuse ourselves...we can always do silly things with fruit!

On Monday I will head to Zeulenroda where the Thuringen Rundfahrt (means the tour of the Thuringen region in Germany) begins on Tuesday. On Tuesday morning there is a memorial for Amy and then the racing begins. I will keep everyone posted :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another tour down...

Well...another Giro finished...that makes my 4th so far. This one was the best I have done all things considered, good weather, good food, good organisation, some beautiful towns for race starts and finishes and a nice short stage to wrap it all up!

We finished the last day after 71km of racing on the top of a 9km climb next to a church called the Madonna della Ghissalo (I think!), a very interesting day with all things considered as Edita Puchinskaite took the stage and the overall with a well timed and forceful attack with 2km to go of the 900km Giro d'Italia. What a way to end in the pink! On the Australian front, everyone finished in good form...poor Spratty was singing deliriously to herself on the start line and poor Jen came off to make it the 3rd crash of the tour but it was a good tour for the Aussies. After struggling with the speed a little early on, I have started to get some speed back (that is speed relative for myself...I'm not the speediest thing getting around!). I finished the tour feeling tired but not completely thrashed which was the aim. A few days of recovery and I will be firing (fingers crossed!).

At the finish line I said good-bye to the Aussies and joined the lil sister in the Nurnberg car heading north to Germany. I thought that I would minimise my travel time so rather than travelling back to Holland I have come up Germany to spend time with day too late for the World Cup and party but still good to be here. We drove 4hrs to Freiburg and stopped to have dinner and watch the Italians play the French...more people seemed to be barracking for the Frenchies but with some good friends in Italy I was silently hoping the Iti's would get up. What a game! I am glad we got to watch, and I am a big fan of watching a penalty shoot-out...I just can't imagine how the Frenchie that missed the shot would be feeling right now!

So for me a week of recovery on the cards, some rest in the next few days and then getting ready for a really tough 6 days of racing next week back with my AA Drink Team...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hot & sweaty on our 'Lap of Italy'

I am sitting here in the luxurious surroundings of my Sheraton hotel room…very grateful for coverage of the World Cup and access to the internet.
We have now completed 5 days of the Giro…only 5 to go! In many ways it has gone very quickly already. After the time trial we had a couple of flat, fast stages to kick it off and now we have headed into the hills. I had an unfortunate little bingle with 12km to go on the first road stage, had a slow change and then did some solo time to the finish, 7 mins down....not a great start to the tour, but not as bad as the poor Spaniard who dropped herself on the first corner in the time trial and broke her collarbone...bugger!

Yesterday was the longest stage of the tour, 135km with 3 climbs, 2 of which were right near the start followed by 65km of flat and a final climb. I did not have the form of my life and groveled over the first climb. It is always quite obvious when I’m having a shocker as I get as low as I can go on the bike….I must look quite horrid but yesterday I knew I needed to get over the climbs with the bunch, as much to stay with the water supply from the car as anything else. A couple of the Aussie girls 'went pipe' on the first climb and had what can only be called a 'character building' day, trying to figure out how to digest pieces of power bar with no water and very little saliva left. It has been really hot and everyone's major concern has been hydration...I think dehydration can be one of the worst forms of only worry about where your next drink is coming from...bugger the bike race :)

We have gradually moved north from where we started in Rome, we spent 2 days in Tuscany and are now on the northern coast. Day 4 we started in a town called Orvieto on the top of a hill...a beautiful little town with lots of character that I would like to explore senza bike :)Most of the next 5 days of the tour involving climbing although many of the stages are quite short. Tomorrow we have only 73km to race with one big climb in the middle...the only thing to be assured is that when it is short the pace is on! This racing is great for getting some speed in the legs, something I need after a few weeks of long km's and strength efforts.

Still no-one has scored in the soccer...I hope its a penalty shoot-out...I love those :)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Giro begins...

Unfortunately I have only a few seconds to write, and no time to try and attach photos..I am down near Rome at a place called Isola Faranese for the Giro dell'Italia Donne...the 10 day women's version of the Giro. My team has chosen not to do the Giro and so I am down here with the Australian National Team. It is a little different as you really get into the swing of how your team does things....but its nice to speak some 'Aussie' and get to know some of the up and coming girls of Aussie cycling a little better.

We started yesterday with a 5.2km primarily uphill individual time trial which was a struggle in the afternoon sun. The race had been moved forward 3 hours so that the Italians would all be packed up and ready to watch the soccer at 9pm...Italy vs Ukraine...and they through to the semi-finals...lucky I think or a national day of mourning would be in place.

There is no internet access or phone lines where we are staying really so I am sitting behind the reception desk at the hotel using their computer...they don't seem fazed by this at all! We move tomorrow and hopefully I get the chance to write some more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Matrimonio Italiano style

So….my first Italian wedding and I was to be a bridesmaid to the groom, a very different concept to how we do it in Australia but then I am beginning to realize that we often do things differently. In Europe it seems that the whole idea of an engagement ring is not nearly as important as at home. Sometimes one is given, but not often and there is no standard protocol as in there must be a diamond involved….here the bridesmaid don’t dress the same, they just wear whatever and at the reception the bride and groom have their own table and the rest of the wedding party sit wherever. So apart from that and the fact that there is lots of very dirty, 21st party style jokes….its all the same, well they get married….maybe that’s the only similarity…but they don’t say ‘I do’, just ‘Si’.

So….pre-wedding there is a separate buffet for the bride and groom’s guests….Massimo was at his parents house and we had 70 people here downstairs at the apartment….it was only 36 degrees, so just lovely J The whole day was much more relaxed than I expected, the wedding was due to start at 5, buffet at 4 but at 12:30pm the bride suggested we all go for aperitif’s at the local bar….so down we all went and sat, had a drink at Bar Roma and relaxed, very nice. Liv and I then headed to the restaurant to set-up, being the dutiful bridesmaids that we were (Liv was Baby’s bridesmaid)…All went to plan, the bride made her appearance and then we headed for the ‘town hall’ of Novellara for the civil service. The bride, dressed in dark red emerged from her Volkswagon mini and the groom, dressed in white was nearly teary…so beautiful was his bride J The ceremony was brief but lovely, they had to agree to sections of the Italian civil code and then the mayor of Novellara spoke about the importance of family, and said some lovely words to the effect that a family is much more than the sum of its parts….a lady was there to translate for the 20 Aussies that had made the trip to Novellara but the mayor forgot to stop to allow her to translate each section and so we were left to understand what we could….all part of the experience…
We headed to the reception at Restaurante Bla’ Bla’…to be greeted by a mountain of prosciutto and many other yummy Italian antipasto dishes. The newly ‘crowned’ husband was fitted with ball and chain by his friends…he was not terribly impressed…but this set the mood for the rest of the night. Joke after joke, usually of a very dirty, dodgily sexual variety…we weren’t sure how mama or nonna would take this but they seemed fine about it. We decided that Australians must be very prudish on the whole…as I can’t imagine that my grandmother needs to know that it is the groom who usually chooses new sexual positions (that was probably the most tame question, I can’t write the best of them as I’m sure it would embarrass my father:))
So after plenty of molto buono food and wine we were all ready to get down and boogie and show the Italians a thing or two....and this we did...lots of dancing to the tunes of the Elvis impersonator singer. Baby got up and said a few very emotionally charged words......the Italians were all very impressed as the bride or groom never normally speak at the wedding... Lots more stories but too many for a blog post...I will have to show everyone the photos at a later date. Tante Auguri to Mr and Mrs is great to have friends all over the world and share moments such as this....I am priviliged that this is my life :)

Craziness in Italy

I have been meaning to write a blog for nearly every day that I have been here in Italy but unfortunately my internet access has been quite where to start? I arrived here last Sunday and on Monday attempted to catch the train down to Novellara with my bike and big bag in tow...the train system here can be either not too bad, or a complete nightmare and unfortunately I had a trip involving the later. The highlight was of course when the train conductor threatened to call the police if I didn't get off the train with my bike. It was 35 degrees, I was sweating up a small river and had already caught 2 trains to get to Milan Centrale so I was a girl and began to cry....not that this helped my cause at all. Anyway...eventually made it down to Reggio Emilia train station with the train being 'in ritardo' (delayed) for 1 hour....but it was great to get here and see the crazy italians - Barbie and Massimo. Their wedding was on the Sunday and we still had some things to finish off but I really enjoyed the in the beautiful hills in the mornings and relaxing and helping out in the afternoons. European summer has well and truly hit and it has been 35 degrees every day since I've been here....a great excuse to eat mountains of gelati :) One of the 'highlights' of my week was when Baby and Massimo took me to the 'Festa della Biera' (Party of beer) that was incorporating 'Ruttosound' (pretty much a big burping competition!), it was quite amusing, a crowd of 30 000 watching as 10 people competed in several different categories...power burping, longest burp and burping out a song....I must say I have never seen anything quite like it.
I must go now as the Italians are closing the bike shop for lunch...I will report on the wedding after lunch...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pretty in blue :)

After the sudden week of summer that hit us in Holland, we had a few cool days to really confuse the body and make us realise that you do have to pack for every occasion. After a steady few days recovering from our athlete day we began a 3 day tour in Zeeland, about one hour south-west of where I live in Holland. The tour was called Ster Zeeuswche Eilanden, a UCI race and important for the Top Competition (equivalent of National Series) for the Dutch girls. The first stage was a 7.2km time trial with the racing beginning at 6:30pm, so we had the whole day to think about it :) I was keen to have a good one as this is normally something that I go quite well in, however the last block of racing had dampened my confidence and I wasn't sure if I could beat grandma down the street on a town bike...But a good one it was. For the first time in a while I felt like I had some power behind me, everyone in the car behind me told me that I lost some seconds on the final corner when I did over-brake in true hubbard style....but still, I ended up 4th and was happy with that. I was given the blue jersey to wear, the jersey for "Most fighting spirit". One of the best things about the jersey, apart from the fact that it matches my eyes (ha ha), is that it enables you to line up at the front of the bunch for the following stage and with 150km on small Dutch goat tracks this is very important.
The next day we had another long wait til 6pm to start racing 135km, so in the morning we took the time to go for a recovery spin and take some team photos as the team hasn't had a chance to be all together yet. It was quite a nice day with no wind and in Holland this is sometimes a bad thing as the races become slow and dangerous. This didn't seem to be the case, as the pace was on from the start, everyone desperate to be at the front and getting in a move. At the end of the day, nothing stayed away and we set up the sprint for Kirstin who was 13 secs off the lead so hungry for the 10 sec time bonus...she won, and we had all contributed to a really successful day. After a late night, it was hard to drag ourselves out of bed the next day to do it all over again, this time the race was 139km and again the weather was good. Kirsten was now within 3 secs off the lead and so we had a bit of a job to do to keep it together and get the sprint bonus seconds. At the end of the day it all came together, we all rode well again to set Kirstin up for win - she won the stage, the tour and has the Top Competition pretty much sewn up. A super effort!
Miesi and I dragged ourselves home, washed, showered and both started packing again. I went down the street to buy some dinner and then we sat out on the terrace - Miesi the German, Mirek the Polski, Natty the Aussie in Nederlands eating Chinese - quite funny when you think about it! I was feeling quite terrible but managed to pack my things and set my alarm for 4:30am - ouch! So here I am writing to you from Italy..I flew down this morning to Milan and am now at the Aussie base in Varese. The World Cup soccer match: Australia vs Brazil is about to begin and I'm glad I get to be in Aussie company for it. Tomorrow I will head down to Novellara to calm Barbie, the nervous bride to be whose wedding I am going to on Sunday. I'm actually the 'bridesmaid' for Massimo the groom, I'm not yet sure what this entails! I will report with photos attached :)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Non athletic athletes!

Today 7 of us from AA Cycling Team attended an AA Athlete's Day at a mini-athletic venue near Utrecht. We weren't sure exactly what the day was going to entail but were told to pack clothes that we could run around in....this couldn't be good! Cyclists are typically very unathletic at anything not regarding their chosen sport....we have puny, weak upper bodies which pretty much eliminates us from anything involving throwing or catching and very specifically trained lower limbs which makes us crapy at anything involving running around (especially in the 'on-season'). In the case of myself I also have no eye-hand co-ordination that I have ever been able to stumble across which usually results in injury to myself and those around me when I try to do anything requiring this. Its not a surprise that I ended up a cyclist!
But in the name of good sport and being a fun-loving bunch we kitted up and prepared ourself to learn how to high-jump and throw a javelin. We managed to shuffle around the training lap as an excuse for a warm-up and I think the lovely lady attempting to show us the skill of high jumping got a warning of how bad things would be. She showed us some running drills, and not a single one of us was able to co-ordinate these! We all managed to try to both high jump and throw the javelin, not with too much success....although Angela Brodka showed she has a pretty good arm with the throwing....wouldn't want to mess with her! Unfortunately I can't put all my photos of the day on here...just a few....Lucky that tomorrow we can go back to being doubt with some sore muscles from our sorry efforts ;)

Back in the groove

After my brief 'holiday' period I returned to Holland to get back into the swing of it with some Dutch racing which is a good chance to gain some confidence in the bunch and get some strength and power into the legs racing on the flat. The first race back was on Wednesday, the 145.3km Parel van Veluwe - a long race in women's racing terms. The day was sunny and still, no wind to break the peleton up which sometimes makes the racing very dicey in Holland and so I was keen to get into a breakaway, get some good training in and stay out of it would turn out I got much more than I had bargained for! There were attacks going from the start, and I have to admit that even 3km into the race I was initiating things which is a little silly and/or brave depending on how you look at it! I got into a break of 5 girls after 18km, and the km's started to click no point was I feeling fantastic but that constant thought of..."this is good for me, i couldn't hurt myself like this in training" was running through my head. The long and short of it is that the break stayed away....126km out the front, I flew completely and was caught with 1km to go....very tragic indeed! I was completely wrecked after the race...I couldn't move but this has to make you stronger right??
The next day we had a typical Dutch style crit on in Hazerswoude Dorp, only 5km from where we started at 8:15pm but after one of the first real summer days here it was a lovely evening. The entire 1km course was on stones, pave kind of favourite...not! However, I really enjoyed the race, it was team-mates Miesi and Suzanne were in the break from the gun and I 'controlled' the peleton, or so I like to think! Suus won on the night, Miesi was 5th and I won the bunch kick for 6th - sprinter that I am! We rolled home and couldn't believe that it was already 10:30pm....its still light here very hard to turn off and try to get to sleep!
Saturday was another crit on in a place called Wik bij Duurstede, not a super fantastic course but good for some power training with many corners and short straights. I wasn't in flying form but team-mate Miesi was and she came away with the win on the day....there was a front group of 5 and then a few girls in between and then I was 2nd in the bunch sprint....not atrocious but I do need a little more practice with this crit racing! I rode home from the crit, about 80km and it was such a nice time to be on the bike, in the evening as the sun is starting to very slowly going down....I had a few "I'm loving life, the world is such a beautiful place" moments!
I finished the week off with another solid day on Sunday and a good dose of sunshine....I'm the Aussie and I'm starting to complain that it is too hot over here...something is wrong! For some reason, 28 degrees over here feels like about 35, or maybe I have just acclimatised to wintry Europe!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Holiday time for me

I have been very slack again with posting to my blog so I have a lot to cover this time. After Tour de l'Aude I had a week off the bike which was much needed. I headed to Germany to stay with team-mates and the crapy weather gave me a good excuse to stay in bed and be quite slothful! I made it out a few Dresden for the day which was beautiful and on another day to the Wartburg castle in Eisenach which is where Martin Luther translated the bible from Latin to German...I didn't know any of this history which appalled the Germans :) So now I have gotten myself a little more educated and had a good rest in the process. After 6 days off the bike it was time to start again, unfortunately the weather was extremely shitty - lots of sub 10 degree temperatures and constant rain. Not the best weather to renew the motivation but I did get some good quality rides in. I was very excited when the sun came out on Saturday so in typical Aussie fashion stripped down whilst out riding, only to get quite cold once we hit the mountains. On the way home it started raining and I got really cold, and just to top the day off went quite hunger flat as well....ouch, I forgot how bad that feels! So...ended up getting a cold and spent the next two days in bed....very stupid me!
Now I'm back in Holland and have raced for the last two days...I'll write about that when I'm back from my pedal this morning :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Survival in France

Gees...what a crazy couple of weeks! From Holland to Spain, to France and now back to Holland with 970km or so of racing thrown in there. Yesterday 78 girls made it to the finish of the toughest Tour de l'Aude that I have ever had the pleasure to finish :) All 6 girls in our team finished, and I think we were possibly the only team to be able to claim this. After 10 days of not so impressive riding, I put in a particularly unimpressive effort to get dropped on the first uncategorised climb, less than 10km into the was a long day for me in which I many many times questioned why I was there and what I was doing with my life! But such a relief to finish! It is very hard to explain to someone the physical and mental feeling of tour racing - for me, after 10 days I feel a shell of myself, completely empty mentally and physically. It is amazing that even though you feel so very put the knicks on and some days can do some terrific things. Not that this happened to me in the last week! However, many of my team-mates put in some very impressive rides. Suus to unexpectedly ride into the yellow jersey and Adrie to make sure she was in pretty much every single break that went down the road all week. For many of the girls, this is great preparation for a solid month of racing in June, culminating in everyone's respective National Championships held in the last weekend of June. But for this little is day 1 of my mid-season break. A week off the bike, a mental rest...regroup and then rebuild for the second half of the season where there is plenty of tough racing again. After driving 1200km through the night to arrive in Holland at 9am this morning, I feel like I have just raced day 11 and am looking forward to lying down and watching the Giro...something we've missed in the last 2 weeks. I don't know how the men do it....10 days is plenty for me.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

No power in Spain

After an afternoon and evening of travel we made it to our hotel in Vallodolid, a city 200km or so from Madrid in Spain, about 9:30pm. Unfortunately my bag containing pretty much everything had failed to arrive with my team bus, a mix up with communication means that it will be arriving in France just before Tour de l’Aude….so I came with the clothes on my back and luckily enough a spare pair of bike shoes in my carry on luggage. So after some kind donations from my team mates of everything else required to race….knicks, jersey, undershirt, bra top, socks, gloves, glasses….I had everything sorted for a day at least. We had dinner and I had a bit of catch up time with Liv….always good to see her, talk some good Aussie shit and share thoughts and stories of what has been going on.
10:30am start for the World Cup race today was a bit earlier than we were all used to….but after a lovely nights sleep I dragged myself out of bed, got kitted up and we rode to the race start, only 5km away. On the agenda was 123.3km, out and back with a big lap and then into the finish for 6 laps of a very tough, very up and down 6km circuit. We had a bit of a general race plan, a few of us have been sick, and we needed to see how the legs were out there. Unfortunately for me and my body I spent most of Friday in bed or on the toilet after an apparently bad run in with some smoked salmon that decided it didn’t agree with me….so for me, my tummy was a little queasy and I was a little weak…but trying to remain positive and glad to be racing in the sunshine. We set off, a field of 145 girls or so….it was quite aggressive from the start, but on wide fast roads everything was shut down. I chased quite a lot, attacked a few times and tried to remain vigilant in the front however I knew I was in trouble after about 50km when I quite suddenly had greatly diminished power in my legs…bugger! So another 20km later it was see-ya later to the bunch….and a roll into town for Natty. Another quite forgettable day I hope in the racing calendar. After the last few days I couldn’t be disappointed, I just hope to eat a whole lot and regain strength in the next days leading into Tour de l’Aude. On the team front we had a really good race. Our climber extraordinaire Theresa Senff powerfully climbed herself into 4th place behind Nicole Cooke, Judith Arndt and Suzanne Llungkog….an impressive result, so close to a podium finish that she deserves. The other girls all had good aggressive rides and I’m feeling really positive going into our next 10 days of racing that we have a team that can tackle the race head on. So…tonight we are in Spain, tomorrow we drive the 800km to France and then have a few days of relaxed training rides, and hopefully some sun-baking. Shame I don’t have my bikini…..its in my bag 

Friday, May 05, 2006

Back to the land of the tulip

My team clad room-mate!
The view from my window

After nearly a month of living out of my suitcase, it was great to come 'home' for a a quality 5 days or so. Miesi picked me up from the airport - don't know what I'd do without her :) I planned a bit of a day off for Monday so wasn't too disappointed when I awoke to rainy skies. Luckily enough the weather drastically improved and we've had mid-high twenty degree weather the last 4 days. I had to head out for some longer days on the bike, funnily enough it is strange for me to ride on the flat and I found that at the end of the ride my legs were really heavy and dead - all that constant pedalling! I had some nice rides, discovering some new loops and riding past field after field of many coloured very Dutch. This morning I awoke with a very unhappy tummy...I've spent most of the day in bed, lucky a recovery day was on the program! I have packed my things again and leave tomorrow afternoon to drive to Brussels and then fly to Spain for a World Cup on Sunday. I have no idea when my next lot of internet access will until then :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Another weekend in Switzerland

I have just returned back to my base near Amsterdam after a great week in Italy and a beautiful but not so superb weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland.
After the World Cup in Bern I headed down to Varese, near Milan in northern Italy to the Aussie base that has just been established with a vision to be the AIS in Europe, capable of accommodating all sports and having doctors/physios/masseurs etc there full time. The weather was lovely – a sunny 24 degrees one of the days and I enjoyed some good training in the sun with the profie men and the AIS girls that were there. At this time of year the national program always has a ‘screening camp’ where the profies can come in and have their new team bikes of the season set-up properly as well as being screened and treated by our amazing physio Karin. It is a great chance to have everyone together for a few days and of course this always involves throwing a true Aussie bbq and having a few beers or wines together – all the staff and athletes. The real difference this year in comparison to past years is the sudden emergence of lots of kids. The profie men tend to use these few days as a bit of a holiday and bring the family…so wives, girlfriends and kids were all in tow….a nice family feeling.

Sister Kate came down after racing in Italy on Tuesday and I got a chance to spend a little quality time with her that I haven’t had for a while. On our recovery day we headed into Varese with Alex Rhodes, did a little shopping, checked out the city and tasted the famous or should it be infamous Italian hot chocolate – so thick that you can nearly stand a spoon up in it!

On Saturday morning we tightly packed everything into the car and headed north to Lausanne in Switzerland - such a beautiful place! The drive itself was magical, crisp blue skies, surrounded by snow-capped mountains....poor Katie got a little car sick in the back on the twisty descents but even moments like this make me think of how much I love my life and lifestyle! We arrived in Lausanne and did the usual pre-race day things, a bit on the bike, driving the course, having a stretch...nothing too exciting. We didn't start racing until 1pm so had plenty of time in the morning to get ourselves organised. I did a last minute drive of the course, which made me more scared than anything else considering that there were 17% uphill sections on cobble stones in the last 5km of the course. I love when we get a chance to race alongside the men and in this time trial 15 women head off before the men begin their final stage of Tour of Romandie. There are all the profie team buses and riders, big crowds, so many people involved in the circus that is professional men's racing. So off I went in this time trial....the first 10km was super fast downhill and unfortunately my technical skills are less than ideal...I was losing time on sections that didn't require too much grunt. I hit the hill, felt good at the bottom but then the cobbled section nearly killed me, I struggled up there in the 23 cog and had a lot of trouble trying to recover and get moving again. The last 2km of the hill was a big battle, and I finished completely exhausted. I fought to the line, rolled along then collapsed under a tree....a few people stood around me and had a stare but at that point I was past caring. I ended up finishing 9th - I was a little disappointed, I was hoping for a better one. I wasn't atrocious but not super either. Funnily enough, Katie and I were within one second of each other....this always tends to happen that we finish within 10 secs of each other, regardless of the course or who has done time trial training in every time trial we do.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not much luck in Bern

After a not so positive Fleche Wallone, we had a few days in Maastricht in the south of Holland to do a little training, have some rest and enjoy drinking coffee outside with the first spell of really nice weather. We had a great few days and then hopped in the cars again for a 650km journey to Bern in Switzerland. We left early on Saturday and had an easy trip through the lovely countryside of Switzerland. On Sunday we awoke to rainy skies for the 5th round of the World Cup in Bern...6 laps of a 20.8 km circuit with a tough 9% 1km climb at the half-way mark. The question was whether or not to race carbon wheels in wet conditions but I was optimistic that the sun would come out and opted for the fast wheels. I said to my team-mate Suzanne that I had a really good feeling about the day...I was to be proven wrong, but then that isn't the first time! The race began rather briskly, with several teams keen to make it a hard race and try and get rid of World Cup leader Ina Teutenberg. Over the climb each lap there were less and less girls, although it tended to re-group a little over the descent and back onto the small windy roads. I was feeling quite hesitant in the bunch but gaining confidence on each lap as I was climbing well and feeling strong. Unfortunately it all went pear shaped when a Spanish rider fell on the fastest section of the descent, taking quite a few girls with included. Luckily I was relatively unharmed with only small bits of skin off the usual places...elbows and knees and fingers, where one of my hands went into a girls spokes...ouch! It took a while for me to get up and moving and get my bike fixed so the race was well and truly over for me....I rode another lap with one of the Aussie girls (struggling up the climb in the big chain ring as I had ruined my front gear lever and couldn't get into the small ring) and then called it a day. It was a really exciting finish with Zoufia Zabirova making her classic solo attack move in the last 1km and the bunch sprinting for 2nd only metres from her. So after the race I packed up my gear, gave my bikes to the Australian team and jumped in the car of team Nobili (Liv Gollan's team) for the trip to Italy. I am spending a week in Italy with the Australian team, having my new team bike set up by the biomechanist and getting some much needed physio screening. The next race on the agenda is Souvenir Magali Pache time trial this weekend in Switzerland....hopefully more luck for that one!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A tough Fleche Wallone

The fourth round of the World Cup Series of the year was held yesterday - the infamous Fleche Wallone, finishing on the 1km long 'wall' - the Muur de Huy. This is the fourth time that I have ridden Fleche but this year was special as mumsie and dadsie were there to watch - their first taste of European racing. They looked particularly excited as I passed them with 300m to go (they got a good look at me as I was nearly standing still!) dad exercising his vocal cords well and truly...just a shame that I was 2.5 mins off the pace! The race began rather sedately but with such a tough last 50km this wasn't a real surprise...the pace swiftly picked up in the last 40km and 1km from the top of the second last climb my little legsies were no longer able to hold onto the bunch in front. I was disappointed with myself as I really wanted to get over that climb and help my teammates onto the final berg...but today wasn't to be. Nicole Cooke proved that this is really her kind of terrain, taking the race out for the third time, with the Germans Judith Ardnt and Trixi Worrack completing the podium.
Luckily for us...there is always another bike race, and after a 3 hour ride through Limburg and into Belgium today my legs are getting ready for World Cup #5 to be held in Bern in Switzerland on Sunday. I am staying in the south of Holland for just 2 more nights and drive to Bern on Saturday morning....looking forward to a recovery ride and big coffee in the morning :)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Win in Furth!

So...after too many excuses but no writing, I am finally posting my first proper blog thingy.

I have now been in Europe for just over 3 weeks, and it has gone quite quickly. I was picked up from the airport by my team-mate and house-mate Sandra 'Miesi' Missbach and together with Liv Gollan we spent a few days in Holland trying to get over our jet-lag and get used to the cold. Our first European race of the season was the Ronde van Vlanderen (Tour of Flanders) - a great race with so much atmosphere but unfortunately for me a lot of cobbles as well. It was great to be back and racing with the team and I was just hoping that it would be possible to help out somewhere on the course. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and again I proved to my team that a cobble specialist I definitely am not!

After Flanders I headed to Germany with my team-mate Theresa Senff for two weeks of training in the hills. I wasn't quite prepared for just how cold it was going to be...when it began to snow the morning of my second day there I realised that not packing my thermal jacket and pants was a big mistake - what was I thinking! But a good two weeks it was....plenty of good rides in yucky weather...and the one day we did race the sun was shining - quite a blessing! We travelled to a place called Furth, near Nurnberg to race a small German race. We had 4 laps around a 16km lap - it included a 1km climb to the finish, very steep 18% at the bottom and cobbled near the top. Early in the race four of us got away, and then with a bit of team-work I was able to launch up the hill on the second last lap and solo to the finish. So two solo victories in two weeks - a great start to the year for me!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Comm Games win!

In front of a home crowd, friends and family I have just had the biggest win of my career - I am now Commonwealth Games Champion. The wonderful thing about this is that you get to hold the title for the next four years. What a magical day! To be able to win solo with a decent enough margin to savour the victory doesn't occur very often. I was lucky enough to cross the line with an Australian flag in my hand and then watch my team-mate Oenone Wood sprint to a silver medal after a lead out from Sara Carrigan and Liv Gollan. To top off the day, I was able to stand proudly on the podium and sing the national anthem extremely badly with all my team-mates up sister (and fellow gold and silver medallist) by my side, my best mate Liv Gollan right there, Oenone, Sara and Rochelle....I don't know if any of us can hold a tune but we did our best in the Melbourne sunshine! A whirlwind day!