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.