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 :)