Australian Open Road Cycling Championships 2010

Road nationals were on last week. They hurt. It was also hot – apparently 47 deg on the road for the women’s road race. Luckily I did not carry a thermometer with me (ignorance is bliss) and my core temperature tolerance has been permanently set on high thanks to a childhood spent playing tennis tournaments in Adelaide in the days before hot weather OH&S policies.
Time Trial (28km): Wed 6 Jan
For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of racing a TT, you can get the same effect by slamming your head in a door repeatedly while someone pokes you with a branding iron. Your heart rate goes up pretty high and it hurts a lot. Needless to say, when people ask me why I ride, I tell them I do it for fun. The TT course went up Mt Buninyong and around, then down a massive rollercoaster hill. I was extremely excited about racing the TT because I enjoy the feeling of having my head slammed into a door repeatedly and I love being alone with my own thoughts while I am scraping the bottom of the barrel of hurt. It is a happy place and one day I will write a song using all those thoughts that came into my head that will not be able to be screened on Video Hits because of all the bad words in it.
Warming up for the TT (Amber Halliday on the left and me on the right. If this was after the TT she would have been wearing the green & gold jersey!)

 Really, though, I was excited about racing the TT because I had the meanest, pimpest looking race machine ever. It’s a racing red S-Works 2010 Transition loaned courtesy of DC at Fitzroy Revolution and dialled to perfection by Sean ‘The Man’ Hurley, the most patient man with a rear derailleur I have ever seen. Actually, the whole TT was an exercise made possible only by the generosity of my mates and sponsors who provided a bike (Fitzroy Revolution), rear disc (Justin Graham), TT helmet (Andrew Killer), and follow car (Dave Olle and Topbike Tours). What a bunch of legends!

 Left: The machines in action - mine is the red one. To the left is Al Rhodes' Teschner

The course itself was not super-technical, although I think every TT is technical as it’s often fractions of a second that separate riders, especially at the pointy end. This makes selecting the smooth part of the road, the cleanest lines and the tightest corners much more important. At the top end of the field the riders have been through wind tunnel testing to select their most aerodynamic position, had bikes set up to suit their unique biomechanics and know exactly how to sit on the rivet (anaerobic threshold) while maintaining a pedalling form to maximise their power output. It’s pretty amazing really. Every time I see a top time trialler perform, I think about the hours and hours of technical and physical work that went behind their ride. The mind boggles.

For riders like me who are not TT specialists, the TT is a necessary evil that shows how our form is going. I finished 7th in the elites, a result I’m chuffed with considering the TT has not been a focus this year (and I rode the bike for the first time the day before). It was a good confidence booster as I wasn’t feeling great and the last couple of months have been a bit tumultuous and stressful.

 Left: Pre-race at the SASI tent. Max charmed the locals into not only saving us a spot outside their house, but also letting 10 very nervous athletes use their toilet pre-race. I'm not kidding.

Road Race (102km): Sat 9 Jan
I had entered the criterium on Thurs (7 Jan) but elected to skip it in favour of getting the extra rest ahead of Saturday’s road race. Crits can be really fun and the course looked like it probably suited me, but I was glad of the extra recovery time.

Talking about the road race beforehand with my supercoach, Donna Rae-Szalinski, we knew the heat would be a big factor and keeping core temp down would be key to survival. It was definitely the toughest conditions I have ever raced in and the heat claimed a lot of riders – 29 finishers out of over 70 starters. Thanks to a top coach and support crew I had the use of an ice vest pre-race and an icy-cold fresh bidon each lap from the lovely Andrew. Regular readers may remember that Andrew was appointed Head of Bidons and chief soigneur at the Bright Enduro in October. You will be pleased to know that Andy’s performance appraisal this year went well and as a result he has received a promotion to Chief Executive Officer of Bidons (Asia Pacific) which involves an attractive fringe benefits package including a personal chef. Andy never missed a feed and anticipated my every need perfectly.

 The Buninyong nationals course is tough, comprising 10 laps of a 10.2km circuit. Apart from Judith Arndt, who escaped off the front at the beginning, the pack stayed together until lap 6 when an attack on the hill trimmed the lead bunch down to around 15 riders. Rachel Neylan (SASI) rode the race of her life with a solo attack on lap 7 and an eventual 4th place. Rachel came to cycling via an NTID (National Talent ID & Development) program in 2007 with me and it has been pretty amazing watching how she and other NTID athletes have really ripped it up, especially on Saturday. The future of women’s cycling in Australia is looking pretty good.

By lap 9, the rest of us in the lead bunch (apart from SASI) were getting a bit antsy that the break was getting too big a gap. Most of us were waiting for Ruth Corset to make a move. On lap 9, her Tibco teammate Emma Mackie attacked, which shed a few riders, then Ruth attacked and rode away from everyone as if we were standing still. Bridie O’Donnell, in super-fine form, escaped as well shortly afterwards. I didn’t have the legs to make the final kick and finished 11th (9th elite), which I’m happy with and gives me a few things to work on for next year. Ruth really deserved the win and the green & gold jersey will look great on her shoulders this year overseas. I don’t know how she combines being a world-class athlete with having 2 young daughters and still manages to stay such a nice person, but Respekt. Bridie’s 2nd place was amazing. As someone who trains with her regularly I can say that she is one hard worker and her race on Saturday was out of the box.

What’s next?

  • Tour of New Zealand – with the National Talent ID & Development Team – choice bro, sweet as (late Feb)
  • Tour Down Under – stay tuned as Lisa’s Mum returns to the commentary booth!

Before I sign off, another big thankyou to all the people behind me at Nationals - ubercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, Fitzroy Revolution, Tammie Ebert at the Australian Sports Commission, Team Mock (best support crew ever!) and John Hill at High 5. High 5 deserves a special mention as this was a race where almost everyone cramped and dehydrated and their product saved my bacon. And thanks to all my mates who came to cheer - you guys rock.