Go Aussie go!
We've just returned to the AIS base in Varese after racing the Ronde de Bourgogne, a 2 day, 3 stage tour in France on Sun and Mon. It was a good tour for team Australia (comprising Amanda Spratt, Lauren Kitchen, Carlee Taylor, Kirsty Broun, Shara Gillow and myself). Lauren set the team up early with a 100km break (of 2 riders) in stage 1. The gap blew out to 8 minutes at one stage and the 2 stayed away to win the stage by almost 5 minutes. Lauren got pipped on the line in a photo finish, and ended up wearing the young rider's jersey, KOM jersey and sitting pretty at 2nd on GC with daylight 3rd.
The next morning was a TTT and it was tttough. Our aim was to bring back at least the 4 seconds needed for Lauren to claim the yellow jersey. Not satisfied that a TTT was hard enough on its own, we also rode it without TT bikes, aero bars, tt helmets, skinsuits... in fact any TT gear at all. With a strategy of aggression, we had 6 starters and 3 finishers, with 3 of us jettisoned during the 22km. Unfortunately, team Futuroscope (a French UCI team), who also had the yellow jersey in it, beat us by 10 secs. Given that Futuroscope was racing with the full aero ensemble (TT bikes, disc wheels, aero helmets, suits, shoe covers etc), we figured we had left their dignity intact by coming 2nd to them.
The 3rd and final stage saw us 14 secs down on the yellow jersey, with Spratty also now at 5th GC. Enter the kermesse, an 18-lap, 63km circuit, held 3 hrs after the team time trial. Carlee attacked early and Spratty bridged to her, forming a break of 5 riders. Kirsty, Shara and I did our best to shut down attacks from the bunch and protect Lauren. After 2 big stages, Spratty and Carlee rode like the wind to open up a 2 min gap over the bunch that was big enough for Spratty to move up to 3rd on GC. Spratty also won the stage and Carlee placed 3rd after launching well-timed attacks on the breakaway. This is Spratty's 2nd win in a week in Europe - both after early attacks. As I was sitting in the bunch trying not to fall off I thought that one day I'd like to be able to ride like that. (Incidentally, you can catch a pic of Spratty's Flying Kangaroo victory salute in Wallonia at http://www.cycling.org.au/
So, all in all, the team ended up with 2nd and 3rd on GC, young rider's jersey (Lauren), KOM jersey (Lauren), sprint jersey (Spratty), teams classification win, and a 1st, 2x2nds and a 3rd in the stages.
Personally, I enjoyed the tour but was a bit disappointed with my legs (or lack thereof). I blew a lot of cookies on Friday night in the Race That Shall Not Be Named (ok, Le Bizet) and didn't recover in time for Sunday's tour start. It was disappointing because the first stage of the tour was hilly and if I had recovered properly I could have made a more valuable contribution to the team. As it was, I discovered that if you start a tour tired, you generally don't get any less tired, regardess of how much pasta you eat.
For the Ronde de Bourgogne we stayed in Flavigny, a medieval town on top of a hill. It was a pretty stunning setting and all the buildings looked straight out of a history book (or, in Nico's words, straight out of Murder She Wrote). To our surprise we found that someone had spray painted 'Go Aussie' and 'Australia forever' on the stage 1 roads. Cycling is much more a part of European culture than in Australia and all along the route we had locals cheering us - even a group of monks working in a field all stopped and cheered as we rode past. I wish cyclists received that kind of reception in Australia.
No one could tell where the AIS team were staying
We are now back in Varese and yesterday and today are recovery days. We start ramping up again tomorrow ahead of the world cup + one day race + tour in Spain in early June.
Plenty of scenery on the 6 hr drive back to Varese
Before I sign off I wanted to share this pic. Yesterday I felt very special because I received some mail from my Mum and my sister (this is very exciting). My sister Cathy made me a necklace - how cool is that?!