Phew! Sorry it’s taken me so long to write this up. If it weren’t for the horrendous conditions today at Falls Creek you’d have been waiting another week to read this. So hurray for global warming (anyone? Anyone??). Last week was the 2013 Australian CX championships. You can read more about them here, here and here.
Last year was the first year Australia had run a national CX series, and it was loads of fun. The series generated so much happiness that this year we had not only a national series, but a national championships as well. This meant that not only could we all wear onesies for an extra day in the year, but that we could fight it out for the honour of wearing a national champion's onesie as well. In onesie circles, this is quite something.
My hopes of defending the national series title from last year were curtailed somewhat following [what I optimistically reflect on as] an ambitious estimate of my ability to manage responsibilities. I got run down, sick and missed the first national rounds in Adelaide. Turns out you can't work full time, study, take on corporate governance roles AND train as much as a full time athlete. Who would have thunk it?
Fortunately, the Supercoach is well accustomed to my spectacular form implosions and we put together a plan to aim for the CX national champs instead. Luckily, my neighbours are tolerant of 6am ergo sessions and the Pirate is tolerant of 9pm bedtimes, so the plan started to get traction. And there's nothing quite like the prospect of finishing out the hoop as defending national series champion to incentivise you to work hard. So I worked my ass off, got some race strategy ideas at the Sydney national CX rounds, and sent a few post-ergo hate emails to the Supercoach, which pleased her greatly.
Amongst all this, Apollo in the background were putting together a super-fast CX race weapon - a carbon-framed, disc-braked, race-wheeled machine that was a dramatic step up from the $1,500 rrp model I'd raced the national series on the year before. It was all very hush hush, mostly because none of us really knew whether it in fact existed. Rumour has it that NASA noticed a missing engineer and a shortfall in their carbon supplies one day, and the next day my bike was in production.
It wouldn't be a good race story without an exciting lead-up, and there was excitement aplenty. Because the bike was super dooper special, it was off getting the rockstar treatment at Apollo's trade shows and it wasn't until 2 nights before the national champs that Apollo Production Manager Murray Fenwick was able to bring it back to Melbourne. VIS supermechanic Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody and John Groves came to the rescue, with a bike build that finished around 11pm on Thursday night and involved multiple trips to the servo for compressed air (but none for ice cream, to Grover's disappointment). I think pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I won't say I was entirely relaxed during the process, but it may have been the sound of the tubeless tyre exploding off the rim at around 10.30pm that put me on the edge. (As a side note, WELL DONE Grover for suggesting we pump up outside. I am still cleaning sealant off my front door.) The excitement continued the next day with an emergency rescue and some creative mechanicing from Paul at Adrenalin Cycles Ringwood during his lunch hour... and finished on Saturday morning with an offer of a wheel lend and a last-minute race tune from Paul Larkin. It's fair to say, without any exaggeration, that without any of these blokes I'd have been toast. The day belonged to them.
So the bike's first ride was the national champs, and it was pretty freaking awesome. I'm lucky to have guys like Simon and Murray at Apollo who do so much to support VIS riders and to support me personally, and it's a privilege to be able to race such beautiful bikes and to be able to repay their faith with a good ride on Saturday.
On race day, everything seemed to come together, which doesn't often happen in racing. In 2011 I devoted 6 months of my life to trying to win road nationals. I've never worked so hard for anything in my life, and when it didn't work out it was a huge disappointment. This time, my year has been a big year, but not on the bike. It's been a year in which I've been given some awesome opportunities in my career and in sport, and training has become something I fit in where I can. I worked bloody hard, but with the sole purpose that whoever was going to win CX nationals would have to freaking earn it. When I crossed the line I was pretty emotional. It was a response to the stress of the previous week, but also just that I had worked so hard, and been written off by so many people, that to turn it around was immensely satisfying. I don't usually go that crazy, but after the season I'd had, and the build-up leading up to the race, it was impossible not to celebrate.
So thank you - to Apollo for a beautiful race bike (which you too can own for 2014), to Moody, Grover and the Pauls, who each saved my ass on separate occasions, to the Supercoach for being the brains of the operation, and to the people who continue to back me despite their better judgement: VIS, Perfect Pilates, Neo Pro and Swiss Eyewear, health.com.au, and the indomitable peloton of TE.