Smile because it happened

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I announce that the chapter of my life as a professional cyclocross racer has come to an end.

The past three years of racing CX have been some of the happiest of my cycling career. It has been an honour to be national champion and a privilege to work with the best people and equipment in the world. The CX community around the world has been like a family to me. All these things make the decision to leave professional racing a difficult one. This announcement is the end of a long decision making process that I made in consultation with my sponsors and the A-team. It hasn’t been easy, and I want to thank them for their understanding and support during a challenging time.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my health for the past few months. After failing to recover from my last European season I’ve realised that my body is no longer able to cope with the demands of a full CX season. In the past two years especially, between working full time and trying to train full time, I have been pushing my body beyond what is sustainable, and it has simply hit its limit. I have been through more tests and seen more specialists in the past few months than I’d care to relate. At the end of the day, what my body needs is time to recover fully. It is frustrating, but my health needs to take priority.

While I’m sad to be leaving this level of sport a year earlier than I’d have liked, I am excited as well. I cannot tell you how much happiness cyclocross brings me, and once my health is back on track, I’m looking forward to racing domestically and for fun. I’m looking forward to adventures with my mates, to sleep-ins on rainy mornings, and to spending time with the people I love. Standing on the sidelines for the next few months is going to be tough. But seeing cyclocross flourish and grow, particularly in Australia, gives me great joy, and I plan to be a part of that for a long time to come.

My elite cycling career has spanned almost ten years, first on the road and then CX. I never expected to start an elite cycling career at 25, and I never would have imagined I’d still be here at 34 in an entirely different discipline. This journey has been unexpected and brilliant. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s given me some incomparable moments. More importantly, it’s brought lifetime friendships and experiences that will stay with me forever. The women’s Giro d’Italia, the 2011 AIS survival camp, my VIS family, racing on the Australian road team, and those bloody ergos Donna dreamed up before my first CX national champs win… these memories stick with me like a hook that I can hang onto at times when I need strength. Likewise, the people I’ve been privileged to work with have taught me more than they’ll ever realise. There are too many to name them all here, but I need to give special thanks to the Supercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, Neil Ross, Harry Brennan, Nick Owen, Wendy Braybon, Dr Andrew Garnham, Ryan Moody, to my Belgian crew of Christian, Frank, Dirk and everyone at Hof Ter Kammen, to the Fields of Joy crew, to DC Cunningham, Paul Larkin, Scooter Vercoe, John Groves, Murray Fenwick, Marcus Speed, and to Gary West and Ben Cook from my SASI days. I also want to recognise my awesome sponsors: Rapha, Focus, Curve, SRAM, FMB, Kask, Salice, Tune, Feedback, Horst Spikes and SQlab, and to those who have supported me in the past, particularly VIS, SASI,, Apollo, Perfect PIlates, Fitzroy Revolution and Swiss Eye. These people have given me the freedom and opportunity to race at the highest level with the finest equipment in the world. I am extremely fortunate to be able to choose who I work with and to be able to work with the best. Every time I jump on my bike I remember how special that is, and how much fun it’s been. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Ride happy.

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Mark Gunter

Pic: Mark Gunter

Pic: Jarrod Partridge

Pic: Jarrod Partridge

Pic: Pim Nijland

Pic: Pim Nijland

Timing is everything

So today I woke up sick. Not something you want to happen two days out from a world championships! So instead of heading to Zolder to do course practise today, I'm in bed, dosed up with cold & flu medication and trying not to think too much about the weekend. It's terrible timing, but these things happen in racing and there's not much you can do once you're sick - just wrap yourself in cotton wool, watch terrible daytime TV and try to get better.   

I'm hoping I'll be well enough tomorrow to go to course practice but that's a decision for tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a picture of Cipo showing what exceptional luft looks like. 

Ride happy.

(PS - the cover image is by Marc Deceuninck, who is always a friendly face at CX races here. Thanks for the shot Marc!)

Lisa's Mum presents A Culinary 'Cross Guide


It should come as no surprise to regular Ride Happy readers that Lisa's Mum, while waiting patiently for SBS to respond to her petition to replace Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin on their Tour de France commentary team, has many things to fill her day. Being on call for the Tour Down Under, for example, means that she can never be far away from her computer and long-range binoculars. Should Lisa's Mum receive the call up, her fans deserve the benefit of knowing exactly how many Weet-Bix Rohan Dennis has for breakfast, or the brand of tea that Richie Porte buys in the supermarket. Mum is nothing if not meticulous in her research.

A fan has recently written in to ask Lisa's Mum her insights on a typical CX rider's diet. The query is fortuitous in its timing, for Lisa's Mum is currently serving as adjunct professor at the School of Dietetics at New Hampshire University while completing her PhD in exercise metabolism of waffles in off-road cycling athletes. The PhD has taken slightly longer than anticipated on account of the School's strict ethics policy of using mice as subjects, meaning that Lisa's Mum spent the first two years of her studies teaching mice how to ride tiny cyclocross bicycles. However, with the bulk of her work now behind her, and a fleet of competent bike-riding mice, Lisa's Mum is well placed to advise on the ideal diet of CX riders.

 The diet of a typical 'cross rider can change depending on the season. Given that CX is a winter sport, the end of the racing season (often an opportunity for post-season blowout) also marks the start of bikini season. One cannot indulge in too many frites if one wishes to be bikini-ready by Summer. Many riders, therefore, choose to join road teams in the summertime so as to retain the right amount of peer pressure required to keen one's skinfolds low. 2014 CX world champion Zdenek Stybar, for example, recently announced that he would not be contesting the 2016 CX world championships, choosing instead to focus on his bikini ambitions with Etixx-QuickStep. The exception to this rule is Antipodean CX athletes, who craftily avoid summer by moving from southern to northern hemisphere as soon as the weather gets nice, thereby ensuring maximal frite gains.

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Leading into race season, a rider's diet varies depending on their season goals. Before Cross Vegas became a World Cup, riders targeting this race would focus specifically on beer-hand up repeats, which are broadly similar to hill repeats but with a bit more vomiting. Those focused on a strong performance at Koksjide incorporate a lot of sand-eating into their diet, particularly those expecting to fall outside the top 10.

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

In Europe, a typical pro rider's diet in race season looks like this:

9am: Wake up. Espresso and muesli (the boring muesli, not the chocolate one).

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear while drinking espresso.

11am: Still drinking espresso.

12pm: Ride a little bit.

2pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), recovery drink. Pangs of espresso regret.

6pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), de l'eau petillant, one segment of orange.

Occasionally, riders slip up and find themselves rapidly approaching race season being very much bikini-unready. This may be because their diet has looked like this:

Breakfast (9am): Muesli met chocolade. Croissant with speculoos.

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear with spoon and speculoos in line of sight.

11am: Dispose of empty speculoos jar.

12pm: Ride a little bit (to waffle store).

2pm: Pick up some Belgian chocolate ('for the kids'). Eat chocolate on way home, dispose of wrappers under car seat next to empty speculoos jars.

6pm: Celebrate the end of the day with a couple of Belgian beers to wash away taste of chocolate. Kebab on way home. Extra cheese.

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

For those riders, the days immediately leading into race season follow the Tyler Hamilton Grand Tour Weight Loss Plan (TM) of 6-hour rides followed by de l'eau petillant and 2x temazepam. Lisa's Mum has limited data on these riders, who when contacted for interview declined to respond to emails, answer the phone or admit they were home.

Lisa's Mum hopes this answers your query, dear reader, and thank you for taking the time to write in with your question. Further insights will be published in Lisa's Mum's PhD thesis, entitled Waffles, waffle regret and Niels Albert, due out soon.


Ride happy.


Back in Sac


Day 1 in Sacramento and it's about 30 degrees. The kind of temperature where you can wear shorts and a singlet and not even have to pack a jacket in your back pocket. Coming from Melbourne, where the weather regularly hits 4 seasons in 1 day, you appreciate this kind of dependability.  It's forecast to be around 40deg for race day here, and around the same for Cross Vegas. So in the name of acclimatisation I'm off to work on my jersey tan. 


International Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle

It's been an awesome trip but today didn't continue the upward trajectory from yesterday's result at Heerlen. Oostmalle was quite different - twisty and mtb-y, with a lot of sand. I felt confident at practice but at race pace things just didn't click. Sanne Cant won, followed by Niki Harris, Loes Sels 3rd (she came in behind me yesterday in 7th), Ellen Van Loy then Helen Wyman. I was a fair way down the field - not what I was hoping for but a good lesson in the breadth of skills required to be a complete CX rider.

Today wasn't my day but I'm leaving Belgium with a heap of new skills, new friends and a heap of motivation for the next 12 months. Thank you to Christian & Hilde from Hof Ter Kammen -my new home away from home - Dirk & Leslie for all their help at races and everything in between, Maurice the masseur, Bruce my skills training partner, and all the rad people who have made my stay so enjoyable. And a special thank you to the Supercoach, who flew in to watch my last race and always has my back, no matter how crazy my ideas are.

Thank you everyone for your encouraging words and support from afar. Racing here is challenging- I'm always out of my depth, my body is covered in bruises (I mean COVERED) and each race is an exercise in resilience and humility. You don't have to tell me how big the job is to be competitive at this level - I'm well aware - but in two days' time I'll be back in the office and this whole caper will be another world away again, replaced by heels, power suits and early morning ergos, and I'll be dreaming of the next time I can come back and do it all again.

I'm lucky to be able to do what I love, both at work and on the bike, but it's only possible with a great team around me. So as always, thank you to all the A-team - you know who you are - and to Rapha, Focus,, Swiss Eye, FMB, SRAM, Kask, Perfect Pilates.

Ride happy.

*Photo by Jong de Jong

The Belgian Study Tour Lesson #2: Never take a banana CX training

The lessons keep coming in Oudenaarde. In the past week since BPTrophee Lille and Superprestige Hoogstraten, Bruce and I have been hitting up mud drills at the Donk. The Donk, apart from being the sound I make when I miss a remount, is also the name of the small forest in Oudenaarde which has a heap of features useful for CX training: mud, singletrack, stairs, sand and ruts. This past week we've done a couple of great skills sessions. We've videotaped sand work and running mounts and dismounts, practised race starts and off-camber mud descents, and on Thursday I conquered a mud climb that had got the better of me on Tuesday. Skills drills tend to be physically and mentally demanding, so it helps to have good company and to keep the sessions short. Note to self: Make sure you eat your banana BEFORE doing bike shouldering drills, or at least put it in the non-bike side pocket of your jersey. Riding the Koppenberg post skills session


This week has had many highlights, the best of which has been the rides I've done with friends here. From skills sessions to coffee rides it's been great to hang out with cool people and talk rubbish. Most of the riders I am riding with here I met in China at the Qiansen Trophy in 13/14, and it's been great to catch up on everyone's news. The CX community is rad. Have I said that before?

On Wednesday, Christian from Hof Ter Kammen organised for me to join the Sunweb boys for training on the Superprestige Middlekerke course (home of tomorrow's race). Generally courses are not open to ride before the day of the race, so this was a special treat. It's made me a lot more relaxed to know what I'm in for tomorrow, but it's a challenging course. Lots of brutal pinch climbs that are of either the power sprint or shoulder'n'run variety. And two sandpits.  The Sunweb boys were little whippets, and made everything look easy. The team includes recent U23 world champion Michael Vanthourenhout, who rode almost everything on the course.


Course practice at Middlekerke


The weather has been kind to us this week, but rain is forecast tomorrow for Middlekerke. Sunday is another CX race in Eeklo, then on Monday I'm heading to London for a flying visit to see some friends. Then back to the mud!

Let me know if you have any questions or things you'd like to know about racing or training over here, and I'll do my best to answer them next post.

Ride happy.

*Main image courtesy of Kurt Van Hout



The Belgian Study Tour Begins

Wow, you just had a lucky escape, because I started writing this blog post and it was full of nostalgia about Belgium and about how my visits here had punctuated (nay, MILESTONED!)  my life, from my days as a lawyer in Brussels to racing with the Australian national road team, to CX worlds last year, blah blah... and then I deleted it all because no one likes nostalgia, really, unless you were there. Phew. You can thank me later. I'm here in Oudenaarde, Belgium, for 3 weeks on a Tour de Mud. The mission is to get a block of quality CX racing (6 races over 3 weekends) in the Belgian mud, to build some skills in preparation for 2016 world champs in Zolder, Belgium. We don't get mud like this in Australia, so Mohammed has to go to the mountain to get rad mud skills.

I have yet to get myself a campervan. Campervans, as the CX cognoscente will appreciate, are de rigeur for the serious CX racer. Indeed, the quality of the racer is directly proportional to the size and flamboyance of their campervan. Svenness, for example, has a small mobile village which follows him around to races. You can tell Svenness is in da hood by the size of the crowd assembled outside campervan #1 (next to the giant trailer emblazoned with 'Have a Nys Day' and a picture of Sven choking out the suggestion of a smile). The Telenet-Fidea team, surely the leading Belgian CX presence, has a fleet of identical campervans, each helpfully catelogued by huge photos of the rider promised within.

campervan photo

The Telenet-Fidea Fleet (part of)

Garry Milburn and Fiona soon-to-be-Milburn are the Aussie pioneers in CX campervan territory.  I've been enjoying Fiona's updates on the Australian CX Magazine blog, and those two roll like proper CX rockstars.  I did not see any giant pictures of Garry on the sides of their campervan, but that man lets his legs do the talking. Where was I? Ah yes, cyclocross...

Belgium pic 1

I'm staying at Hof Ter Kammen in Oudenaarde, home to the loveliest couple in the CX universe, Christian and Hilde, and their family. Christian and his friend Dirk have been my pit crew at races and I've been looked after extraordinarily well.

And the racing? The first 2 races - BPTrophee Lille on 7 Feb and Superprestige Hoogstraten on 8 Feb - were a matter of survival. I finished in 24th and 17th place respectively. Fresh off the plane, it was certainly a wake up call. Lille featured frozen sand, a bit of mud, and a generally hard and fast course (normally a bit better for me, were it not for my spectacular crashing). Hoogstraten had every single feature I could have thought of - lots of mud, a sandpit, stairs, flyovers, ditch crossings, barriers... It was a cram session extraordinaire for the Belgian Study Tour.

belgium pic 5

Hoogstraten: Pic courtesy Ladies On Wheels

This week after extensive counselling from SuperskillsCoach Neil Ross I'm working on getting out into the mud more, and using words like 'donkey-kicked' less. Today was a #skillsdoping session with a mate from CX China, Bruce Dalton, who's based in Britain but staying in Oudenaarde for some end of season racing like me. The CX community is pretty cool - already I've been riding with some supercool people who are based in Oudenaarde who have accommodated my strange accent and propensity to get lost with an air of friendliness you wouldn't see in a lot of other sports (or disciplines).

Belgium pic 3


I don't pretend to be a technical specialist, but dammit, this technical shit be HARD. It's what I'm here for, but it's surprising how mentally draining it is to ride in such different conditions. There's no quick win in sight. I finish a race or ride and it's hard to focus on anything requiring mental energy for a while. If you can understand when I say that racing is like sitting an exam, then racing in the Belgian mud is like sitting an exam when you haven't studied.

I'll sign off for now, but a quick thank you to the people who have made this trip - and my racing life in general - possible: Rapha, Focus,, FMB tubulars, SRAM, Neo Pro Imports, Kask, Perfect Pilates and the A-team of Donna Rae-Supercoach, Neil Ross, Paul Larkin, Pat Fitzpatrick, John Groves, Allister Payne, James Maebus who are the glue keeping this whole operation together. Thanks guys.

Belgium pic 4

Ride happy.