May update - Getting dirty, then getting clean

May has been a big month. I'm a bit behind with Ride Happy posts, so here is a very brief snapshot of what's been going on. We started with Battle on the Border in Qld. I am still leading the National Road Series, although the amazing Ruth Corset is hot on my heels. My mum (NOT Lisa's Mum!) got very excited about this article by Cycling Australia because I talked about how I like having a career to balance out all the pedalling. Parents like to hear things like that.

I've been enjoying some time in Adelaide, training and with family. It really is the best city in Australia for cycling. I have a bike that I keep there now, which makes spur-of-the-moment trips very do-able. It's almost worth flying there just to experience the novelty of not travelling with a bike bag. Some quality secret training too, which as we all know is the best kind.

The following weekend, Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody and I teamed up for the Dirty Gran Fondo MTB in Wandong, VIC, put on by the good people at Big Hill Events. 90km of fire road through Mt Disappointment State Forest with >2000m vertical. That is a lot, particularly on a mountain bike. Diamonds could have dropped me about a million times, but luckily for me stuck around to watch me suffer.

The DGF was awesome, but ridiculously muddy. It was an important race for The Roadie Project, as I've entered Tour de Timor in Sept (a 5 day MTB stage race) and need to be somewhat competent in an international MTB field. Riders could opt to ride cyclocross bikes or MTBs, and there was some pretty compelling evidence to be seen of the growing popularity of CX in Australia. ANOTHER bike for the wish list!

Despite the fantastic atmosphere that is typical of MTB racing, the day was soured for me by the behaviour of one WALRUS, who took me out in the first 5km as we were all jostling for position. This guy decided that he was in 81st place and had to move to 80th pronto, which meant changing his line in a rocky creek bed and clean decking me. That's part and parcel of racing, but what was disappointing was that the guy knew he was in the wrong and didn't check that the person who had just eaten it was ok.  I saw him turn around as I was sprawled out elegantly over the rocks, then keep going (no doubt to chase down 79th place). Fair enough if you are racing for the win but this guy was no winner. I don't mind bleeding all over my nice race shoes, and spending a few days off the bike, and sticking to the bed sheets, but I take exception to spending my Sunday afternoon in a medical clinic and scrubbing out my knee in the shower with a toothbrush, just because some idiot doesn't know how to ride. ALSO, given that there were 120 starters and I finished 20th, I'm pretty sure I passed you, Walrus, at some stage, and I bet as you were chicked you made some stupid excuse to yourself about how this was a training race for you and you were just pacing yourself, etc etc. WALRUS!

Phew! That's my grumpy rant done.

The next exciting thing is that Apollo Bicycles have started a Facebook comp to choose the cover photo for the Apollo 2013 catalogue. They have very kindly put a photo of me bleeding from my eyeballs (below) as one of the entries. The winning photo is the one with the most 'Likes'. You can enter by visiting the Apollo Facebook page here. (Or try here for a link to the photo itself, if you're feeling lucky.)

Obviously, voting brings you extremely good luck and it's been proven that voters are better kissers.
Another cool thing that's happened lately is that I've started a new job as an in-house legal counsel in Melbourne. I've had a great year of exploring new opportunities and this is an exciting new chapter in my career. Again, this got my Mum very excited.
I've also started a board role with Lacrosse Victoria, which is a new and exciting challenge. And I had a great opportunity last month to sit on the Cycling Australia Selection Review Panel for a world champs selection appeal. I'm getting a lot of enjoyment from working with sports, and as I go I realise how much athletes can contribute positively to sports governance.
But... one of THE MOST exciting and newsworthy events lately has been that Lisa's Mum now has her own regular column in Bicycling Australia magazine! That's right, Lisa's Mum has sold out. She will still be appearing in Ride Happy, but this time if you send her a letter you may just see it in the next BA issue. Her first appearance is in the next issue (out in the next few weeks). You can also grab a copy of RIDE Magazine for something more serious - the current issue (#56) has the first of a four-chapter series I've written on corruption, match-fixing and cycling. Corruption in sport has the potential to be bigger than doping, and potentially more damaging.
OK, that's enough talking, and time to get back pedalling. Thanks to everyone who has kept me smiling over the last few months. You know who you are.
Ride Happy.

Crazy 6

A couple of weekends ago, my VIS teammate Chloe 'The Enforcer' McConville and I raced the Crazy 6, a 6-hr MTB enduro put on by the good people at Geelong Mountain Bike Club in the You Yangs. It was awesome; certainly one of most enjoyable races I've done.

We were talked into racing the Crazy 6 by VIS mechanic Ryan Moody (the voice behind the Platypus of Truth), who caught us at a vulnerable moment after the Tour of NZ and suggested we give it a crack. The words 'non-technical', 'good for roadies' and 'steak sandwich' were also used, which secured our commitment. And, if nothing else, knowing that our trusty mechanic would be racing there too filled us with confidence that if we broke something, help wouldn't be far away.

This was my first experience of racing a 6-hour in a team. We chose to ride lap on/lap off so as to stay fresh and to maximise the fun levels. Naturally, I made Chloe go first on the grounds that her biceps were of an appropriate size and strength to beat through the start line bustle. Ryan, meanwhile, had chosen to race the 6hrs solo (and still rode quicker than both of us combined).

The atmosphere at these events is just fantastic. With a mix of solo riders, pairs and threesomes - some taking it seriously, others there for the fun of it - there were loads of people in transition to play with. There is a great feeling of bonhomie at MTB races that you don't get at road races. If you like riding but get a bit intimidated by road racing, get thee to an MTB enduro, pronto.

For the first 4 hours, we trailed the leading women's pair (Trailmix's Jo Williams and Fitzroy Revolution's Amity McSwan) by around 4 minutes. You can read their take on the race here. We didn't talk much, The Enforcer and I, mostly because we spend so much time racing together that we can now communicate via a series of eye twitches. Also, I had told her that if I rode faster than her I would requisition her hot wheelset, which gave us both something to think about.

So anyway, back to us being smashed by Jo and Amity. These girls can ride! Our master strategist Julian (Mr Enforcer) was keeping tabs on the gap and issuing helpful instructions along these lines:

  • "Man, you guys are getting SMASHED!"
  • "You'd better ride faster. The gap is REALLY big."

After the 4 hour mark, we slowly started pegging back time. Roadies are nothing if not good at pedalling for extended periods. Gradually the gap closed from 4 minutes, to 2:30, to 1:30. At 5:59:20, McConville and Amity appeared together in transition, leaving Jo and I to duke it out over one final lap. Chloe had promised to greet me with a burger with the lot on the finish line if we won, and luckily that burger was not cooked in vain.

So in the end we had a ding-dong battle that made the day exciting, capped off with the legendary GMBC prize goodies and a couple of cool trophies made from carbon fibre. News of Chloe's MTB prowess spread as far as Martin Barras, who promptly offered her a guest spot on the AIS squad for a month of racing in Belgium. And I, in a giddy haze of dirt love, rashly signed up for Tour de Timor in September with the Apollo crew. The Roadie Project continues!

Ride happy.

2012 Marathon Challenge - or Why Adonis Should Be A Mountain Biker

This is a story of unrequited love. And coffee. And mountain biking. Last Sunday I took part in the Marathon Challenge in Avoca put on by Big Hill Events. The Marathon Challenge prides itself on being the toughest mtb marathon in Australia. The 90km 'full' marathon has 2800m of vertical climbing. (To put this in perspective, Mt Hotham is around 1300m vertical.) I opted for the soft option - 65km with 2500m of vertical.

In retrospect, this was perhaps not the sensible way to ease back into training after 3 weeks off. On the other hand, I was excellently tapered.

The plan to enter the marathon was hatched over coffee with a friend at a certain cafe in Kew. I really love this cafe because it serves excellent coffee that is made by the handsomest man in the kingdom of Melbourne. For brevity's sake, let's call him Adonis.

The problem with this cafe is that every time I go there I agree to half-baked plans for adventure purely because I'm so distracted by Adonis. I disappear into a giddy haze of delicious caffeine and unfathomable man-beauty. Don't get me wrong - I am not crazy for this guy. I'm sure in reality he has smelly feet and can't drive a manual and probably cuts his toenails in the bath. He is just a breathtakingly beautiful barista who should be on the catwalks of Milan or off being someone's muse or something. In the words of Derek Zoolander, he is really really ridiculously good-looking.

Anyway, I think it was Niki's idea that we did the MTB marathon. I'm not really sure, I was ordering a coffee at the time.

Niki can agree to half-baked plans like this because she is really really ridiculously good at mountain biking. I, on the other hand, need all the help I can get.

The race itself was well worthy of its reputation. Lots of climbing, some bowel-shaking singletrack descents and a few 'what am I doing?' moments. It was awesome. One thing that I love about MTB races is how friendly everyone is. From the fastest guys to the course marshals, everyone I saw was nice, encouraging and made you feel happy to be there. I think road racing could benefit from a bit of MTB vibe every so often. Special mention must be made of the food stops featuring super-lovely volunteers and Degani bakery goods. (Again, road cycling take note - why can't we have donuts mid-race too?) There was a coffee cart at race HQ too, which was a great touch, although sadly the barista manning it was no Adonis.

The weather was perfect - mid 20s and sunny - and we were lucky to camp at the winery the night before the race. This is the racing equivalent of living on campus when you're at uni - you can roll out of bed 5 mins before the pre-race briefing. Heaven. And although my own report card for the race would read 'room for improvement', I had a ball.

This weekend is the Crazy 6 at You Yangs put on by the good people at GMBC. Get on it.

Ride Happy.

The Roadie Project

Here's a little video I made for SCODY that I thought you might be interested in. I've mentioned The Roadie Project before, and now seems a good time to bring it up again. Basically, the Roadie Project attempts to answer the age-old question, Can a roadie race on the dirt... and survive? It's a question I'm attempting to answer this year. I am teaming up with Apollo Bicycles who are entrusting me with some of their sweetest MTBs (like this one and this one) which will certainly make me look a lot better than I am. SCODY have made some magnificent Ride Happy kit so that I will be easily identifiable when flying from my bike into the undergrowth. Both these companies need special mention for their continued support of women's cycling. We need more people like you.

I'll put some progress reports here and also on the SCODY blog. Also I've had a few people asking after the Ride Happy kit. At the moment it's a limited run but if there is enough interest I'll ask SCODY if we can make some more. Just put a comment below if you are interested.

Ride Happy.


I wanted to make a clever pun out of Wildside for this post title, but CyclingTips beat me to it and, frankly, that was all my comedy options take--- wait, wasn't it in Tasmania? How serendipitous. There is nothing that gladdens the heart of an Adelaide native more than finding another state to pick on. And, given that I have already declared a fondness for Canberra, I have no option but to aim a jibe or two at my Mexican cousins. Start your two-headed-joke counters NOW. Wildside is a 4-day, 7-stage MTB event that starts at Cradle Mountain and finishes in Strahan, a town spelt Stra-HAN but actually pronounced StrORN. That gives you an insight already into the complexity of the Tasmanian mind. Another insight was the delight that Strahan locals took in breaking the world record for the most number of water-skiers towed behind a boat at once. One hundred and forty-eight (although I understand that was a head count only [BANG!]), and it was broken last week. The curious part was that the record they took such pride in breaking WAS THEIR OWN. I don't mean to pick on Tasmanians, but really, somebody should have told them.

The stages were full of sweet singletrack, arm-pumping descents, and trails guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Actually, I have no idea what the trails were like. I was doing support crew. But I read those descriptions on pretty much every MTB race promo flyer I see so I'm sure they were there.

A question... why is 'sweet' the adjective of choice when describing single track? It's not a lolly.

Mountainbikers are a cool bunch. They are very different from roadies. Lots of hairy legs and nary a gold chain to be seen. The good ones are modest. The bad ones are happy. Everyone talked to each other and the feeling of bonhomie wafted around the start line muster like a bad fart on a Winter morning. It was delightful to be a part of.

As I mentioned, I was there to do support crew for the lovely Andy. What I did not mention was that I was THE MOST AWESOME SUPPORT CREW EVER. Andy may not mention that either, if you run into him, so you may have to remind him. I only ate Andy's post-race treats once and we rarely got lost. And I did not see any other support crew deliver fresh dim sims to their charge. So I am pretty confident I was awesome.

Below are a few pictures of the race that tell the story better than I ever could. One thing is for sure, though, and that is that Wildside is a race I would definitely like to do in the future. It's really motivated me to get my MTB moving. Love it.


The Roadie Project #4: Survival

In a Bear Grylls-type way, I enjoy the idea of venturing bravely into tropical jungles, fighting off monkeys with one arm and changing a tyre with the other using only a jungle vine and a tub of freshly harvested tree sap. Actually, maybe I'm thinking of Bush Mechanic. Anyway, the key concept here is IDEA.  

My imaginings of spending another week sitting happily at anaerobic threshold, heroically telling my legs to Shut Up in a sexy European accent, were quickly replaced by another memory of Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984, at the point in the book when he realises, as he is being tortured, that he won't be the brave soul he had imagined, but rather will do anything - ANYTHING - to make the pain stop.


When people ask me how I found the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC) 2011 - the 5 day MTB stage race - the following thoughts appear in my head, and I try to choose whether to mention them in my response:

  • 35-40 deg+
  • Humidity OH THE HUMIDITY
  • A world cup standard XCO stage (WHAT WAS I THINKING??)
  • Some inopportune mechanicals, including as I was about to launch THE MOST DEVASTATING SPRINT FINISH EVER**
  • Playing Russian roulette with the race meals
  • More than slightly related to the above: Andy and the amazing technicolour gastro

I can't tell you exactly what effect the heat, fear and racing had on me, but sitting on the plane home, after 10 days of racing in 11 days, I found myself watching Justin Bieber's Never Say Never. Enough said.


A quick rewind...


LIMBC was intended to be a holiday. Andy was keen to race and had convinced me that we needed a romantic getaway together that did not involve him standing on the side of the road waving a bidon. The race was on a resort island. I quite like monkeys and aeroplane food. It was a good match.

Things started to go awry when the LIMBC race directors announced the start list. It was filled with Cape Epic winners, world cup winners, and some guy who came 2nd in a little race called the Vuelta. The women's contingent featured a host of national champions.* The racing would be Very Hard.


Sensing my fear, Apollo came to the rescue with their top of the line carbon dual-suspension bike, the Terra 30 (new for 2012), designed especially to make roadies like me look good. SCODY created some top-shelf Ride Happy custom kit featuring their special MTB-specific chamois (pure LUXURY after 10 days of racing). I crammed in as many MTB rides as I could with people who were much better than me. Then I crossed my fingers.

I discovered far too late that the old roadie trick of looking the part went only so far in floating me through technical single track. The organisers kindly included some bitumen in some of the stages so I didn't feel homesick, but there were enough techhy bits for me to really appreciate just how skilful the good girls are. A small blessing was the cancellation of the 7-hour enduro stage in favour of a shorter, 1.5hr XCO stage, which made me so excited that I almost drank the local tap water. The cancellation was on the grounds that the proposed enduro course went through too much raw sewerage and water buffalo mating ground for the UCI's liking (I kid you not).


The result? I'd like to claim the excuse that my legs were tired after Honda Tour, but Lachie Norris managed to race both the Herald Sun Tour and Langkawi and made it look easy. The truth is that mountain bike racing is hard, and, although I had flashes of fun out there, it was predominantly a humbling and frustrating experience. Humbling because I was creamed as soon as the course got technical, and frustrating because I made some rookie errors. I can't wait to do my next MTB stage race, but I'll make sure I choose one that is better suited to road-tards.


Stay tuned for video footage...


*I'm not sure what the proper collective noun is for a group of high-achieving cyclists, but let's call it a head-case.

**I can say this now because it never happened. But if my rear tyre hadn't blown out, it would have been MAD.

Tour of Langkawi: the roadie project

Quick update from Malaysia. It is hot, humid and full of monkeys. The food is making everyone violently ill. It's a salmonella lottery - enough to make you not want to eat anything.

Yesterday's cross country stage traumatised me.

I have sweated more than a fat jockey on Melbourne Cup eve.

The jury is out on whether a roadie can survive this tour.

I am loving it.